Dialogue  April-June 2009 , Volume 10 No. 4

Awami League mohajote elected to power and minorities in Bangladesh

Bimal Pramanik

After a long dilly – dallying by the army led Care Taker Govt. of Bangladesh Awami League and its allies have come to power with a overwhelming majority on 29th December, 2008 general election. Now five months tenure already is over. They have taken some important issues immediately, dousing fire of price-rise, tackling law and order situation, prosecution of war criminals a committed agenda to the people before election, to control Islamic terrorists like JMB, to reform primary education, etc. In the mean time, government has faced an unexpected revolt from the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR). But government did not initiate any inquiry on minority persecution during the tenure of Begum Khaleda Zia led BNP—JIB government from 2001 to 2006.

On 15 October, 2001, Amnesty Internationalissued Urgent Action plan expressing concern at reports that Hindu and other religious minorities have been attacked since the general election, allegedly by supporters of the BNP led coalition. Members of the Amnesty International throughout the world wrote to the authorities in Bangladesh urging them to take immediate action to stop attacks on religious minorities and to provide the victims of these attacks with adequate and durable protection. They wrote to Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia asking her to set up an impartial and independent commission of enquiry to investigate the alleged attacks, to identify the attackers and bringing those responsible to justice. Amnesty Internationalmembers also wrote to the Inspector General of Police urging him to ensure that his officers take appropriate action on complaint against the alleged attackers.

The then Prime Minister’s speech on 19 October, 2001, flatly rejected or denied the existence of any minority (religious or ethnic or linguistic) in Bangladesh. If they (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian) are not recognized as minorities by the government or state, the question of minority rights as well as human rights become irrelevant and all the recommendations by Amnesty International to the highest authorities in Bangladesh virtually stands rejected.

Apart from Amnesty International, major daily news papers of Bangladesh, Human Rights groups, & NGOs publishednews and documents onatrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh since 2001 onward. A leading Human Rights activist Shahariar Kabir published documents ‘1500 days of atrocities on Minorities in Bangladesh’ –a white paper in three volumes (approx 3000 pages). Even Awami League leadership raised a hue and cry against these events. But after AL came to power in 2009, they are silent about the atrocities against Hindus during Khaleda Zia regime. No commission was set up against it. Not a single case has been started on these atrocities. It is sad to say, even in this period (5 months of AL tenure) a lot of incidents of atrocities on minorities has been published in the news papers. Case of land grabbing, desecration and demolition of temples, forcible conversion to Muslim faith, rape and physical torture of women etc. have been perpetrated mostly by the AL workers and supporters.

 Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (USA), wrote a memorandum in agony to Bangladesh Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina on behalf of the ethnic and religious minorities of Bangladesh, I cite a portion here,

 “Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council USA, would like to bring to your attention about a number of very alarming incidents perpetrated against the minorities and their religious symbols and institutions since your government came to power. You readily acknowledge that minorities have historically supported your party and cast a decisive 16% of the total vote in your favour. The one reason minorities voted so overwhelmingly for the alliance you led, was to be safe in living their lives and in practicing thereligions of their choice. Sadly none of those expectations have come to fruition yet. Besidesthe attacks on minorities have not dissipated as your government came to power. Just a few days ago on May 30th known culprits attacked a half- century old Shiva temple destroyed all the idols , uprooted dozens of families and took illegal possession of the temple property in Sutrapur at the heart of the capital. Moreover we have come to know that the perpetrators were Awami League activists and they boasted of their Awami credentials while attacking innocent men , women and children with absolute impunity. It was reported that although the temple was located a few yards from a police precinct, the police did not come to the aid of terrified minority residents. We have also learnt from news reports about attacks on minorities virtually every part of the country. Attacks like these do not give us any confidence that your government is serious about the life and safety of the country’s minorities and their properties.”

They also appealed to the Prime Minister for safeguard and security of minorities saying, “we urge you, Madam Prime Minister, to take decisive actions against the perpetrators of past and current attacks on minorities and set up a powerful cell to monitor these kinds of hate crimes. Meanwhile, it is of utmost importance that adequate resources to be employed to safeguard the minorities and their places of worship against attacks that are taking place on a daily basis throughout Bangladesh. Also there has to be an effort spearheaded by the government to bring about cultural change as to identifying and educating the sections of people susceptible to religious extremism and bigotry.”

 On the other side, Last 38 years of Bangladesh history, CHT is under army rule. After CHT agreement with AL government. in December 1997, people’s aspiration was to withdraw army and introduce civil administration in CHT, but it did not happen. A gross human rights and ethnic minority rights violation in CHT have been continuing since independence of Bangladesh—said Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, Chairman, Parbatya Chattogram Janasanghati samiti.

 Our experience and observation regarding minorities in Bangladesh is: every government of Bangladesh is cussedly indifferent to the needs of minorities. The question of dispensing justice becomes a misnomer when the terror is unleashed under the protection of the government or the government machinery. This is, of course, nothing new in Bangladesh. During the 1971 freedom struggle, hand in hand with Pakistan army, the local Bangladeshi Razakars, Al Badrs and the members of the so-called Peace Committee created by the Pakistani army, mercilessly killed and raped, thousands of innocent people in Bangladesh belonging to the minority communities, and they were never brought to book even after Bangladesh became free. In the communal frenzy of 1990, 1992 and 2001 nobody had to face any trial, far less receive any punishment for committing heinous crimes. It has become irrelevant to the minority Hindu community to seek justice, when the question of rights is a far cry-irrespective of the nature and colour of the government.

Source:1. bhbcuc-usa.org .

 2. Ittefaq, a Bangla daily from Dhaka, May 21, 2009.

 3. Minorities and Human Rights in Bangladesh, Authors Press,

 Delhi, 2003, pp.119.


Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

Astha Bharati