Writing on the wall for Hindus
The Hindus are slowly but irreversibly moving towards extinction in Bangladesh. That is the inevitable conclusion of Bangladesh Census 2011. It is a slow and silent death of a community which has no strong global forum to raise voice against the threat to their very existence. Whatever may be the reasons, the fact remains, highlighted by hard figures that there is no strong voice for Bangladesh Hindus on any forum including UN. That is why the census 2011 religion data available on Bangladesh government’s website since 2013 has gone almost unnoticed.
The census data reveal that Hindus now remain just over 8.6 per cent in Bangladesh. In every decade since 1951 this percentage has declined—without exception in all districts. Moreover in nine districts the Hindus have registered a negative growth as compared to 2001 census, which indicates a drastic reduction in Hindu population in this near-contiguous cluster.
In 1951, the first Census after Bangladesh came in to existence (as East Pakistan at that time), Muslim population was 3 crore 22 lakh (32 million), while the Hindu population was 92 lakh 39,000 [9 million]. After 60 years, Muslim population is now 12 crore 62 lakh (120 million), while the Hindu population stands at just 1 crore 20 lakh (12 million) people.
Since 1981, in 7 districts there has been more than 6 per cent reduction in Hindu population. Considering the statistical parameters like population growth rate and fertility rate etc, many social scientists have predicted that in last half century at least 40 to 80 lakh (4 to 8 million) Hindus have ‘vanished’ from Bangladesh. It is also predicted that by the end of this Century, Bangladesh Hindus will remain a dismal 1.5 per cent. The average Hindu population growth rate during 2011-2051 would be -0.64 per cent and in 2051 its number will match those of 1974.
Along with Hindus, Buddhist population is also reducing in alarming manner. Buddhist people are concentrated in the Chitgong hill tract comprising of three districts Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Rangamati. In last three decades a large number of tribal Buddhist people have been displaced from the belt.
In multiple incidents repeated over the years Hindus have been attacked, Hindu properties have been looted; houses burnt to ashes, temples were desecrated and set on fire. The causes have been flimsy. In 2013, the international crime tribunal sentenced Delwar Hussain, the vice president of Jamaat-e-Islami, to death for war crimes of 1971. As a reaction, cadre of Jamaat-e-Islami made wide spread loot and arson of Hindu people and properties. In 2012, at Ramu in cox’s bazaar district, the fanatics destroyed 22 Buddhist temples and destroyed many houses as a reaction to some facebook post. To quote Afsan Chowdhury, a noted intellectual of Bangladesh. “It was something far more than shameful as several hundred mullahs, probably supported by the Jamaat-e-Islami attacked Buddhist shrines and homes and vandalised those because of an alleged anti-Islamic photo in the facebook. It is at these moments that it becomes clear why Muslims are so unpopular in so many parts of the world. Few have taken collective and social barbarism to such heights even as they claim to be mistreated.”
In 2013 elections and post election frenzy, Hindus were targeted and brutally pressurised by various political parties. The reports of abduction of minor Hindu girls and their forced conversions are numerous.
For example ‘The Dhaka Tribune’ reported in 2013 a story titled “Forced conversion of religion after abduction” which lists many instances where men kidnap and marry 10 to 16-year-old girls from minority communities by forcing them to sign declarations that they are adults and wish to convert to Islam.
Thus a vicious cycle has been set where Hindus migrate to avoid persecution, leaving the rest of the Hindus in reduced numbers and more vulnerable to attacks.