Show your support: Donate Now


 

HRCBM Videos on destitute minorities of Bangladesh

Loading...

Chittagong Hill Tract Massace

Loading...

Mahachari Massacre

Loading...

Support HRCBM: Please donate Now

$

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tribal anger rises in Bangladesh's volatile hills

Source: AFP
Photo 1 of 2

Hundreds of ethnic Chakma, a Buddhist tribal group indigenous to Chittagong Hill Tracts, lost their homes in February


BAGHAICHHARI, Bangladesh — Bangladesh's southeastern hills are again simmering with ethnic tension, raising concerns that a fragile peace reached 13 years ago will collapse.

Hundreds of ethnic Chakma, a Buddhist tribal group indigenous to the Chittagong Hill Tracts, lost their homes in February when violence broke out between them and Muslim Bengali settlers, prompting a harsh army crackdown.

"With the assistance of the army, the settlers came here to attack us," said Joshna Chakma, who lost her house and says her village has been plagued by violence since Bengali settlers and an army post arrived around two years ago.

"Last year, there were 78 houses burned down by the settlers, helped by the army," said Joshna, who is a member of the local council in the remote Baghaichhari district.

"This year, it was the same: the Bengali settlers came into our village chanting slogans. We know that the chant is a signal, so we ran into the forests, and when we got back the houses were all burned down," she said.

The three-day bout of arson, violence and arrests left three dead and scores injured in the impoverished area, while Joshna said 410 houses and several pagodas were torched.

Two tribal people were killed when the army opened fire on villagers protesting the arson attacks. A Bengali settler from a nearby village was killed in clashes with tribals two days later.

It was the worst violence since a peace deal was signed in 1997, ending the tribal groups' slow-burning insurgency, which official figures say has claimed more than 2,500 lives since the early 1980s.

Villagers say the episode and how it was handled by the Bengali-dominated army, with bullets and mass arrests, is proof tribal people are second-class citizens in Bangladesh.

"The army tell us: if you have courage, live here, if you do not then run away, as for us to kill you is like a tree losing its leaves in the winter," said Ganandu Chakma, who is leader of a land committee in the area.

Joshna's account of settler-led, army-backed violence was supported by Pornomas Bhikkha, a Buddhist monk, who said he was forced to flee when his temple was attacked by 35 settlers with help from around 50 soldiers.

"I could see the settlers, they had sticks, knives and other weapons. The army was just behind them. I went out and they tried to attack me, so I ran away and they broke into the temple and burned it to the ground," he said.

The army had come back after the incident to cut down the teak trees on the grounds of the pagoda, he said.

Villagers say the settlers encroach on tribal land, including ancient burial grounds and fields which are periodically left fallow, and view the arson and army brutality as an attempt to drive the tribal community away for good.

"Where are our rights? Why does the state only respect the Bengali settlers not us?" asked Joshna, lowering her voice to point out the gun-toting army patrols that inspect the dusty, burned-out village on a daily basis.

Bangladesh's sprawling hills and their ethnic inhabitants have for decades been a source of tension in this majority-Muslim nation of 144 million, which is one of the most densely populated countries on earth.

Since the early 1980s, successive governments pursued policies of Bengali settlement in the area, moving poor, landless farmers like Mohammad Abu Hamid, 47, to the hill tracts and giving them five hectares (12.4 acres) of land to farm.

"This land was given to me by the government but the ethnics demand it, saying it was their forefathers' land. But I have documents, they have none, and I have farmed this land for decades," Hamid told AFP.

Such policies meant that by 1991 49.5 percent of the local population was "non-tribal", up from just 2.0 percent in 1947. No figures were given in the 2001 census, but tribal leaders say Bengalis are now likely the majority.

The hundreds of thousands of settlers have been "used by the Bangladesh state as political pawns," said Bhumitra Chakma, a tribal academic who teaches politics at England's Hull University.

The militarisation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Bengali settlement policy means "ethnic cleansing is going on and in a way which is rather indirect and gradual, but effective," he said.

The February violence was a textbook example of the type of army-backed settler-led violence that has for decades underpinned all land grabs in the region, and which goes ignored by central and local authorities, he said.

The key provisions of the 1997 peace deal were to resolve land disputes and dismantle major army camps, but both have faltered, and violence like that seen in February makes implementation harder, tribal leaders say.

The Awami League government, which does not support new settlements and negotiated the 1997 deal, condemned the February attacks and hinted anti-accord elements of the Islamist-allied opposition may be involved.

"There is no question of anything like ethnic cleansing or anyone driving the tribal people off the land -- that's not possible," said Abdus Sobhan Sikder, the most senior official at Bangladesh's home ministry.

"The tribes have been living there with the Bengalis for years and the government is trying to make the region more peaceful," he added.

The government provided rice and construction materials to help the victims of February's violence.

Local police chief, Mohammad Abu Kalam Siddiq, who was moved to his post shortly after the violence as part of a "routine rotation", said that his brief was to attempt to get the community to live in harmony.

"As far as land goes, it is a national problem and it is a problem for policymakers to solve," he said.

Other local officials such as Rangamati's deputy district administrator, Viswajit Bharttagharya, called the fires "an accident, an act of god, like an earthquake".

"Most of the victims are anyway living on land that should not be theirs," he said, adding that it was illegal to live on or own Forestry Administration land.

For Hull University's Bhumitra, who has carried out extensive field work in the hill tract area, the result of such mixed messages and government inaction will be a new insurgency.

"Many (young tribal people) vowed to take up arms again. It is highly likely that violence will become more intense in the coming years," he said.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

Minority lands ‘grabbed’ by Awami League activists

Source: Gulf Times

A coalition of religious minorities has expressed its grave concern over extensive grabbing of lands belonging to Hindus across Bangladesh as ruling Awami League leaders and activists are virtually on rampage in this regard.

The Hindu-Buddhist Christian Unity Council recorded 150 incidents of repression on Hindus in different parts of the country in six months, the organisation’s general secretary Rana Das Gupta told newsmen here yesterday. He said least three people were killed because of repression while many houses were burnt and families were driven out from their homesteads.

The assailants carried out attacks, looted valuables and tried to drive away families to take control of the land of minority communities. The Hindu minorities account for about 15% of Bangladesh’s total population. Incidents of arson and extortion were reported from some places.

Most of the land grab incidents took place in Natore, Pirojpur, Chittagong, Narsingdi, Bagerhat, Bariasl, Manikganj, Tangail, Satkhira, Pabna, Manikganj and Munshiganj districts, according to the organisation report.

Many of the families are under constant threats by influential ruling party people, according to complaints lodged with police stations. “Politically powerful quarters are involved in most of the case of repression and there has been hardly any remedy,” Rana said, adding that the administration did not care much about the cases if ruling quarters were involved in the incidents.

The police carry out investigation only of the cases having no direct involvement of political quarters, he said.

“We have been witnessing repression on minority communities for a long time. During the previous regime, it was a minority cleansing and now we see ruling party activists in a land grabbing spree,” the organisation secretary said.

Organisation president Major General (retired) CR Dutta, also a veteran freedom fighter, said it was a fact that the Hindu minorities were repressed during the tenure of the present government.

“We have informed the government of the atrocities. All should understand that the people do not take such persecution easily. The people responsible for such persecution will not be spared,” he said, reminding the government of its electoral pledge to ensure safety and security of the Hindu minority communities.

Activists of the ruling Awami League and its front organisations were mostly involved in such grabbing of or attempt to grab the land of the minorities.

Some of the complaints were sent to the Prime Minister’s Office seeking government’s intervention against such incidents.

C R Dutta is unhappy with the ruling Awami League’s treatment of the minority communities although it was their hard work that helped the party gain overwhelming majority in Parliament.

“I would like to say 90% of us are supporters of the Awami League as it believes in four guiding principles of the state — secularism, democracy, socialism and nationalism. Now, I think the time has come for the Awami League to realise the situation and take our issues into consideration,” Dutta said.

He lamented the continued suffering of the minority people, even during the tenure in the Awami League-led government, and demanded ‘some action’ against the oppressive acts.

“Lands of our people are being gabbed. Even the lands of the national temple Dhaleshwari Mandir has been occupied by giant corporate houses and multi-storey buildings are being erected there,” he said.

“We have told Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina about it, we told (the deputy leader of the parliament) Sajeda Chowdhury and they said they would look into the matter. They are not saying anything negative, but they have to show us some action.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Door out of Dhaka

Source: Times of India

Url: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Door-out-of-Dhaka/articleshow/5962198.cms

Pre-Partition, Hindus in Bangladesh constituted 28 per cent of the population. Their numbers have been steadily declining since then. Most of this drastic demographic shift was during the Partition and the two decades of East Pakistan, claims Dhaka. Yet, the minority in the country that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman built has a different story to tell.


Are Hindus in Bangladesh quietly giving up on their country? Has the deep brotherhood forged by a shared language, culture and history caved in? Is the country’s biggest minority group being forced to migrate in large numbers due to persecution? Though no one can deny that the Hindu population of Bangladesh has been slowly declining over the years since it got independence from Pakistan, questions of how much it has declined and why it has happened generates heated debate among both the communities, Muslims and Hindus.

According to the census website of Bangladesh, in 2001, Hindus were 9.6 per cent of the population. Most blogs and websites devoted to the status of the Hindu minority in Bangladesh contrast this with the 28 per cent that once existed there. But they don’t take into account the fact that this was the pre-Partition figure, calculated during the 1941 census. Soon after Partition in 1947, millions of Hindus fled to India.

In the census after the Partition exodus, in 1951, the Hindu population had already fallen to 22 per cent and this again fell to 18.5 per cent by the 1961 census. “During the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, Hindus in particular bore the brunt of the Pakistan army’s onslaught, leading to more migration,’’ a Bangladesh government official told TOI-Crest . “Though many returned after the formation of Bangladesh, the 1974 census showed that the population had fallen to 13.5 per cent, mostly because of steady emigration to Burma and India. Obviously, since Bangladeshi independence, the Hindu population has not fallen as much as is being claimed. Bangladeshis cannot be held responsible for what happened even before they became an independent country.”

Rabindranath Trivedi, president of the Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM), has a different take altogether. According to Trivedi, the census was deliberately undercounting Hindus in Bangladesh, who, by his estimate, constitute about 15 per cent of the population even today. “The government does this on purpose to deflect the charge of large scale Hindu migration due to state oppression,’’ he said. “With a low percentage to start off with, there can be no declining population due to migration. In reality, there is continuous migration of Hindus from Bangladesh because of torture and humiliation.”

But there are other, equally compelling, reasons for the demographic shift. India’s long and porous borders with Bangladesh, old family ties and ethnic similarity coupled with better economic opportunities have resulted in continuous illegal migration of poor Hindus and — not to forget — a considerable number of Muslims. In fact, the home ministry concedes its inability to fix a number to the volume of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants coming into India. “India being economically better off, it is the natural destination for the poor, both Hindus and Muslims,’’ explained a Bangladeshi official. “A lot of migration is on economic grounds rather than due to any persecution.”

Government officials and civil society leaders further argue that violence against religious minorities comes with its share of political and economic undertones rather than purely religious ones. “It suits those who have fled to India to make the situation seem worse for Hindus in Bangladesh than what it is. This helps justify their fleeing and seeking refuge in India,” one of them said.

Farid Hossain, journalist and social commentator, who accepts that Hindus don’t have it easy in Bangladesh, said, “Hindus perceived to be supporters of the Awami League become opposition party targets, especially at the time of elections. No matter who wins or loses, Hindus are the target of violence. But as even stray incidents of violence against Hindus are widely reported, it adds to their sense of insecurity. This, in turn, affects their sense of belonging and induces them to leave.’’

International rights bodies such as Amnesty International and UNHCR, too, have repeatedly castigated the Bangladesh government for its treatment of minorities. Even the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) slammed Dhaka in 2006 for continuous persecution of minority Hindus.
Historically, though, Bangladesh was founded as a secular republic in 1971. However, Islam was declared the state religion after the military takeover in the 1980s. The constitution, of course, guarantees the right to practice and propagate all religions.

Bimal Pramanik, director of the Centre for Research in Indo-Bangladesh Relations, Kolkata, said, “Bengalis fought communal forces to fight for independence as a Bengali nation. There was only one identity, that of a Bengali. But after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and the army takeover, total Islamisation started and the Hindus felt betrayed.”

While freedom of religion might be publicly supported by the government, all international reports observe that attacks on religious and ethnic minorities are an unremitting problem. Almost all the reports refer to numerous instances of illegal land seizures, arson, extortion , sexual assault and intimidation of religious minorities, particularly Hindus. Most of these refer not only to the 1990s, but also to the period when the BNP led by Khaleda Zia shared power with Islamist parties during 2001-06 , a time when the country witnessed an unprecedented rise in religious intolerance.

After the Awami League’s victory in 2008, Sheikh Hasina came to power and initiated steps to secure the rights of minorities. International bodies have since then been more positive about Bangladesh’s efforts to protect minorities. This even as one of the most vexatious of issues, land grabbing, continues unaddressed.

Professor Abul Barkat of Dhaka University’s Department of Economics, in his survey on the status of Hindus since independence, found that the Vested Property Act was the single largest cause of migration of Hindus from Bangladesh. The law, which allowed the government to possess property abandoned by those who fled during Partition, soon metamorphosed into something abused by both citizens and the state.

The study found that 2.01 million acres, comprising 45 per cent of the land owned by Hindus, was lost due to this Act. Though there were attempts to amend the law, little has changed. Sustained campaigning on the issue led to the Awami League government passing the Vested Property Return Act 2001. But this law to return appropriated land is caught in bureaucratic and legal tangles. “When it comes to land, there is no secularism. All parties have been involved in land grabbing and no one is keen on implementing this law,” Hossain said.

Faced with charges of persecuting minorities, the pomp and peaceful conduct of Hindu festivals like Durga Puja and Saraswati puja are often held up by the government as examples of religious tolerance and proof of the rule of law. But Trivedi has a counter view. “Muslims, too, participate in our festivals,’’ he said. “But that is because it is part of their culture as Bengalis. Hence, even if the last Hindu leaves this country, Muslims will continue to celebrate the festivals.”

Many Hindus see the Pujas more as a sort of dole and appeasement of minorities, seeing no hope for real improvement in their status. “The persecution will continue till the last Hindu is driven out. Hindus will become objects in a museum, a people who once inhabited this land,” Trivedi said. Pramanik agrees. “Despite all efforts of the Awami League to undo the damage done to Bangladeshi society from decades of Islamisation, it just might be a case of too little too late,’’ he said.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hindus 'being heard in VPA change' - BD govt claims

Source: Bdnews24.com
Url: http://bdnews24.com/details.php?id=161801&cid=2




Dhaka, May 21 (bdnews24.com)--The government is taking the recommendations of the Hindu community seriously in amending the Vested Property (Return) Act to make the stronger and more effective, deputy parliament leader Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury has said.

Speaking at a meeting at the Dhakeshwari national temple, Sajeda also criticised hartal call of the main opposition BNP. She claimed the hartal has been called for June 27 on orders of the Pakistanis to delay the war crimes trial.

The AL presidium member said, "A large part of the Hindu community is being tormented in the name of Enemy Property Act since the 60s.

"Though the Awami League government passed the Vested Property (Return) Act in 2001, the subsequent government did not take any steps to implement the law. The caretaker government made it more complicated by issuing a fresh ordinance."

"The process of passing the Act in the parliament is on-going", she said.

After the India-Pakistan war in 1965, the Pakistan government had seized huge assets of the Hindus dubbing them 'enemy' property. The still gives the state power to deprive a Bangladeshi citizen of their property.

The VPA has long been criticised in Bangladesh and abroad as a major violation of the rights of minorities, who had property seized in the past simply on leaving the country.

Later, the AL government took the initiative to return those assets by passing the Vested Property (Return) Act.

"The Hindu community has had immense contribution in the liberation war. There would be cooperation from the government to resolve all their problems," said information minister Abul Kalam Azad.

State minister of religious affairs Shahjahan Mia said, "The process of forming Hindu Foundation is underway in line with the demand of the Hindu community."

He also promised necessary steps to recover the grabbed land of the Dhakeshwari Temple.

The chief adviser of Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad, retired major genral CR Datta, Bir Uttam, inaugurated the conference.

The local MP, Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin spoke among others.

Criticising the hartal called by BNP, Sajeda said,"They have called the hartal in the name of price hike. But hartal will further increase the prices."

Those who allowed Jamaat-e-Islami leaders to use the national flag in their house and cars would also be tried, said Sajeda.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

'Create alternative jobs for Harijans'

Source: The Daily Star News

Speakers have called for creating alternative job opportunities for Harijans, who have been stuck in the profession of cleaning roads and offices for almost 200 years without any recognition from society.

They called on Harijans to send their children to schools and prepare them for future, which shows huge potential of increased employment in the community, which already faces competition with the mainstream people.

Harijans have urged the government for minimum 80 percent quota in cleaning jobs for them at city corporations and government offices as well as providing basic rights enshrined in the constitution.

The speakers made the call at the orientation of the newly elected central committee of Bangladesh Harijan Oikya Parishad at Cirdap auditorium in the city.

A 101-member committee comprising representatives from across the county made their first appearance yesterday.

Krishnalal, chairperson of Bangladesh Harijan Oikya Parishad, said: “We keep the city clean and for that occupation we are considered as untouchables. Our children receive formal education, but they do not get jobs because of their identity as Harijans.”

About 15 lakh traditional sweepers, also known as Jaat sweepers, are originally descendants of immigrants from Kanpur, Nagpur and Andhra Pradesh of India, brought in 1830s during the British rule to provide all sorts of menial services for colonial rulers.

Their jobs include sweeping the streets and offices, clearing clogs in the sewerage lines, cleaning up manholes, water reservoirs, hospital wastes and handling carcasses. Many of them are employed in crematoriums.

Human rights activist barrister Sara Hossain said the national constitution ensures that no one will be subjected to caste-based discrimination and that the disadvantaged communities can demand special support programme from the government.

Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said Harijans must respect themselves first, then others will respect them and they must educate their community to this end.

Whip Shagufta Yasmin MP, Babu Kailash Das Hela, chief adviser of the parishad, and Nirmal Chandra Das, secretary general, also spoke.

14 girls kill themselves in 4 months

Source: The Daily Star News

At least 14 girls and the father of a stalking victim committed suicide during the last four and half months, data shows.

And three men were killed and four others were tortured for protesting at stalking by local youths this year.

Sayeed Ahmed, senior coordinator, Media and International Advocacy of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), presented these facts during a discussion at Shilpakala Academy in the capital.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, as the chief guest, said the government would observe June 3 as a day of campaign against stalking.

Rally, procession and discussion will be held on that day at all academic institutions across the country.

He urged all to work together and wage social movement to stop stalking. “Social values and awareness can prevent stalking and ensure women's easy movement.”

Nahid said the ministry has a plan to include texts addressing such issues in school curriculum.

The teachers would also be trained on social issues to counsel students, he said.

Nahid called upon the religious leaders to play an active role in resisting stalkers.

Sultana Kamal, the executive director of ASK, said political parties should come forward to resist stalking. There are instances where stalkers have taken shelter of the political leaders, she said.

“So, apolitical movement is needed to stop stalking.”

The meeting recommended forming forum comprising school authorities and guardians to protect girls from stalkers.

Participants at the discussion titled “Our Responsibilities to Prevent Stalking” also recommended setting complaint centres at all institutions by issuing circular from the education ministry.

They urged to define stalking and enforce law against it.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Noor Muhammad as a special guest said the police department already initiated some moves to prevent stalking.

ASK Chairperson Hameeda Hossain chaired the discussion.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Land grab by politicians alleged

Source: Gulf Times

Minority Hindus of Mothbaria sub-district in Bangladesh’s Pirojpur district have alleged that ruling Awami League activists backed by the party’s lawmaker were trying to grab nearly 200 acres of their land.
“They’re grabbing the land of anyone who is leaving for India,” Shamol Chandra Haldar of Dakkhin Sonakhali village told media yesterday.
He also alleged that two families had already left Bangladesh and many more were making preparations.
Shankar Mitra, speaking on behalf of 100 Hindu families living in the sub-district, alleged that Mujibur Rahman Sayed, who is father of former central Chhatra League (Awami League’s student wing) leader Ashrafur Rahman, along with his associates had been trying to grab land owned by the religious minorities.
Mitra claimed that this group of people had set fire to their shops and harassed women, bdnews24.com newspaper web site reported.
He alleged that Sayed attacked his home on April 1 in order to grab his land and injured his brother Subhash.
Haldar alleged that the reason behind the violence was to grab nearly 199.9 acres of land owned by the families.

Stop land grabbing by false documents

Source: The Daily Star News

Indigenous people urge govt for urgent steps

Indigenous people of Gomostapur upazila under Chapainawabganj district have made allegations of harassment and repression on them by the land grabbers.

Leaders of indigenous people of Dighori, Pargana, Baisi Parishad, Lahanti Akhra Forum, Adivasi Samonnya Parishad and Jatiyo Adivasi Parishad made the accusations at a press conference at Chapainawabganj Press Club on Saturday.

They alleged the land grabbers have been harassing them by filing false cases. Not only that, when anybody comes forward to help the victims, the land grabbers threat him of dire consequences, they added.

Indigenous leaders of Chapainawabganj Corneleus Murmu, Motilal Toppo, Jaoharlal Ekka, Bichitra Tirpi and Shirish Khalko were present.

Giving an example of harassment, the indigenous leaders said one Sirajul Islam of Lebudanga village under Radhanagar Union in Gomostapur upazila came under bomb attack at the same village by some unidentified criminals on the night of April 29. Sirajul's father- in-law Golam Rabbani filed a case with Gomostapur Police Station the following day against two innocent indigenous people.

Without finding the real culprits, police had sent the two indigenous people to jail custody, they alleged.

They told the press conference that Sirajul grabbed 2.14 acres of land of Sunil Keoar of Telipukur village by making a false document. He and his men threatened indigenous leaders Jaoharlal Ekka and Motilal Toppo with death on May 10 as they went to Chapainawabganj jail to meet one of the two accused.

This correspondent could not contact Sirajul Islam despite several attempts over mobile phone.

Our Mymensingh correspondent adds: The indigenous leaders of Mymensingh region have demanded that the government form separate land commission to solve their land problems.

The raised the demand at a workshop on 'Problems over land of indigenous people of Mymensingh region and its remedy' at the auditorium of Zila Shilpakala Academy yesterday noon.

Influential people have already grabbed the land of many adivasi families by making false documents and they are still active, the indigenous leaders alleged.

They urged the government to immediately form a land commission to settle their land disputes.

Over 100 indigenous leaders from Mymensingh, Tangail, Sherpur and Netrokona joined the workshop jointly arranged by Joyenshahi Adivasi Samaj Kalyan Sangstha, Achik Michik Society, Hajang Mata Rashimoni Kalyan Parishad, Dhalu Adivasi Unnayan Sangstha, Indigenous People Development Services, Society for Biodiversity Conservation and CARITAS.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

B'desh Hindus allege land grabbing by ruling party members

Source: Znews

Dhaka: Minority Hindus in a Bangladeshi district have alleged that some ruling Awami League leaders are trying to grab their land, even as a judicial investigation is underway to examine identical complaints during the previous regime of Khaleda Zia.
"Since the incumbent government assumed office (after December 29, 2008 elections), ruling party lawmaker Anwar Hossain is trying to grab our lands," one of the victims Subhash Chandra Debnath told agency today.
He added, "We have strong reasons to believe that ruling party lawmaker Anwar Hossain and local municipal chairman Rafiuddin Ahmed Ferdous, also an influential Awami League leader, and the party?s student front leader Ashrafur Rahman are behind the attempts of land grabbing."

Debnath's comments came as the mass circulation Jugantor newspaper and several other dailies today carried statements of the victims saying some 100 Hindu families at the Mathbaria sub-district of Pirozpur were passing days in fright as the politically influential quarters created a "reign of terror" to uproot them from the area.
Debnath and another local journalist Gautam Saha said during the past one and half years the "politically influential terrorists" set ablaze a shop owned by a Hindu resident, critically injured another member of the community, harassed several women and threatened several others if the pieces of lands were not handed over to them.

"An unholy quarter is involved in the process. They are very influential," Debnath said, adding that several Hindu families were planning to leave the country to take refuge in India while at least one Hindu family already migrated to the neighbouring country.

The allegations came as a judicial enquiry committee headed by a senior judge was recording statements of the particularly the minority people in the southwestern districts as they were exposed to identical repressions during the past Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led four party government with fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami being its key partner.

The repression on minority Hindus at that time sparked wide protests while the ruling Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had promised to expose the culprits of communal repression to justice in her election manifesto.

Economist and general secretary of Bangladesh Economic Association Abul Barakat in a study in 2007 found politically powerful people grabbed most of the land during the BNP-led regime from 2001 to 2006.

"Forty-five per cent of the land grabbers were affiliated with the BNP, 31 per cent with the Awami League, eight percent with Jamaat-e-Islami (main ally of the BNP-led coalition) and six per cent with the Jatiya Party and other political organisations," the study report read.

The incumbent government, however, enacted a law to return Hindu Property which were confiscated during the 1965 war between India and the then Pakistan, when Bangladesh was eastern wing of Pakistan.

The law is meant to redress the long-disputed law of the Pakistani era, which was widely criticised as a major violation of the minority rights.

During the Pakistan period, the law was called as Enemy Property Act.

According to a study conducted by a Dhaka University professor several years ago nearly 200,000 Hindu families lost approximately 40,667 acres of land since 2001 until the annulment of the Vested Property Act, considered a "black law".

Monday, May 10, 2010

URGENT APPEAL: Hindu Minority under attack in Bangladesh

Source: GHRD

This is an urgent appeal from GHRD.



10th May 2010,

The Hague, The Netherlands

URGENT APPEAL: Bangladesh: Hindu community attacked, physically assaulted and deprived from its property; alleged involvement of a member of the Bangladeshi Army. [UA-BA-10-05-2010]

ISSUES: Physical assault against minority members, including children; property violation and theft.

Dear Friends,

Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) is investigating another attack against the Hindu community in the Manikgonj District, where at least twelve people were physically assaulted during a property violation attempt. According to GHRD sources, the main perpetrator holds a post in the Bangladeshi Army, posted at the Jessore Cantonment.

CASE DETAILS:

The incident occurred on the 30th April 2010 in a Hindu village at Baguli, of the Manikgonj district. It is reported that the attack took place as a result of a property violation attempt, during which the perpetrators illegally confiscated crops from local Hindu owners.

Thirteen identified and armed perpetrators, reportedly lead by a member of the National Army, entered the Hindu property around 7 a.m. on 30th April 2010 and started pillaging agrarian produce. When the owners made an effort to protect their property, the perpetrators attacked them with sharp weapons, causing serious physical injuries. Some Muslims who tried to help their Hindu neighbours, were also physically assaulted. At least four victims were taken to hospital, one in a critical condition. One of the villagers filed a complaint against the thirteen perpetrators at Doulatpur police station on 1st May 2010.

A First Information Report (FIR) was filed at Doulatpur police station on 1st May 2010 under sections143/447/323/325/326/307/379/114/506 (ii) of the Penal code. After the lodging of the complaint, some of the perpetrators surrendered before the Chief Judicial Magistrate-Manikgonj and got a relief. Subsequently, the perpetrators once again intimidated the victims and ordered them to leave the country immediately.

GHRD started the investigation on the 8th May 2010 and has visited the location of the incident and took statements from the victims. More than 100 witnesses, both Hindus and Muslims, confirmed the incident. According to their statements, the perpetrators are violent and constitute a threat to the local community and must be immediately brought to justice.

To this moment none of the perpetrators have been arrested. GHRD has collected FIR's, photographs, medical reports and additional documentation verifiying the violent incidents. A lawyer has also been engaged. GHRD will continue to monitor the case.

GHRD notes with concern that violence against minorities and intolerance persist in Bangladesh. In only a month, this is the third attack against Hindus that GHRD has investigated, which occurred as a result of a property violation.

On the 20th and 26th March 2010 at least 15 perpetrators illegally entered ponds, property of Hindus and stole fish, which is a main source of income for the locals. One of the victims was physically assaulted. According to information gathered by GHRD, a police officer is involved in the unlawful acts. Furthermore, between 25th February and 3rd April 2010 the property of over 21 Hindus was violated and their houses were occupied by perpetrators, belonging to the Muslim population. Notably, in all three cases there are allegations for police negligence or even collaboration with the wrongdoers.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

In light of the above, GHRD strongly urges the local police authorities to conduct a proper investigation into this case, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The allegation of involvement of a member of the Bangladeshi Army is particularly worrying and GHRD urges upon the local authorities to undertake all legal measures required in this case in order to establish the facts and identify the perpetrators. The victims must receive necessary legal assistance and adequate compensation for the damages caused, and their safety and wellbeing must be guranteed during the entire process.

We trust that immidate action shall be taken in this regard.

Thank you,


In order to help, please print the following sample letter and send it to the relevant authorities found below.



Sample letter:

Dear ___________,

I am deeply concerned with the news received from Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) regarding another attack against the Hindu community in the Manikgonj District, where at least twelve people were physically assaulted during a property violation attempt. According to GHRD sources, the main perpetrator holds a post in the Bangladeshi Army, posted at the Jessore Cantonment.


I am told that the incident occurred on the 30th April 2010 in a Hindu village at Baguli, of the Manikgonj district. It is reported that the attack took place as a result of a property violation attempt, during which the perpetrators illegally confiscated crops from local Hindu owners.

GHRD reports that thirteen identified and armed perpetrators, reportedly lead by a member of the National Army, entered the Hindu property around 7 a.m. on 30th April 2010 and started pillaging agrarian produce. When the owners made an effort to protect their property, the perpetrators attacked them with sharp weapons, causing serious physical injuries. Some Muslims who tried to help their Hindu neighbours, were also physically assaulted. At least four victims were taken to hospital, one in a critical condition. One of the villagers filed a complaint against the thirteen perpetrators at Doulatpur police station on 1st May 2010.

I am also informed that a First Information Report (FIR) was filed at Doulatpur police station on 1st May 2010 under sections143/447/323/325/326/307/379/114/506 (ii) of the Penal code. After the lodging of the complaint, some of the perpetrators surrendered before the Chief Judicial Magistrate-Manikgonj and got a relief. Subsequently, the perpetrators once again intimidated the victims and ordered them to leave the country immediately.

GHRD started the investigation on the 8th May 2010 and has visited the location of the incident and took statements from the victims. More than 100 witnesses, both Hindus and Muslims, confirmed the incident. According to their statements, the perpetrators are violent and constitute a threat to the local community and must be immediately brought to justice.

To this moment none of the perpetrators have been arrested. GHRD has collected FIR's, photographs, medical reports and additional documentation verifiying the violent incidents. A lawyer has also been engaged. GHRD will continue to monitor the case.

GHRD notes with concern that violence against minorities and intolerance persist in Bangladesh. In only a month, this is the third attack against Hindus that GHRD has investigated, which occurred as a result of a property violation.

Additionally, I was informed by GHRD that on the 20th and 26th March 2010 at least 15 perpetrators illegally entered ponds, property of Hindus and stole fish, which is a main source of income for the locals. One of the victims was physically assaulted. According to information gathered by GHRD, a police officer is involved in the unlawful acts. Furthermore, between 25th February and 3rd April 2010 the property of over 21 Hindus was violated and their houses were occupied by perpetrators, belonging to the Muslim population. Notably, in all three cases there are allegations for police negligence or even collaboration with the wrongdoers.

In light of the above, I strongly urge the local police authorities to conduct a proper investigation into this case, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The allegation of involvement of a member of the Bangladeshi Army is particularly worrying and therefore I urge upon the local authorities to undertake all legal measures required in this case in order to establish the facts and identify the perpetrators. The victims must receive necessary legal assistance and adequate compensation for the damages caused, and their safety and wellbeing must be guranteed during the entire process.

I trust that you will take immediate action on this serious matter.

Yours sincerely,

(...)

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mrs. Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister

Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh

Office of the Prime Minister

Tejgaon, Dhaka

BANGLADESH

Fax: +880 2 811 3244 / 3243 / 1015 / 1490

Tel: +880 2 882 816 079 / 988 8677

E-mail: pm@pmo.gov.bd or ps1topm@pmo.gov.bd or psecy@pmo.gov.bd

2. Mr. Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim

Chief Justice

Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Supreme Court Building

Ramna, Dhaka-1000

BANGLADESH

Fax: +880 2 956 5058

Tel: +880 2 956 2792

3. Barrister Shafique Ahmed

Minister

Ministry of Law, Justice & Parliamentary Affairs

Bangladesh Secretariat

Dhaka-1000

BANGLADESH

Tel: +880 2 7160627

Fax: +880 2 7168557

4. Ms. Sahara Khatun MP

Minister

Ministry of Home Affairs

Bangladesh Secretariat

Dhaka-1000

BANGLADESH

Tel: +880 2 7169069

Fax: +880 2 7160405, 880 2 7164788

5. Mr. Mahbubey Alam

Attorney General of Bangladesh

Office of the Attorney General

Supreme Court Annex Building

Ramna, Dhaka-1000

BANGLADESH

Fax: +880 2 956 1568

Tel: +880 2 956 2868

6. Mr. Nur Mohammad

Inspector General of Police (IGP)

Bangladesh Police

Police Headquarters'

Fulbaria, Dhaka-1000

BANGLADESH

Fax: +880 2 956 3362 / 956 3363

Tel: +880 2 956 2054 / 717 6451 / 717 6677

E-mail: ig@police.gov.bd

7. Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG)

Khulna Range

Office of the DIG of Khulna Range

Khulna

BANGLADESH

Fax: +880 41 761300

Tel: +880 41 761823

E-mail: digkhulna@police.gov.bd



Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ruling party goes in rampage against country's minorities

Source: The Daily Star News

Return houses to 13 Hindu families: High Court Orders police

The High Court yesterday ordered the police administration of Pirojpur to rehabilitate to their houses within five days 13 Hindu families in Mathbaria upzila evicted allegedly by Awami League activists.

It also directed the superintendent of police (SP) of Pirojpur and officer-in-charge (OC) of Mathbaria Police Station to ensure restoration of the victims' lands and other property from the grabbers.

The HC ordered them to provide adequate security to the evicted families.

It is alleged that a group of local AL men occupied houses and property of the 13 families of South Sonakhali village in the last three months.

The HC order came from a bench comprised of AHM Justice Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Md Delwar Hossain.

The court also ordered the OC of Mathbaria to appear before it within a month, and submit a report on compliance with its the order.

SP of Pirojpur Nafiul Islam and OC of Mathbaria Nurul Haque appeared before the HC bench and tendered unconditional apology for not complying with its earlier order.

Upon a writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, the bench on April 25 directed the SP and the OC to arrest within 48 hours the persons involved in grabbing houses and lands of the families.

The SP and the OC told the court yesterday that they could not arrest anybody in this connection since no specific case was filed.

Human rights activist Rabindra Ghose, who had visited the spot, described in the court yesterday the incidents of land house grabbing.

Advocate Manzill Murshid appeared for the petitioner and Deputy Attorney Ggeneral Nazrul Islam Talukder for the police.


'Include stakeholders in preparing census data of adivasis'

Source: The Daily Star News

Traditional social structures of indigenous communities and organisations working on them should be included in the process of preparing census data of adivasis in 2011 to make it reliable, speakers told a city meeting yesterday.

They said individual indigenous communities should be identified and represented separately in the census and clustered together as ethnic people.

Research and Development Collective (RDC) in association with International Labour Organisation organised the view exchange meeting titled 'National Census 2011: tasks to identify numbers of indigenous people according to their ethnic identity' at the Jatiya Press Club.

Presenting the keynote speech, RDC General Secretary Prof Mesbah Kamal said the census data on the indigenous people prepared in 2001 is unreliable and politically motivated.

He said it would be impossible to take effective development programmes for the ethnic people without accurate data on them.

Prof Kamal suggested the government to conduct orientation training for the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics officials to cope with the indigenous people's issues.

He also suggested reviewing the questionnaire format for the census due in 2011 in consultation with the opinion leaders of indigenous people and experts.

Lawmaker of Khagrachhari Jyotindra Lal Tripura said if the headman and karbari were included in the data collection process of the census, then the right data and information could come out.

Right information and data would help the government undertake effective development process for the indigenous people, he said.

Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, said the government can take help from the formats of census of the neighbouring countries to make questionnaire format for the census to be held in 2011.

Khagrachhari District Headman Association leader Shaktipad Tripura also spoke at the meeting with Justice Golam Rabbani in the chair.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grabbing of temple protested

Source: The Daily Star News

Members of Hindu community in the city's Rayerbazar area yesterday staged a demonstration protesting the grabbing of land belonging to a century-old temple in the area.

They alleged that a developer company occupied the Sree Sree Kali Mandir yesterday.

The demonstrators took out a procession from the temple and later formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club demanding that the government take steps to recover the temple land and take action against the developer.

Dhakeshwari National Temple general secretary Advocate Taposh Pal, organising secretary Advocate Kishore Mandal, treasurer Advocate Shamol Roy, Kali Mandir committee president Suhash Pal and general secretary Shamvunath Pal were present at the human chain programme.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Indigenous leader shot dead in Rangamati

Source: The Daily Star

An indigenous leader was gunned down allegedly by his rivals at Juraichhari Upazila in Rangamati on Sunday.

The deceased was identified as Proshanta Chakma, a leader of Democratic Youth Forum (DYF) of the upazila unit, reports our Rangamati correspondent.

Local sources said rivals waylaid Proshanta in Lebarpara area of Juraichhari at about 11:00am opened shot on him, leaving him dead on the spot.