By Jahangir Alam Akash, The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom of the U.S. Department of State recently published a report on the human rights situation in Bangladesh. This report gave the present government of Bangladesh a stamp of approval for human rights. According to the report, the human rights situation is getting better, especially with oppression against religious minorities on the decrease. How can the U.S. state department say that the human rights situation in Bangladesh is improving? We don’t know, but the real situation is quite the opposite.
In Bangladesh, the real situation of human rights does not resemble the U.S. state department’s report. Almost every day, violations of human rights occur in various forms. Religious minorities, including Hindus and Christians, are in a panic. Repression of religious minorities is happening throughout the country. There are innumerable examples of the repression of religious minorities under the present regime in Bangladesh. Here is a list:
On June 30, a schoolteacher, Akhil Chandra Saha, was killed by miscreants at Charghat in Rajshahi. Since then, the 21 minority Hindu families of Miapur village have been in a panic. A sensational incident of minority oppression happened in August, when armed criminals forced Nitai Chandra Das, 70; his cousin Shambhu Das, 50; Shambhu’s wife Kajol Rani Das, 42; her son Sajal, 14, and daughter Swarna, 8; Shambhu’s brother Mohabir Das, 45; his wife Lakshmi Rani Das, 38; and her daughters Beauty, 18, and Sweety, 12, from their homes and confined them to a workshop. The criminals also stole some belongings, including gold ornaments, from the victims’ houses.
On July 1, a poor Hindu young person, Ashish Sarker, 25, was abducted and murdered in Mirzapur in Tangail. At the end of June, a Hindu businessman named Sumon Goala, 25, was murdered in Pearpur-Jamalpur Sadar. Recently, a Hindu woman, Radha Rani Halder, 28, was gang raped in Shoriotpur. On July 3, perpetrators attacked four Hindu families and vandalized their deities, while trying to occupy cremation ground belonging to Hindus in the Palash subdistrict of the Narsingdi district. Ten people, including women and children, were seriously injured during the attack.
On July 16, some miscreants stole valuables, desecrated the Kali Temple and also demolished the deity at the Raroa Kali Temple at Gopalpur in the Sherpur sibdistrict of the Bogra district. On July 2, a Hindu housewife, Anguri Biswas, 23, was abducted in Rajoir in the Madaripur district. In August, a group of hoodlums under the leadership of Hafizur Rahman Hafiz and his elder brother Azizur Rahman Aziz, the cultural secretary of the Juba League, forcefully occupied seven decimals (282.94 sq.m.) of land belonging to a Hindu owner, Surjya Kanta Debnath, in the Nalitabari subdistrict of the Sherpur district. In connection with this, allegations were made by the victim that two shops were demolished and that his daughter, Lipi Debnath, was physically assaulted during the operation.
In the same month, 20 religious minority families were forced to leave their homes due to the continuous kidnapping of women and children and the collection of “security” money in the Sonagazi-Feni district. It has been learned that the perpetrators Jafar, Seraj, Younus, Saiful, Ripon, Sabuj, Selim, Nasir and more than 20 miscreants were regularly collecting illegal money from 20 Hindu families. If they refused to pay the money, then they would begin to receive threats.
On the night of Aug. 31, a gang of criminals attacked three Hindu families in the Dighalkandi Sahapara village of the Puthia subdistrict of Rajshahi, injuring 12 people. Sources said that the hoodlums also looted five houses and shops during the attack, in an attempt to convince those families to move away from their land. The injured included Profulla Chandra Saha, his wife Bijli Rani Saha, his brother Bijoy Saha, Sukumar, Chand, and Nomita, who were admitted to the Puthia Health Complex in critical condition. Around 30 perpetrators, believed to be BNP-Jamaat cadres, attacked the homes of Vanpuller Bijoy, Sukumar, and Uttam. They also looted Sukumar’s grocery store and the stitching shop of Uttam’s wife, Nomita, during the attack.
Sources said that, on Aug. 27, men from the neighboring village of Kacharipara beat up two youths, Nayan and Sujon, in Sahapara. Following the incident, 10 Hindu families filed a general report with the local police station, expressing their anxiety. In October, a religious minority woman was abducted while she was asleep with her husband, Sagor Das, and gang raped in the Sathiya subdistrict of the Pabna district. Purnima Rani, the daughter of Dulal Roy of Chitra Para-Joypurhat, is missing after being falsely promised to be married with a Hindu boy. The Muslim perpetrator is related to a very powerful Juba League leader in Joypurhat.
Purnima Rani could not be recovered, despite desperate arbitration with the powerful Awami League leaders. Also, the police on duty sometimes neglected to register cases against those perpetrators. Although the case was registered after much endeavor, the perpetrators also started constantly intimidating the victim’s family. Thus, a sense of insecurity prevails amongst the Hindu communities.
There are also forceful conversions after entrapment and false personification. Nabami Sarkar, the daughter of Akhil Sarkar of the Aimar Rasulpur village, and Krishna Rani and Prativa Rani of Govindapur were the victims of such fraudulent events. Fraudulent conversions with the intent to deceive minority girls are occurring, such as with Shika Debnath, daughter of Mina Debnath of the Shaljune village of the same subdistrict. The police do not respond to this particular minority issue if a rebort is filed with them. As discontentment prevailed amongst Hindu minorities, the police reluctantly detained Purnima Roy, daughter of Dulal Roy, on Oct. 1 who was wearing a burka. Thereafter, she was produced before a court and the court sent her to judicial custody. A shrewd Muslim boy in the Kusumba Union village of Govindapur lured a Hindu girl, Krisna Rani Protiva, into a trap, abducted her, and absconded. The victim’s older brother protested against this sort of trap and, as a result, was assaulted. Although the case was recorded, the police kept people silent about it. Later, the unfortunate girl was recovered.
Sawpan Mondal, 40, a Hindu (converted to a Christian) NGO employee was beaten to death in Soharwardy Uddayan (Ramna Kali Temple) by the some students of Dhaka University, who branded him an extortionist. On Sept. 12, the students caught him and beaten him mercilessly. The morning after, Mondal died from his wounds at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital during treatment. At least 25 Hindu families have been evicted from Kalapara in Patuakhali under the current regime.
According to the Daily Star, the chairman of the Rajshahi board of education, Dipakendranath Das, left the city on Aug. 30 for Dhaka after filing general reports with two police stations following threats on his life, allegedly from the city’s mayor, AHM Khairuzzaman Liton. The Rajshahi mayor asked the board chairman repeatedly over the phone to upgrade his daughter’s SSC results, Dipakendranath alleged. Khairuzzaman acknowledged that he had requested Dipakendranath to look into his daughter’s results, but denied the allegation of threatening the board chairman. In his identical reports filed with Boalia and Rajpara police stations in Rajshahi, the chairman alleged that he had been asked to leave Rajshahi forever over the phone on Aug. 27. The callers also threatened him with death. He had refrained from mentioning the names of any individual or party in his reports. Earlier on Aug. 27, the chairman alleged that the city mayor threatened to transfer him if he did not entertain his request of upgrading his daughter’s SSC results. Anika Faria Zaman, the mayor’s daughter, secured a GPA of 4.56 in this year’s SSC examinations. Dissatisfied with the results, she, along with 2,300 other examinees, appealed to the board on June 22 to review their results. When the reviewed results came out on Aug. 9, some 23 examinees got their results changed but Anika’s results remained the same.The board chairman explained that Anika failed to get a GPA of 5 because she secured an A- in Bangla and obtained an A in English, mathematics and chemistry. “There was no room to review her results, as they had already been issued,” he said. Dipakendranath alleged that the mayor threatened him twice, on Aug. 18 and 25, over the phone.
On June 12, a gang led by Nur Hosssain Master of Soraigachhi attacked the homes of 74 families, including 54 indigenous families in Katirpur of the Porsha subdistrict of the Naogaon district. They torched, damaged and looted the houses and also randomly beat up indigenous men, women and children during the attack.
On Sept. 2, more than 50 people, including the member-secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, Prof. Anu Muhammad, were injured when police charged at marchers heading for Petrobangla headquarters in the capital in protest against the government’s decision to award three offshore blocks to international oil companies. One bereaved Hindu family was prevented from lodging a first information report at the Rangunia police station, due to continuous threats from the killers. Police have tried to suppress the facts of the murder and, as a result, the perpetrators have gotten impunity.
On July 24, some men kidnapped Jatindra Lal Dey, 65, of the Sahandi Nagar Hindu Para village and strangled him half to death, then fled, leaving him at the Rangunia Subdistrict Hospital. Jatindra died on his way to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital.
In August, a group of religious minority communities in the Barman Para village of the Durgapur subdistrict of the Netrokona district made allegations regarding continuous repression against them. In a separate statement signed by some minority communities condemning the atrocities done against them, it is alleged that crimes against humanity, including physical torture, rape, kidnapping and land seizure, were continuously being committed against them. They also claimed that although the local government, including their Member of Parliament, was asked to stop these atrocities, and although the local Member of Parliament asked the officer-in-charge to take necessary steps, no remedial measures were taken by the police, unfortunately. As such, a case has been filed by Bimal Chandra Barman at the Durgapur police station.
In July, a religious minority schoolgirl of the Dalit family in the Jessore district of Bangladesh was gang raped on her way back from attending “Kirtan” religious songs. The victim was dragged to a nearby garden and raped by several men. In Bhola, there is a silent repression of religious minorities.
Lord Hardinge, 35 miles away from the Lalmohan police station, reported in writing that some Muslim land grabbers with bad motives instituted false cases in the court against destitute, law-abiding Hindus, making them leave the country. Hindus have been arrested without any tangible allegations, because in July the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhola made a judicial enquiry through the headmaster of a local high school – a reported activist of the Awami League – took negative view and submitted false reports against the
Hindus. No enquiry was made into the allegations against those Hindus with regard to their
involvement in theft and other false allegations.
On May 8, in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Maching Khai Marma, 18, was raped, then killed with a brick. On Sept. 28, Goutam Sarker, 33, was shot dead in Dhaka. He was a resident of 47 Farasganj Lane, Sutrapur. He was also the president of the Awami Sechasebok League of the 79th ward of Dhaka.
On Oct. 22, a Catholic family of the Dhaka diocese, under the St. Lawrence Catholic Church, was attacked by local Muslims. Some people fired guns at the house of the Catholic family. After that, a complaint was filed with the local police station as well as with the U.S. state department by the family with the help of an NGO.
Furthermore, extrajudicial killings are still very common in Bangladesh. On Oct. 31, another two people were killed in extrajudicial killings, falsely reported as a “gunfight” with the police in Sundarban in Bagerhat. The victims were Altaf Hossain, 42, and Mizanur Rahman, 35, both residents of Chandrakhali in Rampal. This latest incident raised the total death figure due to extrajudicial killings by the Rapid Action Battalion and the police to 118 since Jan. 6, when the Awami League-led government assumed office. This is despite the fact that, on the same day, the law minister, Barrister Shafique Ahmed, said in a training program on human rights that there should be initiatives to investigate any kind of extrajudicial killing, as the present government does not believe in such killings.
On Feb. 25-26, at Pilkhana BDR headquarters, some of the BDR members revolted and, during that time, they killed many members of the meritorious army; looted their money, gold and other wealth; and raped army officers’ wives and daughters. At least 75 people, including 58 meritorious army officers, were killed by the so-called mutineers. It was a gross human rights violation, which came after the brutal killing of the father of the nation, Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
We want to see fair trials held for the real and accused mutineers. We know that 48 BDR members already died after torture during detention. The whole nation is waiting for justice regarding the BDR mutiny. We also want to see the inquiry report into the BDR mutiny and killings.
So, there is a big difference between the U.S. state department report and the real situation of human rights and religious minorities in Bangladesh. We want an equal society without torture or human rights violations.
Another gross incident of minority repression has happened in Natore, Bangladesh. With the help of the local administration, some politically powerful people were involved in this violation against three religious minority families. Minorities gain no security from the so-called “minority friendly” government regime. The criminals were trying to murder some religious minorities.
According to the Daily Sangbad, in the middle of the night of Nov. 1, 2009, in the village of Tazpur in the Singra subdistrict of Natore, the perpetrators locked the doors of the houses of the minorities from the outside, then set fire to the houses using petrol. One minority man, Rash Bihari, had to be taken to the Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, since he was seriously burned. The houses of Ratan Ghosh, Nripen Ghosh and Batbihari Ghosh were totally burned.
Sources said that some local influential people have been trying to seize 200 bigha (approx. 66 acres) of “Debottor” land – land dedicated to and belonging to a Hindu deity – for a long time. A group of terrorists led by Union Parishad members Hasib and Sazedur Rahman Khan attacked minorities in the Tazpur village on Oct. 24. They ransacked the houses of 12 religious minority families and looted money and other property. At least 23 people, including women and children, were seriously injured in the attack. The attackers also raped a minority woman. Subsequently, a case was filed against the attackers by Sreebash Halder. A total of 33 people were accused in connection with this case.
Then, on Nov. 1, the accused were released on bail from the court. That same night, they again attacked the minority families in the Tazpur village. Another case was filed by Nogendranath Ghosh with the Singra police station against the attackers, but the attackers have yet to be arrested. Religious minorities live in fear after being attacked again and again. These incidents are reminiscent of the Bashkhali incidents of Chittagong that happened during the rule of the BNP-Jamaat government.
Latest event of minority oppression has happened in Bangladesh on 26 November, 2009 in Bangladesh. According to the daily Amar Desh dated- December, 2, 2009: some perpetrators led by Md. Shahidul Islam armed with country made weapons cut and looted ripen crops mostly paddies of winter variety cultivated by Prodip Paul on his lands –a Hindu minority on 26th November, 2009. This victim permanently residing at Berunia Union of Chandurati Paul Para within Bhaluka Sub district of Mymensingh District in Bangladesh.
Prodip Paul lodged first information report (FIR) with the knowledge of local chairman before Bhaluka police station on the next day on 27th against those perpetrators for legal assistance.
Having been angry and furious the perpetrators on the same night again attacked vegetable garden of Prodip Paul and destroyed huge number of cauliflowers, cabbages and different winter vegetables on his 15 acres of lands cost of those would be around 25 to 30 thousand taka. Police did not take any action against the perpetrators despite 6 days elapsed after lodging specific allegations at the police station.
The present government should prove itself a real friend for the religious minorities of Bangladesh by protecting them and make an example of all the perpetrators of crime against minorities by punishing them.