By Pramod Kumar
About a dozen national and international organisations representing the cause of minorities in Bangladesh have urged the Government of India to rescue the minorities of Bangladesh once again. ?Like 1971, once again the very existence of Bangladesh'sreligious and ethnic minorities?approximately 20 million, is threatened. They are facing complete elimination. We appeal to India to rescue us once again,? said Sitangshu Guha, international coordinator of the Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC), while talking to mediapersons in New Delhi on January 29. An appeal has been made to the Government of India to impose economic sanctions on the Bangladesh government, which has not only failed to save the life, dignity and honour of the minorities, but has also ignored the atrocities committed on Hindus by the Islamic extremists.
The conference was organised by the Campaign Against Atrocities on Minorities in Bangladesh (CAAMB). The other organisations that participated in the conference included Bangladesh Adibasi Forum, Peace Campaign Group (Chittagong Hills), Human Rights Congress of Bangladesh Minorities (USA and Bangladesh), Hotline Bangladesh (Dhaka), Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (Bangladesh) and BHBCUC (USA, UK, Canada and France as well as Dhaka and Chittagong). A similar conference was organised in Kolkata on January 22-23.
Though the atrocities against minorities in Bangladesh had become unbearable in 1988 when Islam was declared as State religion, the situation took a serious turn when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) assumed office in 2001. Since then, a State-sponsored campaign of blatant discrimination, barbaric atrocities including murder, mass rape of Hindu women, religious cleansing, terrorism and goal-oriented persecution has been unleashed there. In collaboration with the Pakistani army, the Islamic extremists have killed approximately three million secular Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians besides raping 250,000 women and driving out ten million people to India in 1971. In 1941, the minorities constituted 28 per cent of the Bangladesh population but by 1991, their population dwindled to a meagre 8 per cent. On the other hand, the Muslim population in the last 50 years has increased by 219 per cent in Bangladesh. The growth among Hindus is just a mere 4.5 per cent. The minorities in Bangladesh have lost 40 to 45 million people, which is akin to disappearance of the people inhabiting countries like Albania, Bahrain, Iceland, Jordan, etc. The remaining 15 million minorities are expected to be eliminated in the coming two decades.
?Gang rape has become their most favourite tool as it is easy to hide rape from the reporters and foreign investigators,? claims a 275-page report entitled A Cocoon of Terror, published by the BHBCUC, USA. The report further adds: ?The cadres of the ruling parties notify minority parents of grownup girls of their plan to rape their daughters ahead of time, in the following way: ?Uncle, tonight we will have dinner with you?. Upon receiving such notice the parents have to cook for them and keep their girls and their infidel tax ready.?
?In schools, Muslim nationalists routinely address minorities as malaun, dandaiya, or kafir. In this situation many Hindu married women avoid wearing the conch-shell bracelet and vermilion on their forehead to avoid being identified as a member of the Hindu minority community. Minority girls face enormous difficulties in attending schools, as Muslim youth make sexual advances and pull their oma (the peace of cloth that young girls wear) off. Parents dare not complain because that usually results in the girls getting kidnapped or gang-raped or converted to Islam by force in retaliation,? the report added.
?The minority candidates, who pass the written test for the national civil service including police and foreign services, are asked irrelevant, humiliating and racist questions like: Do you eat beef? How many times have you visited India, etc.? They are, of course, not hired.? At social and political levels also, no political party has ever made a minority its President, secretary general and no newspaper has ever hired a minority journalist as its editor. Minorities cannot vote for the candidate of their choice in Bangladesh following threats from the Islamic extremists. When international bodies like European Union human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as US and British legislators expressed concern over the campaign of violence against the minorities, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia denied it all.
Since Hindus have been fleeing from Bangladesh to West Bengal in the past five decades, simple arithmetic expects the proportion of Hindus to continue to rise in West Bengal. But the opposite is the case. For the last two decades, infiltration by Muslims from Bangladesh has changed the demographic scenario of West Bengal. As a result, while the Hindus are being made extinct in Bangladesh, Muslims are increasing in West Bengal. What is more painful is that the Left Front government of West Bengal is repeatedly indulging in Muslim appeasement and is providing shelter to the infiltrators.
?The people of India have graciously absorbed those Hindus who came here and they would probably also absorb the remaining 20 million who are bound to enter India in the next three decades. But this cannot be an acceptable solution in the 21st century. We urge the people of India to press upon their government that initiating the process of arriving at a permanent solution to our problem is not only a humanitarian obligation but also is in its own security interest,? added Sitangshu Guha. ?The permanent solution is that the minorities should be able to live in their ancestral homeland with full human dignity, without fear of being discriminated against, disenfranchised, tortured, raped and killed. If the ruling Islamic hardliners keep bragging that Bangladesh is a ?Muslim democracy?, there must be three other democracies?a ?Hindu democracy?, a ?Christian democracy? and a ?Buddhist democracy? to be created in Bangladesh. This is what is being done in Iraq and Sudan,? the report adds.