The practice of extremism has increased five and a half folds since 2016 despite the fact that violence dropped by 90 per cent in Bangladesh at that time, according to a data of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of police.
CTTC deputy commissioner Saiful Islam revealed this while presenting a draft strategy paper on combating violent extremism on the last day of the first national conference against extremism held at the Basundhara International Convention Centre in the capital.
He said the number of members in different militant groups’ preaching units was 550. But it has now increased to 3000. About 56 per cent of the people involved in terrorism are university students. Of them, 82 per cent are active in various social media.
It was, however, not explained why the practice of extremism increased five and a half times in the past three years.
After presenting the strategy paper in the conference, Saiful Islam said, earlier the people of Bangladesh could be classified into four types -- left, right, moderate left and moderate right wing. Two groups - fundamentalist and atheist - emerged later. At present, a large section of moderate left, moderate right and rightist groups are leaning towards radicalism.
The strategy paper prepared by the CTTC will be sent to 16 concerned ministries. But before that, it will be finalised after discussion with all the parties concerned.
The draft strategy paper recommended adopting preventive programmes for everyone including people at risk because of extremism, those who are involved in extremism and disobeying the law and those who are in jail or released after serving in jails on charges of involvement in extremism.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan was the chief guest at the conference. He urged all the parents to keep their children engaged in good works to stop them from joining extremism.
Inspector general of police (IGP) Mohammad Javed Patwary, in his speech, put emphasis on organising extremism preventive programmes in jails.
“We do not organise enough anti-terrorism programmes in the prisons the way we perform other tasks regarding extremism such as arresting, identifying, imprisoning, prosecuting the militants,” he said. He also mentioned the need for rehabilitation of the people getting release.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Shafiqul Islam spoke of lack of skills in campaigning against extremism. He said he had previously worked in the anti-terrorism unit.
He found the majority of those who were involved in terrorism belonged to the Ahl-e-Hadith community and stressed the need to identify the persons who indoctrinated people in extremism.
“But the police or prison authorities do not have required religious knowledge to get those people out of the fiery doctrine,” he added.
Private companies working on the field also exchanged their experiences at the conference.
Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, said, two issues were not discussed in the draft strategy paper -- the international connection of the militants in the country and hostile political environment.
According to him, extremism arises in confrontational politics, sometimes under political patronage.
This was not supposed to happen in a country like Bangladesh achieved through a bloody liberation war, he added.