”When we hide discrimination under the guise of ‘religious freedom’ we make a mockery of human rights”
More than 12 people lost their lives (due to communal violence) in a country that had once adopted ‘nationalism’, ‘socialism’, ‘democracy’ and ‘secularism as its state principles. The fact that all this had happened in the background of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s nationhood is in fact a great matter of shame for the country. It is the hidden truth that the degree of violence in the already communally active country has escalated as a reaction to the anti-Muslim tactics of the present Indian government. If we look at it from the perspective of an eye for an eye it of course does not make any sense. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that the Muslims in India have not been able to speak up (rather have been vehemently suppressed on every possible occasion) against the bigotry against them. In this article we shall be exploring the history of communal violence in Bangladesh and the action (rather inaction) of the authorities to protect the religious minorities.
[DISCLAIMER: If you find any similarities in the oppressive regime of Bangladesh with the present conditions in India that might be a pure coincidence (or not)]
With a steep decline of almost 20% from 28% population in 1940 to 8.96% in 2011, the Hindus in Bangladesh are one of the largest persecuted religious minority in the 21st Century. With the Hindu community facing atrocities including being robbed of their lands, systematic slaughtering, forcible conversions, rapes and constant bigotry, the history of horrendous genocide of the Hindus dates way back to 1971. In fact, 1971 is considered one of the most gruesome communal attacks after the Nazi Holocaust. Bangladesh has a very peculiar history in terms of take of the country on religion. While it had initially adopted secularism as a core constitutional principle, military coups later amended the same and declared Islam as the state religion which was yet again changed when Sheikh Hasina restored secularism in 2011 (which unfortunately is just a token of appreciation for the second-class religious minorities).
It is a sad reality that no trials are conducted against the perpetrators in almost all such cases. The media of the country is also polarized and biased and use tactics including reporting the number of causalities incorrectly, hiding the identity of the radical elements as ‘unknown miscreants or even falsely accusing the victims of blasphemy (tch tch they should learn something from the Indian media). International actors and organizations are the only ray of hope to bring justice to the religious minorities. The condemnation of the 2013 attack (where at least 60 people were killed) by Amnesty International, while urging all international actors to pressurize the Bangladesh government to investigate into such communal outbreak is truly a positive step for the growth of the whole world as one. Various international reports by agencies including OHCHR while helping compile data and brining to light the horrors of ethnic cleansing that the Hindu community has to face have also been helpful to bring to book the extremist groups responsible for such heinous crimes.
With the Biden government (one of the world powers) specifically denouncing the recent atrocities, one can only hope that this time all the people responsible for such inhumane acts are punished so as to make Bangladesh a safer place for religious minorities.
This post was written by Muskan, IIIrd year