According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscious and religion. Everyone has a right to a nationality. No one should be arbitrarily denied of his nationality. No one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” However, on a daily basis, these fundamental human rights that are enshrined in international law are being denied to the Hindus and other minorities within Bangladesh.
On a daily basis, Hindus are being murdered, raped, abducted and forcefully converted to Islam. Their lands are being seized from them, their holy places are being desecrated and their homes are being destroyed. Forces loyal to the Sheikh Hasina government are doing everything in their power in order to make Bangladesh to be a minority-free country. Routinely, Hindus within the country face systematic pressure and threats merely so that they will be compelled to move to India and to leave behind their ancestral homeland.
Take the following story of a Bangladeshi family as an example of the horror experienced by minorities on a daily basis within Bangladesh. A source within the country reported, “My daughter was kidnapped and found after two hours raped. At half past midnight on the 15th of August, 2010, hoodlums attacked my husband with the intention of killing him. While the case was going on, I went to ask the Police Superintendent to get a proper verdict on the attempt to kill my husband.”
However, the local authorities were not at all sympathetic to the plight of this Hindu mother. To the contrary, the source highlighted that the local authorities actually made her situation even worse because she had the guts to complain about the rape of her daughter and the attack on her husband: “The superintendent ordered me to withdraw the case. He then grabbed me, disrobed me and kissed me on both cheeks. I tried to break free. When I threatened to scream, he started to beat me in many ways and told me not to tell anyone about what happened or he will kill my husband. I was tortured badly by the superintendent but he was not punished. He was only transferred. At that moment, eight to ten men grabbed me. Some tore up my clothes and showed me to others. While they were pulling me, I pushed them away from me. And I ran away. I was in fear of my life. They wanted to kill me. Some said let us strip her.”
All of these horrific acts were implemented against this Hindu mother were not random acts of violence. The Police Superintendent had a clear reason for doing what he did. As the victim noted, “They said that they wanted us to leave, asking why we are still here. They said India is your country. Leave this country and go there.”
In November 2017, a mob of angry rioters set 30 Hindu homes on fire after minority youth Titu Roy allegedly wrote a Facebook post critical of Islam. Sources inside Bangladesh stressed that Roy never wrote such a post and that someone else utilized his name in order to write the Facebook post. Furthermore, according to the Daily Star, Roy was living far away from the village for over four years. This reality did not spare his community.
However, there is a reason why the local Hindu community was framed. According to the National Human Rights Commission, the main motive for the attack was to grab Hindu lands and it had nothing to do with a Facebook post allegedly published by Roy. A number of other homes were also looted and vandalized. The incident took place in Rangpur district’s Thakurpara village, about 300 km from Dhaka.
The stories above may not be recent but similar incidents like this occur all of the time within Bangladesh. More recently, on October 20th, 2018, there was an attack by over 100 terrorists on 20 Hindu homes in Savar. 30 people were injured. Several temples were also vandalized. There was a great panic among the Hindus in the area. The police visited the area but no one was arrested. This incident came following a dispute between some youths from the Majhipara area with local Hindus following the abduction of Durga Murty.
Sadly, the local media did not report on the incident. According to the World Hindu Struggle Committee, most of the time, the local media in Bangladesh does not publish news related to violence against Hindus in the country. The local Hindus believe that the media does not want to be disturbed by the government for publishing news related to minority violence. Furthermore, more than 99% of the owners of media outlets in Bangladesh are Muslim. Therefore, often the news regarding Hindu violence does not get out. However, the World Hindu Struggle Committee, Bangladesh Minority Watch and a number of other organizations have been tracking the violence that occurs on a daily basis against Hindus and other minorities within Bangladesh.
According to the World Hindu Struggle Committee, a few days before Durga Puja this year, six Hindu homes were set on fire in Madukali of Faridpur. Also recently, a Hindu woman named Abla Rani Das was murdered due to a land dispute. On September 23rd, 2018, the body of a Hindu woman who was beheaded and gang-raped in Komolgonj was found. On September 18th, 2018, in Gazipur, a teenage Hindu girl named Poli Rani Das was abducted. On August 13th, 2018, a Hindu home was attacked due to the alleged claim that a local Hindu wrote a Facebook post critical of the Prophet Muhammed. And a minority college student was forced to convert to Islam after she was seduced into marrying Nazmal Hossein, the son of Raqiful Islam of Jugia Heat in the Kushtia Muncipality Area.
Any Hindu woman seduced into marrying a Muslim has the potential to face a horrendous fate. In another case, Soma Biswas, a 25-year-old Hindu woman, was lured into a marriage with a Muslim man who had five other wives. To marry him, she converted to Islam. After marrying and giving birth to a girl, she faced constant abuse by one of the other wives, but as a convert, she received no support from the other women in the family. Last June, Biswas heard her husband tell a group of men, “Do as I told you to do.” Shortly afterward, around 15 people gang-raped her, poured gasoline on her, and burned her alive. Biswas was hospitalized but succumbed to her injuries. She is now dead.
Sadly, in too many cases, members of the ruling Awami League government either take an active part in raping Hindus and committing other atrocities against them or sit passively by, not doing anything to help the victims. In another incident, local sources noted that a helpless Hindu widow and her infant daughter were raped by Awami League leaders in Kishorgoni district in Bangladesh. And in still another instance in Mandasaur, local sources noted that a 7-year-old Hindu girl was taken away from school and brutally raped. The rapist also slit the girls’ throat with a wine bottle after raping her. Although the Awami League did not commit that atrocity, Shipan Kumer Basu, the President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, did note that they nevertheless are responsible for they have created an atmosphere where Hindu victims are completely helpless and cannot defend themselves against their attackers. He noted that one minority woman who cut off the penis of a man who wanted to rape her was prosecuted and not the man who wanted to attack her.
Often, even if a victim manages to avoid getting raped, they do not go away entirely unscathed. Earlier this year, local sources reported that during the attempted rape of a minority woman in Pirgachha in Rangpur, the assailants cut off the hair of the victim. In addition, the minority woman and her daughter were left out on the road in Birnarayan village, where they were physically tortured, being left with their hands and feet tied up.
Unfortunately, some of the Bangladeshi opposition groups also behave horribly towards the Hindu minority. The Awami League is not the only Bangladeshi political party that is repressing minorities. Recently, 12 minorities were injured including a woman during an attack in Charkia of Cox Bazaar. In Chakaria of Cox Bazaar, a group of assailants led by BNP leader Shahidul attacked a home and looted it. The injured were admitted to Chakaria Upazila Health Complex. The Police arrested Shahidul, who was leading the attack. 50-60 youths had attacked the home with bamboo sticks. They did not leave the residents alone when they fled to a nearby temple for sanctuary. Inside the temple, two Hindus were beaten. Aside from 12 being injured in the attack on that one home, three other homes were vandalized. They looted money and goods from some of the homes including gold ornaments.
However, the fact that members of the BNP also attack Hindus does not mean that the Awami League is not responsible for most of the violence. Basu always notes that while BNP was also not good towards the Hindus, in recent history, the wave of violence against Hindus has been the worst under the Awami League run by Sheikh Hasina. The wave of recent attacks highlight this point. From the point of view of an outside observer, they all appear to be part of a government design to prompt the Hindus to move to India.
“Sheikh Mujib, the father of Sheikh Hasina, was opposed to Bangladeshi Independence,” Basu noted. “By oppressing the Hindus and other minorities, Sheikh Hasina is following in her father’s footsteps by denying freedom and independence to the Hindu people in her country. Due to such actions, the German government has now declared that Bangladesh is an autocracy and not a democracy. It is important to recall that the main opposition leader opposed to Sheikh Hasina is now behind bars. The home of advocate Rabindra Ghosh, who is a prominent human rights activist and the president of Bangladesh Minority Watch, was attacked. The Bangladeshi leadership is trying to give the perpetrators of the attack immunity.”
Bangladeshi writer Sushanto Das Gupta added: “Youth League President Ataur Rahman Selim threatened to murder a number of Hindu families in Habiganj’s Sunaru village. The only purpose is to grab our land without us being in the area. He is threatening us in so many ways, so that we will leave the area and go to India. If we do not leave this country, we will be forced to become Muslim. If we do not comply, then we will be burned in the fire.”
Not too long ago, the home of Hindu woman Lazmi Rani Das was looted. Three Hindu homes and a temple were also harmed in Faridpur. The attackers fled after news of the attack was reported. According to local sources, land owner Satish Chandra Roy sold 55 decimal of his land to Lazmi Rani Das and went to India. Later on, Lazmi Dani Ras and her family were living on that land. After Lazmi Rani died, her son Khokan Das and his family were living there. A few years ago, a local man named Mujibur Rahman filed a case in court claiming ownership of the land. There were a number of threats for them to leave the place during the legal proceedings.
According to the Hindu Post, last August, a Hindu girl named Purnima Rani Das was abducted from the Cumilla (former Comilla) district of Bangladesh. Abductor Mohin threatened the victim’s father over the mobile phone not to file any police complaint. Otherwise, they (victim’s family) would be evicted from the country. The victim’s mother stated with a weeping voice: “The abductors may kill or proselytize my daughter.”
The Hindu Post also reported that last August, 60-70 armed Muslim appropriators led by Haji Azizur Rahman attacked a Hindu home owned by tea seller Kartik Monidas. The Muslim appropriators beat Kartik Monidas’ mother Aarati Monidas, his mother-in-law Sona Monidas & his second grade daughter Konika Monidas. The beaten women of the Hindu family were then driven out from their home. Armed Muslim appropriators then smashed up the home & eventually have grabbed it. A neighbor and Hindu grocery shopkeeper Pradip Chakraborty fell victim to a heart attack after seeing the atrocity & passed away afterwards. Before the incident, the son of Muslim appropriator Haji Azizur Rahman named Zahidul Islam lodged a false allegation with the court against victim Kartik Monidas. As a result, the police arrested Kartik & sent him to court in the Dhaka District of central Bangladesh.
In their desire to harm Hindus within the country, the Hindu faith and culture is not even spared by those who wish to slowly ethnically cleanse Hindus from Bangladesh. A Hindu crematorium was seized not too long ago. In addition, Youth League leaders and activists were arrested following an attack on Puja Mandhap in Dhunata. They were charged with vandalism and interrupting a cultural program organized at the Pujamandhap Chatter of Shunate Sadar Temple in Bogra. According to local sources, a cultural program was going on at the Puja Mandhap Chappter of Dhunate Sadar Mandir. At the time of a female dance program, some drunken activists disturbed the event and vandalized the area. Some of the people attending were also beaten up including Temple Committee President Rony Rumar Saha.
According to the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, between January and May 2017 alone, 81 temples, monasteries and statues were destroyed within the country. The Bangladesh Minority Council reported: “In the last 46 years, thousands of religious idols sacred to Hindus, were decapitated and destroyed in every district of Bangladesh. Hundreds of temples were put to the torch. Most Muslims believed that idolatry is an offense to Islam, so some of them think it is their sacred duty to desecrate Hindu or Buddhist idols. Not a single person has been prosecuted or punished for these deeds even though the authority was vigilant in protecting even the minutest aspersion leveled on Islam.”
“The Awami League wants to destroy the Hindu culture in Bangladesh,” Basu emphasized. “It is very sad that Bangladesh and West Bengal celebrate the Bengali New Year on different dates. But why? The answer is that Sheikh Hasina wants to cleanse Bangladesh of Hindu culture. Her supporters are destroying temples, idols and other symbols of Hindu culture within the country. She has formed a covert alliance with ISIS in order to rid the country of the Hindu minority by slowly ethnically cleansing them from the country via murders, rapes, and looting and land seizures. However, while Sheikh Hasina is forming an alliance with radical Islamists, we Hindus protest against this and seek to establish a secular country which peacefully coexists with other religious groups, such as Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Jews.”
However, anyone who tries to stand up for the Hindu minority finds themselves in a worse situation. Basu himself is a political refugee living in India. He cannot return to Bangladesh. Aslam Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi Muslim human rights defender, found himself in prison, allegedly for having the audacity to meet with Mendi Safadi, an Israeli citizen. In reality, he was imprisoned due to his work on behalf of the Hindu community. Bangladeshi Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha lost his position because as a Hindu, he had the audacity to stand up against the authoritarian nature of the Bangladeshi government.
Not all of the dissidents who fell victim to the Bangladeshi government were victimized due to supporting the Hindu minority. On June On 12, 2018, Bangladeshi secular writer Shahzahan Bachchu was shot dead in the Munshiganj district. Bachchu had previously received threats from extremists groups due to his outspoken support for secularism. Renowned photographer Shahidul Alam criticized the government a few months ago in Al Jazeera. Because of that, the government arrested him. Many teachers, writers and activists have also been arrested.
On May 27, 2017, dissident Sazzadul Hoque posted on his Facebook: “I wish to live like a human and not a Muslim. Things that I was taught and made to believe are wrong.” As a result of this post, he was suspended from Facebook and got expelled from university. He faced numerous online threats, which proclaimed: “This guy renounced Islam. We are asking the authorities to apprehend this guy as soon as possible for if not, there might be religious riots like there were in the past;” “We don’t need a bastard like yourself. You should be persecuted or even killed. You don’t have a right to live on this land;” “Sisterfucker, you are making the biggest mistake of your life and let Allah cause you all kinds of misery;” “You are not a human. You are the son of a prostitute. You are a dog fucker. If you came in front of me, I would slice you. Your meat would have been distributed to the dogs, you fucking pig;” “If only I could get my hands on you, I would decapitate and slaughter you, you son of a pig.”
Islamist groups were threatening him and his friends. Hundreds of people came to visit his maternal uncle and his mother, threatening to kill him. The government did nothing to protect him. However, some Islamist teachers did attempt to get the police to arrest him. Due to this horrific situation, he left Dhaka and returned to his village but he could not stay there once the locals realized that he was there. He received phone calls stating that he would be killed wherever he was found. He moved from his home to that of his maternal aunt. When they found out where he was, they threatened to burn down her home for sheltering him so he left her home as well. As he fled from place to place, imams were preaching in the local mosques that he should be killed as an apostate. Due to these threats, he moved to India but is only allowed to stay there under his present visa for another two months. He faced numerous cyber threats and media outlets which covered his story in Bangladesh also faced numerous threats until they were forced to delete the news.
“I am homeless for my writing, activism, and for speaking for free thinkers,” he proclaimed. “My life is in danger due to speaking about humanism, secularism and LGBT rights. In spite of having immense threats, I haven’t stopped my writing. I have been living an inhuman life since May 2017. That’s why I am becoming mentally ill. As a human right activist and blogger, I have faced a lot of trouble (including threats of death) for continuing my writing and activism. I don’t know what will happen to me or how long will I survive? I do not know whether I could ever go back to my country. I do not know when I would be able to meet my mother again. My family has disowned me due to speaking about the rights of LGBT and other activities. I have no relation with my family since 2017. They do not support me.”
However, while all of the opposition activists and critics are oppressed in Bangladesh, and the entire country suffers from a lack of democracy since the sham elections of 2014, only the minorities are being slowly ethnically cleansed from the country. Indeed, Hindus are not the only minorities that suffer in Bangladesh. According to the World Hindu Struggle Committee, the Suymmo Buddhist Murty and a Buddhist Bihar were attacked in Kagrachari of Hilltex. The Buddhist monastery and the 7 feet high Buddhist statue collapsed due to vandalism by a group of soldiers. New Age reported that over two dozen Catholic priests, Prostenant pastors and Christian aid workers have received death threats within Bangladesh.
However, the Hindus, as the largest minority group in Bangladesh, have borne the brunt of the violence. The World Hindu Struggle Committee reported that 82 people were killed in various acts of anti-Hindu violence within Bangladesh in 2017. At the same time, they noted that there were 22 other mysterious cases of Hindus dying that same year which they believe were also murders and 471 cases of attacks, looting and arson against the Hindu minority that happened in different areas of the country. They added that there were also 114 cases of Hindu land being seized, 120 cases of Hindus being formally evicted from their lands and 222 cases of Hindu idols being vandalized. These are only the statistics from 2017. If one includes the statistics from other years, the number of incidents rise up.
Due to systematic violence against the Hindu minority, Dr Abul Barakat, a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Dhaka, reported that the Hindu population has dropped from 30% of the country in 1947 to 9.5% of the country in 2017. There are presently 13 million Hindus in Bangladesh, which is significantly less than what the population should be given the community’s birth rate. “The rate of minority population decrease has accelerated in recent years, and several districts of Bangladesh are now witnessing the decrease of their Hindu population in absolute numbers,” the Bangladesh Minority Council reported. “Looting and burning of households, destruction of temples and religious idols, murder, rape, forced religious conversion, illegal occupation of property, extortion, threats to family structures and other soft and hard intimidations are reducing well-to-do households to paupers and forcing this population across the border to India. With the recent rise of political and militant Islam and its appeasement by the government, the possibility of Bangladesh turning into a monolithic Islamic country looms on the horizon. After 1971, at no time has the existential threat to the Hindu community been as great as it is now.”
According to the World Hindu Struggle Committee, in Bangladesh, the Hindus in particular face routine incitement, which leads to widespread violence. According to Basu, many Muslims in Bangladesh claim that the Hindus are not patriotic, alleging that they have never died for the country nor fought a war of liberation. In addition, the Hindu Post claims that Bangladeshis frequently call Hindus malaun, which means “accursed” or “deprived of God’s mercy.” During election rallies in the country, the Hindu Post claims that many political leaders from Islamist parties call Hindus malaun.
Furthermore, Razzak bin Yussuf Waj, a popular Bangladeshi preacher, proclaimed: “You will not leave any picture or statue. Break them all into pieces. I am a Muslim forever. Do not be afraid to die. If dead, you will be a shahid. If you survive, you will be a gazi. Within twenty-four hours, all of the statues in this country will be broken up into pieces. Statue breaking is a Muslim principle. No Muslim can respect the idols. If you go home, your job will be to break the picture of your parents. I do not fear death.” Despite the fact that his preaching’s encourages violence against Hindus and other minorities, Waj is free to operate within Bangladesh. An inside source says that he is no less intolerant than Osama Bin Ladin or Mullah Omar in his militancy to threaten those whom he considers idolaters.
Professor Richard Benkin, a US based human rights activist, told the Business Standard: “There has been a concerted attempt in that country to see that the Hindu’s there are eradicated. The successive Bangladeshi governments under Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia have been unable to take actions against those who are out to eliminate the Hindus.” He argued that one of the reasons why Hindu women and children are the main targets within Bangladesh is because the perpetrators of their ethnic cleansing from the country seek to destroy the Hindu women so that they won’t give birth to Hindus and thus another generation of Hindus within the country won’t be created.
According to the Foreign Policy Association, the Bangladesh Minority Council noted that in particular the abduction of young girls from minority communities, the indiscriminate rape of Hindu women and girls, and the forceful conversion of Hindu women is very rampant in Bangladesh. Basu reported that the rate of Hindu girls who are raped is much higher than the official statistics for the general population and the rape of Hindu women is generally not recorded in the official records.
“Rape is a heinous violent crime,” the Bangladesh Minority Council noted. “It is used as a war tool through which the invaders subjugate and humiliate the conquered population. A judicial commission concluded that over 200 Hindu women were raped following the 2001 parliamentary election. Rape and other sexual violations of minor girls belonging to the Hindu community, mainly in rural areas, remain rampant. In the conservative society of rural Bangladesh, when a girl is violated in a village, the family is left with no choice but to migrate to India. In addition, in rural areas, pressure to convert to Islam is increasing with every year. In many cases, local authorities ignore such activities because they themselves believe that if they can convert a non-Muslim to Islam, then they will be rewarded after death. This belief has caused an upsurge in the religious conversion of Hindu minors and sometimes even of entire families to Islam.”
Due to the fact that the Hindus are being slowly and gradually ethnically cleansed from Bangladesh, Professor Barakat of Dhaka University claimed that there will be no Hindus left within Bangladesh within 30 years. He told the Dhaka Tribune: “The rate of the exodus over the past 49 years points to that direction.” From 1964 to 2013, around 11.3 million Hindus were compelled to flee Bangladesh due to religious persecution.
“Sheikh Hasina has the same ideology as Al Baghadadi and ISIS,” Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, proclaimed. “There is no difference between the terrorism of Sheikh Hasina against the Hindu minority and Al Baghdadi’s terrorism against the Yezidi and Christian minorities. Both of them want to change the country to make it an Islamic state and to clean it of all of the minorities. We have to stop that. Because of that, we work in the international community to stop the crimes of Sheikh Hasina against her people.”