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Dilemma over Hindus in Bangladesh

Dilemma over Hindus in Bangladesh

Author: Times News Network
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 6, 2002
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=9003860

Why doesn't your conscience cry for the Hindus of Bangladesh who are subjected to continuous communal atrocities? Those collecting relief for the victims of the Gujarat carnage in Kolkata have confronted this question, often laced with anger and sarcasm.

"This shows that the saffron brigade has succeeded in ingraining a dubious logic in the mind of a large section of the middle-class Hindus in Left-liberal West Bengal. A perceived threat to the Hindus in the entire sub-continent rationalises the politics of vengeance and mass brutalisation as we have seen in Gujarat," said Kunal Chattopadhyay, history professor and an activist of the Gujarat solidarity Committee against Communalism. He faced an agitated group at Kalighat on May 1. Some others think differently.

"Our intellectuals were apprehensive that hue and cry over the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh would only help the Sangh Parivar. Our silence has been counter-productive," said professor Ratneswar Bhattacharya who has authored a book on the cleansing of minorities in Bangladesh recently.

According to him, at least three million people of the minority communities, mostly Hindus, have been uprooted from Bangladesh so far. From Census reports of both India and Bangladesh, Bhattacharya showed the steady decline of minority population in Bangladesh while there was growth in the same category in India and Pakistan.The attacks on the minorities increased after the BNP-Jamat alliance came to power, said the author citing Bangladeshi media reports extensively.

"In contrast to Gujarat, it is lowkey pogrom in which rape, plunder and occupation of properties of the minorities, desecration of religious places and idols and evictions were done systematically. The discrimination has been institutionalised by laws such as the Enemy Properties Act and declaration of Islam as the state religion. The stream of refugees continues to sneak into West Bengal. Unlike seventies,many of them were greeted with BSF bullet in recent past," observed Bhattacharya.

"Bangladesh has never witnessed a communal riot, because a riot takes place between two sides. Here one side has remained silent and is at the receiving end," he quoted Bangladeshi writer Salam Azad. "From Shamsur Rahman to Salam Azad, Jahanara Imam to Taslima Nasrin, Kabir Choudhury to Shahriar Kabir, many of the Bangladeshi intellectuals have tried to preserve the ideals of the liberation war, composite Bengali identity and secular credos. In Dhaka, Paila Baisakh is observed as a common festival of all Bengalis irrespective of their religions. But there is another hidden Bangladesh in the hundreds of villages and towns where the divisive forces reign supreme," he said.

However, Bangladeshi researchers like Meghna Guhathakurata of Dhaka University have said that the minority-bashing was the part of the reactionary degeneration of the country's politics. "The Islamisation of politics and public life had already made minorities marginal.Terror is playing an increasing role in politics and social intimidation is part of the power structure. Political elites based in Dhaka behave like absentee landlords. They use their hirelings to plunder underdogs to oil their election machinery and maintain their post-poll fiefdoms. Minorities are the most soft targets," Guhathakurata wrote. The silver lining lies in the unity of the secular minority of the subcontinent against all kinds of majoritianism, agreed the scholars.

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