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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

Durga Puja and Hindus in Bangladesh - Part -II

By Rabindranath Trivedi

Part -II

Leaders of World Hindu Federation (Bangladesh Chapter), Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad, Mahanagar Sarbojoneen Puja Committee, Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Parishad and Bangladesh Christian Association yesterday alleged that idols of the Goddess Durga had been desecrated at various places in the country including Faridpur, Khulna and Satkhira. They urged all to keep vigilance to maintain communal harmony during the five-day-long festivities. They also urged the government to step up security measures and ensure peaceful observation of the occasion.Goddess DurgaGoddess Durga

Different political, social and cultural organizations felicitated Hindus on the eve of the biggest festival. The organizations also condemned the attacks on mandaps and desecration of Durga idols across the country. It may be recalled pre-1/11 days when
BNP-led 4-party alliance government was beating the drum that Bangladesh is 'a land of great communal harmony in 2005'

Our question was then, why 'this peaceful coexistence' did not happen in the last three years since 2001?

The 2006 Religious Freedom Report comments “Religion exerts a powerful influence on politics, and the Government was sensitive to the Muslim consciousness of its political allies [the Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Okiyya Jote political parties] and the majority of its citizens.”According to the report, ”The Government took steps to promote interfaith understanding. For example, government leaders issued statements on the eve of religious holidays calling for peace and warned that action would be taken against those attempting to disrupt the celebrations. Through additional security deployments and public statements, the Government promoted the peaceful celebration of Christian and Hindu festivals, including Durga Puja, Christmas, and Easter.”

An article in The Guardian (UK) of 21 July 2003 stated, inter alia:

“Evidence is emerging that the oppression of minorities is becoming systematic. Bangladesh, which is 85 per cent Muslim but has a long tradition of tolerance to religious minorities, is, say local organisations, being pushed towards fundamentalism by the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is growing rapidly in rural areas with the deepest poverty and runs two key ministries.”

“‘This is like a silent revolution. We are returning to the dark ages’, a leading lawyer said, asking not to be named …’I think the backdrop is being created for the introduction of strict sharia laws. You see extremist rightwing fundamentalists infiltrating every professional area, in the appointment of the judiciary, the law, medicine and in education. They are capturing key positions in government, the universities and institutions’.”

“Thousands of Bangladeshis are thought to have crossed the border to India in the past two years. It is impossible to verify numbers because New Delhi will not release records, but Dhaka’s statistics show the Muslim majority increasing dramatically and the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other minorities declining.”

The 2006 Religious Freedom Report notes: “Since the 2001 elections, attacks on religious minorities have led to the routine posting of law enforcement personnel during major religious festivals and events, since festivals tend to attract large congregations that make easy and more attractive targets. Reported incidents included killings, rape, torture, attacks on places of worship, destruction of homes, forced evictions, and desecration of items of worship. These claims continued during the period covered by this report [July 2005 to June 2006]; however, many such reports could not be verified independently, and there were incidents of members of the Muslim community attacking each other on holidays as well, due to a perception that some events were un-Islamic. The Government sometimes failed to investigate the crimes and prosecute the perpetrators, who were often local gang leaders …

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report 2006 has stated “Throughout 2005, there were persistent reports of abductions and forced conversions of minorities, and destruction and desecration of religious sites.” An independent human rights organisation, has provided a series of reports listing a total of 310 incidents of violent and other crime or acts of intimidation which occurred in Bangladesh during the six-month period from October 2006 to March 2007 – in which the victims were members of minority religious communities, or in which sacred images or property belonging to religious minorities was destroyed or damaged. It is not clear from the reports how many of these criminal incidents were religiously motivated. In most cases the perpetrators were said to be either “fundamentalists” or “miscreants”.

Does it mean that the three years, starting from 2001 to 2005, were the years of learning for Hindus--how to bear the pangs of agony and tortures and violence—and the following years would be years of appeasement, building of credence and integrity with the minority communities for crossing the bar of general elections in 2007. But BNP-led 4-party alliance could not cross the bar in January Election.

The chief of army staff Gen. Moeen U Ahmed said in London recently that the country was heading for a civil war in the wake of violent political activities, absence of law and order and distrust about voter list General Moeen said priority of the incumbent government is to restore democracy through free and fair elections and transfer of power.He observed that law and order is under full control of the caretaker government that enjoys full public support.

World Hindu Federation(Bangladesh Chapter) has raised its voice to the President Prof. Dr Iajuddin Ahmed on August 19,2007 and placed their memorandum. World Hindu Federation (WHF) Bangladesh chapter called on the Election Commission (EC) to reserve 15 percent of the parliamentary seats for the minority community and ensure their enlistment in the voter list. A five-member delegation of the WHF, in a meeting with the EC, also demanded that the EC reserve 33 percent of the parliamentary seats for women.“There are evidences that the minority, including the indigenous people, don't get enrolled in the voter list… Their enrollment and right to franchise should be ensured,” WHF President Shiv Shankar Chakravarti told reporters following the meeting. Shiv Shankar alleged there were incidents of 'torture and repression' on the minority before and after the 2001 election. He said they asked the EC to ensure that such incidents do not take place again ,reports the daily star.

Rabindranath Trivedi, is a retired Additional Secretary and former Press Secretary to the President of Bangladesh

To Be Continued

- Asian Tribune –

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Durga Puja and Hindus in Bangladesh

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