A QUIET CASE OF ETHNIC CLEANSING IN BANGLADESH
Dr. Richard L. Benkin
There are an estimated 12 to 13 million Bangladeshi Hindus, and every one of them is facing ethnic cleansing and at risk of genocide. The Bangladesh government can seize their land at any moment—by law—and force them to emigrate. Even worse, their very lives are almost constantly in jeopardy. Of the millions who have been forced out, the lion’s share live in West Bengal, India, and they are at risk as well. So, too, are their children. The war against Bengal’s Hindus has been proceeding for decades, but it took a particularly dangerous turn in 1965 and again in the 1970. The ever increasing power radical Islamists in South Asia drives it and the world’s inaction tells the perpetrators that they can continue doing it with impunity.
PART ONE: THE ROOTS OF ETHNIC CLEANSING
Tensions between Hindus and Muslims on the Indian subcontinent have existed almost since Islam’s appearance there; so much so that the area was divided into two sovereign nations: one Hindu (India) and one Muslim (Pakistan). Both communities and nations regularly accuse the other of various atrocities, often reacting with armed conflict. But something happened in the year 1965 that represented a seminal change in those relationships, and it is something that should have caused a loud and sustained international uproar; but it did not.
That year’s Indo-Pakistani War resulted in a humiliating defeat for the Muslim nation. In an undisguised act of retaliation, Pakistan passed the Enemy Property Act. Aimed deliberately at its Hindu population, the act empowered the government to declare their land and possessions enemy property and to seize it. When Bangladesh won its independence, the new nation re-wrote the Enemy Property Act (EPA) as the Vested Property Act (VPA), with explicit language stating that only the law’s title had changed, not its content. At the time, almost one in five Bangladeshis was a Hindu; today the number is less than one in ten. Their seized lands have become part of Bangladesh’s notorious corruption gravy train, used to woo and benefit every major party. Between 2001 and 2006, 45 percent of the spoils went to the right-center BNP, 31 percent to the left-center Awami League (the figures were reversed when the Awami League was in power), 15 percent to Islamist parties, and the rest to Jatiya and others.
Imagine for a moment if US or Canadian law empowered the government to seize the land and property of non-Christians and give it to Christians. Imagine the international hue and cry that—justifiably—would be heard from every human rights NGO and government entity. And imagine the sustained and passionate cries—again justified—of racism, not only from the aggrieved but from every decent American and Canadian as well. Imagine, too, what an insult such a law would be to the human community. Thankfully, no such law exists, and we do not have to face the animus of all those advocacy groups. Yet, both Pakistan and Bangladesh have such a law; and have had them on the books for decades. The only difference between their law and the hypothetical one above is that they are Muslim majority countries and the laws address property of non-Muslims. Yet, aside from periodic, anemic statements from one or another NGO—statements never coupled with action or sustained outrage—the world has uttered not a peep about this blatant form of de juro bigotry.
On July 30, 2007, I had a meeting at the Bangladeshi embassy in Washington to address the persecution of journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and other matters. During the meeting Bangladesh’s top representative in the United States, Ambassador M. Humayun Kabir told me flatly that the current Bangladeshi government “has no intention to address the Vested Property Act during its tenure”—which at the time of this writing is indefinite. More recently, a Bangladeshi official justified the VPA as a form of “protection” for the Hindu minority.
When the British left India in 1947, Hindus were almost a third of the East Bengali population; but things have changed drastically with the rise of a more aggressive and radical Islam, fueled by middle eastern money. In 1971, the newly independent Bangladesh declared itself a secular nation. A short three years later, it enacted the VPA, and only three years after that, it did an about face and officially proclaimed itself an “Islamic republic,” much to the chagrin and horror of its Hindus and other religious minorities who were now pariahs in their own nation.
The implications of this progression are critical for what was to come. In 1971, the new Bangladesh was very much beholden to India without which it never could have achieved its independence. At the same time, the power of Islamist parties and groups was at its ebb. For they had come out publicly against Bangladeshi independence and often fought alongside the Pakistanis to prevent it. There is extensive documentation linking many of their leaders with the brutal massacre (in cooperation with Pakistani troops) of over three million Bangladeshi non-combatants. But they were never called to account for their actions, and Islamists soon re-established themselves in Bangladesh and especially among its officialdom. As they did, Bangladesh moved further and further away from India and its pluralistic beginnings. In a terrible irony, some of the participants in the 1971 atrocities gained positions of governmental power over the relatives of their victims. With the rise of an internationalist radical Islam, Bangladeshi Islamists have garnered continually growing influence. Though a small part of the overall Bangladeshi population, they have entrenched themselves in almost every major institution from education to banking, from the police to the judiciary. From 2001 to 2006, Islamist parties were members of the ruling coalition; and had the 2007 elections proceeded as scheduled, they would have been so again no matter who won a majority. Despite Islamists’ open calls for Bangladesh’s “Talibanization” including the imposition of Sharia Law, both major parties had agreed to include them in the government.
All of these factors have created a situation in Bangladesh in which severe prejudice is tolerated by those in power. Carrying it to an extreme, even if the government of Sudan has not been the primary driver of genocide in that country; its refusal to stop the Janjanweed is the primary factor allowing it to happen. Are we looking forward to a time in Bangladesh when severe bigotry turns into genocide because its roots and preliminary forms have been tolerated by those in power and allowed to proceed unopposed by a timid or uncaring world?
Dr. Richard L. Benkin is an independent human rights activist who first gained notoriety for his successful fight to free Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from imprisonment and torture in 2005. Since then, he has continued to advocate for Mr. Choudhury’s rights—are constantly under attack by the government of Bangladesh—and for other human rights issues. Most recently, he took a fact finding trip to West Bengal and other areas in India to confirm the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus and the severity of their current situation even in India.
taken from bangladeshihindu.com
Struggle of Hindus in Bangladesh
With the scheduled date for national elections fast approaching, the Awami League (AL) continues its decades-long courtship of Bangladesh’s minorities. Its 2008 “election manifesto” identifies five “priority issues” and buried as one of seven points under the fifth priority is:
“Use of religion and communalism in politics will be banned. Security and rights of religious and ethnic minorities will be ensured. Courtesy and tolerance will be inculcated in the political culture of the country. Militancy and extortion will be banned. Awami League will take initiative to formulate a consensual and unanimous charter of political behavior.”
To be sure, the AL is on solid ground when it urges minorities to reject the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) with its long history of coddling Islamist radicals. There is nonetheless a real question of the AL’s commitment to these ideals aside from the total befuddlement among all observers about how it would implement these high-sounding principles. AL has yet to say how it will ban “use of religion and communalism in politics.” How does it propose to stop such things as leaflets being distributed in districts with minority candidates, as reported in The Daily Star? The paper notes that leaflets distributed in the Thakurgaon-I district urges voters to reject AL candidate Ramesh Chandra Sen because he is a Hindu and uses verses from the Quran to try and convince voters. Another leaflet was entitled “Al-Quraner-Bani” and asks Muslims not to vote for any non-Muslim candidate. According to an election officer, however, these things already are legal. How the AL would make sure these things do not happen is something they never have spelled out.
Moreover, the AL’s history should not encourage religious minorities. By now, all Bangladeshis recall the AL’s shameful agreement with Khelafat Majlis (KM) in December 2006. In that MOU, the AL discarded all pretense of being a party committed to minority rights when it agreed not only to let the Islamist party into its coalition if it won the election, but it would all the KM to proceed with implementing Sharia Law on all citizens. Fortunately, the elections scheduled for the following month were postponed, but the AL’s action revealed that its members are far more concerned about winning an election no matter what it means for millions of Bangladeshi citizen.
Muslim Extremism in Bangladesh
The Sariot Pur representative of The Daily Prothom Alo Mr. Sottojit Ghosh was threatened to kill by the Local Muslim Mayor Abdul Rob
Munshi. On 18-01-09 last Sunday evening from cell number+88 01712732501 he was threatened to kill. Relating to this a General
Diary was filed in Palong Police station. Mr,Sottojit Ghosh was threatened to kill because he published news which goes against Local
Muslim Mayor Abdul Rob Munshi.
On last 16th January a meeting was held against the war criminal and with the demands of local freedom fighters in Upazilla parishod. The organizers invited the Local Muslim Mayor Abdul Rob Munshi but he did not come to the meeting. Instead of attending to the meeting he spread bad thing about the honorable freedom fighters. Relating to this one news was published in Daily Prothom Alo (18-1-09) For this news subsequently this Hindu Minority journalist was threatened to kill by the Local Muslim Mayor Abdul Rob Munshi.
CDA demands to the present government to deal with any kinds of threat against the minorities of Bangladesh as soon as possible. We also request to the Internatonal leaders to bring t this issue to USCRIF, Minority forum of UN and enforce Bangladesh government to take actions against the perpetrator as soon as possible.
Posted by: betalbolen in Bangladesh, Hinduism, Politics, বাংলা
বাংলাদেশের জম্ম যদিও ধর্ম নিরপেক্ষ দেশ হিসেবে জম্ম হয়েছিল, বাস্তবে এখন আর নেই।এরশাদ সরকার উনার বাবার সম্পত্তির মতই একে মুসলিম দেশ হিসেবে ঘোষণা করেন। এর জন্য তিনি নেননি কোন জনসাধারণের মতামত। সাথে সাথেই বাংলাদেশের কপালে আরেকবার কালিমা লেপন করা হলো। পর্যায়ক্রমিকভাবে সময় এগিয়ে গেলেও অসভ্যতার মায়াজাল আরো ঘনীভূত হয় বাংলাদেশে।
২০০১ এর উপাত্ত অনুসারে, বাংলাদেশের মোট জনসংখ্যার মাত্র ৯ শতাংশ ছিল হিন্দু ধর্মাবলম্নী। মোট জনসংখ্যার মাত্র নয় শতাংশ মানুষ যদি আঃ লীগে ভোটও দেয়, তাহলে কোন ভাবেই আঃ লীগ জয়ী হতে পারেনা। এর মানে, এই হলো বাংলাদেশ সরকার গঠনে আঃ লীগকে ভোট সংখ্যা গরিষ্ঠতায় আংশিক বা পূর্ণাংগভাবে জয়ী হতে হলে, অবশ্যই অন্যান্য ধর্মাবলম্বীদেরও সহযোগী থাকতেই হবে।
কিন্তু, দূর্ভাগ্য হলেও সত্যি, ২০০১ সালে সবচেয়ে বেশি হেনস্থা হতে হয়েছিল একদল মানুষদের যাদের ধর্ম ছিল হিন্দু। হত্যা, সম্পত্তি লুন্ঠন, অকথিত অত্যাচার ও গণধর্ষনের মতো বেশ ভয়াবহ অপরাধ উঠে আসে কোন এক দল রাজনৈতিক দলগোষ্ঠির কর্মীদের সাহায্যে। তাদের অপরাধ, তারা মালাউন। তারা আঃ লীগের ভোট ব্যাংক। ভোট যদি নাগরিক মৌলিক অধিকার হয়, তবে আঃ লীগকে ভোট দেওয়াও কোন অপরাধ নয়। তবে, এর শাস্তি হিন্দুসহ সমস্ত সংখ্যালঘুদের কেন দিতে হবে? মানবতা বিরোধী এই অসুস্থ মানসিকতার আসল হোতা কারা? তাদেরই বা কেন বিচার হলো না? আপনার বা আমার কারো কিছু হয় নি বলে মুখে কলুপ এটে কতক্ষণ? নারকীয় অতি অল্প কিছু সত্য দৃশ্য দেখুন,
বাংলাদেশের যেকোন রাজনৈতিক দল সংখ্যালঘুদের ও তাদের স্বার্থ সংক্রান্ত মুখ ভরা বুলি থাকলেও বাস্তবে তার কোন প্রতিফলন দেখতে পাওয়া যায় না। শুধু সংখ্যালঘু কেন, কতো সাধারণ মানুষ হেনস্তা হয়েছেন। অনেকেই বলেন, বাংলাদেশের সংখ্যা লঘুদের জামাই আদরে রাখা হয়েছে। আমি শুনি আর হাসি। সরকারী বড় কোন পোস্টে কতজন সংখ্যালঘু রয়েছে, বলুন তো? দেখাতে পারবেন, বাংলাদেশের ইতিহাসে কোনো সংখ্যালঘু কি কখনো প্রধান মন্ত্রী হয়েছেন, বা প্রেসিডেন্ট বা স্পিকার? আমাদের নিজেদের ভাগ্যকে ধন্যবাদ দেওয়া উচিত। বাংলাদেশে এখনো সংখ্যালঘু ভিত্তিক কোন উগ্র সম্প্রদায়ের উথ্থান ঘটেনি। ভুলে গেলে চলবে না, সময়ের সাথে সাথে অত্যাচারিত মানুষদের ভাষা প্রতিবাদ কঠোর হয়ে আসে। ভৌগলিক দিক থেকে বিবেচনা করলে বাংলাদেশের প্রায় সব অংশই ভারত দ্বারা পরিবেষ্টিত। নিজামীর ভাষায়, “বাংলাদেশ ভারতের তাঁবেদার রাষ্ট্র বানানোর চক্রান্ত চলেছে” লিংকটা দাও। সঠিকভাবে নির্বাচনপূর্ব ও পরবর্তি সময়গুলো সংখ্যালঘু ও সবার মানবাধিকার সঠিকভাবে পালন না করলে, আমাদের অনেক বেশি মূল্য দিতে হতে পারে।
একগাদা মানুষের অভিশাপ হাহাকার হয়ে পিছু লাগবে।
RaniI Santayana, Ph.D.
The statement aims to reveal a rough scenario of the continuing different institutional persecution on the grounds of religion and ethnicity. Simultaneously to alert the civilised Nations of the systematic rapid increasing of radical Islamic extremism, who steadily aimed to cleanse the 14 mln. Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and other tribes, the religious minorities, from Bangladesh to make it a pure Islamic, a neo-Talibani Bangladesh.
Eliminating the minorities took place since August 14, 1947. But they have gained unprecedented
momentum ever since the Islamic hardliners assumed power with an absolute majority in the parliament in October, 2001.(*1) It allowed them to make Bangladesh a ‘freehold’ Islamic country. Since then, the BNP armed cedars with their associates Jamat and other Muslim extremists have conducted deliberate, systemetic, unprovoked, savage attacks on minorities.
Atrocities have typically included brutal torture and ghastly murders of intellectuals, priests, and monks; gang rape and mass rape of women, forcible conversion to Islam; imposition of exorbitant tax; desecration and razing of temples, pagodas, and churches; destructing the deities; looting, razing, and burning down of homes and businesses. They then leave with such ultimatums as: “Either convert to Islam by January 10 or else you will be driven out of the country”(*2).
These persecutions for the religious minorities started since 1947 when Bangladesh had been East
Pakistan. In 1971 liberation war, majority of the victims were Hindus, who were killed (3 million), forced to flee(10 million), women, who were raped (100,000) and many more were assaulted, whose houses were burned, demolished, properties were extorted. These became state-sponsored in independent Bangladesh since the 5th amendment, when the Parliament abolished ‘Secularism’ as one of the 4th fundamental principles of our Constitution. In 8th amendment, ‘Islam’ has been declared as the state religion. The weekly Holiday had been changed from ‘Sunday’ to ‘Friday’, which inspired the Muslim become openly extremists and to move forward.(*3)
Even, the Elite minorities could not be protected by the authorities. 5 minorities professors of Chittagong University have been threatened to be killed if they fail to leave Bangladesh immediately(*4).
The BNP and Jamat armed cedars have not even spared 4 to 8 years girls, after tearing them from their mothers’ arms, they have cut wide their genitalia and raped them repeatedly in turn, even though the girls became unconscious and were bleeding profusely. In the case of minorities, they have mass raped, and routinely gang raped minor daughters and mothers together, forcing the vulnerable sons, brothers and fathers to watch.(*5)
The perpetrators had threatened in advance to fathers of young daughters, who failed to pay the exorbitant tax saying’ Uncle, we will visit you to night,so get ready to entertain us’. This made ten thousands of minorities to flee Bangladesh en masse, in yet another wave of exodus to India.(*6)
The ruling BNP, Jamat and other Islamic extremist political parties openly represent pro-Taliban forces in Bangladesh. The leaders of these parties are partners of crime. For example, the Harkat-ul
Jihad-I-Islami(HUJI) was declared a terrorist organisation by the Office of the Coordinator for the
Global Terrorism/US dept. of State,May21,2001. Fajlur Rahman of HUJI signed an official declaration of ‘holy war’ like Bin Laden against the USA on Feb.23, 1998.(*7)
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Destroyed Hindu Temple in Bangladesh
Dear Secular Government!!
Previously “Ma durga” was demolished by the communal quarter in Gopalgonj and now again “Ma Kali” is fully demolished by the Muslims in Bangladesh. This is an open question to the devoted, why only the Hindu Goddess is under attack? What is the reason behind? Why the Government is silent? How man y Goddess will be demolished? In Bangladesh Minority Wife, Sister and Mother are not safe and in Temple Holy Goddess are not safe? Sadhan Biswas a local devote of “Ma Durag” said that “Those who can demolish the soil made Goddess they will not hesitate to kill us “. We highly demand to the Mr.Sitangshu Guha to take this brutal incident immediately to the concerned national and international community. We urge to every devotee to take actions from their position to secure the religious rights of the minorities as soon as possible.
On 26th January 2009 around 9 pm a group of local violent and highly armed Muslims led by Mohammed Siraj the ex-chairman of Banesordi (Faridpur) attacked on the Sosan(Hindu Grave yard) and then attacked on by the side “Kali Mondir” . They fired in the temple and demolished the holy Goddesses. As the local devote run to safe the holy temple from the brutal attack of the violent Muslims the highly armed threat the helpless devotee with arms. These highly armed, Violent Muslims are the supporters of workers and supporters of Local BNP. According to RS and CS record the place said temple belongs to the Hindu community. The greedy Muslims intent to grab the lands of the Temple and Sosan ( Hindu Grave yard).
The member of Temple committee, Shri Monoronjon Biswas filed a case describing the brutal atrocities on Hindu minority in Nogor Kanda
A group of armed and drunked supporters of Bangladesh Awamileague attacked a Hindu minority BNP supporter Nitto Lal Das (55) at around 2:30 am in 30th December 2008 . The Younger brother of local Awamileague leader Abul Mansur Rubel lead a team of 7-8 perpetrators and they knocked at the door of Nitto Lal Das and as they opened the door the perpetrators start beating Nitto Lal Das in KuliarChar ,Kisohergonj . During beating Nitto Lal become naked. . The brutal attackers did not forsake the women and old aged mother of Nitto Lal. As the family members try to save Nitto Lal they were also attacked by the perpetrators the perpetrators finally hurt Nitto Lal Das with sharp arms. The brutal attackers even hurt the aged mother of Nitto with Sharp arms. During this attack several others relatives of Nitto were hurt ,including Provati Rani Das (40),Raju Das (17),Shiuli Rani Das (35),Montu Das (40),Sujata Das(26) .
Nitto Lal das was severly injured and first taken to local hospital. Then Nitto Lal was brought to Dhaka Truma Hospital in Shamoli and as the situation of Nitto Lal was decreasing he was taken to Apollo Hospital for better treatment in 31st December 2008.
The Regional Co Coordinator of “Justice Foundatioan” and the Executive Director of Christian Development Alternative (CDA) William Gomes immediate rushed to the Trauma Hospital and talked to relatives of the victim. They expressed their great shock in this incident and they are demanding for their security.
In 1st of January 2009, William Gomes meet with the Chairman of National Human Rights Commission and officially urged to them to take necessary initiative to secure the minority family as soon as possible.
Till the report written no police case was filed regarding this incident. The minorities of that locality are in fear of communal violence like 2001 .
Please Call the IG Police and call or mail your friends to take urgent actions .
[William Gomes is a Catholic Human rights activist, freelance journalist and the executive director of the Human rights organization “Christian Development Alternative(CDA). Visit:www.persecutionbd.org Email:CDA.email@example.com, Cell:+8801912342809]