By Jahangir Alam Akash, Bangladesh is a non-secular state where violence and oppression against minorities has always been a big issue. Although the country attained independence nearly four decades ago, rights of minorities continue to be suppressed.
Around 9 to 13 percent of Bangladesh’s population is minorities, which includes Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and other indigenous people. The majority are Muslims. Although the Hindu community played a strong role in Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, the state has forgotten their sacrifice. Governments under General Ziaur Rahman and General H.M.Ershad are responsible for building Bangladesh into an Islamist state.
It is time the present government re-established minority rights and re-united with the various minority communities. They must accept the leaders of minority communities without conditions in a most impartial manner. The minority community while allying with the government should forget political aspirations, which could impede their fight for rights.
Votes and minority repression are very closely related to each other. Persecution of minorities is influenced by both, religion and politics. The country’s two big political parties and the anti liberation force Jammat are responsible for the oppression of minorities. Jammat was mainly responsible for killing, torturing and raping Hindu’s during the freedom struggle.
After three military regimes and almost 17 years under so-called democratic governments, Bangladesh’s notorious black law – the Vested Property Act has still not been scrapped.
I want to mention a report on minority repression that was politically motivated. An investigative report was published on Feb. 19, 2003 in the oldest Bengali newspaper of Bangladesh – the Daily Sangbad with the headline “giving vote is illegal.” During a Union Parishad election campaign, supporters of the Muslim Awami candidate threatened the minorities and told them that voting for the opposition Hindu candidate was illegal.
In other similar incidents, National Awami Party leader Vobesh Pande and his family members were physically attacked in 2000 by the Awami League leader Amanul Hasan Dudu and his cadres and brothers who threatened and warned them saying, “If you want to live in Bangladesh then you must pay tax to us.”
An Awami supporter harassed eminent scientist Arun Basak. Professor Mojibor Rahman was a teacher of Mathematics department of Rajshahi University. After witnessing the brutal atrocities on minorities by the Pakistani army and Jammat supporters, he changed his name to Devdas to protest against the inhuman atrocities committed against minorities. He was tortured in an army camp during independence war.
Jammat and the Bangladesh National Party are the main perpetrators. It is not true that the Awami League is not involved in suppressing rights of minorities. After the general election in 2001, cadres of the BNP-Jammat alliance were involved in such incidents.
We can never forget the atrocities against minorities during the regime of the BNP-Jammat government, especially the gang rape of our little sister Purnima by the BNP cadres. Recently, the present government formed a committee to investigate the atrocities during the BNP-Jammat government. This is a good decision, but why only the BNP-Jammat regime?
We demand that enquiries be conducted into all such incidents since 1971 and punish the perpetrators.
The minority community of Bangladesh organized an international minority conference in Geneva. The three-day conference had many participants. I was also invited. Arun Barua, one of the organizers was the main force behind the conference.
I think it was not a minority rights based conference but rather an Awami conference. The minority community was divided with one group absent. One panel speaker could not give his speech due to a conspiracy by some Awami supporters although the speaker was also an Awami supporter. It was believed that the speech contained issues against the Awami League, which would be made public.
I want to see Bangladesh become a secular state. I hope that the minorities get their rights and the community remains united.