“State of Minorities in Bangladesh”
Bangladesh is a small, overpopulated country of third world. Before, its independence, it was ruled by several nations. Many nations like the Sultan, Mughal, British etc. ruled over this region. So, there were different nations lived in this region. But with the passage of time, the nations were becoming less, and finally, remained as a minority of Bangladesh.
Whether, they are minority or not, they are also our population of Bangladesh. But it is a matter of great regret that, though they are living as our population, but, they do not hove any identity of their own, as well as citizenship. More over, they are also neglected in having their fundamental rights too. This is a clear violation of human rights. As a human being they have the rights to get proper food, shelter and medical treatment. They are neglected in educational sectors also. The present state of these minority people are really sorrowful.
In a state, where the minorities are neglected in such a way, development in impassible there.
Minority refers, The smaller part of a group. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Minority means,
Ø Less than half of the people in a large group.
Ø A small group within a community of country that is different because of race, religion, language etc.
In web definition we find that,
Ø A subordinate group whose numbers have significantly less control or power over their lives than members of a dominant of majority group.
Ø A group that experiences a narrowing of opportunities (success, education, wealth etc) that is disproportionately low compared to their numbers in the society.
Ø A group of people who differ racially of politically from a larger group of which it is a part.
In Wikipedia we find that,
“A minority is a sociological group that does not constitute a politically dominant voting majority of the total population of a given society. A sociological minority is not necessarily a numerical minority-it may include any group that is subnormal with respect to a dominant group in terms of social status, education, employment, wealth and political power”.
Characteristics of a Minority group:
v Distinguishing physical or cultural traits, e.g. skin color or language.
v Unequal treatment and less power over their lives.
v Involuntary membership in the group. (no personal choice)
v Awareness of subordination and strong sense of group solidarity.
v High in-group marriage.
Who are the minorities in Bangladesh?
As minority refers, smaller part of community of a group; so we can find some such smaller group or community who are staying in Bangladesh. There are three main categories of minorities in Bangladesh. They are,
a) Ethnical. b) Religious. c) Others.
a) Ethnical: About 27 minority ethnic communities live mainly in four reions of Bangladesh. Ethnic minorities are,
These thirteen indigenous ethnic group live in Chittagong Hill Tracts area. They collectively identify themselves as the Jumma people, the first peoples of the CHT.
In Rajshahi-Dinajpur-Rangpur-Bogra area live,
In sylhet region live,
In Mymensing and Tangail region live,
There are also some indigenous people who live in scattered in many areas of Bangladesh. These people are, Rakhains, Koch, Pathor, Banjugi, Khumi etc.
b) Religious: Although Bangladesh is a country inhabited by Muslims, there are also some other religious group live in Bangladesh. They are,
Hindus are divided in cast; such as, Brahman, Khotrio, Baishya, Shudra.
The lower class of Hindu people known as, Horijon, Ayntoz etc.
There are some minority groups in Muslims. Thery are,
? Kadiani or Ahmaddiyas.
c) Others: Besides Ethnic and Religious minorities, there are some other minority groups live in Bangladesh. Such as,
These two minority groups are unsolicited and burden in our country.
State of Ethnic minorities in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is surrounded to the west, north-west and east by India, shares a south-eastern border with Burma and has the Bay of Bengal to its south. At the time of the independence of India (August 1947), Bengal was partitioned into East and West Bengal on religious lines. East Bengal with a Muslim majority population was designated as the Eastern ‘wing’ of Pakistan, the same geographical boundaries were inherited by the State of Bangladesh in December 1971.
About 27 minority ethnic communities live mainly in four regions of Bangladesh. One is the Chittagong Hill Tracts, north-west, mid-north and in the districts of north Bangladesh. According to latest population census the total population of the ethnic communities is 1.2 million in the country, which constitutes 1.13 per cent. From a couple of isolated and limited surveys it is anticipated that the actual population of the minority ethnic communities are considerably higher that it is accounted in the government census. It has been observed that the ethnic people who are converted into Christianity are often listed in the government official documents under the category “Christian,” while those who use Sanskrit/Bangla names similar to the typical Hindu names are often grouped under the category “Hindu”. One can easily make such mistakes if one does not have adequate knowledge about the ethnic people and their ethnic, religious, and linguistic background.
Philip Gain, social researcher and environmentalist in his key note paper “Adivasi Question in Bangladesh”, 20-21 March 1997 argue, “The principal cause of the political and economic disturbances in the Adivasi areas are its soil, forest and the local resources.” The foreign aid dependent development programmes failed to bring substantial benefit to the Adivasi communities. Instead, these development programmes caused them to lose their possession over their own land, forest and resources.
Raja Devashish Roy in a seminar “Adivasi Question in Bangladesh” explained that the nation state system, the expansion of the market economy into the Adivasis or limited the scope to practice their rights.
There were great hopes among the ethnic minorities when the new government of Shiekh Hasina took power in June 1996. The principle of secularism embraced by the ruling Awami League meant that the ethnic communities could expect not to be discriminated against on the basis of race or ethnic origin. Thus far, the optimism of the ethnic communities has not been justified.
Constitution and Ethnic Minorities
“The Case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh” argues that the Bangladesh liberation movement was an intensely nationalist one. This nationalist zeal continued even after the country’s attainment of independence. At the political level the cause of Bangalee’s, in the form of their language, culture or religion has been promoted by the state. The rule of majority reflects in the constitution as tampered by reactive elites who politicised “Islam” for their own gain.
The new state of Bangladesh emerged as a secular polity with a constitutional embargo on religion in politics. The first Constitution passed on November 4, 1972, abolished: (a) all kinds of communalism; (b) political recognition of religion by the state; (c) exploitation of religion for political purpose; and (d) discrimination on religious ground (Article 2 of the Bangladesh Constitution). The preamble of the Constitution emphasised secularism as one of the fundamental principles of state policy. It is obvious that Islam, or for that matter, any other religion, as an individual belief system was not interfered with, but its political use and or abuse was barred.
Article 1 Part 1 declared Bangladesh to be a unitary state. Through Article 3 Part 1 Bangla was adopted as the state language and Article 6 Part 1 declared that the citizens of Bangladesh were to be known as Bangalee. Bangladesh Constitution (1972) in Article 9 defined Bangalee nationalism as:
The unity and solidarity of the Bengali nation, which deriving its identity from its language and culture, attained sovereign and independent Bangladesh through a united and determined struggle in the war of independence, shall be the basis of Bengali nationalism.
The insertion of the above clauses ensured the political and cultural dominance of Bangaleeís within the state. The imposition of Bangalee nationality over all the citizens of Bangladesh marginalised the ethnic communities of Bangladesh for Bangalee, above all is a cultural category. It was a denial of the cultural distinctiveness of the other group.
Article 12, through which communal political parties were banned in Bangladesh, was also dropped. Article 9 which stressed the lingual and cultural unity of Bangalee nationalism was omitted. In place of “Bengalis” the citizens of Bangladesh through Article 6 Clause 2 were now to be known as “Bangladeshi”. These changes were given effect through Fifth amendment to the Constitution.
Other religions are, however, recognised under Article 41 of the Constitution, which gives citizens the right to practise and promote religious beliefs. Further provisions of Article 41 guarantee in individual’s right to refuse to practise a religion, or to be compelled to be educated in a religion other than their own. Sections 295, 296, 297 and 298 of the Penal Code deal with offences against religious places or practices.
Raja Devashish Roy, a Barrister and Chief of Chakma Circle in CHT maintain that the Advasis of Bangladesh have been denied their identity in the Constitution of the country. The grievances of the Advasis have deepened all the more as the Constitution has undergone repeated amendments and thus gone far away.
The Raja firmly protested the much articulated idea that if the Advasis were given constitutional recognition it will weaken the solidity of the state. “Rather, the recognition will shield against the secessionist tendency”.
The only protective provision for the ethnic minorities that the policy makers often refer to in the context is Article 28 (4), which states that:
Nothing…..shall prevent the state from making special provision in favour of women and children or for the advancement of any backward section of the citizens.
The above provision indeed is an ambiguous one. It does not define who or what constitutes “backward”, question’s Dr. Amena Mohsin. The Bangladesh Constitution does not mention the existence of the cultural and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh. It seems that the Constitution is for a homogenous cultural nation, the Bangalee population governed by the majority Muslim as the provision speaks.
Politics of Hegemony:
Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, a social and political scientist maintains that the divisive nature in the organisation of linguistic unity need hardly be stressed, except for the fact that language, if politicised, could produce racism as well. Despite a sentimental issue of the majority of people of Bangladesh, he further elaborates that once language is used to organise unity for political purpose, as in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in South Asia, and that again, in the light of the experience of the West, it ceases to be secular category, instead becomes a powerful tool in the organisation and reproduction of linguistic racism favourable to the power of the dominant linguistic community vis-?-vis other linguistic communities of the country.
With the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India, politicians found it convenient to counter it with their own brand of religious politics which has made the Hindus very insecure. This has been observed from the trend in the pseudo-Islamic political culture introduced by all mainstream political parties. Some radical and left politicians shifted from their traditional progressive doctrine and turned champion of Islamic politics. In fact they understood that they were not heard while in progressive politics. The catch-phrase “Islamic nationalism” in politicking works likes a miracle.
Bangladesh had not observed the 1994, a year of the Indigenous Peoples as was declared by the United Nations. On the other hand it has categorically maintained that there were no Adivasis or indigenous people in Bangladesh. The debate continues whether the ethnic minorities are Adivasis or migrants. Most Bangladeshi believes that the ethnic minorities are migrants and not “Bhumiputra” (son of the soil). Reactive intellectuals and politicians promote these views.
Different regimes introduced political dichotomy, which never accommodated the minorities of Bangladesh. Shiekh Mujib (1972-1975) era by constitutional guarantee introduced “Bangalee nationalism” as the spirit of the nation. After assassination of Mujib in a military putsch in 1975, General Ziaur Rahman (1976-81) by a military degree introduced “Bangladeshi nationalism” with a bias to Islam. General Ershad forcibly changed the Constitution and introduced “Islam” as state religion and took the nation towards “Islamic nationalism”.
The Islamic fanatics “Jamaat-e-Islami” an ally of BNP attempted to move “Blasphemy” law in the parliament in 1994 to victimise minority communities and secular sections for alleged trading of insults against Prophet Mohammed and Holy Koran. The Blasphemy law was a copy of the law in Pakistan.
Dr. Amena Mohsin argues that there was no room for accommodating the minorities within this new state discourse. After an amendment to the Constitution declaring Islam as state religion. The ethnic minorities found themselves to be minorities both in the ethnic and religious sense.
Subsequent regimes of Khaleda Zia and Shiekh Hasina came to power through popular mandate through free and fair election process under two consecutive neutral governments (in 1991 and 1996), too continued the policy and dichotomy of previous government which they rejected. Dr. Amena Mohsin writes in The Journal of Social Studies, that though General Ershad was looked as usurper, and his regime was termed as undemocratic and autocratic by both Khaleda Zia led Bangladesh Nationalists Party (BNP) and Shiekh Hasina led Awami League, yet none of these parties even after assuming power had been, or it is posited here would be able to retrench the Islamisation measures taken by Ershad. The Constitution of Bangladesh, despite Awami League in power today, remains an Islamic one. It is then logical here to assume that democracy is a prerogative of the dominant majority only.
So-called politicking of nationalism and politics for the elites’ classes failed to provide sense of security, dignity, welfare for the stakeholder groups bracketed as minorities in Bangladesh. The political parties despite electoral promises written in election manifestos, failed to stand shoulder to shoulder with the minorities. Not a single political party has come forward for a cause of the minorities.
Several months after the riot (1990-1992), in mid -1993, the popularly elected government of BNP issued two orders, which were interpreted as government policy of persecution of the religious minorities. The Home Ministry asked the commercial banks to control withdrawal of substantial cash money against account holders of Hindu community. The commercial banks were asked to stop disbursement of business loans to Hindu community in the districts adjoining the India-Bangladesh border.
The government in 1993 initiated to conduct survey vested properties, human rights organisations treat these as alibi to persecute religious minorities, especially the Hindu community. Corrupt government officials at district level were listing properties whose owners are alive and still living in Bangladesh.
One of the factors resulting in loss of traditional lands has been the Vested Property Act, which has been applied unjustly against both Hindus and ethnic communities. Local officials and law enforcement agencies usually side with the majority against the minorities in land cases, and they are gradually becoming disposed.
Research shows that the Vested Property Act, a continuation of the Enemy Property Order which makes Hindu held property insecure because ownership has to be proven at various sorts and levels, is used extensively to appropriate property.
The Enemy Property (Custody and Registration) Order under dreaded “Defence of Pakistan Rules Ordinance” was promulgated soon after the seventeen days war with Pakistan and India in 1965. All the large establishments including industries, trading centres, landed properties belonged to the Hindu community who were bracketed as abandoned were nationalised. The law says that the properties of Indian nationals residing in Pakistan or Pakistan citizens residing in India will be identified as “enemies of Pakistan”.
In political terms the properties were confiscated by the state because they were Hindus. However the government did not seize properties of Christians and Buddhists. Properties belonged to Indian Muslims residing in Pakistan or exchanged properties illegally with fleeing Hindus to India were not listed as abandoned or enemies of Pakistan. The discrimination was deliberate and obvious to deprive the Hindus who have made an exodus to India or elsewhere. There were hundreds of India Muslims who migrated to East Pakistan and never bothered to take domicile certificate, therefore they were not registered as Pakistani citizen where not declared as enemies.
Those so-called enemy properties seized were later gifted to “tabedars” (stooges) of the government. The autocratic government and beneficiaries were locked in “client and patron relationship” for decades. Though most of them formerly belonged to Muslim League, and later the turn-coats joined Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party, according to two in-depth studies titled “Impact of Vested Property Act on Rural Bangladesh: An Exploratory Study” – 1995 and “Vested Property Act: Towards a Feasible Solution” – 1997 by Dr. Abul Barkat et al.
Anti-autocratic, autonomy seeking Awami League and other opposition political groups strongly demanded to repeal the discriminatory law and return the properties to just owners. After the war of liberation, the Hindu and of course the freedom loving people thought that the law will be scrapped in matter of time in the war-torn Bangladesh. Surprisingly two new laws were adopted in the parliament which was tabled by a senior politicians and Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs who was a Hindu.
Despite a popular mandate, Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, the first President of Bangladesh to advocate of a secular nation and a true homeland of the Muslim, Hindu and Christian Bangaleeís, he surprised many by keeping the hated law with an amendment. In 1974 two laws were adopted, “The Enemy Property (Continuance and Emergency Provisions) [Repeal] Act” and the other one was “The Vested and Non-Resident Property (Administration) Act”. Since 23 March 1974 the controversial Enemy Property Order seized to exercise.
There was no strong protest, criticism, or disagreement against new wine in old bottle formula to deliberately discriminate the Hindus. The new law enacted in 1974 also holds rights to properties, either abandoned and left behind by Pakistani and Indian owners. Nevertheless, most of the properties the Pakistani’s appeal to the court for redress, got back their properties. There are several instances, that the Pakistan citizens obtaining false citizenship documents, bought a section of government officials and won the litigation. Later all the properties were sold at a fetching price to influential persons who would able to retain the ownership legally. Such case of a Hindu property is rare in the history of Bangladesh.
General Ziaur Rahman in 1976 amended the Vested Property law and rested the ownership right to the government as administrator and controller of the abandoned properties. The same year, the second law has been scrapped. The government issues notices in favour of the vested properties by a judgement of the Appellate Division, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The law is itself illegal as it does have a locus standi and it is contradictory, describes Dr. Abul Barkat.
The Bangladesh parliament was told that on 4 July 1991 that there were a total of 827,705.28 acres of land listed as vested property. A Bangla daily “Bhorer Kagoj” reported on 4 April 1993 that there are 17 shops under the Ministry of Commerce, 757,704 acres of land under Ministry of Land and 28,768 houses listed as vested property. Besides these, few jute mills, textile mills, and other industries and factories under Ministry of Jute, Textile and Industries separately.
It is evident from practices and customs evoked by the state machinery and the government which has turned into unwritten laws, that the religious minorities could not be given sensitive positions, like head of state, chief of armed forces, governor of Bangladesh Bank, Ambassador in a Bangladesh Mission, secretary in the ministry of Defence, Home, Foreign Affairs and Finance. Minorities are deliberately discriminated in recruitment in civil and military jobs, business and trade, bank loans and credit. The mainstream political parties equally failed to demonstrate that their leader could be from among the minority community. It is rare to find a religious minority at the helms of affairs in Bangladesh.
As Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed describes, it is rule of the majority, which evolved from Bangalee nationalism, Bangladeshi nationalism and Islamic nationalism by enigmatic national leaders. It is obvious that the dominate factor is enshrined in the state Constitution.
Nation, for them thus constituted a culturally homogenous population. In this formulation the political elites chose the dominant/majority community as a model of nation, while the minority/weaker communities were expected to assimilate themselves with the ‘mainstream’ i.e. the dominant majority community.
Following tabular format is prepared to summarize and to categorize the atrocities and their consequences.
|Sr. No||Category of Violence||Types of Violence||Immediate affects||Long term affects|
|1||Political and social discrimination||Denial to Job, Prosperity and discouragement in political involvement||Loss of social status, Unemployment, No scope for prosperity.||Social backwardness, Poverty, disenfranchised from holding political power, Political and social insignificance.|
|2||Legal oppression||Vested Property Act of 1972, Justice and police protection often denied.||Loss of property, forceful capture of agricultural lands.||Poverty, Mass emigration, Forced exodus, refugee displacement|
|3||Physical repression||Physical Assault, Kidnapping of women and rape.||Fear, Loss of self-respect.||Mass emigration, Forced exodus, refugee displacement.|
|4||Mental Torture||Islamic Death threat, Rape threat, Arson threat.||Fear, Loss of security, Physiological trauma.||Mass emigration, Forced exodus.|
|5||Cultural and Religious suppression||Destruction of temples, Forced conversions, Forced marriage||Social and religious genocide||Loss of inherited identity, Loss of Religious Freedom, Frustration|
|6||Financial oppression||Money extortion as Jizya Tax, Kidnapping children for ransom, Arson.||Fear, Loss of security, Loss of property.||Poverty, Mass emigration, Forced exodus, refugee displacement.|
|7||Organized Mass Torture||Sadism, Islam approved torture. Rape||Religious slaughter, Brutal suffering,||Loss of population,
Mass emigration, Forced exodus. refugee displacement
|8||Predetermined Mass Killing||Infamous genocide of 1971, Noakhali massacre in 1946; Islam approved Mass Murders,||Mass death, Number of orphans increases.||Community cannot reconstitute itself as a viable community and get destabilized, Poverty, Mass emigration of the living, refugee displacement|
|9||Suppression of facts||Honest journalists, educationalists and prominent people are killed, Human rights investigators are detained.||Brutalization unreported. Media silenced, censored and / or purchased by ruling party.||World blissfully ignorant and Ethnic cleansing continues unabated.|
State of Religious Minorities in Bangladesh
According to Bangladesh government 1991 census, the religious and ethnic minorities stood at 12.6 per cent. The Hindus are 10.5% (12.5 million), Christian (0.3%), Buddhist (0.6%) and other religious minorities (0.3%) in Bangladesh. Hindus, mostly Bangla speaking is the biggest religious minority community and they are scattered all over the country. Similarly Christians are also scattered all over the country, except for the Buddhist population which largely concentrate in Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts and Patuakhali.
Hindus are most likely to live in Barisal, Khulna, Faridpur and Jessore (and similarly in West Bengal Muslims are most likely to live in areas towards the Bangladesh border). The highest proportions of Hindus to Muslims in Bangladesh live in the city of Comilla, close to the border of Tripura. A large proportion of the Zamindar class (large, semi-feudal landlords) and moneylenders were Hindus. The scenario has, however changed in the last few decades. Today the socio-economic differences between the Muslim and Hindu communities are much less marked than previously.
The vanishing minority population is understood from researching the census documents published the government. Fifty years ago in 1941, 28.3 per cent of the total population was minorities. The population of Hindu was 11.88 millions, while 588 thousand was other religious and ethnic minorities (Buddhist, Christian and animist). Evaluation of government statistics of 50 years, from 1941 to 1991, indicates a large drop in the figure for minorities. A comparative picture shows that the number of the Muslim majority increased 219.5 per cent while the Hindu community increased by 4.5 per cent.
If normal increase rate prevailed, the number of the Hindu community in this country would have been 32.5 million, but the Hindu population in Bangladesh stood at 12.5 million in 1991 Census. Therefore the missing population is 20 million.
Hinduism is the second largest religious affiliation in Bangladesh, covering 10 to 11 percent of the population as of 2001 census. In terms of population, Bangladesh is the third largest Hindu state of the world after India, Nepal.
In nature, Bangladeshi Hinduism closely resembles the forms and customs of Hinduism practiced in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, with which Bangladesh is (at one time known as East Bengal) was united until the partition of India in 1947.
Deprivation over Hindu:
Variation of the Hindu population with time as presented in Table 1 raises many questions.
Table: Hindu population at different times
During the last fifty years the average increase in population in the subcontinent is approximately three times. Taking this into account the present Hindu population in Bangladesh should be 40 million. Therefore, the statistics of population suggests that about 25 million Hindus are missing, which raises more questions than answers.
Buddhism is the third largest religion in Bangladesh with about 0.7% of population adhering to Theravada Buddhism. Most of the practitioners are from the south-eastern district of Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts. Most of the followers of Buddhism in Bangladesh live in the south-eastern region, especially in the subtropical Chittagong Hill Tracts. Most of these people belong to the Chakma, Chak, Marma, Tenchungya and the Khyang, who since time immemorial have practiced Buddhism. Other tribals, notably those who practice Animism, have come under some Buddhist influence, and this is true in the case of the Khumi and the Mru, and to a lesser extent on the other Minorities groups.
Buddhist Population across
Christianity arrived in what is now Bangladesh during the late sixteenth to early seventeenth century AD, through the Portuguese traders and missionaries. Christians account for approximately 0.3% of the total population. Roman Catholicism is dominant, the rest being Orthodox and Protestant.
Amongst South Asian nations, Jewish population in India is above 15,401 while Jewish population in Bangladesh is 175 which is 0.00011 of the total population of the country. Number of Jews in Pakistan in 200, while there is no official record of any Jewish population in Sri Lanka.
Although the number of Jews in Bangladesh is shown to 175 in various information sites, including Wikipedia, according to Bangladeshi scholars, the real number of Jewish population in Bangladesh is above 3,500, while the Jews in Bangladesh are afraid of disclosing their religious identity fearing persecution of the anti-Semitic people.
According to information, fearing religious persecution, Jews in Bangladesh mostly identify themselves as ‘Jehova’s Witness’, while most of the Jews in the country are in textile related business as well as business in grocerries.
Representation of Minorities
The representation of the minorities in various sectors demonstrate how the minorities are treated in public representations, jobs and education.
Table: Representation of Hindus in the parliament
Based on the percentage of Hindu population the present number of the Hindu parliamentarians should be about 40.
The representation of Hindus in defence including army, border security and police services is appalling as apparent from the following data:
Table: Representation of Hindus in army
Air Force and Navy
Essentially the Hindu representation in these two services is almost nil.
Border security personnel
The Hindu representation in Border Security Service is about 0.75%
Table: Representation of Hindus in police
The representation of the minority is no way better in the public service.
Education and other sectors
There was only one Hindu Vice Chancellor in the history of Bangladesh. Ironically, he was removed unlawfully from his position because of the religious denomination. Apart from the Vice Chancellor, the government also appoints the Pro-Vice Chancellor of a university. Not a single Hindu was appointed in this position although there are many distinguished Hindu academics. Discrimination is prevalent in a warding scholarships and enrolment in medical institutions.
Millions of dollars are spent for the development of Madrassas and there is Islamic University. However, Sanskrit ‘Tols’ and ‘Pali Institutions’ only exist in name. Religious teachers of the minority community are discriminated in terms of salary and other benefits.
Bangladesh Government spends huge amount of money for the development of particular religious places whereas such development of Hindu and Buddhist temples and Christian churches is denied. In almost every government, semi-government, autonomous and academic institution there is mosque for prayer but the minorities are not fortunate to have their prayer house in such institutions.
In the radio and television there is regular recitation from a particular holy book while recitation from the minority religious book is quite casual. The festivals of a particular religion are observed at a national level whereas other religious festivals are observed unceremoniously.
Violence over religious minority:
(1) Recently, the Buddhist residents of Motherbuniya village in Bangladesh’s Cox Bazar district are facing severe persecution from local right wing Muslim reactionary groups. The minority community’s women are suffering from sexual harassments. A land belonging to a Buddhist temple committee was forcefully captured by the fundamentalists. The Buddhsits protested against them. As a result, one Islamic extremist died in the clash and confrontation. After this incident attacks on tribal Buddhists have surpassed all previous records. Different areas under the Ukhia police station locality are now the target of the fundamentalists.
(2) 15th October, 2002: At the Gonergaon village of the Kotiadi sub-district of Kishorgunge district, Namita Rani Suttradhar (13), the daughter of Gopal Chandra Suttradhar, a Hindu resident has been raped by a Islamic extremist. Namita is a student of class seven. Namitas father filed a case againt the culprit in the local court. Now a group of Muslim fundamentalists are continuous threatening the Suttradhar family.
(3) 19th November, 2002: At the area under Madhukhali police station of Faridpur district traditional Rash festival of the Hindus was attacked and totally destroyed by the Bangladesh police. The police inspector Mohammed Nure Alam appeared 12 hours before the festival started. He tortured the organizer of the function Sujit Mondal. Ten thousand Hindus could not perform and participate in the Rash festival.
(4) 4th November, 2002: A Hindu named Monimohan Abadi (87) of the South Jalirpar village of the Muksudpur sub-district of Gopalgunge district has been mercilessly tortured by a group of Muslim fundamentalists. They threw a acid bottle towards him. Monibabu seye has been destroyed in acid. At present he is under treatment.
(5) Recently, at the Baroshila village of the Pabna district a Hindu villager Khudiran Haldar, a Hindu was being mercilessly tortured by Islamic supremacists, who threatened him to leave Muslim majority Bangladesh and leave for India.
Madan Gopal Goswami, a prominent Hindu priest was knifed and stabbed to death in the Hindu temple where he preached at midnight by the members of the extremist Jubadal, the youth group of BNP (the party of the nation’s prime minister) at Manikchari under Khagrachari district.
(6) Recently, the Hindu family of Gopal Ram (45) and Naresh Ram (55) of the Saheb-bazar area of the Rajshahi district are facing severe persecution. Islamic zealots have planned to take away all their lands and properties. Some of the armed men threatened this hindu family to leave Bangladesh immediately and migrate to India.
(7) Recently, ten crores takas (U.S.$ 2 million) has been displaced in the office of Bangladesh Railways. But this news was leaked out by a Hindu worker of the Bangladesh Railways named Dulal Chandra Dutta. As a result, Dulal was mercilessly beaten up by some Muslim fundamentalists, which also included railway workers. Dulal has been suspended. The incident took place in Gaibanda station.
(8) On 6th November, 2002, Vimal Chandra Chakma (40), the teacher of the Karikang governmental primary school has been kidnapped by a group of Muslim supremacists as he refused to pay a zizya tax (tax levied by Muslims on non Muslims) of fifteen lakhs (U.S. $ 30,000).
(9) 4th October at Tangail, 2002, at the Dhanbari municipality area a right wing Muslim fundamentalist gang destroyed the murthi (deity) of Durga goddess in the Singhata Puja pandal. A case was filed by the Hindus in the Dhanbari police station. The police have arrested two local Muslims.
(10) Recently, another news have come to us lately that at the Karmakar Patti of the Chitolmair sub-district of Bagerhat, some Muslim fundamentalists have destroyed a hindu murthi (deity) of Vishwakarma.
Violence over religious on minority’s women
Hindu women (from age 5to 70) are often subjected to gang rape. About 200 Hindu women were gang raped by Muslims in Char Fashion, Bhola, in one night at a single spot (Source: The Daily Star, Nov. 16, 2001)
The Islamic terrorists have levied Jizya taxes on the minority Christians and have told the Christians to give them their wives, sisters and daughters for sex if they failed to pay the tax. (Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Dec. 13, 2001).
The Muslims have even gang-raped mother and daughter together on the same bed with the parents and children forced to watch; and they have raped mothers in front of their children (Source: The Daily Janakantha, Feb. 5, 2002; April 22, 2002).
On February 8, 1989, about 400 Muslims from the neighboring villages waged an attack on the Hindu community of the village of Sobahan, in Daudkandi, Comilla. The Muslims reminded them that, “the government has declared Islam to be the state religion, and therefore you have to either convert to Islam or leave the country.” They set ablaze every Hindu household after looting, razed the temples, and then gang-raped women. (Source: ‘Baishammer Shikar Bangladesher Hindu Samprodaya (in Bangla)’ ‘The Hindus of Bangladesh: Victim of Discrimination’, Matiur Rahman & Azizul Huq eds. 1990).
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group from Burma who are not recognized by Burma’s military government. For decades they have fled abuse and poverty in Burma. There are an estimated 200,000 Rohingya living in Bangladesh. They live under plastic sheeting held up by sticks. They are not allowed to work and are in desperate need of aid. The medical aid group Doctors without Borders says a violent crackdown in Bangladesh against migrants from Burma is fueling a humanitarian crisis. The group says thousands of ethnic minority Rohingya have fled to a makeshift refugee camp on the border with Burma where they live in squalid conditions. Doctors without Borders says stateless Rohingya in Bangladesh face unprecedented levels of violence and attempts to force them back to Burma, also known as Myanmar.
For 85-years old Hasina, whose family emigrated from Calcutta to what was then first Pakistan after partition. The wait has been ling enough. Together with more than 500 other Biharies, she lives in Mirpur, an impoverished district in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. Where the stench of raw sewage permeats their “I’m Bangladeshi live lived here all my life. But where are my rights?”. It is a common complaint among the Biharies, most of whome live in squalid conditions in 116 ghettos around the country. Dispute a landmark high count ruling reaffirming their longstanding claim for full citizenship in 2008, social integration and rehabilitation remain elusive.
There are more than 200,000 Muslim Biharis or Urdu speakers in Bangladesh today, many from the Indian state of Bihari who moved to fast Pakistan both during and after partition in 1947. The Biharies received preferential treatment from the west Pakistan- dabed government while the majority of Bangli speakers were often Marginalized in their access to government jobs, property and contracts.
What should be done?
The recent atrocities and repression on the minorties raise the question of their survival in their homeland. The extinction of religious minorities can only be prevented if the following steps are implemented:
Ø To ensure educational rights.
Ø Stop Bengali settlement in CHT.
Ø Separate state from the religion
Ø Reinstate secularism in the constitution of Bangladesh
Ø Establish a truly independent judiciary
Ø Abolish all sorts of discriminatory laws and policies.
Ø Freedom of minority assembly
Ø To ensure human rights
Ø To ensure minority’s religions and freedom of rights
Ø Don’t intervent to other religion.
Ø Rights of civil and political rights.
Ø Rights of language and culture
Ø Be aware about minorities.
Ø Freedom of minority movement.
Ø Freedom of minority speech.
Ø Freedom of minority association.
Ø Ensure human security.
The recent government sponsored atrocities toll the bells for exposing those elements who, by their acts of commission and omission, are pushing the nation into the dark dungeons from which there can be no retrieval.
According to area, Bangladesh is very small. But we believe that Bangladesh is a peaceful country. Because is a country of cordiality, amity and brotherliness. Many ethnic, religious or other minorities live here. They have own religion and culture. They always try to uphold their culture towards all. They abide by their own religion and culture from the early of time. If we flash back we can see that, the new state of Bangladesh emerged as a secular polity with a constitutional embargo on religion in politics. The persecution of religious minorities featured prominently within the political development of Bangladesh. Police and governmental authorities nevertheless continued to seize books and documents relating to Ahmaddiya faith, and colluded with muslim extremists to remove signs referring to ahmaddiya places of worship as ‘mosques’. There was also a sustained campaign of harassment, violence and physical abuse against the Ahmaddiya minority.
Religious minorities and other groups such as the Ahmaddiyas and the Biharis continue to suffer from discrimination in key areas of the public sector: jobs, higher education and access to justice. Violence and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities continued though 2007 a US government report on religious freedom said. The report released in September said Hindu, Christian and Buddhist minorities experienced discrimination and on occasion violence. It also said the Ahmaddiyas, an Islamic sect, faced harassment and protesters demanded that they be declared non-Muslims.
Though the Article 27,28,29 confirms equal opportunities for all citizens, Article 44 equivocally guarantees the enforcement of fundamental rights and Sections 295, 296, 297 and 298 of the Penal Code give protection from offences against religious places or practices; the reality is far too different. Minorities are never adequately represented. In the seventh Parliament there were only 11 male and three female members belonging to minority communities. Taken together minority groups occupied only 4.24 percent seats in Parliament though they form 12 percent of the total population.
However, we want a peaceful progressive country where all minority groups will get back their rights. If our government become cordial and ensure rights for all, than we will get such a country where there is no violence, no conflict; only peace will remain.
The situation of minorities in Bangladesh is a human rights issue. Status of minorities all over the world has demonstrated a pattern of discrimination and insecurity. Bangladesh is no exception. However, the example of minorities in Bangladesh has a typical trend. Overall situation of the minorities in Bangladesh will not improve unless total fundamental rights laid down in the state constitution as well as by United Nations Human Rights Declaration are not implemented. With out the political will of the government, it would be difficult to see a society of racial harmony.
It is evident that the true spirit and essence of democracy remains an illusion for the minorities in Bangladesh. In the name of majoritarian rule or democracy they have been marginalized politically, economically as well as culturally. The state constitution extends guarantee for the majority, the Bangla Muslims. The Bangladesh constitution does not reflect the existence of the cultural and ethnic minorities.
Religion has been used as a tool by the political parties and politicians in Bangladesh to consolidate their power base. It is time that our elected representatives take cognizance of the fact that Bangladesh is not homogenous state rather it is a multi-national state, this reality ought to be incorporated into the Constitution.
Bangladesh is not a land of the Bangla speaking people alone. The Hill people, the Garos, the Malos, the Santals and all the other communities have contributed and participated in their own ways towards building up this society. Their contribution and sacrifices during the war of liberation also need to be recorded and acknowledge in our national history.
3. Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Dec. 13, 2001
4. The Daily Janakantha, Feb. 5, 2002; April 22, 2002.
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