The party of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the nation,, now led by his daughter Sheikh Hasina, and its allies won close to 80 per cent of the seats in December 2008.
“If one is looking for a single sentence to sum up the significance of the 9th parliamentary elections in Bangladesh, it should read: this is a second liberation. The first one, on December 16, 1971, rid it of Pakistan’s colonial rule and the nightmare of genocide and mass rape unleashed by the Pakistani Army since the night of March 25 that year.
The results of the December 2008 elections have liberated Bangladesh from an inexorable descent into Talibanesque social medievalism and a reign of terror unleashed by Islamist fundamentalists. A new journey of democracy in Bangladesh starts stepping in January 2009.
The 5th January 2014, the tenth parliamentary election is a recorded day in the anal of Bangladesh history. Why it would be recorded in the history of Bangladesh?
“Now many political observers in Dhaka feel that the opposition failed to halt the election and Awami League will succeed in forming a new government after 24th January after the dissolution of the present parliament.
The observers anticipate that the real acid test for Hasina will begin then. She knows that the present election is not a normal one. It is being held in an abnormal political situation of the country. In future its legality might be questioned, though at the present moment many people realize that Hasina had to take this course which so many people called undemocratic for the greater interest of the country and democracy. Now she will have to prove this beyond all suspicion. If she wants to provide this election with a moral base she will have to form a cabinet with honest, efficient members who are acceptable to the people. She will have to purge all the ministers and MPs who were accused and known to the people for their corruption and moral deprivation”. (A G Chowdhury, The Independent 6 Jan 14)
On the other hand, in Bangladesh, over the years Fanatics vandalised idols and torched temples in Comilla, Netrokona and Bhola, Noakhali , Nilphamari, Barisal, Khulna, Perojpur and more or less all over Bangladesh creating widespread panic among the Hindu community since February 28,2013.On that day, the International Crimes Tribunal-1 awarded death penalty to Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee for his crimes against humanity during the country’s Liberation War. Lashing a déjà vu of 1971, Jamaat-Shibir fanatics wrecked havoc on the Hindu community across the country.They damaged temples, including one of Buddhists, and torched houses and business establishments of Hindu people in Noakhali, Gaibandha, Chittagong, Rangpur, Sylhet, Chapainawabganj and elsewhere in the country. In Rajganj of Noakhali, Jamaat-Shibir men set ablaze a temple and eight houses of the Hindu community.
In the last week of December 2013, Joint drives of law enforcers have stopped widespread Jamaat-Shibir violence in Satkhira for the time being and people fear the top Jamaat leaders of the district would instigate violence again as they remain at large .Even high officials who led the joint drives admit that they could not make any significant arrests as the people who allegedly instigated the violence had fled the district. Several hundred Hindus and ruling Awami League leaders of Satkhira have been fleeing their homes over the last few days in the wake of massive violence unleashed by Jamaat-Shibir men in the district. Some had even moved to India through legal or illegal means., Hindu minority in Bangladesh have lost property worth Taka 2000 million during the tenure of Awami League Government (2009-2013) , says a vernacular economic news paper “ Arthonity Protidin (18 Dec 13) Bangladesh, According to the published items in the local dailies, in Bangladesh 459 temples have been ransacked, 700 women were violated and thousands Hindus left Bangladesh particularly in the border areas. It is also reported that India Government will initiate Refugee Camps in the border zone, ( Arthonity protidin, 19 Dec 13)
Unfortunately, in the post-August 1975, The military regimes of Genl Zia and Genl. Ershad, reversed all the state principles of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh ;State principle Secularism has been replaced with “full trust in almighty Allah” and “Islam the State religion”, presumably, to highlight the Islamic identity of the nation. Bangladesh under martial law regimes could not break away from the past and remained steeped in the legacy of her history of the 23-year existence as part of Pakistan. Bangladeshi Hindus become second-class citizens as they were in the 1956 constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In the last sixty-six years (1947-2013), more than ten million of the country’s Hindu’s have fled to India in the face of sustained persecution and periodic riots with its poverty and frequent cyclones, Bangladesh are major news each year. But the unfolding fate of Hindus in the country rarely makes headlines. Today Hindu population in Bangladesh has dropped to 10%. Conceivably, by 2050 Bangladesh will have achieved the status of Pakistan: no significant Hindu population. It may be recalled that the Agreement between India and Pakistan commonly known as Nehru-Liaquat Pact concerning Minorities in April 1950 gave no tangible result.
The agreement is alive till today, but what happens to minority Hindus can be assessed by declination of Hindu citizens in Bangladesh. The Indira-Mujib agreement making 1971 the cut off year for accommodating the migrats of Bangladesh as Indian citizens and also the loose border situation during the Mujib years had become the marker of security and legality… Any kind of meaningful dialogue between the two nations on migrations, consequently, ruled out. These monstrous incidents are well-calculated sequel of the great Calcutta mayhem and the horrendous carnage of Hindus in Noakhali in 1946,the horrible massacre of Hindus by the atrocious rioters in 1950, 1964, 1965 and the mindless holocaust of Hindus by the Pakistani plunderers in 1971. In October 2001 election, the incidence of violence was the highest. Minorities were violated in 2,685 villages in the country. Minorities were debarred from casting votes in the election — a fundamental right of any citizen of Bangladesh. We all know that Bangladesh is a product of double secessions. She has changed her identity twice in less than a quarter of a century.
In January 2014, following the tenth parliamentary election what happens?Jamaat-Shibir cadres launched despicable attacks on Hindu communities in four districts the day after the 10th parliamentary elections. Hundreds of houses of the minority community were torched and looted since January 5, 2014 night in Dinjapur, Jessore, Satkhira and Thakurgaon. A large number of Hindus took shelter in the temples, while others have fled to other villages. They are too scared to return even after assurances from local administration.
Over the years, the people’s roles or needs in politics have been changed by the emergence of various schools of political thought, their needs, and their assessments. If you take a closer look, people and religion are now being used with so much expediency, that one has lost track of the conventional or methodical classification, and the role of both. The lust for power and privilege, the politics of vengeance, and fear of defeat have virtually destroyed the democratic prospects of this land.
We have been happily forgetting people’s interests and their wishes. Their demands are so miniscule and limited that they escape our powered spectacles. Millions of Hindus have been engulfed by the orgy of violence. Neither the politicians, kleptocrat and opportunist, nor the administration, stooges of the Machiavellian coterie, come to their rescue. The Hindus have sacrificed every think at the alter of War of Liberation in 1971. In return, they received nothing beside humiliation. It is known, any one speaking on behalf of Hindu community is likely to be dubbed as agent of a foreign country or communal. Bangladesh has given us honour and identity as her freedom fighter. We fought for secular-democracy in 1971 and continuing to fight for its achievement till his last days. We deserve’ His’ grace and solace’.
In conclusion of my article, concerning Hindus Of Bangladesh – Crisis of Existence, We desire to place 6-point demands before the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, elected members of parliament and people of Bangladesh, our demands as well as recommendations in this regards for consideration.
Moreover, we are ready to submit a draft Bill to the Government in this regard as titled “Bangladesh Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2014” aims to protect and fulfill the right to equality before law and equal protection of law by imposing duties on the government, to exercise their power in an impartial and non-discriminatory manner that need to be placed before the 10th parliament.
6- point demands is as follows :-
1. The Government of Bangladesh should reestablish constitution of Bangladesh as framed in 1972 by Scraping “Islam as State Religion” and “Bismill-hirRahamanir Rahim” from the Constitution of Bangladesh to ensure equal rights of Hindus of Bangladesh to make it secular Constitution as depicted in spirit of War of Liberation in 1971. Judicial Commission for investigation is recommended for atrocities on minority Hindus in Bangladesh including continuous repression, conversions, abductions, rape, and vandalising, looting and setting fire on temples, business firms and houses of Hindu communities
2. The Government of Bangladesh should have to rehabilitate the displacement of houses, temples, on state responsibility. Protection to these vulnerable groups is proposed through effective provisions for investigation, prosecution and trial of offences and to provide for relief, rehabilitation and compensation to all persons affected.
3.The Government of Bangladesh should take necessary steps relating to the vandalised and burnt houses, temples of Hindus have to be rebuilt and adequate compensation must be provided to them.
4. Bangladesh is second largest Hindu populated country in the World. Hindus would be ensured in Bangladesh if due representation of the community in the field of all decision –making institutions of the Republic. i.e. representation of minority in the Administration ,Army, Police, Judicial and Foreign services as well as public offices at all level is effectively ensured. They need 60 reservation seats in Parliament through Constitutional provision. They want empowerment in political and public offices and constitutional social justice as equal citizens of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh..
5. The Government of Bangladesh should constitute a separate ministry concerning minority’s affairs and reconstitute National Human Rights Commission for Bangladesh with more minority members to ensure justice to the Minorities to uphold religious rights of Devuttur Property by promulgating a new Act and help secure fair and equal access to justice by allowing Hindu Human Rights NGOs to work in Bangladesh.
6. The Government of Bangladesh, should show respect to those obligations uphold the ideas in the constitution of Bangladesh as ratified so far the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights” to protect and fulfill the right to equality before law and equal protection of law by imposing duties on the government, to exercise their power in an impartial and non-discriminatory manner to prevent and control targeted violence .
The Government of Bangladesh should enact law –
– aims to protect and fulfill the right to equality before law and equal protection of law by imposing duties on the government, to exercise their power in an impartial and non-discriminatory manner ;- to prevent and control targeted violence, including mass violence, against religious minorities and linguistic ethnic minorities in any part of Bangladesh ; – to uphold secular democracy and help secure fair and equal access to justice; – Protection to these vulnerable groups is proposed through effective provisions for investigation, prosecution and trial of offences under the Act to provide for relief, rehabilitation and compensation to all persons affected.
Rabindranath Trivedi is a retired civil servant, author and columnist.