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Diminishing Hindu population in Bangladesh: Is ethnic cleansing the real reason?

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By Anirban Choudhury Arup and Priyanka Bose Kanta

A bitter fact in today’s Bangladesh is that the Hindu population is dying out. The narrative that describes the vanishing Hindu minority, which once comprised 31% of the population in 1947 and dwindled to a meager 9% by 2002, reflects this sad reality.

Discrimination towards the Hindu community in Bangladesh is both visible and hidden. The state’s bias in the Constitution and its reluctance to address human rights violations against minorities makes this discrimination evident. Moreover, there has been a long history of violence and repression against Hindus in Bangladesh, which has led to the community’s dramatic decline. This infamous history consists of many barbaric episodes of violence against Hindus over the years, including attacks in the aftermath of the Babri Mosque incident in India in the 1990s, and the 2001 post election violence.

After initially embracing secularism in the post-independence era, Bangladesh is now known primarily a moderate Muslim country. The atmosphere is certainly a changed one. The secularist era implied an equal existence for all, while the current period implies that other people exist because Muslims are moderate in Bangladesh. As a result of systematic human rights violations and discrimination, the Hindu population is now rapidly leaving Bangladesh at an alarming rate, more than that of any other time. This reinforces the allegation that Bangladeshi society is hostile toward the Hindu community.

 Atrocities on minorities: Tragedy or terror?

Soon after independence in 1971, the government violated the religious freedom of Hindus when it demolished the remnants of Ramna Kalibari, a sacred and historic Hindu temple situated in Dhaka. The destroyed relics were the last symbol of this historical temple after it previously endured a massive attack by Pakistani invaders in 1971.  After the demolition, the land owned by the temple was transferred over to Dhaka Club, a recreation center for the elites.

Furthermore, many Hindu temples and properties were looted and demolished during communal riots in the early 1990s. In December 1992, following the infamous Babri Mosque incident in India, hundreds of temples in Bangladesh were demolished, properties were looted, and Hindu women were raped and killed. The anti-Hindu violence in December 1992 was the worst in terms of damage and destruction.

Several months after the riots, in mid-1993, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led-government issued two orders, which were interpreted as sanctioning the persecution of religious minorities. Specifically, these orders from the Bangladesh Home Ministry asked commercial banks to: (1) control withdrawal of substantial cash money by account holders from the Hindu community, and (2) stop disbursement of business loans to the Hindu community in the districts adjoining the India-Bangladesh border.

Militant attacks against Hindus in Bangladesh escalated dramatically following the October 2001 general election that brought the BNP to power in coalition with hard-line Islamist parties. Following the elections, the BNP coalition and its supporters unleashed a large-scale campaign of violence targeting the Hindu community that lasted more than 150 days. During that period, there were reportedly more than 10,000 cases of human rights abuses committed against minorities. Hindu homes were looted, vandalized, and burned and Hindu temples and sacred sites were destroyed.  Scores of Hindu women and girls were raped.  In some cases, they were gang raped in front of their male relatives. Hindus were also assaulted on the streets, in their homes, and at their workplaces. “Systematic attacks resulted in a mass migration of Hindus to India and in particular to the bordering state of Tripura. The government did little to prosecute or investigate the violence.”

More than a decade later, on February 28 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) sentenced Delwar Hossain Sayeedi (Vice President of Jamaat-e- Islami) to death for committing crimes against humanity during the 1971 War of Independence. Following the sentence, activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, attacked Hindus in different parts of the country. Hindu properties were looted, Hindu houses were burnt to ashes, and Hindu temples were desecrated and set on fire. And in early 2014, during elections and post-poll violence, armed gangs attacked minority communities, mostly in the southwestern and northern districts, including Jessore, Satkhira, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh, Chittagong, Nilphamari, Kurgram, Lalmonirhat, Satkhira, Gaibandha and Dinajpur. International aid agencies estimated that as many as 5,000 families were affected.  This wave of violence against the Hindu community was unprecedented and weighed heavily on conscientious and civilized citizens of Bangladesh of all religions.

Islamic State

Despite being home to profuse cultural diversity, Bangladesh has also witnessed the most brutal religious confrontations. Perhaps the inheritance of this history was sufficient to instill communal feelings among the mass population. That is why secularism was never a popular concept for the majority of the majorities, though Bangladeshi secularism was never a godless atheism. In order to claim support and recognition from the so-called Muslim world, an effort to be portrayed as an “Islamic State” was initiated soon after Bangladesh’s independence.

Though it arose out of a contextual necessity, this iconic compromise provided a huge opportunity for subsequent rulers to divert people’s attention away from secularism. With a view to claiming support from the majority, these regimes continuously tried to shape the country in an Islamic mould. Eventually, the Maududian theory of “political Islam” and an “Islamic State” found a strong base in Bangladesh.

The idea of an “Islamic State” was in direct conflict with a democratic ideology and was unacceptable to the nation’s minorities as well as it’s liberal population. Yet, the concept of an “Islamic State” garnered support from the general populace and helped in the rise of religious fundamentalism. Bangladeshi Hindus have been the helpless victims of this prevailing atmosphere for much of the post-independence period and the State has been surprisingly reluctant to protect them and in fact acted in an inexplicable manner on several occasions.

Systematic human rights violations against minorities started immediately after the independence of Bangladesh, even though it emerged as a secular state. The unlawful continuance of the vesting of Hindu properties was perhaps the first crucial symbol of this persecution. This was followed by the subsequent land confiscation and demolition of Ramna Kali Mandir ruins. Moreover, the 1989 attack by Muslims on the Hindu community in Daudkandi and Comilla, and the 1990’s communal riots resulting in the demolition of a number of Hindu temples were additional glaring examples of human rights abuses against Hindus.

Furthermore, the post-election violence in 2001; the attacks following the pronouncement of the verdict in the trial of war criminal Delwar Hussain Sayeedi in 2013; and the post-poll violence, particularly targeting Hindus, in January of 2014, collectively demonstrate a pattern of systematic persecution. The violence is perhaps the most flagrant example of the “systematic” element required for ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity. Similarly, attacks on a Hindu locality for any trivial issue, ransacking properties and ordering them to leave the country and go to India, and conditions forcing them to escape are all commonplace and systematic in nature.

Calling Hindus ‘infidels’

Hindus in Bangladesh also regularly complain about routine humiliation by being addressed as ‘infidels.’ Additionally, there is blatant discrimination in access to higher education, employment and business opportunities, political disenfranchisement, and incarceration by implication in fictitious cases. At the same time, vandalism and the destruction of deities and temples, forced conversions, abductions, rape and forced marriages to the rapist, and gang rape are regularly reported in the media.

All of these above mentioned atrocities and types of discrimination have resulted in lower levels of participation of minorities in educational institutions, parliament, the cabinet, the secretariat, reputable work sectors, military forces, civil service positions and other spheres of public life. These incidents have further forced Hindus to seek refuge in neighboring countries and those who have the financial ability to do so are immigrating to developed countries.

The reluctance of successive governments to send law enforcement to areas that have witnessed atrocities against minorities or not sending them at all, and the failure to promote and uphold the rights of minorities is all too apparent. Finally, state indifference in prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against minorities is a common phenomena.

The silent process of ethnic cleansing serves its purpose, as the intent need not necessarily be to physically annihilate an entire victim group. A group can be practically destroyed by killing its political elite, intellectuals and people in general. The vacuum created by these killings leaves little or no chance for Hindus to thrive in Bangladesh as a distinct entity with self-respect and high ambitions. And that is how the quiet case of ethnic cleansing is taking place in Bangladesh – by killing the souls of Hindus.

Source: Hindu American Foundation

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Upgrade of murder charge of the white nationalist, James Alex Fields Jr. in Virginia car killing

James Alex Field Jr. murder charge has been upgraded from second degree to first degree who has been accused of killing a 32 year old woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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FILE - A photo of Heather Heyer, who was killed during a white nationalist rally, sits on the ground at a memorial the day her life was celebrated at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia.
FILE - A photo of Heather Heyer, who was killed during a white nationalist rally, sits on the ground at a memorial the day her life was celebrated at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • James Allex Fields Jr., the white nationalist who murdered a woman in Virginia.
  • The murder charge has been upgraded for the accused
  • Second-degree murder changed to first-degree murder

US, December 14, 2017: A white nationalist accused of killing a 32-year-old woman when he plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August was charged with first-degree murder Thursday, local media reported.

James Fields Jr., 20, appeared at Charlottesville District Court for a preliminary hearing, during which a previous charge of second-degree murder was changed to first-degree murder, local TV station WSET and others reported from the court.

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville, Virginia, police department.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville, Virginia, police department.

Fields would face up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, while second-degree murder carries a penalty of five to 40 years in prison, according to the Virginia penal code.

Court officials and the local district attorney were not immediately available for comment.

Ohio-native Fields is suspected of killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people.

The incident took place amid clashes between hundreds of white supremacists and counterprotesters. After hours of clashes, a sedan driving at high speed plowed into the crowd before reversing along the same street.

Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia’s flagship campus.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe blamed neo-Nazis for sparking the unrest in the city, where rival groups fought pitched battles using rocks and pepper spray after far-right protesters converged to demonstrate against a plan to remove a statue of a Confederate war hero.

After the rally, Republican President Donald Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides, drawing condemnation from some Republican leaders and praise from white supremacists. (VOA)

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Pakistan : Law Minister forced to step down, Is the notorious Islamic nation on way to collapse?

With growing influence of Islamic extremists on one hand and separatist movements on other hand, it is really a tough road ahead for Pakistan. The den of terror is on way to collapse

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Islamic Terrorism
Supporters of the extremist Tehreek-e-Labaik party Pakistan (VOA)

After few weeks of ongoing drama Pakistan government on Monday made a deal with leaders of an extremist Islamist protest movement, agreeing that Pakistan law minister would step down from his position in return for an end to violent protests that had resulted in brutal clashes and immobilised the Pakistani capital since last few weeks. The law minister, Zahid Hamid, whom protesters had accused of blasphemy, resigned as part of negotiations overseen by Pakistan’s military. Law Minister Zahid Hamid had been accused by clerics of committing blasphemy due to a change in the wording of an oath taken by parliamentarians. The extremists, led by Rizvi, believed the change in wording as representing a softening of the state’s position against members of the Ahmadi sect, who are not permitted to identify themselves as Muslims in Pakistan. Like many times in past once again in Pakistan the government surrendered to the extremists. A dozen of people were killed and around 250 people were wounded in clashes between protestors and security forces.

“On the assurance of the Chief of Army Staff, we are calling off the sit-in,” Muslim extremist and protest leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi representing radical “Tehreek-e-Labaik” told a crowd of around 2,500 demonstrators in Islamabad on Monday.

Islamic Extremists
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party (VOA)

This is not the first time when Islamic extremists have highjacked the government in Pakistan. Not a single Prime Minister in Pakistan has been allowed to complete his tenure since the country’s inception 70 years ago. The political situation in Pakistan has never been a swift ride ever since 1947, as four times democratic governments were thrown away by military dictators, one prime minister was killed while another one was hanged by judiciary, many were sent home by presidents and two were dismissed by the Supreme Court, the latest been Nawaz Sharif.

The recent developments have again proved that Pakistan’s democratically elected government has no authority, it is the islamic extremists who hold the jar of power dictating government what to do and what not to do. Few days back only, a judicial panel ordered the release of Islamic militant leader Hafiz Saeed who was the mastermind of deadly Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 from house arrest. Hafiz Saeed have a huge following and popularity in Pakistan, and was to take up leadership of a political party which he planned to start. The matter of concern is future of Pakistan with such terrorists penetrating in power corridors.

With growing extremism on one side, separatist movements are also growing in Pakistan. Baloch freedom movement is gaining pace and a large section of Pashtun population are also demanding an independent Pashtunistan. There are several similarities between the Pakistani Army committing hideous crimes in Bangladesh (what was then East Pakistan) and Balochistan & Pashtunistan. Mass killings, the rape of women, laying human habitations to waste, targeted assassinations – Bangladesh saw it all during its Liberation War of 1971. Balochistan and Pashtunistan continues to witness these horrors. Religious minorities are also often targeted including the Shia and Ahmadi muslim population.

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With growing Wahhabism on one hand and separatist movements on another hand its really a tough job for Pakistan’s government to keep the country intact. Pakistan should now understand that there is no good terrorism and bad terrorism. [bctt tweet=”Pakistan should now understand that there is no good terrorism and bad terrorism. The snake you raise in your backyard is more likely to bite you before it bite your neighbour.”] In such grave situations, civil society of Pakistan must ponder over the state of affairs and should reject terrorism against India, only then a progressive Pakistan can exist. A progressive and stable Pakistan is equally important for neighbouring countries.

–  by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

2 responses to “Pakistan : Law Minister forced to step down, Is the notorious Islamic nation on way to collapse?”

  1. Good analysis, Pakistan must look within and stop religious extremists before they take control of whole nation.

  2. That is a very good and deep analysis. Pakistan is imploding from inside, religious extremist groups have the upper hand while ethnic suppression is igniting separatism. Ethnic Pashtun and Baluch nationalism should be empowered to put an end to the terror-producing machinery in Pakistan that means total collapse of Pakistani dysfunctional, apartheid and panjabi fascist failed state.

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Analysts in USA and India Not surprised by Release of Hafiz Saeed by Pakistan

While the news of Saeed’s release has caught worldwide attention, some US experts on South Asian affairs say Pakistan's move was bound to happen - sooner or later.

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Hafiz Saeed has been released from jail by Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistan's Jamaat-ud-Dawa group waves to supporters at a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 24, 2017. VOA

Anti-terrorism analysts in Washington and New Delhi are critical of Pakistan’s decision to release a man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 160, but some say they are not surprised by the move. U.S. officials say Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist.

He was set free by Pakistani authorities after 11 months of house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday. Earlier last week, a judicial panel of Lahore High Court said there was not enough evidence to continue Saeed’s detention.

Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan
Supporters of Hafiz Saeed, head of Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, shower his car with rose petals as he leaves a court in Lahore, Pakistan, Nov. 21, 2017. VOA

While the news of Saeed’s release has caught worldwide attention, some experts on South Asian affairs say Pakistan’s move was bound to happen – sooner or later. “I see Saeed’s release as totally unsurprising. This is a story that’s played out multiple times in recent history: He is put under house arrest only to be released,” Michael Kugelman, a Washington-based South Asian analyst associated with the Woodrow Wilson Center told VOA.

“Pakistani legal authorities had said all along that there was not sufficient evidence to keep him detained, so it was just a matter of time before he was released,” Kugelman added.

Hafiz Saeed is the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa group (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat foundation (FIF), both of which have been declared terrorist organizations by the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is widely believed to be the front of Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) which was included into the U.N.’s terrorist groups list in 2005.

US ‘deeply concerned’

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Saeed should be arrested and charged for his crimes. “The United States is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from the house arrest in Pakistan. LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens,” Nauert said.

Mumbai Terror Attack
FILE – People hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of a terrorist attack, in Mumbai, India, Nov. 29, 2008. The attack took a total of 160 lives. VOA

India, which alleges Saeed was mastermind of Mumbai carnage in 2008, has also reacted strongly to his release. India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said that a “self-confessed and U.N.-proscribed terrorist was being allowed to walk free and continue with his evil agenda.”

Some political analysts in India also seem to be agitated by Saeed’s release and say it will only further complicate the already strained relations between the two rival nations.

“His release only reinforces the popular belief in India that the Pakistani establishment is either not interested or it’s incapable of putting Saeed on trial in the Mumbai case,” Vinod Sharma, Delhi based political editor of the Hindustan Times told VOA. “In either case it increases the trust deficit between the two countries.”

Insufficient evidence, says Pakistan

Lawmakers in Pakistan dismiss the allegations and maintain India and the U.S. provided insufficient evidence to put Hafiz Saeed behind bars or declare him a terrorist.

“The criticism by the United States is wrong and India’s anger makes no sense as Pakistan is a democratic country where courts are powerful and work with full authority,” Abdul Qayyum, a prominent member of the ruling party PML-N told VOA. “Until and unless there is solid evidence against Hafiz Saeed, how can you arrest or punish him? We have strict rules for terrorists and we do not spare them at any cost,” Qayyum added.

Some experts on South Asian affairs point out that Hafiz Saeed’s release orders came out within days after the U.S. Congress removed a provision from the National Defense Authorization Act 2018 that delinks Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) from the Haqqani Network to reimburse Pakistan for its cooperation in the war on terror.

Ashley Tellis, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington called the amendment an “unfortunate move.” “It will give Pakistan a way to differentiate between good and bad terrorists and they will make less effort to satisfy the United States against the war on terror,” Tellis told VOA.

Aman Azhar of VOA’s Urdu Service contributed to this report.