Religious minorities must be protected

Published: 00:05, Jan 08,2018 | Updated: 23:48, Jan 07,2018


IF FINDINGS of the Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mahajote are correct, 2017 was particularly violent towards the Hindu communities. The alliance, as New Age reported on Sunday, revealed that at least 23 Hindus were forced to convert to Islam and 172 others became victims of silent migration in 2017. The report also says that at least 610 Hindus were threatened to leave the country, 107 were killed, and 4,011 others were tortured. Even more unsettling expression of growing intolerance is the reports of continuous attempts at desacralising idols and vandalise temples. A monitoring report of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council also substantiates that the minority rights situation has significantly deteriorated over the years. In addition, the sectarian attack on the Hindus in Rangpur left the nation shocked. None of the legal cases filed after each of these reported attack on religious minorities have yet to see any conviction. It is obvious from the situation that the government, despite its repeated claims to be ideologically oriented towards secularism, lacks the political will to ensure rights of religious minorities.
Bangladesh’s constitution clearly and decisively granted freedom of religion to all citizens as it recognises that every citizen has the right to profess, practise or propagate any religion. Therefore, the news that the some people from Manikganj, Brahmanbaria and Cox’s Bazar were forced to convert to Islam abandoning their Sanatan Dharma is an absolute violation of their constitutional rights. It is even more worrying that the incumbents failed to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice. In this situation, leaders from the Hindu community fear that the election year would turn even more violent towards them. Their worry is not unfounded given the history of communal violence during national elections. Both the Awami League and the Bangladesh National Party punish the religious minority communities as and when their candidates are defeated in constituencies where non-Muslim voters have a sizeable presence. Besides, there are evidences that greedy sections of the political class use religious violence for personal, material gains. Victims of communal violence repeatedly mentioned that such attack on them took place with the support of local elected representatives, primarily to evict them from their ancestral land and they failed to find any legal resolve as the perpetrators are shielded by the members of the political party in power.
It is high time that the incumbent immediately acknowledged its failure to protect the rights of the religious minority by punishing those responsible for committing sectarian crime. Taking into consideration the fear and uncertainty in which religious minority citizens are living today, the political party in power must abandon its empty rhetoric of secularism while fanning the flame of communalism. It must break this cycle of institutionalised impunity and ensure that police investigation of the cases related to violence against religious and ethnic minority communities are done without political and other party influence.

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