A Newspaper Published by World Institute for Asian Studies. Vol. 7 No. 001

Activist's Beating More Evidence of Red-Green Alliance

By Dr. Richard L. Benkin

Bikash Halder has been traversing West Bengal for months looking for help in protecting the more than 15 million Bangladeshi Hindus from Islamist radicals. His concern at the moment is the fate of those refugees now living in camps that dot the Indian border areas with Bangladesh, and who remain stateless as a result of decisions in New Delhi and Kolkata. But on July 27, at least 18 people carried out a brutal and coordinated attack on him, seriously injuring him. He was treated at a local hospital and again by a physician closer to his home. His wounds took over two weeks to heal.

Halder boarded a bus near Kolkata that morning headed for the West Bengal district of North Dinajpur. But when the bus arrived at Surjyapur, a couple stops before his destination, at least eighteen people boarded the vehicle and dragged him onto the road.

"They said nothing," he told me, "but just dragged me off [and] unitedly started to beat me….They beat me with lethal weapons, including revolvers, sharp sticks, and other dreadful arms. And they repeatedly said that they will kill me" if I continued my activities for the Bangladeshi Hindu refugees.

Several local residents, including a Mr. Sanjay and a Mr. Golok, came to his rescue.

"With their weapons, they could have killed me, but they did not. They want us to stop, but I will not stop trying to help these people" Halder said, and he has since resumed his activism.

Halder visited North Dinajpur less than two weeks before the attack and met with Rabi Sikari from the village of Balur Badh. "Sakari promised me that he will help us earnestly to open a new unit of our endeavors" in the district. At the meeting, Sakari’s daughter, Shefali Bain, committed to create a "Ladies Unit" to protect the refugees. Halder returned home confident of having formed yet another alliance. A few days later, in fact, he received a call from the two who said they had been moving forward and wanted to have another planning meeting at their residence. They said that it was imperative for him to be at that meeting, which was what brought Halder to North Dinajpur the day of the attack.

Halder identified over a dozen of the attackers by name, including Shefali Bain and her husband Koyel Bain. "Not only did they beat me," he said, "but also snatched my liquid money about 8ooo [Indian Rupees], my ATM card, official identity card, and other valuable documents with my address, and above all my traveling kits. You can see, the entire thing was a trap to stop us."

"All of my attackers are inhabitants of North Dinajpur," he said. "Most are supporters of CPIM," the Communist Party of India/Marxist, which has ruled West Bengal for the past three decades. Several local Hindu leaders (who are remaining anonymous for fear of retaliation) helped him with the identification. They seemed to confirm Halder’s suspicions that the attack was a joint effort by Communists and Islamists, who have been collaborating to victimizie Bangladesh’s Hindus for several decades. Those local leaders who came to Halder’s aid also told him that "Shefali and Rabi Sikari are fully dependent on Md. Masud for their livelihood."

Md. Masud Vill was one of the leaders of the attack, and locals in North Dinajpur stated that his connection to Islamist terrorist groups is well known. "A few months ago," they said, "Local police picked up a Kasmiri radical at Md. Masud’s house, but he was released without any charges ever being filed against him or Masud. This is because the West Bengal government never does anything against Islamic radicals."

Suspicion has also fallen on Sipan Basu, a former associate of Halder’s. He began working with Halder late last year and accompanied the two of us as we toured well over a dozen refugee camps in West Bengal this past February and interviewed scores of refugees. Unbeknownst to us at the time, however, Basu had embezzled approximately 150,000 Bangladeshi Taka ($2,200 US) that was collected to support our efforts on behalf of the Bangladeshi Hindus. Ever since that time, he has been trying to subvert Halder’s efforts. Informants from inside Bangladesh also have connected Basu to ongoing illegal enterprises, including human trafficking. "The reason [for my suspicion],” Halder said, “is that Rabi Sikari—the very man who laid this trap for me—is the uncle of the criminal Sipan."

Bikash Halder represents Interfaith Strength, a human rights group founded by this writer, which is actively involved in trying to stop the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus. Halder and Interfaith Strength also have been active in exposing the links between Communists and Islamists in South Asia, termed by this writer as the Red-Green Alliance.

- Asian Tribune -