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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)

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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  Cloak And Dagger: Indo-Bangla Ties

Irrespective of who wins at the ballot, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority is persecuted by the losing side, as if it was their fault.

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed

 By:  Tania Bhattacharya           

 

Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

Twenty-first of February is an important annual date for the peoples of both, Bangladesh, and West Bengal. On that day in nineteen fifty two, students of East Pakistan’s institutions of knowledge like Dhaka Medical College, had been mercilessly struck down, after they were fired upon by the soldiers of West Pakistan. Their crime? Bangla, the indigenous mother-tongue of all Bengalis, irrespective of religion and location, had been the prime focus of East Pakistan’s ‘Language Movement’. The seat of power, despite the East’s relatively larger demographic, had been, for all means and purposes, firmly lodged in the West, separated from the Eastern wing, by thousands of miles of territory belonging to the state of independent India. West Pakistan wielded absolute power over Pakistan’s army, its internal security, administration and the judicial system. Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Saraiki, and Sindhi, were the most recognized and respected lingua franca. Bengali was deemed by the West, to be a ‘Pagan’ language, the tongue of millions of ‘kaffirs’ that worshipped a plenitude of deities.

 

 

indo-bangla
Ansal-al-Islam supporters demand the death of Atheist bloggers.

The Bengalis, a people deeply protective of their cultural heritage, cutting across religious lines, took offense, and thus commenced the movement for the restoration of Bangla, as the legitimate representative of the East Bengalis. What followed, is well known, to South Asian History, enthusiasts. Exploiting the opportunity that had presented itself, and asphyxiated by more than ten million Bengali refugees who had migrated to eastern India in wake of ‘Operation Searchlight’ imposed by West Pakistan on its eastern wing, India had invaded the latter in the early December of 1971. The shortest war of modern history, had ended a fortnight later, with the emergence of an independent homeland, for all Bengali speaking peoples: Bangladesh.

Assam
An Indian publication reporting the Nellie Massacre of Assam.

Bangladesh turns forty-seven on the twenty sixth of March this year. Over the last nearly five decades, much water has flown under the bridge. Significantly, it has taken along with it, a bulk of the initial bonhomie and camaraderie, that Bangladesh and India shared with one another. From trustworthy allies, the two neighbours, have now entered a phase of grudging respect, but that too is often found in suspended animation, once anti-Indian regimes come to power in the other country. There are a number of reasons why India and Bangladesh have experienced a souring of relations over time, and much to the ordinary Indian’s chagrin, not all of the blame can be laid at our eastern neighbour’s door.

Pakistan
The 1971 surrender of West Pakistan.

BANGLADESHI CONCERNS

 

  1. A) WHAT’S IN A PICTURE? EVERYTHING!

Any patriotic Indian, often ruminates fondly over a well circulated photo that emerged in the December of 1971. It was taken during the capitulation of the West Pakistan army to India. The photo is held up by Indian nationalists, like a trophy and proudly referred to as the ultimate symbol of India’s crushing of Pakistan. This historic photo in question, has a sombre Lt. Gen. J.S. Arora, looking on, as a visibly demoralized Gen. A.A.K. Niazi of Pakistan signs the document of surrender. A sea of khaki and army green dot the backdrop of the image. Smiling soldiers of the Indian Defence Forces, can be seen interspersed between high ranking members of the Pakistan Army. However, remarkably, missing from the image, is the presence of the very people, who had had to sacrifice their life, their limb, and their precious dignity, to make their own independence happen.

Indira Gandhi
Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujib with Indira Gandhi. The two shared a close friendship.

As time has passed, millions of Bangladeshis have taken stock of the historic footage that seemed to signal their freedom day, and yet, they have asked: “Where are our people?” Yes, indeed. It is a photograph that, once the euphoria had died down, was bound to reveal its troubling nature. It may have been the defining moment for our own military men, but for the patriots within our newly born neighbour, this image is one of being slighted; of being overlooked, and insulted. Indians should have realized awhile back, that parading the said photo, was not a wise thing to do. The newly liberated nation, did not and to this day, cannot claim the image as their own, due to the complete absence of any East Bengali presence.

 

  1. B) WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE, BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK!
protests
Bangladeshi atheists and freethinkers protest the murder of their own.

In 1996, Bangladesh and India had signed a treaty over the sharing of river waters. The agreement – known as the Ganges Treaty – had promised to equally divide the volume of river waters shared by the two nations. Waters of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-basin, constitute the globe’s second largest hydraulic region, with a high population density inhabiting its banks. Simply put, the so-called division of water,