The Problems for Hindu Minority in Bangladesh


Hindus in Bangladesh

Protest Movements in Bangladesh

The emergence of a secular Bangladesh has risen great hope for many stake-holders. Recently, the coalition of Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami has been portraying itself as a victim of state-sponsored witch-hunting. Jamaat-e-Islami has been derecognized as a political party, for using religion in the democratic process. Much of the Jamaat leadership was actively involved in rape, arson, murder and forced conversion. Awami League government has been convincing the youth movement in Shahbag to pursue the war crimes trial seriously. Faced with such offense against itself, Jamaat response has been three-point offensive.

Jamaat has mobilized its organization and the Madarssa students to blockade Dhaka. It also carried out targeted attacks on the homes, businesses and places of worship of Hindus.

In 2001, when BNP-led coalition won the elections, murders, arson and targeted attacks against Hindus happened on a large scale. Hindus have traditionally voted for the Awami League. BNP-Jamaat partnership has been constantly threatening the life and property of the Hindu minorities. In this year’s elections, Hindus were persecuted by Jamaat for coming out to vote. They were also attacked by the rebel Awami League members, for voting for the official party candidates, who belonged to the Hindu community. Under this context, the difference between the ‘secular’ Awami League and communal-fundamentalist BNP-Jamaat is beginning to disappear.

Violence unleashed against the Hindus this time was the worst in Jessore, Dinajpur and Satkhira. Large scale attacks on villages, businesses and places of worship took place. All these incidents brought back the memories of the 1971 riots in Bangladesh. Women were raped at gunpoint for voting in the elections.

All this raises questions over the efficability of the partition. The autocratic years of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s BAKSAL, the long years of army rule when barracks used Islam to create a veneer of political legitimacy beyond the Awami League and pro-liberation forces. All this gave the first priority to the religion based politics.

Pro-Pakistan organizations, which looked to faith-unity as the basis of statehood did not disappear after the Liberation war of 1971. Rather, they were broadly and transiently de-legitimized due to their role in the atrocities of 1971.

Hindus, in Bangladesh, are not fully coterminous with ideas that conflate Bangaliness with the idea of citizenship. Their progressive numerical marginality makes this conflation project easier. Thus, they can be marginalized without being targeted. The majority can decided to be whatever it wants, and the minority has to follow suit in a modern nation-state. About the Hindus, extra territorial loyalty is the issue that is bandied about. While the Bengali Muslims easily de-Pakistanize themselves, Hindu minorities had to follow only after their Muslim brethrens. Minorities have fled from Bangladesh, in large numbers, in search of security. But there also exist a significant presence of minorities in the bureaucracy and local administration. But the administration has failed to provide security.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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