Tue, 2009-09-15 10:30 — editor
By Rabindranath Trivedi
Report: Asia Tribune
Eminent Indian writer and journalist M J Akbar speaking as keynote speaker at a seminar titled 'Meaning of Minority Politics' organised by Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) in the city in December 2007, said he was saddened that Bangladesh's birth principle of 'language-centred nationhood' "was incapable of finding a polity." and said stay true to the country's founding principles.
"Out of all the countries in the Muslim world, Bangladesh had the greatest opportunity to build a modern Muslim country," he said, adding that the question of Biharis and the gradual assimilation of Jamaat-e Islami into national politics have to be addressed.
Otherwise the results will be felt long into the future, he added. Akbar disagreed with the dominant view that a minority is a group of people who are demographically outnumbered in a particular area, stressing that the category is based on perceptions. Outlining the history of Bengali Muslims to illustrate his point, he said they were affected the most as a 'minority' in the last century that have transformed their history, and in effect their lives.
Akbar said the partition of Bengal in 1905, the Indo-Pak partition in 1947 and Bangladesh's independence in 1971 were the three key events that affected Bengali Muslims as minorities. "In 1947, the Bengali Hindu Bhadrolok didn't accept Bengali Muslims because they said they were not Bengali enough, then in 1971, West Pakistanis thought Bengali Muslims were not Muslim enough," he added. ( D S 17 December 2007)
I raised my voice of descent and argued with Mr Akbar . I told him, the word minority has different connotation, particularly in Bangladesh and India. Muslim Minority in India is underprivileged but equal citizens of India. There is no constitutional bar against Muslim rights, property and state religion.
Our submission is that the word minority has its own connotation and definition. By 'minority' today we mean a disadvantaged group of citizens, who are not the privileged ones, at the top, but the under-privileged at the bottom. (Atlantes Magazine, 29th January 1975). It was thought that the Liberation of Bangladesh marked the end of a chapter of communal politics, opening up newer possibilities for the Hindus and other ethnic minorities and they would be able to play a more effective role in the political process. Minorities had also thought that Bangladesh would put an end to discrimination against them, and their loyalty to the country would no longer be questioned. But in the present-day Bangladeshi the Hindu's loyalty to the state is very much questioned. So the question arises: whither Bangladeshi Hindus?
We appeal to all of your kind attention to the very word "minority".
We mean rights granted to minorities as safeguards of their interests and help prevent discrimination against them by the majority. The U.N. Charter also recognizes the status of 'minority' and 'minority rights'. Bangladesh is one of the signatories to that charter. "The minority that desires assimilation but is barred is a 'minority by force'. The minority that refuses assimilation is a ' ‘minority by will'. The Negro-American exemplifies the former, while and the French-Canadian represents the latter. Bangladeshi minority has its own definition, they are the sons of the soil, they belong to the civilization of the soil, they are made minority by politics, policies and persecutions. It needs greater observation on the problems squarely, analyzing them in-depth. The present-day Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan until its independence in 1971.
India was partitioned on the basis of the "two-nation" theory, and Pakistan came into existence as a Muslim state in 1947. But this Muslim state was left with a large non-Muslim minority, particularly in East Bengal. The name of East Bengal was changed into East Pakistan with the introduction of the 1956 constitution in Pakistan. The Hindus constituted the bulk of the non-Muslim minority; 13 out of 14 people in the minority were Hindus. But the present-day Bangladeshi Hindus are the remnants of the partition and migration.
Keith Callard in his 'Pakistan: A Political Study' predicted that the 'Hindu community was likely to diminish in size, in wealth, and in talent' (p-265). It is true in the present context of Hindus. But the present-day Bangladeshi Hindus are classless and caste-less, the remnants of the partition and migration had participated in the creation of Bangladesh and sacrificed a lot for the cause of Bangladesh. They are not Babu Communist to quit Bangladesh only by threat, they will die –but not surrender to humiliation. They are sons of the soil, but equal rights of citizens in Bangladesh are not granted to them.
History tells us, we learn from history that we don't learn from history.In India the Sachar Committee Report on Minority in India submitted to the government on Nov.17,2006 the report gives a new dimension In Bangladesh we are also facing the acute type of crisis .
In Bangladesh, there was no such Committee for minorities in Bangladesh to identify the issues facing 2 crore minorities in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, being a minority means being a victim of oppression, torture and discrimination.
The educated Hindus, who could play a leadership role in the community, left the country. The poor, who lacked leadership qualities, stayed back. Eminent personalities of the minorities who stayed on in Bangladesh live in the cities, so there are none to look after them in times of distress. If any body raised the issues of Hindus in Bangladesh, he would be termed as ‘Communal’ or anti-Muslim. He should be condemned. Thomas Edward Brown (1830-!897) noted: “No man can justly censure or condemn another, because indeed no man truly knows another.”
The Sachar Committee Report on Minority in India submitted to the government on Nov.17,2006. The report gives a new dimension and In Bangladesh we are also facing the acute type of crisis .
M J Akbar writes: “ Will reserving seats for Muslims as category help? The instant answer is yes, if this is the way the political game is being played, then why should Muslims and Christians be excluded from the game? Almost everyone else has been allotted a piece of the cake, so why not them? Are they paying the price for being "foreign faiths," that is, religions that originated outside the Indian subcontinent? If that is the truth, then the establishment should change the truth before the people change the establishment. If that is not the truth, then someone should let us know what the truth is. (DS, 20Dec.06)
But in Bangladesh we are even lacking arguments In another piece published in the daily Star on 13 Sept 09,What has M J Akbar observed that "Indian Muslims need jobs and justice, not iftar parties." In case of Indian Muslims he genuinely asked for jobs for Muslims 'and added: Perhaps the most cynical patron of iftar parties was the late P.V. Narasimha Rao, who insisted on hosting them even after presiding over the destruction of the Babri mosque.
Maybe he was not the most cynical: worse surely were the Muslim acolytes who fawned around him, desperately trying to catch his eye to seek some reward for their presence. Rao was good at throwing handouts towards anyone who had the look of a beggar.Indian Muslims need jobs and justice, not iftar parties he added . ( DS 13 Sept 09)
Sheikh Hasina in her first term in PMO in 1997 allowed Sharadiya reception at Bangabhaban Since then the Bangladesh Government also has been organising Sharadiya Reception for Hindus. Here in Bangladesh like M J Akbar, Hindus also demand jobs and justice not dole for puja The fate of minority remains under the same wheels over sixty years.
The Hindu leadership under the umbrella of Durga Puja is a farce and a great mockery. The Durga Puja has lost its religious fervor and festivity in Bangladesh. It becomes a political bargaining factor for a class of beneficiaries. The celebration of Puja festival committees under the so-called Hindu leaders in Bangladesh is tutored and cared for by the elected Governments and army regimes.
The Puja committees in the capital and other parts of the country depend on doles and protection of law enforcing agencies. They usually organize Puja mondaps and display communal harmony in the name of Puja once a year like other festivals but in reality, besides begging, there is no security and political and economic power to earn for them.
We don't find any difference of behavior, particularly on minority issues, in administration and the nature of humiliation whether democratic regime or autocratic regime or Caretaker Government run by Emergency backed by Army rules in Bangladesh. The appeal by the Hindu leaders, contained in an advertisement published in Sangbad in January 1979,has not yet been conceded, the same demand has been orcherested over three decades.
The excerpt is given below: “It is a matter of great regret that secularism has not been implemented in political and social life. No help has been given in the reconstruction and renovation of hundreds of temples, Vihara and churches including the historic Kalibari temple of Ramna and the East Bengal Swarasta Samaj which were razed by the Pakistani occupation army. The Ramna kalibari has not been returned despite claims. The Enemy Property Act of Pakistan has been illegally retained in independent Bangladesh under a different name and this has been invoked to make hundreds of thousands of non-Muslims homeless and landless. Severe discrimination has been practiced against non-Muslims in the matter of admission in educational institutions ,trade and government services.”
What is the truth? The Daily Star in its an editorial opined :" Member of the minority community have reasons to be concerned over some recent incidents in which quite a few of their families came under attack. In the latest attempt at grabbing land, some hoodlums attacked three Hindu families in Puthia under Rajshahi district and at least 12 people had to be hospitalised with injuries. It happened only a few weeks after land grabbers, allegedly masquerading as developers, tried to evict a Hindu family from their home in Dhaka city. Such a gross violation of rights of any segment of the society will have to be dealt with an iron hand, because that is where the real test of a democratic and pluralistic society lies. ( The DS ,editorial, 3 Sept 09) .
In September 2009, the government enacted the Vested Property Return Act in 2001 amending the Vested Property Act. But, the four-party BNP-Jamaat alliance government stopped the implementation of the act by issuing an order. The caretaker government later promulgated an ordinance in this regard in 2008.
About 1.2 million households and 6 million people belonging to the Hindu community have been directly and severely affected by the Enemy/Vested Property Act. The community has lost 2.6 million acres of its own land in addition to other moveable and immovable property.
The Hindu who was a member of a joint family left this country for India without taking the share of the property was not an owner of his share. His part would remain with the family and rest of the successors would be the owner of the whole property. But the government illegally declared a part or full portion of the property as enemy property and evicts the owners from their lands. Father is the owner of the property of joint family. Sons are not the owner of the property so long as the father is alive. In this situation, if any son leaves the country for India, he is not leaving any property as enemy property because this Hindu law is still prevalent in the country.
The inheritance of property in a Hindu joint family all over Bengal is being determined by the system of Dayabhaga, not Mitakshara which is primarily practised in India. The former suggests the fact that a son inherits the property after the death of his father while according to the latter system of the Hindu inheritance rule; a son can inherit the property of his father on the very moment of his birth.
If any Hindu citizen with his legal passport was traveling India, he was also declared enemy and his property was taken over by the Government. To the contrary, thousands of Muslims were living and working in England, America and Middle East Countries etc. But their properties were not taken over by the Government. Since then the issue has been rolling with ordinances, amendments, circulars, memos, committee and so on. But no tangible action has yet been taken by the Government to solve the contentious issue of minority Hindus. We are Minorities in Bangladesh also want equal Constitutional rights , opportunities in public offices and justice M.J. Akbar writes in January 2008: The only country where Muslims were exposed to reason and logic was India,
It's an evidential fact that Hindus in Bangladesh unfortunately have been facing the music of great declination in respect of politico-economic and social status today, to the extent to which caste is declining as a social factor; it is reverting itself as a political factor.
Unfortunately for Hindus in Bangladesh they have been facing the music of great declination in respect of politico-economic and social status today. If religion is to be true to itself it must stress the worth and dignity of human personality. They should rise to the occasion and call a spade a spade. In sociological terms, Man is the total circle including both the centre and circumference. He is both self and not-self. Lord Krishna says, "Samoham sarva bhutesu, na me dvesygsti na priyah I am the same for all beings: There is none whom I hate none whom I favour"(The Holy Gita-ix/29). Brave one proudly proclaim, "I am a Hindu, a member of the great civilisation."
The sacrifices of the Hindu leadership were never acknowledged either officially or publicly. Does the nation pay respect to those departed souls? Is there any room for the Hindu leaders in the history who fought for the cause of history and the War of Liberation?In the post-August 1975, Bangladesh, Bengali, Hindu and India are equated with a typical psyche by the ruling cliché. "The existing literature on the history of Bangladesh underplays not only the inner contradictions of the Muslims of Bengal, but also other significant features of her past. It's a 'crisis of confidence'.
Rabindranath Trivedi is a former Press-Secretary to the President and Addl Press Secretary to the Prime Minister. Presently Secretary General, Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities ( HRCBM) an NGO in special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the United Nations.
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