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Many Bangladeshi Hindus feel increasingly Unsafe in Muslim-majority nation Bangladesh, are planning to move to Hindu-Majority India

Hindu community leaders in Bangladesh said 32 Hindus have been killed this year and allege more than 550 Hindu temples have been vandalized

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Chittaranjan Arya, a Hindu priest of a temple of goddess Kali in Meherpara village of Narsingdi district, Bangladesh, lies on bed after being hacked by unidentified assailants, Aug. 23, 2016. (P. Chandra/VOA)
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November 19, 2016: As religious violence targeting Hindus continues in Bangladesh, many Bangladeshi Hindus said they feel increasingly unsafe in the Muslim-majority nation, and they are planning to move to Hindu-majority India.

Several Indian ethnic groups in the Indian border state of Assam, however, said they would not allow Bangladeshis to settle in the area, which has for decades been a destination for migrants and refugees from Bangladesh.

“The attack on the Hindus is still continuing in Bangladesh. In fact it has peaked in recent weeks,” Shipan Kumer Basu, president of Bangladesh’s Hindu Struggle Committee told VOA this week.

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“Many of them want to leave Bangladesh. And, neighboring Hindu-majority India is the only safe destination where they (feel they) can escape (to),” Basu said.

Manjit Mahanta, an Assamese indigenous movement leader, cited the 1985 Assam Accord, which views anyone entering the Assam region from Bangladesh as illegal.

Mahanta said Bangladeshi Hindus would not be allowed to be “dumped” in Assam to “destroy” it.

“Following the independence of India, Assam took the burden of hundreds of thousands of Hindu and Muslim refugees who landed here until March 24, 1971,” Mahanta, a Hindu leader of Asom Songrami Mancha, an indigenous political group, told VOA. “But the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants who came over or are still arriving after that period until 1971 will not be allowed to settle here.”

Violence against Hindus

In Bangladesh, where Muslims make up more than 90 percent of the country’s 160 million people, Hindus have long alleged they have been victims of religious persecution. Beginning last year, anti-Hindu violence has been on the rise in the country.

An idol of Hindu goddess Kali is vandalized in Serajganj, Bangladesh, Nov. 6, 2016. According to the Hindu rights activists, this year more than 550 cases of attacks on Hindu temples and idols have taken place in Bangladesh. (S. Newaz/VOA)
An idol of Hindu goddess Kali is vandalized in Serajganj, Bangladesh, Nov. 6, 2016. According to the Hindu rights activists, this year more than 550 cases of attacks on Hindu temples and idols have taken place in Bangladesh. (S. Newaz/VOA)

Hindu community leaders in Bangladesh said 32 Hindus have been killed this year and allege more than 550 Hindu temples or prayer places have been vandalized in religiously targeted attacks.

Most recently, some Islamic groups organized anti-Hindu protests in Bangladesh’s Brahmanbaria district after a local Hindu youth allegedly posted on Facebook an altered image of the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, a Muslim holy site.

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Muslims in the groups demanded a public hanging of the youth, then vandalized 17 Hindu temples, ransacked more than 100 Hindu households and wounded more than two dozen Hindus.

Since Wednesday, protesters in Brahmanbaria have set on fire two Hindu households and vandalized several Hindu idols.

Bangladesh Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said security agencies were investigating the attacks in Brahmanbaria and expected arrests to be made soon.

Hindus in the area, however, said they are still scared.

“The attacks have peaked since last month with the hooligans regularly setting fire on Hindu households and vandalizing the Hindu temples and idols,” Nehar Sarkar, a Hindu resident of Brahmanbaria, told VOA.

“Attacks are taking place while police and paramilitary forces are deployed in the area. The government has clearly failed to halt the attacks on us,” Sarkar said.

Legal status

India’s Citizenship Act, passed in 1955, defines as an illegal immigrant any foreigner who enters the country without valid travel documents or one who stays beyond the permitted time.

A proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act, which is currently under consideration by a committee in India’s parliament, will make Hindus and other religious minority immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh eligible for Indian citizenship.

Indian Hindu groups that support Bangladesh’s minority Hindus have welcomed the amendment proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Bimal Mazumder, president of India-based Bangladesh Udbastu Unnayan Sansad, which supports Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants in India, said the Bangladeshi Hindus fear for their lives and are desperate to flee that country. He told VOA that after the recent incidents in Brahmanbaria, they “are more terrified in Bangladesh and … seeking to flee Bangladesh.”

Despite support from some groups for the Bangladeshi Hindus, anti-immigrant groups in Assam say they will continue their fight against illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

More than two dozen Assamese ethnic groups started a statewide protest in Assam against steps to amend India’s Citizenship Act.

Indigenous group leader Dilip Bora, president of an Assamese literary body Asamiya Sahitya Sammiloni, said that although Bangladeshi Hindus may be facing persecution in Assam, illegal immigration shouldn’t be allowed.

The Indian government’s step to amend the Citizenship Act is biased against Muslims because it aims to keep the Muslims out of its ambit, Bora, a Gauhati University professor, said.

“In a country like India which follows a secular Constitution we cannot follow a policy welcoming the Hindu immigrants and placing a bar on Muslim immigrants. It’s a totally communal policy and we stand against it,” he told VOA.

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Assam-based local Muslim community leader Hafiz Ahmed said that BJP-led governments in India want to work only in the interest of the Hindus.

The government “does not want to pay attention to the problems of other religious communities, like Muslim and Christian,” Ahmed, who is the convener in Assam of All India Secular Forum, told VOA.

“Now, when the bill to help the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants get Indian citizenship finally becomes amended, the religious harmony in the Assamese society will be disturbed,” Ahmed said. “I also fear that it could also lead to religious riots between Hindus and Muslims.” (VOA)

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Violence And Intimidation Directed Towards Rohingyas In Bangladesh Camps

Human Rights Watch warned in a report in August that the Bangladeshi government was restricting access to basic services by resisting attempts by aid agencies.

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Rohingya, Violence
Rohingya refugees carry a hume pipe in Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

The failed attempt to send thousands of Rohingya back to Myanmar starting this month has drawn attention to alleged violence and intimidation by security forces against members of the Muslim minority living in Bangladesh’s sprawling refugee camps.

Bangladesh has boosted its international reputation by hosting more than 730,000 Rohingya who fled a vicious campaign by Myanmar’s military last year that U.N. investigators have labelled genocide – an accusation Myanmar has consistently denied.

But Bangladesh appears keen to demonstrate that Rohingya refugees will not be welcome there indefinitely. The planned repatriations sparked fear and chaos last week as Rohingya went into hiding – and in a handful of reported cases attempted suicide – to avoid being sent back.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Meanwhile, allegations of sporadic beatings, looting and intimidation by Bangladeshi soldiers, police and camp officials have underscored the bleak conditions faced by Rohingya in their host country, where most are denied official refugee status and face restrictions on freedom of movement.

The repatriation of some 2,000 refugees was scheduled to begin last Thursday, but Bangladesh has now put the plans on hold until next year after failing to find any Rohingya willing to go back.

Rohingya in the camps have told VOA that soldiers were stationed near the homes of those who were told they would be sent back last week, fueling fears of forced repatriation and adding to widespread distress in communities already suffering extreme trauma after last year’s violence.

One Rohingya man told VOA anonymously that block leaders in the camps were also “announcing with loudspeakers… that it’s essential for everyone to carry ID with them whenever and wherever they go if they leave their homes.”

Late last month, security forces looted property from Rohingya shopkeepers at the Balukhali camp, said John Quinley, a human rights specialist with the non-profit organization Fortify Rights.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
Rohingya refugees walk under rain clouds on June 26, 2018, in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

“Right now the security forces are operating in the camps with total impunity,” he said.

In another case earlier this month, Fortify Rights reported that security forces rounded up 18 Rohingya leaders and slapped and hit some of them while telling them to instruct other refugees to cooperate with a new U.N.-backed project to provide them with “smart cards.”

Many Rohingya oppose the identity cards because they fear the information on them will be shared with the Myanmar government.

Bangladesh’s refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner, Abul Kalam, told VOA he was unaware of the allegations of violence but would follow up. “Generally, it is not acceptable that someone would apply force on or beat someone to do or not to do something,” he said.

Quinley called on the U.N.’s refugee agency to “do everything in their power to make sure that the Bangladeshi authorities are respecting human rights.”

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
An elderly Rohingya refugee holds a placard during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh.VOA

Spokesperson Caroline Gluck said the agency has notified the authorities of a “small number” of reports of violence related to the smart card project. The agency has “been following up with them to ascertain the circumstances of what happened,” she told VOA.

Officials have responded that the incidents were “not linked” to the smart card project, she said.

She added, “The new ID card will enable refugees to be better protected and will streamline access to assistance and services.”

Mohammed Sheikh Anwar, a Rohingya activist, told VOA the Bangladeshi government “needs to keep the lower-level authorities in check. There should be an accountability measure.”

“Committing violence against genocide survivors to make them agree to the authorities’ terms is not the solution,” he added.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence
A Rohingya refugee woman draws water from a hand pump at a temporary shelter in New Delhi, India.

Last week a Rohingya man named Ata Ullah said he was beaten at the office of an official at the Chakmarkul camp, the Guardian reported, after he failed to provide the official with a list of refugees.

Ata Ullah said in a video circulated on social media that when he couldn’t provide the official with a list he “was beaten with a large stick… they stepped on my neck, I could not stand it.”

Also Read: Bangladesh Government Build a New Rohingya Camp

Human Rights Watch warned in a report in August that the Bangladeshi government was restricting access to basic services by resisting attempts by aid agencies and Rohingya refugees to “create any structures, infrastructure, or policies that suggest permanency.”

As a result, the report said, “refugee children do not go to school, but rather to ‘temporary learning centers,’ where ‘facilitators,’ not ‘teachers,’ preside over the classrooms. The learning centers are inadequate, only providing about two hours of instruction a day,” the report said. (VOA)