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Bangladesh : Attacks on members of the Hindu minority

Bangladesh : Attacks on members of the Hindu minority

Publication: Amnesty International
Date: December 1, 2001
URL: http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/ASA130062001?OpenDocument&of=COUNTRIES\BANGLADESH

Amnesty International has been concerned about the situation of members of the Hindu community in Bangladesh over the past several months. Following the general elections on 1 October which were won by a coalition led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party(BNP) with a large majority, BNP supporters reportedly attacked Hindus because of their perceived support for the rival Awami League party during elections. Hundreds of Hindu families were reportedly driven off their land by groups affiliated to the BNP-led coalition who, in some cases, allegedly burnt their homes and raped Hindu women. Several Hindus were reportedly killed. Amnesty International is calling on the Government of Bangladesh to bring to justice perpetrators of these attacks regardless of their position in society or in any political party.

Amnesty International is also calling for the immediate and unconditional release of prisoner of conscience Shahriar Kabir, a journalist who has sought to publicise abuses against Hindus.

Discrimination against Hindus

Hindus in Bangladesh have tended to vote for and support parties such as the Awami League. They have therefore been the target of a political backlash by supporters of parties opposing the Awami League.

As a minority community in Bangladesh sharing a language and religion with the Indian populations of West Bengal, Hindus have been subjected to discriminatory practices or attacks by Muslim groups in Bangladesh. None of the governments in Bangladesh since its independence has taken any decisive steps to protect Hindus in the face of potential threats, including the current attacks.

While both Hindu men and women have been subjected to attacks and intimidation, Hindu women have been also subjected to sexual violence. As a state party to the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, the Bangladesh Government is required to take steps without delay to eliminate discrimination against all women in Bangladesh. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has identified gender-based violence which includes rape, as a form of discrimination (General Recommendation 19 of 1992).

Attacks against Hindus

The current wave of attacks against the Hindu community in Bangladesh began before the general elections of 1 October 2001 when Hindus were reportedly threatened by members of the BNP-led alliance not to vote, since it was perceived their vote would be cast for the Awami League. The backlash after the elections was systematic and severe. Reports indicate that the worst affected areas have been in Barisal, Bhola, parts of Pirojpur, Khulna, Satkhira, Gopalganj, Bagerhat, Jessore, Commilla and Norsingdi. Attackers have reportedly entered Hindu homes, beaten members of the family, looted their property and in some cases, raped Hindu women.

One of the affected villages was Ziodhara. Fear of backlash created a severe atmosphere of tension in the village. Several hundred Hindu villagers left for fear of being attacked and Hindu children would not attend schools. In another village, Deuatala Bazaar, gangs of young men wielding sharp weapons reportedly went from door to door telling Hindus to ''go away''. Hundreds of Hindu villagers reportedly left the village.

Photo caption: Bangladeshi Hindu families who crossed into neighbouring West Bengal as a result of attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh gather to receive food from Indian villagers in the borders village of Badalpur, 420 km north of Kolkata [Calcutta] on 8 November 2001 © Reuters.

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