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Bangladesh Minority Council welcomes India’s pressure on safety of minorities

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By Kamran Reza Chowdhury

Religious minorities may flee Bangladesh if attacks on them continue, the spokesman of a minority coalition group warned Friday.

Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council, applauded a statement from India’s foreign minister earlier this week that Dhaka must punish the perpetrators of such attacks.

“My organization welcomes the call of Sushma Swaraj. She rightly pointed out the plight of the minorities in Bangladesh. The attacks on the minorities must stop,” Dasgupta told BenarNews.

India has reason to be worried about the attacks on minorities in its neighbor, Muslim-majority but constitutionally-secular Bangladesh, Dasgupta said.

“If the attacks continue, the minorities will leave the country and take shelter in India. The government must take measures so that the minorities do not leave the country,” he said.

Nirmal Rozario, general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, also welcomed the diplomatic pressure from Bangladesh’s giant neighbor.

“Sushma Swaraj’s call will expedite the government move to protect the minorities who have become the common targets of the radicals. In the age of globalization, every country is impacted by the events in its neighboring states,” Rozario told BenarNews.

‘Secular, progressive and liberal’

India’s minister of external affairs (EAM) brought up the matter during a meeting with Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali of Bangladesh in New Delhi on Wednesday.

“Referring to recent incidents of attacks on minorities in Bangladesh, EAM sought swift action against the perpetrators of the crimes by the Bangladesh authorities,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday about the discussion.

“FM Ali assured that [the] Government of Bangladesh was conscious of the importance of checking the activities of radical forces in the country and expressed the commitment of his Government to safeguarding Bangladesh’s secular, progressive and liberal character,” the statement said.

On Feb. 21, a priest was slain and two devotees were wounded in an attack on a Hindu temple in Panchagarh district, in northern Bangladesh.

It was the first killing of a member of the country’s small Hindu community since militants issued threats against religious minorities last year. Two Hindu temples were bombed in Dinajpur district of northern Bangladesh in December

Hindus currently make up about 10 percent of Bangladesh’s 168.9 million people.

On Jan. 7, attackers stabbed to death an 85-year-old Christian convert and doctor in the southwestern district of Jhenaidah. Two Christian priests have been attacked, and at least 30 other members of the tiny Christian minority have been threatened, since mid-2015, church leaders say.

On Dec. 25, a suicide bomber targeted an Ahmadiyya mosque in northwestern Rajshahi district.

On Nov. 26, militants sprayed bullets inside a mosque of the minority Shia Muslim community in the northern district of Bogra, killing a muezzin who was in his 70s. In October, militants bombed a procession of Shiites in Dhaka, killing two.

‘No space in Bangladesh’

Following the killing of the Christian doctor in January, the country’s home minister vowed to go after people who attack religious minorities.

“The people of Bangladesh are pious but they are not radicals. So, the militants will get no space in Bangladesh,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.

The Middle East-based Islamic State group claimed responsibility for many of the attacks, but the government has denied its presence in Bangladesh, saying local militants are using the IS brand to “add value to their names.”

Militant attacks this year have targeted intellectuals and foreigners as well as members of religious minorities.

In late September, Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella was gunned down in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone. Less than a week later, Japanese agriculture expert Kunio Hoshi was shot dead in the northern city of Rangpur.

Four secular bloggers and a publisher were brutally murdered in 2015 in machete attacks by suspected militants. Four other people were injured in those attacks.

Maulana Farid Uddin Masud, a top Islamic cleric, stressed that such violence is contrary to the tenets of Islam.

“Islam has not allowed anyone to carry out attack on the minorities. Islam strongly promotes peaceful coexistence of all faiths,” he told BenarNews.

“So, the government must protect all minorities from the attacks on the militants who have been misinterpreting the peaceful religion Islam.” (Published with permission from BenarNews)

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Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

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Hinduism
Government invites entries for first National CSR Awards VOA

At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

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Buddhism relates sins to the characteristics one adopts. Pixabay

The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

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Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

Hinduism
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

Also Read: Triple Talaq Now Banned in India

The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)