We now take armed confrontations as a normal part of life in Bangladesh. Normal doesn't mean people are part of it but that they will keep on happening and there is very little that can be done to stop them, let alone prevent. When it becomes so regular, the danger doesn't lie in it as an indicator of instability only. Once people start thinking of violence as normal, it becomes a routine affair, barely noticed. And this ensures that violence continues without any sign of public disturbance. It's no longer condemned as that doesn't matter. It becomes part of life and living.

The Cumilla incident

Public reaction to the Cumilla incident which saw the senior Councillor and his aide killed has aroused considerable interest. A group of assailants, still unknown but hopefully not for long , properly masked and armed, entered the business premises of the killed and started spraying all with bullets. It's an attack worthy of any gangster drama and so having carried out their mission, they left the scene leaving the dead and the injured behind. The Councillor died immediately while his aide and Sramik League leader died in the hospital, having mentioned a possible few suspects.

The city was restive after the attack and the incident gave rise to several protest processions and a few houses were targeted by an angry crowd. A person has already been apprehended and questioning is on. It's hoped that the rest of the assailants will be taken in soon.

In fact, any attacker- individual or group - is always vulnerable when they act in Bangladesh. This is largely because finding out criminals is not a big deal for police. By now they must be aware who the criminals are. However, they are not always alert or active in arresting criminals because of political pressure or economic inducement. So if there are no such issues involved, chances are high that the killers and attackers will be reined in soon.

In this case there has been no hint of political inner party struggle of the ruling party to which the killed and wounded belong. Thus it seems like a straightforward case for the law enforcers to handle. While the possibility of encounter deaths is always there, this form of crime management is less now after the Sinha killings. It's also not been very successful in bringing crime rates down. So we may be looking forward to arrests, trials and the rest. Let's hope we are right. But is that the issue?

The political economy of blood?

The main reason for the incident being cited is that the killers belong to a drugs gang which was being opposed by the killed. Others say that it was a turf war and it's only when all the facts are known that one can say what the real cause behind the killing is. One reason such reasoning resonates is the large-scale mayhem that is happening during the UP elections. One can't deny that economics is increasingly the cause of political violence in many cases because with political clout, economics is easier to gain. Thus having a political link is very useful when it comes to making economic hay.

It doesn't really matter if the money-making is legally acceptable or not because in current Bangladesh money-making has lost that criminal tag though others have risen. One of the tags that really help as stated before is politics. Being a member of the ruling party is an enormous help and so many are into this scheme. We have seen many criminals with these ID tags who made the media including Shameem, Shahed and the rest. These are big players so they didn't need much crass violence but both claimed ruling party proximity.

At the sub-national level, the conflict between criminals are much higher as their recourse to money making is mostly through the drugs sector supplemented by cross border smuggling, protection rackets and local level infrastructure work. In all these cases arms and muscle play a big role and everyone is fine with that.

The problem is that as the dividing line between crime and politics weakens, one never knows where one begins and another ends. If the criminals become more powerful, agitating against them becomes dangerous. Thus anti-crime campaigners also become victims. Since politicians are supposed to be that and are perceived as a threat, Cumilla will happen. Interestingly, if criminals and the politicians are the same, we shall see peace which is happening in places now.

It's an odd situation when the devil lives in the deep blue sea and one may not have many options left for anyone including politics to operate without conniving or conflicting with crime. With violence becoming the norm , this is also becoming the new normal.

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