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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bangladeshi Hindus under siege once more

Source: Niti Central
The just concluded national election in Bangladesh is most unconvincing. The decision by principal Opposition viz. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to boycott the polls reduced it to a one-sided affair. It could be likened to February 15, 1996 election boycotted by Awami League and swept by the ruling party viz BNP. But the victorious party was compelled to dissolve the National Assembly soon under negative public opinion. In a fresh election conducted on June 12, 1996 the BNP was routed. The Awami League emerged as the single largest party forming Government with support of HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party’s 32 members. History might repeat itself in Bangladesh in the coming months.
For 300 seats in the National Assembly, there were only 540 candidates, out of which 153 were elected unopposed. Thus only 139 seats went for polls, out of which elections were countermanded in eight seats. Awami League has won 232 seats out of 292. The Jatiya Party’s final tally was 33, others won five, whereas 13 seats went to independent candidates.
Bangladeshi Hindus under siege once more
A hapless victim of Chapatola assault rues her fate.
The percentage of polling being low at 39.81 percent, this was far from a popular election. Nineteen people reportedly died on polling day across 11 districts mostly BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami cadres in police firing. This was in sharp contrast to the last elections on December 29, 2008 that were bloodless. A total of 123 lives had been lost since the announcement of election schedule on November 25, 2013.
This is indeed a disappointing denouement to Bangladesh’s ‘Cultural Revolution’. The Shahbagh Movement sought to reclaim the spirit of liberal and secular Bangladesh. The Awami League Government showed guts to prosecute accomplices in 1971 genocide. There should have either been a resounding verdict in favour of the Awami League or its total rejection. The former would have showed that Bangladesh still abides by its foundational principles. In the latter case it would have been confirmed that Bangladesh has become ‘Banglastan’ (as an Awami League Minister put it) – a Bengali version of Pakistan.

Hindu temples and shops destroyed in Bangladesh by Islamic Muslim extremists

Post-poll violence against Hindus: Now post-poll violence has begun in Bangladesh and Hindus are its soft targets. Some 150 Hindu homes were vandalised in Chapatola Village of Abhoynagar Upazila (sub-district) in Jessore district. The attack was apparently carried out by the BNP cadres after polling had closed in the evening. The Hindus were allegedly chastised for casting their vote. Several houses were set on fire and valuables were looted.
At least 112 families who came under attack were from the weaker section of the society. They were fishermen. Kalidasi Sarkar told that she jumped into the river with her 15-year-old son to swim to the other bank. It being winter and the dusk setting in, they feared on being drowned due to benumbed limbs. Fortunately, she lived to fight another day. Most of those who fled their houses due to the attacks returned home on the morrow only to find their habitations destroyed.
In a similar attack, more than 150 Hindu homes were set to fire in Karnahi village of Dinajpur District in northern Bangladesh.  The attack was undertaken by almost 2500 men armed with sharp weapons. Hindu voters returning after casting their votes were attacked. The victims alleged that the attackers led by those who were members of local Union Council. They were all associated with the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami.
The current round of violence has cast a grave shadow on the future of the Hindus in Bangladesh. Is Awami League returning to power in a controversial election a guarantee of the security of the Hindus? The tenure of Awami League has not been a happy situation for the Hindus. While Awami League is viewed as the secular face of Bangladeshi politics, the truth is quite grainy. The League’s members are associated with the maximum number of land-grabbing cases affecting Hindus. It might be remembered that it was an Awami League member viz Mujibar Rehman Chisti who filed a complaint to the Metropolitan Magistrate against the organisers of Gono Shradhya’ 71. The Hindus were thus prevented from the very innocent act of performing the obsequies to unnamed victims of the 1971 genocide. While we may still avoid mourning the dead Hindus of 1971, the fate of the millions of living Hindus in Bangladesh is of greater consequence. An exodus of the Hindus – though preferable to their extermination or conversion to Islam – might lead to great disturbance in eastern India. This is not the Bangladesh its founding fathers had dreamt of.

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