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Unfortunate situation of Hindus in Bangladesh

The Hindus in the neighbouring country reel under a sense of fear and insecurity. Their plight calls for urgent redressal involving political wisdom and mature judgement. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina must ensure their safety and security sooner than later

Recently, vandals desecrated at least 20 Hindu idols and three temples in Jamai bazar area in Tungipara of Gopalganj district of Bangladesh. Coincidentally, Tungipara is the spot where the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is resting, whose daughter Sheikh Hasina, is today, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, who is generally perceived to be secular and pro-minority.

Despite this, if the Hindus continue to incur the wrath of the fundamentalist majority community, it’s a discouraging trend, not only because Hasina has a massive Hindu vote-bank returning her to power each time, but also because the Hindus’ safety and security remains a critical concern with long-term implications, possibly adversely affecting India.

Other than this, the Tungipara incident of excesses on Hindus, from September 27, 2016, onwards, there have been consistent attacks on them and their temples. During Kali puja, in Habiganj district, many idols of godesses were smashed. There were reports of grabbing of Hindu property through the notorious Shahadat Vahini, terrorising the minority community, forcing them to abandon their estates and flee to India.

It would appear from the pattern prevailing in Bangladesh today, that the Hindus are at the receiving end. Being targeted time and again, in terms of losing their immovable property at the hands of the Islamic unscrupulous anti-Hindu elements, forced conversions, destruction of Hindu places of worship and disparaging anti-Hindu rhetoric resonating at various fora.

Most recent such activity was seen at Chittagong on January 7, when the Pir of Chormonai, Amir Mufti Syed Mohammad Rezaul Karim, while addressing a mammoth gathering of zealots, came down heavily on Hindu practices, including justifying cow slaughter and beef eating. He accused the Hasina Government of imposing what he described the Hindu syllabus for the Muslims’ curriculum.

Maintaining his acerbic anti-Hindu pitch, the Pir also came down heavily on Rabindranath Tagore for his “pro-Hindu” education policies. The tenor of Pir’s anti -Hindu oration seemed highly inflammatory.

If there is no backlash by the Hindus, as a reaction to this fiery outburst, it’s only because they are numerically less and bereft of any muscle power and political support.

In this context, it merits underlining that the Pir of Chormonai is very close to Chairman of the Jatiya Party and former Bangladesh President Hussain Muhammad Ershad. Ershad has not given up his political ambitions, and continues to court Hasina to remain in the proximity of corridors of power.

He has also been regularly sending overtures to India for support. Ershad is not a freedom-fighter, and during the liberation struggle of 1970-1971, he remained in Pakistan.

He was back in Bangladesh only in 1973, manipulated to become the Army Chief, then the Chief Martial Law Administrator, and subsequently the President of the country.

During his presidentship, in the wake of attempts to bring down the Babri masjid, Ershad allowed anti-India forces to violently target Indian facilities in Bangladesh, including places of worship, offices of Indian Airlines, India Information Centre etc.

By the prevailing happenings, it seems, anti-Hindu agenda is on the anvil and the Pir and other like-minded forces are warming up to provoke the secular segment in Bangladesh to lie dormant.

Importantly, the Pir’s recent presence and address in Chittagong is, perhaps, a maiden one. Earlier, similar congregations were regularly addressed by a pro-Pakistan, anti-India and anti Hindu Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi. Sayeedi is now undergoing a life sentence on charges of collaborating with occupation forces (Pakistan) during the liberation war.

The Pir has obviously taken over the role of Sayeedi. And he enjoys the tacit support of Ershad. Nexus is clear and unholy. In a different vein, the Pir also sympathised with the Rohingyas calling for a steadfast pan-Islamic unity to fight the anti-Islamic forces. The hint was obviously to the Hindus and to India.

Hasina has established her credentials to fight terror and we are noticing extermination of Islamic terrorists in Bangladesh at regular intervals. She has done well in getting Bangladesh rid of Indian militants once sheltered on the Bangladesh soil. Her intentions to fight fundamentalism and terror are not in doubt.

Yet, she needs to rally secular forces within, to combat and silence the voices of those trying to sow seeds of communal discord and intimidate Hindus to reel under a sense of fear and insecurity.

Skeptics feel, a large section of the ruling Awami League are in hand in glove with the anti-Hindu elements to drive them away. Such misgivings must be dispelled and by visible action.

Abul Barkat, a noted economist, while addressing a seminar in Rajshahi sometime back, stated that on an average, 632 Hindus left Bangladesh each day over a period of 49 years (1964-2013).

In 1947, the Hindu population in Bangladesh was 30 per cent. From 1991, a pattern saw steady decline in the number of Hindus and today, it stands at a dismal nine per cent.

On the whole, the Hindus are in deep sense of insecurity and uncertainty. Their plight calls for urgent redressal involving political wisdom, sound insight and mature judgement.

The Hindus have colossal contribution to their credit in liberating Bangladesh as a free nation, building the country with progressive and secular ideals, enriching literature and culture with their Muslim brethren.

This contribution may not be recognised by the Islamic and regressive forces, but protection to Hindus and their religious places remains a state responsibility. Hasina must ensure this sooner than later.

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