Country Listing

Bangladesh Table of Contents



Violence and Crime

Bengalis have been opposing governments since those imposed by the Mughals in the sixteenth century (see Islamization of Bengal, 1202-1757 , ch. 1). Bengali secession movements, first from Britain and then from Pakistan, were violent struggles that exacted an enormous human toll. This legacy of violence, coupled with the propensity to organize the population into mass movements to overthrow governments, carried over into the postindependence era.

A number of fringe parties that embrace violence as an acceptable political tactic existed. In the mid-1970s, Maoist splinter groups such as the Bangladesh Communist Party/Marxist- Leninist carried on a rural-based insurrection. Acting under the direction of two renowned freedom fighters, Mohammed Toaha and retired Colonel M. Ziauddin, guerrilla bands executed landlords and moneylenders and staged hit-and-run raids on police stations and government armories. By the late 1970s, however, Maoism had lost much of its appeal in the countryside, and most guerrilla factions sought to become legal organizations. The Bangladesh Communist Party/Marxist-Leninist, the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal, and dozens of other left-wing parties all followed this route. The country's mainstream Marxist party, the pro-Soviet Bangladesh Communist Party, did not promote organized antigovernment violence, although its student and labor union fronts have been suspected of engaging in violent acts (see Party Politics , ch. 4).

Government officials tend not to make a sharp distinction between ordinary crime and political crime or subversion but describe it all as destructive to the country. Customarily, authorities speak of criminal and subversive elements as "antisocial forces" or "miscreants" and frequently describe them as composed of persons who oppose independent Bangladesh. Similarly, Ershad has condemned democratic opposition parties for engaging in "terrorism and hooliganism" in their campaigns to unseat him.

Data as of September 1988