Bangladeshi people (seemingly homogeneous, but) possess varieties of beliefs and sectarian ideologies in their cultural and political affiliation. Typical dialects dominate trivial lands and other parts of the country. Number of ethnic groups resides over north and north-eastern part of the country. Even a significant number of Biharis (distinct cultural entity) live in the country as well. Therefore, the minorities in Bangladesh can be categorized under four classifications that include religious minorities, ethnic minorities, linguistic minorities and other minorities (like LGBT etc). However in the article, issues of religious minorities are sought to be analyzed in terms of bilateral orientation of challenges what Bangladesh and its neighbors are facing right now.
The assaults on minority community largely berate the country's constitutional rights to practice one's own religion. These anti-humanitarian activities include vandalizing temples, desecration of the idols, land grabbing of the temple, pagodas and other properties of the communities. Often, the intensity of the violence escalates in the post-election clout in Bangladesh, especially what happened in post election violence in 2001 and also reemerged in 2014. The issues of minority posses challenge to both Bangladesh and its sub-continental neighbors, especially for India with creating uneasy circumstances in-between the dimensional relationships.
Post-election riots and growing fundamental activism always harms stability here. The national election has been done, allegedly among the ruling party alliances (Awami League-AL led Grand Alliance) keeping outside the main oppositional alliance (Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP led 18 part Alliance). The western worlds are still showing enough doubts about the credibility of the polls' outcomes. Moreover, recently concluded sub-district polls throughout the country evaluate the measurement in different angles of analysis. This sub-district election testifies the present government's ground of acceptability among the mass. The ruling alliance (except Jatiya Party (JP) got some crushing defeats in its proven bases (popular areas). Most surprisingly the war crimes accused Jammat-e-Islami (JI) has elected demonstrative number of vice chairman. This is the crucial question how next-to-come popular opposition backed with moderate and extreme right wing parties tackle growing extremism and ensure shared regional peace and security within the region? If this violence grows, could be even faster during BNP-led opposition' regime.
Consequentially threatened exodus can rush to the Indian borders resulting in population burden exciting inter-state relational collapse, what Tripura and Assam faced in 1971 regarding Bengali refugees as Pakistani soldiers invaded Bengalis. Not only Hindus, even moderate Muslims and secularists can be included within the border-transcending asylum and refugees. For instances, Bangladesh faces struggling challenges about Rohiyanga refugees and their presence seems to be a headache for already over-populated Bangladesh. Minority persecution or intimidation is conspicuously a crime against humanity and condemned in national and international laws and customs as well. Probably it may jeopardize the decent relationship prevailing over Indo-Bangla relationship, like ethnic tensions in Bangladesh can incite corresponding reactions in Indian states responding the minority assaults in Bangladesh. It is alleged to be set a nexus between Ramu violence (against Buddhists) in Bangladeshi port city Chittagong and, what has increased intensity of ethnic Moslem violence in Myanmar, even protest against Bangladeshi embassy in Sri Lanka. It is believed India immediately needs to be engaged with Bangladesh tackling the challenges altogether for shared aspiration of security and cooperation in a real world.
Torture on the minority communities takes different forms of brutality. In Bangladesh, history exemplifies political parties are mainly alleged in these crimes against humanity. The fragmented politics lacking trusts intensifies the problems to a greater extent. As perpetrators, our political parties (may be ruling or oppositional) are alleged to be involved in the heinous atrocities against minorities. Fanatical Islamist parties even force the members of the minority community to be converted them. These assaults on minority betray the secular democracy prevailing over the country started so long ago to uphold the rights for its citizens irrespective of race, religion, sex and caste. But, the recent tendency of extreme religio-political parties' rise breeds a latent feasibility to spoil the inclusive statism of B'desh.
Recently as violence escalates across the country, the opposition alliance took aggressive turns vandalizing and giving arson to their residence, properties, and temples of both religious and ethnic minority. Abducting to death or infinite disappearance of the members of the minority families manipulates the suffering to the families like spraying salt to the wounded skin. The indignity caused by psychogenic inferiority shamefully attributes them dehumanized creature-like sectarian identity in the majoritarian society. They can't even protect further losses of properties and lives as nobody or nothing endorses them. So, out of politics also, they have to tackle land-grabbing against black-musclers and the complexities get manipulation again as 'black muslers' are more canning to affiliate themselves with what party run the local administration, not what they support actually. Families ejecting from their homesteads, they cannot return to their residences as further threats towards them prevails over the area by the perpetrators backed with powerful elites.
As the opposition-vacant National Parliamentary Election has been held on January 5 polls, different newspapers home and abroad have reported on tremendously escalating gang attacks on minority community (also other political people). These deliberated motives include arson, destruction of the habitat, robbery of the properties etc scoring those peoples' deaths and injuries. Primarily these sorts of aggression are supposed to be reasoned they haven't either voted for the oppositional alliance formed with rightist ideological orientation or they have just voted for the secular ruling parties. Sometimes they are marked as a ‘vote bank’ for certain political parties and accused if they have reserved their vote-casting as threats of intimidation posed against. Secular governance does not patronize any fundamentalism and its tacit violation on people's rights. So, the 'faults' of minority community as they loves peace and justice through the modern secular political participation suiting Bangladesh to uphold regional security and a model of moderate Moslem democracy.
Reiterating that majoritarian democracy has replaced politics into a game of numbers and cynicism. This dehumanizing of politics takes worst turns at the event of national parliamentary polls. The largest minority community in Bangladesh, the Hindus, is regarded as a vote bank for secular Awami League (AL) led grand alliance and consequently they have been targeting by miscreants from the oppositional alliance. The autopsies for this typical violence do not limit itself to the communal factors; rather the grand accusing factors behind the scene appeared to be more political and structural-oriented. Hindus being a secular vote bank as Moslems considered to be that for congress in India are not even able to withdraw themselves from voting, because the parties considering them as their vote bank losses a certain number of vote castings if they don't cast their votes. They may (may not) possibly face sorts of torture or anything from their supported political parties. So observing the dilemma analysis, parties can't make sure their security rather what they ensure are votes either through intimidating their lives by against-parties or reconstructing their vandalized residences by favored-parties. Going on this situation, fanatical sects may indulge themselves running subversive operations cocooning out of the underground existence.
The Hindu community in Bangladesh is at an extreme risk, in particular at such a tense in the country. It is shocking that they appear to be targeted simply for their religious affiliation. Bangladesh's Hindu community only makes up more or less eights percent of the gross population. Historically they suffer indignity and injustice in silence through latent risk of violence from Moslem population what they faced during the liberation war in 19971 and recent years of post-election violence in 2001 and 2014. This is not that it only snatches humanitarian rights from minority community within the country; rather it sinks the country's image, homogeneous ethnic texture and communal harmony, a long rooted traditional hallmark of the country. Throughout the decades, people of multi religious beliefs have been coexisting peacefully in these parts.
The government should now stand by the victims, maintain constant vigil watch by law-enforcers as well as by local people to thwart any further attempt to attack them or spoil communal disharmony.Every specific instance of vandalism against the minority community, their houses and religious places must be probed to identify the culprits and take measures to bring them to justice. At the same time, the victims need to be compensated so that they are able to rebuild their lives.In order to sustain democracy and religious freedom in Bangladesh, fair and neutral justice should be employed early as Judiciary. Administrative authority needs to ensure its application of duties across the country irrespective of religious and political affiliation. Secularism is 'no-alternative-solution' to promote democracy and related rights. Compensation needs to be taken from those who are perpetrators and given to them who are victims. The compensation must involve reconstruction of the damaged properties of their residence and praying places for worshipers.
The writer is a Former Research Assistant at Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) and a Sub-editor at The Bangladesh Today (TBT). Email: [email protected]