The death of an Italian and a Japanese national in Bangladesh has triggered global concern bringing up serious safety issues in Bangladesh. International alerts have been issued and foreigners have been told by their respective governments to exercise caution while here.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh is trying to grapple with the crisis and protection of foreigners has been declared a top priority. Reports also suggest that the authorities think that the blogger-killers and the foreigner-killers are the same.
That is quite significant since the bloggers have been getting chopped for quite a while with no one raising a finger, while this is probably the first time two deaths of foreigners happened in a short time-span and we are doing all we can.
Going by international data, the murder rate here is between 2-3 people per 100,000 people. India, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives are in the same range while Sri Lanka has a very high rate at more than 7, and Pakistan has between 5 to 6 persons also.
Most of the countries in the African civil war and conflict zone are understandably very high. Pakistan and Sri Lanka also have a conflict situation of some level.
Europe has a lower rate of violence but the United States has one of the highest murder rates among non-conflict countries at 5 + death per 100,000. Whatever be the reason for the numbers, the US murder rate is higher than Bangladesh.
But Bangladesh is facing unprecedented criticism as a country where “foreigners” are not safe. And that the murders are political in nature no matter what kind of politics it may be.
Adding spice to the drama has been the IS factor. If this word can be attached to any violence, the entire West starts shaking in anxiety and rage. So the claim that the two were killed by the IS in a supposedly IS web site and distributed by a Zionism-supporting US site has made the claim global though not necessarily credible. However, the damage has been done.
Several issues emerge out of the matter. The nature and identity of the victims indicate that the targets were selected specifically because they were harmless non-political individuals who had no diplomatic role whatsoever.
That makes the killings that much more cruel and the killers plan more obvious. They went for a kill knowing the target was not protected. They were not random killings but products of a clear design which had a purpose to fill and was unfortunately achieved.
The two quick killings also showed how inept our security agencies are. Not only were they aware that a killing was being planned – as per official admission – but failed to provide any security to the very people who were under threat.
Since then, they have also failed to arrest anyone in the connection and have been better at flying information kites in the not very useful sky a lot more. It means the foreign governments will be very aware that when it comes to providing protection, we are not very good at it.
So add more stigma.
The recent statement that the blogger and the foreigner killers are the same is the most disturbing one because that is quite possible, but to say so now and not do something before the attacks is the most absurd statement to have come out from the law enforcement world.
Everyone is shocked that the police have not observed that before and now are telling people what everyone already knows. What people want to know is what is being done about it.
However, there is silence in that aspect till date. Worse, many fear that random arrest of Islamic militants may be made and then passed off as the killers in a desperate attempt to prevent more national embarrassment.
But much of this could have been avoided had the blogger-killings been taken more seriously. It seems on hindsight that bloggers were less important and so ignorable, while the foreigner-killers are more important so action, though futile, is on.
The way the blogger and the foreigner-killing is being treated differently shows that the killers have read the situation right. We care about foreigners but not about our own.
One really doesn’t know what will happen in future but we do need to appreciate that all deaths are equal before the state. If every death is treated a crime, we would have sent a much better message to the killers that to us every life is precious and such killings will not be tolerated.
Unfortunately, we tolerated such murders and gave them license. So the killer group upped the ante and showed us that they understand the murder importance ladder better than we do.
Unless we treat all murders as murder and provide security to all, particularly when we know the political roots of such killings, we are stepping into the trap set by the killers. Every murder, no matter who is killed and who kills, is about murders and all murders and all life deserve the same attention.
Ananda Das teaches computer science at a private university.