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Op-Ed: Save Bangladeshi minority rights activist Mithun ChowdhuryThe Awami League government in Bangladesh has arrested minority rights activist Mithun Chowdhury, who heads the Bangladesh Janata Party, which represents the minority communities in Bangladesh.
Last month, a new political party named the Bangladesh Janata Party was launched. The party was founded at a press conference in Dhaka by the members of some minority groups such as Hindu-Buddha-Christian Adivasi party and about 50 like-minded organizations. The Bangladesh Janata Party planned to have candidates compete in 300 constituencies in the next Bangladeshi general election and the party was gaining a lot of support within Bangladesh. President of Hindu-Buddha-Christian Adivasi Party Mithun Chowdhury was made president and spokesman of BJP, which he described as a pro-liberation party for Bangladesh’s minority groups that will be a big power in the country’s politics. However, the Awami League government was not pleased with this development.
Every member of the Bangladeshi government objected to the existence of the Bangladesh Janata Party for it consists of minorities. Furthermore, due to the massive support the Bangladesh Janata Party was obtaining, the Awami League feared that they would lose the elections. For this reason, the party is not registered with the Bangladeshi Election Commission. In order to try and deter Chowdhury, he was arrested due to the allegation that he was engaged in anti-government activities and interfering with the political system but then he was subsequently released on bail as a warning. Nevertheless, despite the objections of the Sheikh Hasina government, Chowdhury was not swayed.
Chowdhury is known in Bangladesh for raising his voice against the persecution of minorities within the country. He has been outspoken against the fact that every day in Bangladesh, minorities are raped, murdered and have their basic human rights violated. In the past, he recovered Hindu temples that were forcefully taken over by the Muslim community. If he comes to power, he seeks to create a new ministry for minorities and to have a three-day public holiday for the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. His party received the blessing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which presently rules India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Bangladeshi Awami League government did everything in their power in order to convince Chowdhury not to proceed with the establishment of the Bangladesh Janata Party. They tried to bribe him, offering him a car and a house in exchange for taking him on board inside their government. He had dinner with a senior level member of the police and he was asked to fall in line in support of the government but he refused to do so. For this reason, he was arrested the next day at the Ziur Temple in Dhaka.
At this point, the Bangladeshi government is not giving any information on the fate of Chowdhury to the public or even his family. There was a news blackout on everything related to Chowdhury in recent days except for one article in BD24 Times, which went viral. When the Bangladeshi government saw that the piece went viral, they temporarily took it down only to have it placed back up again when there was a backlash from the public. The motivation for the news blackout was the outrage voiced by the Bangladeshi minorities for the ousting of the Hindu Chief Justice due to his opposition to an Awami League government policy. Following the incident with the Bangladeshi Chief Justice Mr. S.K Sinha and Mithun Chowdhury, the minorities are totally dumbfounded in Bangladesh.
The Awami League has been trying to silence the Hindu political voice within Bangladesh since 1971. This was best illustrated about one year ago during the dreadful and horrific Nasirnagar Communal Riots, which were so horrible that they have even surpassed the 1971 riots. During those riots, around 3,000 Muslims implemented a series of attacks against the local Hindu community, destroying over a dozen temples and more than 100 homes. Around 100 people were injured in these riots. According to the National Human Rights Commission, the main motivation for the attacks was to grab Hindu property; the Facebook post about Islam made by a local Hindu youth was merely the excuse. The Dhaka Tribune reported that some Awami League leaders even took part in these riots.
Nevertheless, despite their own troublesome history, the Awami League government continues to try to make the Hindu community into docile supporters. They even tried to contact me in an attempt to hold negotiations between the Hindu Struggle Committee and the Bangladeshi government. However, despite such pressures, we won’t ever give up our dream to obtain a just society. The Bangladeshi Hindu community and Hindus across the globe want Chowdhury released as soon as possible and unconditionally. He was a member of the Hindu Struggle Committee and has done much good to help the Bangladeshi Hindu community. Everyone should be speaking up for the unconditional release of Chowdhury. We call upon Israel and other members of the international community to help us free a wonderful Bangladeshi minority rights activist, who was working towards a more democratic and humane Bangladesh.
Shipan Kumer Basu is the President of the Hindu Struggle Committee, Bangladesh.
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