Post –poll violence on Hindu minorities: A Shame for the country

Post –poll violence on Hindu minorities: A Shame for the country

The inhuman violent attack on the minority Hindu community after the 10th parliamentary elections is a shame for the country because neither the majority community nor the law-enforcing agencies could protect them. Their only fault was they casted votes in the election.

Immediately after the elections on 5th January, it is reported that the houses and business establishments of the Hindu community were looted and burnt in different areas including Jessore, Satkhira, Chittagong, Dinajpur and Thakurgaon. Temples were also desecrated

It is reported that most of the Hindu families who had been attacked have sent their young female members to relatives’ homes elsewhere fearing more attacks on them.

The AL and BNP reportedly accused each other of attacking the minorities and common people are confused and therefore culprits irrespective of parties should be identified first through a fair investigation and punished.

The safety of minorities should be above politics. Some observers allege supporters of rival defeated candidates could be responsible for such attacks because the Hindu community voted for the winning candidate while others allege that land-grabbing by some quarters could also be the motive of such violence. Another reason arguably appears to be the absence of the rule of law and culture of impunity for the crime-perpetrators in the past.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised to arrest all those involved in the recent attacks on the minority community. The government has decided to try the cases under the Speedy Trial Tribunals.

Different civil society organizations from 7th January continue to express deep concern and resentment over the attacks on minority communities and demanded ‘exemplary punishment’ to the people involved in the attacks through establishment of special tribunals

The National Human Rights Commission said the government has failed to prevent attacks on Hindus after the January 5 elections. “The minorities are being tortured across the country. The state and government are responsible for securing their lives and property,” NHRC Chairman Mizanur Rahman said on 8th January. He added “The government is yet to take any effective step.”

Rahman asked the government to give exemplary punishment to those committing atrocities. Later on 9th January he visited Keshabpur area in Jessore and assured the victims of their safety.

Many believe that law-enforcing authorities, deployed during the election time, should have been alert enough to protect the minorities given the past background of violence on minorities after elections and they failed in such situations.

Security of minorities involves the active role of local bodies, communities and parties and they also failed. This is a bad omen for the society in not securing their safety.

It is reported that the judicial commission that probed the 2001 post-polls violence submitted the report in April 2011 to the Home Minister and the former president of the commission reportedly said that “ no recommendation has been implemented yet. Had our recommendation been implemented the post-poll violence would not have returned”

Bangladesh Constitution in its Articles 27 and 28 under the chapter of fundamental rights state that all citizens are equal before law and the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of “religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.” Article 31 states about the fundamental right to protection of law and no action “detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person” shall be taken except in accordance with law.

It is noted the territory known as Bangladesh was ruled by Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim kings before British colonized and ruled this territory (East Bengal). All people including children and young, irrespective of faiths, meet socially, join and enjoy the festivities of all faiths and this culture has been ingrained in the blood of people like a golden thread from time immemorial.

Bangladesh is a secular, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual state and it has an impressive record of communal harmony. It has been history, political, cultural and social deep commitment of people .civil society and political leaders to create an environment where all people of Bangladesh exhibited tolerance to people of all faiths and lived peacefully.

Bangladesh is the only the Muslim majority whose all and near neighbours are non-Muslim majority countries. Interaction of Bangladesh with them has been excellent politically and culturally.

Building a positive image or reputation takes years but such horrible incidents destroy the image of Bangladesh and cannot be restored easily. It will take years to get trust from the minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Buddhist communities..

To restore the trust of minorities, some conduct of the majority community deserves mention: (a) one or two minute silence be observed by all citizens to show repentance and solidarity with the Hindu community,(b) a parliamentary delegation consisting of minority MPs may visit the area and (c) quick construction burnt houses, temples and compensation for the business establishments are to be undertaken..

There is also external implication for Bangladesh. In India, BJP on 8th January expressed concern over the continued attacks on Hindus in the post-election violence in Bangladesh On the same day, India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon reportedly telephoned Bangladesh PM and expressed concern on the attack. The Muslims could be under attack by Hindu extremists in India. Another fall-out could be that at the forum of UN agencies including the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, Bangladesh is likely to be on a weaker voice diplomatically because of such communal violence in the country.

The attack on the Hindu community is contrary to the spirit of the War of Liberation of 1971 where all Bengalis united fought against the occupation forces. It is most unfortunate that even after 42 years of country’s independence, the religious minorities still fear attacks.

We sincerely apologise to the Hindu community and please forgive us. To forgive we have to tell them no such hate attacks will ever occur again and provide exemplary punishment to the perpetrators through the Speedy Trial Tribunals.

Finally let me conclude by quoting below our national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam who in 1920, expressed his vision of religious harmony in an editorial in Joog Bani,

“Come brother Hindu! Come Musalman! Come Buddhist!

Come Christian! Let us transcend all barriers, let us forsake

forever all smallness, all lies, all selfishness and let us call

brothers as brothers. We shall quarrel no more.”

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

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