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Shipan Kumar Basu explains the history of the plight of the Hindu minority within Bangladesh and the rise of radical Islam within the country. He also argues that given that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are reaching out to Israel, Bangladesh should be no different.

Photo Credit: Safadi Center

Some days ago, Former Environmental Minister Hasan Mahmud stated at a meeting that the title Sheikh within the Rahman family did not originate in the Indian sub-continent but rather they got the title from the Saudi dynasty. After Bangladesh declared independence, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started to strengthen diplomatic relations with some countries like Pakistan and others in the Arabian peninsula whose role was completely anti-Bangladeshi independence and strongly antagonistic towards both India and Israel. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman demonstrated that since he got the title Sheikh from the Saudi Arabian dynasty, this influenced his anti-Hindu attitude.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his early political life was a Muslim League Party leader. Later on, this Muslim League appeared as the Awami Muslim League and was dominated by anti-Hindu attitudes. The Awami League Party again appeared under the name Awami League just after cutting the word Muslim out of the title in order to draw attention to its secularism during the elections.  However, the original anti-Hindu attitude still remains in their blood. In 1946, members of the Hindu minority were killed led by Hossian Shahid Shorawdi and his right hand man Sheikh Mujib . At that time there, thousands and thousands of Hindu men, women, and girls had been killed, raped and converted to Islam by force. They killed elderly men and women by kicking them on the road.

In 1971, the Bangladeshi war of independence called for secularism without any questions regarding religion, cast and race. All of the people fought against Pakistan from the same platform and perspective. Finally, India supported Bangladesh in order to bring about independence. India lost nearly 20,000 soldiers during the 1971 war and in addition to that, India gave shelter to over 10 million Bangladeshi refugees by giving them food, health care and other relevant support for 1 year.  

After the war, India requested that Sheikh Mujib deactivate the Enemy Land Law so that the Hindu minorities could get back their land and properties after they left the area from 1947 to 1971 due to the constant oppression that they faced. But Sheikh Mujib refused the Indian proposal. Due to the great efforts and global diplomatic fight led by former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Sheikh Mujib had gotten free from Pakistani jail and reached London UK, where he stated: “I did wrong by breaking the up the great Pakistan; I will rebuild my relations with Pakistan to the best of my abilities.”

 In 1974, in order to rebuild relations with Pakistan, Sheikh Mujib joined an OIC meeting in Pakistan while passing through India. From that OIC meeting, Sheikh Mujib had taken several dozen businessmen with him. He had arranged big entertainment parties for those businessmen in order to rebuild relations with Pakistan including business ties but those businessmen were actually ISI personnel. By chance, the Pakistani ISI made a great plan kill all members of Mujib family within one year. The Indian RAW had alerted him several times but Sheikh Mujib had no faith in Indian intelligence as he was busy trying to rebuild relations. In the end, on August 15, 1975, the ISI killed him and his other family members.

In the 1971 war, in order to defeat Bangladesh and India, America sent its 7th war ship to the Bay of Bengal through Indian Ocean. Then, India wanted help from Israel in order to protect themselves against the American war ship and ultimately with the great help of Israeli lobbing and efforts, America returned their war ship to their port. Not only that but also Israel made many contributions during the war. There was a bullets crisis. Weapons from Israel helped Indian soldiers and Bangladeshi freedom fighters on an emergency basis in order to fight against the Pakistani military.  After the war, Bangladesh appeared as independent country on the world`s map and Sheikh Mujib gained power as Prime Minister.

Upon gaining power, he started to avoid and insult India and members of the Bangladeshi Hindu minority. He did not preserve any options or seats for minorities in the parliament others. Sheikh Mujib stated: “Where is the shelter for Hindu minorities without the Awami League in Bangladesh? There is no need to think more about minorities because minorities have no shelter in Bangladesh without the Awami League or they leave Bangladesh.” Via these statements, he exposed his actual attitude regarding the Hindu minority in Bangladesh. It is the same attitude possessed by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina always tries to avoid speaking about the issue of the torture of minority groups within her country. But on the other hand, she is busy building up very warm relations with radical people who are involved in the killing of minorities, looting land, raping minority women and girls, occupying land, converting non-Muslims to Islam by force, and destroying temples. About 8%-9% of Bangladesh’s population consists of Hindus who live in the country and are 100% Awami League supporters. They are not involved with the other parties. However, it is very difficult to find among the relatives of Sheikh Hasina 5% who are pure Awami League supporters.

Despite their support for the Awami League, the torture of Hindus is widespread in the Gopul Gonj District, which is where Sheikh Hasina sits as Prime Minister. Hasina has proved her silence by not providing the Hindu minority with shelter and having an anti-Hindu attitude runs in her blood. Some days before, the Indian Prime Minister announced that they were giving shelters to the Hindu victims within Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister had no reaction and no reply.   Why is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh silent? Are we not fine in Bangladesh? Who is responsible? Her silence proves that she has an anti-Hindu attitude.  Her relatives were involved in torturing and killing minorities. According to a very recent report, 632 Hindus leave Bangladesh every day due to the torture by the members of the ruling party. So now, it is time for us to build up strong relations among Bangladeshi Hindus, Indian Hindus and Israel.

Around 8.1 million people live in the State of Israel. Among them, 75.1% are Jewish, 17.4% are Muslim, 2% are Christian, 1.6% are Druze, and 3.9% classify themselves as being part of other groups. Moreover, 10% of their soldiers are Muslim.   It is very difficult to find any evidence that a Muslim has been tortured by Jews inside Israel. On the other hand, we hear all the time that the Muslims and the Jews are enemies.   Some Muslims say that the Prophet Muhammed restricted them from building any relations with the Jews and advised Muslims to avoid them. But in Israel, the 17.1% Muslim population lives in peace with the 75.1% Jewish people.   So why not us?

The leadership in Saudi Arabia some days before has offered friendly relations including diplomatic and business ties to Israel. They already started to discuss being connected via flights. Similarly, Muslim Turkey is doing the same like Saudi Arabia.  What do we think? The Islamists in Bangladesh argue, do Saudi Arabia and Turkey understand Islam more than the Prophet? Indeed, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister has remained with the old Arabian policy of looting land and kicking out non-Muslims.  Sheikh Hasina should understand that some issues are not controlled by the country’s borders and geographical boundaries. So, you have to face accountability and you have to pay in the future for torturing the Hindu minority in a special tribunal.