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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Demand to probe post-poll 2001 violence in Bangladesh

Source: IANS

Dhaka, Dec 10 (IANS) A lawyer in Bangladesh Thursday served a notice on the government to constitute an inquiry commission within seven days to investigate atrocities on religious minorities immediately after the 2001 parliamentary poll.
Lawyer Manzill Murshed listed offences of murder, rape and torture of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, besides cadres of political parties that lost the poll, swept by a four-party alliance led by Begum Khaleda Zia and her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The Dhaka High Court had May 6 this year directed the government to form this inquiry commission within two months and get the report from the commission within six months.

As the government did not comply with the court directive, Murshed served the notice, Star Online, web site of The Daily Star, said.

He told The Daily Star that he would file a contempt of court petition against the government if it does not form the commission within seven days.

According to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) 2003 report, an unknown number of Hindus and other religious minorities from Bangladesh remained internally displaced or were asylum seekers in India as a result of post-election violence that began in October 2001.

Nearly 7,000 Bangladeshis sought asylum elsewhere during the year, including more than 1,100 in Austria, more than 1,000 in the Slovak Republic, and nearly 1,000 in the US.

In the weeks following the Oct 1, 2001, general elections, Bangladesh witnessed an outburst of systematic attacks on the minority Hindu community across the country, in addition to attacks on activists of the freshly ousted Awami League.

By Oct 8 that year, at least 30 people had been killed and more than 1,000 others injured. Their houses were torched, ransacked and in many cases seized, women were raped, and temples were desecrated, according to New Delhi-based Human Rights Features.

Among the worst hit were the Hindu-dominated areas in Barisal, Bhola, Pirojpur, Satkhira, Jessore, Khulna, Kushtia, Jhenidah, Bagerhat, Feni, Tangail, Noakhali, Natore, Bogra, Sirajganj, Munshiganj, Narayanganj, Narsingdi, Brahmanbaria, Gazipur and Chittagong.

Many Hindu families reportedly fled their homes and sought refuge in areas considered ’safe.’ The Bangladesh Observer, a Dhaka daily, reported that at least 10,000 people of the minority community from Barisal district had left their homes following attacks by activists of the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami party and had taken shelter in neighbouring Gopalganj district, the electorate of the present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Many others fled to the Indian states of Tripura and West Bengal.

The government of Zia that took office after winning a two-thirds majority in the poll, denied these incidents.