The Systematic Persecution of Minorities in Bangladesh

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“The attack on Bangladeshi Hindus is a crime against humanity. In and of itself, it is severe enough to spur our moral outrage and cause us to take action to stop it. But to make matters worse, it has been spreading across that open border into West Bengal, India. One would think these Hindu victims of Islamist terror would find a safe haven in the largest Hindu nation on earth, but they have not.” – Benkin, Richard L.

Ever since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, the religious minorities, especially the Bengali Hindus have been facing persistent and remorseless assaults on their identity and ethnicity by the hard lined Islamist groups who believe in ethnic cleansing of the ‘kafirs’, or non-Muslims. Although it seems to be of no concern to the pseudo secular media houses like Al Jazeera CNN, Washington Post, who have either not bothered to cover the issue or media houses like the BBC, who are blaming PM Modi’s visit for the violence, an increase in the drastic damage of the minority rights of the Bangladeshi Hindus and the frightful persecution has still managed to come into light through local media outlets and from reports filed by several Hindu Rights Groups in Dhaka.

As aforementioned, this merciless persecution started 50 years ago, during the Bangladesh Liberal War by the Pakistani army, systematically murdering, raping Hindu women and young girls and driving them from their homes and forcing them to flee to other countries as refugees, because of the mere ethnicity of these poor people. On the night of 25th March, 1971, five to ten thousand Hindus were killed in Jagannath Hall, a dormitory at the Dhaka University. This genocidal campaigned fuelled by communal hatred and the delusion of Islamist supremacy continued for 10 months. A staggering 10 million people were forced to leave their lands and flee from their homes with hundreds of thousands of women being physically abused. The Hindus were branded by smearing an ‘H’ over their bodies and even after independence they were branded as ‘Indian stooges” and untrustworthy citizens.

The Hindu population in Bangladesh declined—from 13.5% in 1974 to 8.96% in 2011—a nearly 33% decline, which is humungous in demographic terms, partially due to immigration to India during the independence and partially because of the widespread violence and persecution that followed.

The data collected by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has revealed that ethnic and religious minorities are the most persecuted and oppressed people in Bangladesh.

NHRC Chairman Kazi Reazul Kabir said on Thursday that although the constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens regardless of their religion and ethnicity, Bangladeshi minorities have been consistently denied their rights and evicted from their own land.

Following Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, to celebrate its 50th independence anniversary, students from a prominent madrasa or Islamic school and members of an Islamist group, Hefazat –e- Islam, meaning ‘protector of Islam’, clashed with police in the south eastern district of Chattogram, attacking government structures, including a police station and a land office, at Hathazari area in Chattogram before police took action, leaving 4 dead and around 40 people injured.

A train was attacked by the activists associated with Hefazat –e- Islam in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria, where they damaged the engine room and almost all the coaches, leaving 10 injured. Several government offices including the land offices, the government sponsored music academy and even the press club along with two public buses were set ablaze by the protestors who then went on to pelt stones at the police.

Around 200 Hefazat activists ransacked the district’s biggest temple Sree Sree Anandamayee Kali Mandir around noon when Hindu devotees were observing the Dol Purnima festival there. The attackers trashed and broke the statues of Lord Krishna and Goddess Kali. The donation box for the temple and ornaments of statues were looted, while the artefacts used for ceremonies were ransacked and strewn about.

Some unidentified attackers set fire to a cremation ground and its adjacent temple in Astogram area under Mohammadpur upazila on Sunday night. In Bogura, attackers vandalized a statue of Hindu Goddess Saraswati at a temple at Tengrakhali village in Dhunot upazila early yesterday.

The fanatic mob used loudspeakers of local Mosques to gather crowds and then went on to ransack, loot and vandalize around 70 to 80 Hindus houses. A local journalist has claimed that at least 500 Hindu homes were actually destroyed. Moreover, this ruthless assault was broadcasted on the Facebook live stream.

Mainstream media has however always sugar-coated these incidents of atrocities against the Hindus orchestrated by fundamentalist groups by using the term ‘unknown miscreants’ to hide the attackers with radical Islamic intentions behind the attacks.

However, there is one very significant point I would like to point out, Islamism is not a form of the Muslim faith or an expression of Muslim piety; it is, rather, a political ideology that strives to derive legitimacy from Islam. Islamism can be best described as an “anti-” ideology, in the sense that it defines itself only in opposition to things. That is, Islamism stands not for but against.

In conclusion, I would like to quote Tulsi Gabbard, a former US Presidential candidate and Congresswoman, “Until the leaders of the world, condemn and commit to defeating the Islamist exclusivist ideology, an ideology holding all non – Muslims and many ‘heretical Muslims’ as second class citizens without basic rights, the jihadist campaign of terror will continue throughout the world.” This inhumane treatment of the helpless minorities has to stop. Allowing these refugees into India is a temporary solution, this issue has to be tackled at its root. If in India, people from different faiths can live contently, the least we expect is the other countries to adopt the same diverse policy towards the Hindu minorities. Communal discords are common and have continued for a long time now, however this does not give the right to carry out a genocidal exodus against the minorities. We were silent when it happened in 1971, we were silent when it happened in 1989, and we are silent about the inhumane treatment of Hindus in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But no more. Hindus have to speak up. Tolerance has a limit and it’s high time, the injustice has to stop.

[This post is written by Pratik Ranjan Roy. Pratik Ranjan Roy currently a student of Class 12 is aspiring to appear for his board examinations. This post was originally published here.]

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