ICHRRF expresses concern at escalating attacks on minorities in Bangladesh. ICHRRF also appreciates the shining example and courage of a US political leader speaking out about this horrific saga, as former US Congressperson Tulsi Gabbard forcefully spoke out against this massive ethnic cleansing.
Recently, anti-Hindu violence has been systematically conducted in the full glare of the international media on the occasion of the country’s golden jubilee celebrations. ICHRRF highlights the historical context of violence on the life and property of Bangladesh’s Hindu, Buddhist & Christian citizens by members of Islamist organizations. The persecution of the country’s Hindu minority has been continuous since its partition from India in 1947 as East Pakistan and still ongoing after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. The nationwide violence was orchestrated by a pro-Caliphate pan-Islamist organization, Hefazat-e-Islam, but also included students and leftist organizations.
Violence on Hindus in Bangladesh goes beyond mob attacks. Discriminatory laws passed after the country’s independence in 1971 made it impossible for Hindus to regain properties lost before and during the genocide of 3 million mostly Hindu Bengalis conducted by Pakistan. Laws support Islamic institutions and suppress Hindu institutions. Laws burden Hindus with much heavier taxes for land and property grants to an individual or institution. Government orders to banks in 1993 prevented substantial cash withdrawals and stopped disbursement of business loans to Hindus. The representation of religious minorities in state institutions continues to decline. Tacit and overt support of violent Islamist organizations from both major political parties is also noteworthy. The demographics of Bangladesh tell a poignant story. The percentage of Hindus has steeply declined since its separation from India, from around 25% in 1947 to 8.5% today. Professor Sachi Dastidar, from the State University of New York, estimates that from 1947 to 2001, well over 40 million Hindus have gone “missing” from Bangladesh.
Carl Clemens, ICHRRF’s Executive Director, deplored prominent media houses (such as BBC) and intellectuals (such as Yale University professor Ahmed Mobarak) who sought to justify Islamist violence and shift blame. Similarly, Human Rights organization Amnesty’s researcher Sultan Mohammed Zakaria termed police action against the mobs an “attack on the right to peaceful protest”. Just a week before this spate of violence, another 70-80 Hindu homes had been attacked in the Sylhet division of Bangladesh.
ICHRRF hopes that this long-running ethnic cleansing is not rationalized by false narratives that spread the blame. ICHRRF implores governments and Human Rights organizations to persuade the Bangladeshi government to take corrective measures to stop the dire persecution of Bangladesh’s minority Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.