Jyoti Lal Chowdhury
A volatile situation prevails in Bangladesh as millions of people are on streets, demanding ban on the radical Jamaat-e-Islami and death sentence to 9 of its frontline leaders as awarded by International War Crimes Tribunal for their involvement in heinous crimes against humanity during the liberation war of 1971. But, again the Hindus, Budhists and Christians are under attack, their houses and places of worships damaged and burnt, besides targeting their business interests.
March 5: Hindus are again made scapegoats in the ongoing violence across Bangladesh, triggered by the nationwide demand for death sentence to the 9 leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami including the front-liner Dilwar Hussain Sayedee involved in heinous crimes, mass killings, atrocities against women and men in general. The death sentence was awarded by International Crime Tribunal which was supported by Awami League Government of Begum Sheikh Hasina. In fact, the patriotic and secular forces of Bangladesh have rallied against the radical elements led by Jamaat-e-Islami, its youth wing, Shibir, Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by Begum Khaleda Zia.
Millions of freedom lovers pitching their clamour for punishment to the war criminals of 1971 Liberation struggle have given call for “renaissance” in the country to make Bangladesh free from all extremist and fundamentalist forces. The clarion call was given from the historic Shahabad Square of Dhaka. In retaliation, the Jamaat-e-Islami flexing its muscle gave call for nationwide 48 hours bandh and BNP for 24 hours. It was during this volatile situation that the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, landed at Bangladesh on March 3 to make nostalgic journey to his in-laws home at Bhadrabila village in Narail district and to address the 47th Convocation of Dhaka University.
Even during his visit amidst tight security, violence continued and the Hindus have been its worst victims. Reports from various districts as flashed in the electronic and print media spoke of large scale attacks on Hindu houses, their properties, places of worships and atrocities by Jamaat-e-Islami activists. The victims are also Christians and Budhists. Till date, 1500 Hindu houses, more than 100 temples and places of worships have been either burnt or damaged. Expressing their serious concern at the atrocities, Hindu, Budhist and Christian Aikya Parishad and Bangladesh Puja Udyapan Parishad put forward 4 point charter of demands before the Hasina Government.
The demands included immediate steps to stop all sorts of violence against Hindus, criminals involved in the crimes be arrested and put on trial, damaged and burnt houses, temples and business interests should be compensated and those displaced rehabilitated, besides implementation of the recommendations of Shahabuddin Commission for investigation into the atrocities on Hindus in the aftermath of 2001 elections which brought BNP Government and its coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami to power.
The Hindus have been upset at the fact that Sheikh Hasina Government has also taken the intriguing stance of not adopting enough and adequate measures against violence on them which continues unabated. The leaders of the Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Oikya Parishad and Bangladesh Puja Udyapan Parishad who included Rana Dasgupta and Manindra Kumar Nath expressing their anguish and anger before the media-persons on March 6 said the violent situation of 1971 has been created in 2013 by Jamaat-e-Islami. One of them gave graphic details of violence against the Hindus in Chittagong, Dinajpur, Bagura, Noakhali, Cox Bazar, Lakhipur, Gaibanda, Sylhet, Moulvi Bazar, Thakurgram, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Joypurhat, Comilla, Brahmanbaria, Rangpur and many other places.
If Hindus cannot be safe even under Awami League regime, what will be their fate when Bangladesh Nationalist Party with Jamaat-e-Islami as its partner comes to power in 2014? This question is now making round among the panic-ridden minorities of the country. Begum Khaleda Zia has not kept her hobnobbing with Jamaat-e-Islam secret when she cancelled her scheduled meeting with the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. The Hindus expected some words of assurance from the President about their safety and security. Instead, they felt disappointed to hear him repeat the stereotype diplomatic statement “India stands by Bangladesh”.
It is not for the first time that the Hindus have been at the receiving end for no fault of their own. They have always yearned to live in peace and amity with their Muslim brothers. According to a media report, Jamaat-e-Islami and its Pakistani cohorts have taken up the mission for “driving out Hindus and even exterminate them.” There is every reason to believe it. The population of Hindus which was 33% in 1947 has now been reduced to 8% only and it continues to decrease. The Hindus, Budhists and Christians have become irritant in the path of the extremist and fundamentalist forces in furthering their evil designs. Their decimation will strengthen their hands to take back Bangladesh to the post liberation era. It is high time that both Bangladesh and India should join hands together to ensure the safe stay of Hindus instead of “cosmetic show of amity and friendship” between them.
President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, might have been happy to go on nostalgic journey to his in-laws home and for the honour bestowed on him by Dhaka University, the Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, as the reports from across the border said, on the other hand, have had to go through nightmarish experiences with perennial fear around of being attacked and assaulted. It was a positive development, however, that the saner and rational voices have appealed to their Muslim brethren to pray for the safety of Hindus and protection of their houses and temples while offering namaz in mosques. In the meantime, millions of people cutting across caste, creed and community as reported in the most influential English daily of Dhaka New Age on March 7 have in chorus demanded that Jamaat-e-Islami be banned by the Government.
The Bangladesh High Court taking cognizance of media reports of the large scale violence against Hindus has directed the Government to provide adequate security for the Hindus and compensate them for the losses to their homes and temples. This directive was given by a bench of the Court of Shyamsuddin Chowdhury and Mehmudul Haque. Considering the highly volatile situation, Sheikh Hasina Government has deferred its decision to ban Jamaat-e-Islami. But, the orgy of violence continues and in the clashes between the patriots and the fundamentalists and the intervention of security forces, 70 persons have till date died, 3000 hit by bullet injuries and 500 lay in critical condition. It is trying time for Awami League led Government to meet the challenge and overcome the crisis. But the faith and trust of Hindus are shaken and their leaders have spoken out their feelings before the media.