17 November 2017
Socialist Party’s statement on communal persecution of minorities in Bangladesh
The Socialist Party believes that it is the duty of every state to fully protect life, property, dignity and business of minority citizens with their religious identity. It is also the responsibility of the state to ensure that the minority population can live freely enjoying full civil rights without any fear and discrimination. The very concept of modern nation-state and the instructions of the United Nations Organization (UNO)has made it very clear. But Bangladesh’s governments have failed to fulfill this responsibility.
Bangladesh is the third county in the world as far as the Hindu population is concerned. Here the largest, about 1.5 crore, population of Hindus are living as citizens, after India and Nepal. But due to frequent attacks of Islamist fundamentalists and the failure of the government, the Hindu population is constantly declining in Bangladesh. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the reason for this that the Hindus have been fleeing from Bangladesh. According to statistics, in 1947 there was about 28 percent Hindu population in East Pakistan. In 1971, after the formation of Bangladesh, the first census was held in 1981, in which the Hindu population was 12 percent. After this, according to the 2011 census, there are about 9 percent Hindus left in Bangladesh.
The United Nations, several countries of the world including India, civil rights organizations and independent researchers have been pressurizing the government of Bangladesh to stop communal violence against Hindus. But the situation is not improving.
In Bangladesh, incidents of communal persecution of minorities, especially Hindus takes place frequently. During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, Pakistani army and Islamist communal elements specifically targeted the Hindus. In 1992, after the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, there were communal riots against Hindus in Bangladesh. International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in 2013 awarded death sentence to Jamaat-e-Islami vice-president Hussain Sayeedi for committing war crimes in the war of 1971 in which millions of civilians, mostly Hindus, were killed. Radical Islamists have accused the Hindus for the punishment given by the ICT and a widespread communal violence against them was witnessed in 20 districts. There were communal attacks on minority Hindus during the 2014 general elections. This series continues in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The new trend of communal violence against Hindus has been seen due to pictures and comments perceived as blasphemy or defamation of Islam, Prophet Muhammad and Quran are uploaded on social site Facebook. This trend started from the year 2012 and its ire came to Bangladeshi Buddhists also. In reaction to a objectionable Facebook post allegedly uploaded by a Buddhist boy in 2012, a crowd of about 25,000 destroyed 22 Buddhist monasteries and 50 houses. The latest example is an objectionable post on Facebook that led to the burning of more than 30 Hindu houses in Thakurbadi village of Rangpur district on 10 November 2017. In most such incidents, it is believed that Islamist fundamentalists themselves use Facebook with an intention to make the minorities their easy target.
The present Awami League government, which calls itself secular, often says that the attacks against Hindus made by fundamentalist elements are politically motivated. In the national/international media and other reports, mainly Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), its student organization Islamic Chhatra Shibir (ICS) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are named for organizing and promoting Islamist fundamentalist elements. The name of international terrorist organizations like ISIS also comes in. BNP leader Khaleda Zia formed a coalition government in 2001 with Jamaat-e-Islami. However, Jamaat and BNP both deny their involvement in communal persecution of Hindus.
Experts also point out the economic reasons behind the attacks on minority Hindus in Bangladesh, besides religious and political reasons. According to them, particularly due to ‘The Vested Property Act’, socially and politically influential people of the majority keep encouraging radical elements for communal unrest with the intention to grab the lands of Hindus.
Socialist Party urges the ruling Awami League and all opposition political parties, particularly Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, to ensure full security of life, property, dignity and business of minority citizens in Bangladesh. So that Hindus, Buddhists and Christians can live freely in their country enjoying full civil rights without any fear and discrimination. At the same time, the party demands that the government should immediately arrest and convict the criminals involved in the incidents of communal persecution.
The Socialist Party would like to warn that the situation in Bangladesh is a lesson for India. The ruling class of India should follow the principle of secularism as outlined in the Indian Constitution. Unfortunately, the leaders of the stature of Prime Minister and Chief Minister in the present government openly show contempt to and ridicule the principal of secularism. This is a very dangerous situation for the country and society. Bangladesh, created in 1971, was declared constitutionally as a secular state in 1972. But military dictator General Irshad made Islam the state religion of Bangladesh in 1988 which was totally contrary to the slogans of Bangladesh’s freedom movement – secularism and democracy. Muhammad Ali Jinnah also decided to make Pakistan a secular democratic country. But the situation there is obvious for everyone to see . The Socialist Party believes that democracy cannot run without secularism. Bangladesh and Pakistan are the closest examples for India.
Dr. Abhijit Vaidya