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Genocide of Hindus in Bangladesh

Author: Krishnakumar
Publication: rediff.com
Date: November 22, 2006
URL: http://ia.rediff.com/news/2006/nov/21rights.htm?q=tp&file=.htm[1]
A Buddhist monk, a Christian, a Muslim and a Hindu from various parts of
Bangladesh came together in India to highlight the plight of the minorities in the
Islamic country.
In Mumbai to attend a conference on terrorism, the persecution of minorities in
Bangladesh and Kashmir organised by the Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism on
Monday, the human rights activists painted a scary picture about the plight of the
minorities.
Torture, rape and murder are almost everyday occurrences for the minorities. Apart
from violence, the other ways that the establishment and other militant
organisations make life tough for the minorities are by cutting off opportunities
in the public sector and by denying voting rights.
"For some minority people, getting voting rights is impossible. Some who have
voting rights are not allowed to vote even if they muster the courage to go to the
polling booths. Voters are threatened inside the polling booth, ballot boxes
disappear the day before counting, numbers change from nowhere on the day of the
results. Anything can happen," says Rosaline Costa, a human rights activist.
Backing their claims, the activists gave proof of the atrocities committed by the
militant organisations, showing photographs of victims and testimonies of
unspeakable violence and torture.
Speaking about the injustice meted out to the indigenous people of the
Bangladesh's largely Buddhist Chittagong Hill Tracts, Dr Prajnalankar Bhikku said:
"The security forces and the state mechanism have virtually wiped the indigenous
people out of the hills of Chittagong. They have committed serious human rights
violations and have changed the very social fabric of the Chittagong hill tracts"
Alleging that militant organisations were involved in a large number of rapes and
murders in the region, Bhikku said: "A silent genocide and ethnic cleansing is
taking place in the hills of Bangladesh without the knowledge of the outside
world."
He said though Bangladesh is constitutionally a Republic, it recognises only Islam
as State religion and only Bangla as the State language.
"The Republic is practically an institution of one ethnic group, one language and
one religion. It treats all non-Muslims minority communities as either Bengali
Muslims or infidels," he said.
About the plight of other minorities, Aroma Dutta, who runs a non-government
organisation for the betterment of the rural populations, says: "The rise of
extremism is evident. Studies have indicated that in the past five years, under
the present rule, rape has not only increased, it has almost become an epidemic.
Islamic militant organisations have extended their tentacles to the remotest parts
isolated areas."
Agreeing with Aroma's observation, Costa says that since the present government
took over, minorities have gone through hell.
"The ethnic cleansing is out in the open. There are forced conversions. Extortion
from the minorities is on the rise. They are harassed by the banks," she says.
"Despite the harassment, minorities are mostly better off than the others," Costa
says, adding: "In most pockets, the minorities are interdependent on each other.
Most minority children go to schools run by NGOs and Christian schools. Most have
their own small businesses. But even such people live in constant fear."
Journalist and activist Shahriar Kabir cites the rise of the militant
organizations as the reason.
"Today, there are more than a 100 such militant organisations. On August 17, as a
show of strength, they exploded 500 bombs across the nation," he says.
On that day, not district of Bangladesh was spared. Though the bombs were all low
intensity and the body was not high, it showed how well organised the outfits are.
There are only a few ways in which the current situation can be changed, Kabir
says.
Urging the West to interfere, he says the United States must alter course and shun
its double standards.
"On the one hand, the West asks [Pakistan President] General [Pervez] Musharraf to
take action against fundamentalists in that country. On the other, it supports the
four-party fundamentalist coalition in Bangladesh.The United States and other
nations must ask Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to stop funding these fundamentalist
organisations," he observes.
Kabir also warns that if the international community delays its action, things may
be too late.
"These outfits are spreading far and fast. They have vast regional and global
networks. They have a presence in Kashmir and even other parts of India. They are
present not just in Pakistan, but also in Afghanistan. It is very dangerous," he
concludes.