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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Trend of Silent Genocide: Institutional oppressions on Bangladesh Minorities: HRCBM's presentation before EU Parliament

Picture (Courtesy HRCBM-EU): Mr. Manik Paul at the EU Parliament.

Trend of Silent Genocide: Institutional oppressions on Bangladesh Minorities

A speech before the EU Pariliament at the forum titled “SOS Bangladesh- Informal Hearing on the Alarming Human Rights Situation in Bangladesh ” held on Thursday, June 12th, 08.


Mr. Manik Paul,
Executive Director, HRCBM-EU Directorate, Brussels, Belgium

Honorable chair, distinguished speakers, dignitaries, respected ladies and gentlemen. I feel highly privileged to join you in this important forum and share with you my concerns about alarming human rights situation in Bangladesh.

Ladies and gentlemen, the basic tenets of a civilized society are Human Rights, Democracy and Religious Freedom. These are all potentially in danger in Bangladesh at the hands of the religious extremists, those who have been working in tandem to transform Bangladesh into Taliban model Islamic theocracy.

Human Rights is the basic rights and freedoms to which all human being are entitled irrespective of their colors, faiths, languages and races. Atrocities against Bangladesh religious minorities in the form of violence, intimidations, killings, gang rape, forcible conversion and deprivation from ancestral homesteads have been taking place since long but systematically, institutionally and silently.
It is extremely alarming that the Instruments of minority repression have been gaining strength and more legitimacy with the support of governmental institutions and a few political parties.
Minorities are always been targeted to brutal persecution in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, as a matter of general practice the society look into the issue as ‘tolerable atrocities’. The famous international journal “The Economist” described the plight of the minorities as – “Bangladesh’s minorities are safe only in the departure lounge”.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we should acknowledge that these are the heinous crimes against humanity. These are the crimes intent to vanish a vast population of a religious minority group from their motherland. Considering the number of effected victims it is one of the largest silent genocide of the 21st century.

Let me explain, why this issue is labeled as “Silent Genocide”. According to the Article 6 of the International Criminal Court Statute, The crime involves, "any acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. I think the definition is very clear and "intent to destroy" is a requirement for any act to be labeled as genocide.

At this point, I would like to discuss how an infamous legislative instrument is still being used as a tool of oppression to raze out minority population from their homeland.

Enemy Property Act, a criminal act was implemented by the Government of Pakistan against its own Hindu citizens during Indo-Pak war in 1965. That infamous decree allowed the Pakistan Government to confiscate property from any Hindu deemed as an enemy of the state. Unfortunately, even emergence of secular Bangladesh couldn’t do anything better than to rename “Enemy Property” as “Vested property”. Ironically, same infamous decree found its way to become an instrument of persecution of Hindu population in the independent Bangladesh.

Research shows, in its 40 years of existence, Hindu minorities have been dispossessed of more than 2.5 millions acres land through this discriminatory law. Total 62% of Hindu families in Bangladesh have been affected by the Enemy Property Act. In fact, in 70’s my family was also dispossessed from our ancestral homestead.

Now, Bangladesh is an independent country, meaning Bangladesh is neither a part nor a successor of Pakistan since March 26, 1971. Also neither Bangladesh nor India declared any war against each other. Therefore the question is that , how enemy of Pakistan becomes the enemy of Bangladesh and for what purpose other than persecution do these laws remain in force? Logically, properties of Rajakars should be the Enemy property as they were the enemies of Bangladesh at the time of liberation war.
Let us see, who are the beneficiaries of this legislative decree? Prof.Abul Barkat, a renowned economist of Bangladesh, says - Political elements, locally influential people in collaboration with the land administration, use of force, fake documentation, death or exile of original owners have contributed to the phenomenon. Ironically, beneficiaries of the land grab through the act cut across all political party lines. Prof. Barkat showed, most of the direct beneficiaries of appropriated properties are affiliated by the major political parties.

Ladies and gentlemen, in this important forum , it is my rear opportunity to focus on a major human rights violation issue against minority women and children. Such violation seriously undermines the human dignity and values which is incomparable with the loss of properties or human lives. Since last two decades, rapes of minority women and children have extensively been using as a tool of oppression. Most of the time, perpetrators are backed by the law enforcement and judiciary personals and also aided by the local political elites and fundamentalists.

Through 1991 and 2001 election victory, BNP-Jamat coalition developed a Gang Rape culture where minority women and children were the potential victims. Scores of minority women were raped. In some cases, they were gang raped in front of their relatives. A caretaker government supported by the UN and European Union came to the power on January 11, 2007 with the promise to eradicate the Islamic extremisms and political corruptions to revert Bangladesh to a secular and pluralistic democracy. Over a year and a half have passed but no any action has yet been taken to stop minority persecution or reverse the ongoing Gang Rape culture.

Ladies and gentleman, with grave concern I need inform you that only last month alone, 7 cases of gang rapes and abductions were reported. In all incidences, Police were reluctant to register cases. Nevertheless, they insisted the victims to cooperate the perpetrators. These are a few of numerous unreported Gang Rape incidences in Bangladesh.

After the assassination of the founding Father Bangabandu Sheikh Majibur Rahman in 1975, the campaign of religious & ethnic minority persecutions resumed with pre-1971 level of intensity. It was officially licensed through the 5th and 8th amendments of the Constitution. On June 9, 1988, Islam was declared to be the state religion which was perceived by the Islamic extremists as a license of minority repressions.

In 2006, Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities filed a writ before Bangladesh High Court for the protection of minorities. Despite the favourable ruling from country’s highest court, Bangladesh Govt. is yet to implement the court order.

Statistics shows that Minority population in the country was 38% in 1951 where as about 12% were estimated in 2006. If we consider the normal birth rate of the population, statistically missing Minority population in Bangladesh since 1951 would be around 25 million till the date. Numerically, this is the triple of Belgian population.

Ladies and Gentleman, definitely migration is not the solution of the problem. Progressive political parties and civil societies of Bangladesh have to work together with other civilised international communities to combat against fundamentalism and minority repressions.

A secular pluralistic democracy is necessary in Bangladesh to reverse the tides of the Islamic militancy and migration of minority population. Otherwise, Bangladesh will be turned into another Afghanistan in a short span of time.

Respected Members of the European Parliament, Minorities of Bangladesh urge you to extend your influence to Bangladesh’s caretaker government to take necessary measures for saving the soul of the 25 million minorities, before vanishing from their ancestral homeland. Your effective intervention in this Continuing Silent Genocide is indispensable.

Thank you all for patience hearing.

SOS Bangladesh hearing at EU Parliament: media reports

MEP Johan van Hecke & MEP Bart Staes have arranged an informal hearing at EU regarding the Human Rights situations in Bangladesh. The followings are the details on the hearing:
Event: SOS Bangladesh - Informal Hearing on the Alarming Human Rights Situation in Bangladesh .
Location: European Parliament, ASP A3G3, rue Wiertz 60, 1047 Brussels.

News Reports's_human_rights_situation_42423/

EU forum expresses concern over Bangladesh’s human rights situation

Thaindian News

June 13th, 2008 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS - Email This Post
Brussels, June 13 (IANS) A special forum at the European Parliament (EP) has expressed grave concern over the deteriorating human rights situations in Bangladesh which has been run by a military-backed government since January 2007. Speakers at the forum titled “SOS Bangladesh” held at the EP here Thursday held the caretaker government - backed by the “corrupt” military - responsible for the worsening of the human rights situation in the country, EuAsiaNews reported.
Speaking at the forum, Abdual Gaffar Chowdhury, a London-based Bangladeshi writer and journalist, described the present caretaker government in Bangladesh as a “puppet regime” because the real power lies in the hands of the corrupt military.
Over the last 16 months, more than half a million people have been arrested in the country and many of them are being held under emergency power rules, Chowdhury said.
Similar views and sentiments were expressed by other speakers at the forum organised by two Belgian members of the EP, Johan Van Hecke and Bart Staes.
Van Hecke, who belongs to the Liberals’ group in the European Parliament, said the event was organised to enable people to express their concerns.
The eurodeputy stressed that he was not linked to or favoured any political party in Bangladesh.
Bazlur Rashid Bulu, co-organiser of the event, said the activities of the caretaker government “are causing huge political and financial problems in Bangladesh”.
Bulu, who owns a restaurant called Darjeeling in Brussels, said he was grateful for the keen attention shown by the EU Parliament to the issue of human rights in Bangladesh.
Paul Manik of the Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM) called for an end to what he said were human rights abuses that continue to be perpetrated against the religious and ethnic minorities and indigenous people of Bangladesh.
He urged the 27-nation bloc to take “effective steps” to protect the rights of minorities in his country.
The forum focussed on three topics: violations of human rights in Bangladesh, the deficit of democracy and rule of law, and environmental problems and the humanitarian situation in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s envoy to Brussels, Abu Humayun Mohammad Moniruzzaman, said he was “very surprised” to hear the the human rights situation in his country was alarming.
He defended the reforms of the caretaker government and stressed that its main task was to conduct free and fair elections by the end of December.
“We always had a very good human rights record,” said the diplomat and referred to a recent EP resolution on Bangladesh.
The forum recommended that pressure must be put on the “military backed government to show respect to the people’s expectations and to expedite the election process”.