Column
Hindu persecution in Bangladesh

21 Jan 2014

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There has been flare-up of anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh following the January 5, 2014 parliamentary elections.

 Hindus are being attacked, temples are being vandalized with valuables looted and idols demolished, Hindu women are being raped and their houses burnt. Hindus are invariably at the receiving end of communal frenzy in the country. In 1947 they were victims of Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory. In 1971 they were accused of voting for Awami League. In 2001 they were accused of not voting for BNP-Jamaat Alliance. Now they are being accused of not heeding to BNP-Jamaat’s call for boycotting election. They are being deprived of whatever they had under one pretext or the other.

 

Perpetration of brutalities on members of the Hindu community soon after the 10th general elections in Bangladesh are to a large extent, similar to the atrocities perpetrated on them during the liberation war in 1971 by the Pakistani occupation forces and their local collaborator Jamaat. This time the mayhem has been committed by Jamaat in collusion with its patron and mentor BNP. It is indeed very ironic that the Hindus come under attacks by BNP-Jamaat combine both in victory and in defeat. If Awami League (AL) wins, Hindus are attacked as they are supposed to be supporters of AL. If BNP-Jamaat Alliance wins they come under attack for not having voted for BNP-Jamaat.

 

Large scale exodus of Hindus took place at the time of partition of India in 1947 when it became a question of survival of the community in a country carved out on the basis of Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory. Thereafter, in 1950 and again in 1964, communal riots in the erstwhile East Pakistan forced Hindus to flee to neighbouring India for safety. In 1971 the Pakistani occupation forces and their local collaborators went after the Hindus of the country with a vengeance as they were believed to have voted for Awami League. Many Hindu intellectuals, philanthropists and revered figures as well as thousands of Hindu students then residing at Jagannath Hall of Dhaka University were killed.

 

Exodus and genocide during 1971 liberation war caused a loss of around 20 million Hindus - one of the largest displacements of a segment of population based on ethnic or religious identity in recent history. Time magazine in its issue of 2 August, 1971 reported “The Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Muslim (Pakistani) military hatred”.

 

Numerous historical documents suggest that the slogan “Kill Bengalis and Hindus” was routinely and purposefully used during the liberation war period. Senator Edward Kennedy in a report of the US Senate Committee testimony dated 1 November 1971 wrote, “Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked ‘H’…All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad.”

 

Even after emergence of Bangladesh on the abnegation of Two Nation Theory in 1971, the picture did not change much. After the assassination of Bangladesh’s founding father,Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,in 1975 the country’s Hindu community became targets of assault. There were hundreds of instances of Hindu families being forced to leave Bangladesh after being subjected to torture and brutalities including rape soon after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

 

Similarly, after the fall of Ershad’s military regime in 1990, the Jamaat cadres launched attacks on the Hindus and subjected them to forced deportation and conversion while their homesteads, businesses and temples were set on fire and vandalized. Land and other valuable assets belonging to the Hindus were looted during the period.

 

Hindus were persecuted even after after the Awami League-led Alliance came to power through the 9th Parliamentary elections in 2009. They became targets of attack for having voted the Awami League.

 

As the International Crimes Tribunal pronounced verdict awarding death penalty to Jamaat leader Delwar Hossen Sayeedi on February 28, 2013 for committing war crimes, the Jamaat and its student front Shibir swooped on the Hindus. Jamaat again launched attacks on the Hindus when the poll schedule of the just-held election was announced by the Election Commission. According to a media report, as many as 485 homes, 578 business establishments and 152 temples were damaged, torched and looted during this short period.

 

Within four days of January 5 election more than 2500 Hindu families were affected in Jamaat violence. Three members of a Hindu family in Fatikchari were burnt to death by them.

 

Now the Hindus are paying a heavy price as BNP-Jamaat cadres are carrying on mayhem, buring houses and looting properties owned by them. Places of worship of the Hindu community are being vandalized and set ablaze. The house and business establishments of the Hindus are being attacked and they are living in fear and anxiety.

 

Most of the Hindus who have come under attacks have sent their young female members elsewhere fearing more attacks. They had received threats that their women would be raped. Meanwhile, on January 10, the BNP-Jamaat cadres wearing masks raped two young Hindu women at gun point at Hazrail Rishipara of Monirampur Upazila, Jessore.  They tied up the male members and raped the women in their presence. Earlier, armed with sharp weapon, they raped another Hindu woman in Monirampur on January 7.

 

There are reports that the BNP-Jamaat men carried out fresh attacks on the Hindus on January 8, three days after election, injuring a number of Hindus, burning seven homes and two temples and vandalizing idols. Three idols of Goddess Kali were vandalized and they set fire to a temple at Battola in Netrokona on the same day. Another temple was set on fire in Jhargaon of Thakurgaon. All shops and business establishments owned by the Hindus in these areas have remained closed since then. They are living in extreme fear and anxiety despite assurances of security from law enforcers who have set up temporary camps in Hindu localities.

 

Hindu families are fleeing for safety and are in a state of panic since the last election (January 5). It is shocking that the outrage is taking place despite deployment of security forces in all vulnerable areas. Bangladesh media reported that about 1200 Hindu families of Gopalpur village have taken shelter in a temple. In Dinajpur about 350 houses and 50 shops owned by the Hindus were damaged, looted and set ablaze. In Chittagong the Hindus are under threat in Satkhira, Lohagara and Banskhali Upazilas considered a Jamaat stronghold.

 

A judicial commission headed by Justice M Sahabuddin that probed the 2001 post poll anti-Hindu violence made some recommendations to stop recurrence of such atrocities. It recommended setting up an investigation committee or commission in each district of the country to book the perpetrators who killed 355 people and committed 3270 other specific offences between October 2001 and December 2002. It also suggested forming a monitoring cell in the Home Ministry to coordinate activities of the district investigation committees and providing legal assistance to the victims. But these suggestions were not heeded. Although the commission identified almost all the criminals, naming 22000 people involved in the violence, the government mysteriously did not proceed with the findings. As a result, the perpetrators of these heinous brutalities, still at large, are feeling emboldened to carry out such mayhem.  




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