Frequent labor strikes, riots, and murders indicate that only Rahman‘s personal influence underwrites stability in Bangladesh. The basic problem is the peacetime role of the Mukti Bahini (liberation fighters). All through the turbulence of 1971, 150,000 guerrillas probably had as many as 200,000 unlicensed weapons, some seized from the Pakistani army and others acquired in India. About 30,000 men, organized into the Niyamita (regular) Bahini, fought along with the Indian army; the rest—Gana (people’s) Bahini—defended villages on their own. In addition, lone operators ran their private armies, and the political parties had their armed forces. The Awami League‘s crack Mujib Bahini, believed to have received professional training in India, was estimated to have more than 60,000 men.
Rahman’s appeals to such forces to disband and surrender their weapons have not been very effective. Many weapons have been handed over, but at least 20,000 rifles, light machine guns, and mortars are believed to have gone underground. A new private army, called the Lal Bahini (red guards), was formed in April with 110,000 members; there are also at least half a dozen armed Marxist-Leninist groups operating in ‘liberated zones.’ About 5,000 Maoist rebels were arrested in July, and Rahman warns that Marxist-Leninists will be shot on sight. But the government’s 250,000-man militia has proved itself quite unable to maintain the peace.
Industrial anarchy is, perhaps, even more explosive. Over 100 people were killed in Khulna factory riots in June, and the Narayanganj jute mill (the biggest in Bangladesh) shut down in August after bloody battles between workers.