Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Breeding intolerance in Bangladesh

Breeding intolerance in Bangladesh

Author: Angela MV Robinson (Rev Mrs), Haluaghat
Publication: The Daily Star
Date: May 15, 2002
URL: http://www.dailystarnews.com/200205/15/n2051511.htm#BODY7

I have been in Bangladesh for three years but there are still things about this beautiful, naughty country that make my mouth drop open!

Is there any legal accountability at all for what someone says into a microphone in public? A week or so ago, in the main street in Haluaghat, a man was proclaiming, "Kill the Christians. Show your support of the Palestinians!" or words to that effect. I am just a plain Englishwoman and, in my country, people trying to 'incite people to hatred' in this way would be promptly picked up by the police and an almighty fuss would be made.

Haluaghat, is a very friendly and nice place. I have been happily living here, as the only foreigner for miles around, since January 2000, teaching English at St Andrew's High School. The Mission here was founded in 1912, by Garo and Bengali Christians, at a time when it was mainly jungle and Garos. We have two High Schools for around 1000 children of all the communities - and hostels for Garo students. The Garo are 95 per cent Christian. I would like to think that one of the reasons why the area is so peaceable is because of the long record of love and service by the Mission to the needy of all races and religions.

But, like most places in Bangladesh, if there is provocation, feelings can flare up. There are occasional tensions between Garo and Bengali, as well as between Muslim, Hindu and Christians. 'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance' - and I was appalled that someone could try and stir up trouble by yelling unacceptable sentiments down a microphone - apparently with impunity.

I tried to encourage people I knew with authority to contact the Thana officers. After all, I thought, this is a law and order matter, isn't it? Doesn't one have to get permission to speak in public on behalf of one's religious community?

I would like to think that, when extremists talk nonsense, publicly, then those who are morally and religiously better qualified than they, would, at the very least, take them to one side and quietly try to dissuade them from their opinions. The ideal, of course, is surely to insist that the culprit is put in front of the microphone and made to issue a public apology.

Anyway, it was extremely unpleasant and my Garo cook was, understandably, very frightened. I made a point of visiting the bazaar a little more frequently than usual, on the perfectly good British principle of "Don't let them see the whites of your eyes!" Drinking tea in various shops with my many Muslim friends, I assured them that, if I thought for one moment that my murder would bring peace between Israeli and Palestinian, I would cheerfully volunteer, especially as many Palestinian Arab families have been Christian for centuries, which our friend at the microphone obviously did not realise.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements