Religious Minorities faces constant attacks
In front of the Shahbagh National Museum in Dhaka, a rally was formed on a Saturday to protest against anti-minority attacks. Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists were among the ten religious minority groups and organizations that took part in the demonstrations with about 500 present to join the rally.
A minority advocacy group, The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parishad or BHBCOP), organized the event. Islamists who are striking Hindus and other minorities are ‘hurting religious sentiments’ protesters said. The earliest occasion involving minority communities include an arson attack on Hindu homes in Muradnagar.
They live in uncertainty as ‘the government has failed to protect them’ minority leaders say. Between the months of March and September, around 17 people coming from religious and ethnic minority communities were killed, while the attacks continued even during the pandemic, Secretary-General Rana Dasgupta from BHBCOP said.
Dasgupta doubts that many in the ruling Awami League leaders want the same, the prime minister would want the Hindu community to live in peace. The Hindu leader said “It is harder to trust a minister or lawmaker from the ruling party, they say one thing and do another.
As minorities, we have taken to the streets to continue to exist,” he pleaded “Today we have spoken out against certain situations in which minorities are persecuted; please ensure justice for these groups.” It is notable that ever since the incident in France of attacks and incitement against Muslim sentiments and the abuse against the Prophet Muhammad, the number of attacks continues to rise in the country.
A Facebook comment about the hurting of Muslim sentiments and the insults to the Prophet Muhammad led some Hindu students to their arrest. Every protester on Saturday was carrying signs and banners saying “Stop Communalism: Wake Up Brave Bangalee,” “Stop using Facebook for community attack”, “Release all victims on so-called charges of wounding religious sentiment,” “Identify, punish attackers,” and many more.
An acting BHBCOP President Nirmol Rozario, a Christian, said that the punishment of minority groups has continued. He states “Even if the government tries to give us hope for justice, minorities live in anxiety.
To stop the persecution of minorities, we are calling for the establishment of a commission for minority groups and reserve seats in Parliament.” He explained if something were to happen abroad, temples are being burnt and destroyed in the country and minorities will be the victims. They will lead a long march from Chittagong to Dhaka if the attacks are not stopped instantly.
Furthermore, the houses of five families were vandalized and were set on fire in Korbanpur, Muradnagar Upazila on November 1st after a man allegedly showed support for France by protecting a Facebook cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Leaders and activists have placed a host of demands in front of the government including an end to harassment of minorities, the instant release of arrested students and dismissal of cases against them, and a separate commission and ministry for minorities.
Secretary-General of the council Rana Dasgupta said “A conspiracy is ongoing against religious minorities and social media has been exploited to circulate defamatory posts from hacked accounts of religious minorities to set a pretext to abuse and attack them. We are frustrated to see that in most cases police and local administration didn’t take a quick initiative to save minorities.”
Dasgupta, a Hindu and Supreme Court lawyer, also alleged that every attack made was planned by a vested quarter with a purpose to tarnish the reputation of minorities and to destroy communal harmony. He added, “All kinds of abuse and attacks on minorities should stop and the government must ensure justice for all attacks on religious minorities.”
President of Bangladesh Christian Association Nirmol Rozario noted that minority Christians are angry to witness new attacks on minority communities in different regions. Rozario, a Catholic said “Targeting minorities over false allegations is deplorable and it causes panic and frustration in all minority people. Minorities are equal citizens of the country and they must be protected from all kinds of abuse and attacks. We appeal to the government to put in place a proper mechanism to ensure the upholding of the rights of minorities.”
Adhering to Sunni Islam is about 90% of more than 160 million people in the country. Hindus make up around 8% and the remaining belong to other faiths including Christianity and Buddhism. The country has an extensive tradition of religious pluralism. The violence against minorities sometimes comes from issues connecting to national and local politics as well as land and property debates. Not only did the Hindu students get arrested, they also lost their university scholarship after they were accused of hurting religious sentiments. The protesters were sentenced to these happening as well.