A spontaneous and well-participated hunger strike against atrocities on and destruction of Santal villages and minority people in Bangladesh, led by Secular Bangladesh Movement UK, was successfully held in front of Bangladesh High Commission in London. The Below statement was handed over to Bangladesh High Commissioner in London on Wednesday, 23rd November 2016 by the hunger strikers for the prevention of violence against minorities and justice for Santal indigenous people in Bangladesh.
We, concerned community members and cultural activists from Bangladeshi-British origin, along with representatives of human rights and indigenous rights organisations and other UK-based civil society members and supporters of peace and humanity, are outraged by the ongoing atrocities against religious minorities and indigenous people in Bangladesh that have been committed by identifiable perpetrators. We strongly condemn the widespread and systematic attacks on Santal and religious minorities in Bangladesh.
Over the past few years news of Hindus and Buddhists and their temples and shrines being attacked in Bangladesh has dominated Bangladeshi and international media. This year the news of atrocities in Santal villages, and attacks on temples and idolatries in Bangladesh started since the onset of Diwaali, an annual religious festival of Hindu communities. Following an allegedly defamatory Facebook post by a Hindu community member who removed the post and apologised rightaway, systematic attacks on Hindu people and Santal villages by hardliner-Muslim protesters, demanding the death of the concerned young man, took a form of ethnic cleansing.
The young man denied sharing the post and was arrested by Bangladeshi police. Nevertheless, the atrocities on Hindu and Santal people continued while authorities appeared as ineffective as silent in relation to prevention of atrocities and prosecution of those responsible for the organised violence against religious minorities in a supposedly secular state.
Hindu people have been persecuted and Santal citizens including Hindu priests in Bangladesh are being attacked, by sharp weapons, over and over. Their homes were burned down, temples and idolatries were broken down, and they were brutally persecuted across countryside of Bangladesh – from Nasirnagar to Chattak. The organised atrocities are similar to 2012 when 2,5000 Muslim rioters burnt Buddhist temples. It has been reported that ongoing attacks on Hindu homes and Hindu temples have seen over 17 temples while hundreds of homes burned across the country. Some claim that over 300 homes were destroyed. Words cannot describe the brutality of organised violence against innocent women and men belonging to Santal and Hindu communities.
Today we stand in solidarity with the victims of the ongoing atrocities in Santal villages. We join this one day ‘hunger strike’ outside Bangladesh High Commission in London because we wish to express our profound concerns about religious violence. We are here because we wish to be heard by the Bangladeshi authorities that this widespread violence cannot be tolerated. We demand the concerned authorities to take immediate action to prevent violence and prosecute those responsible for atrocities. We call upon the Bangladesh High Commissioner to join us in asking the government to take immediate action to prevent violence against religious minorities in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh had been one of the largest democracies in the world, which has a secular (non-religious and non-communal) constitution. Although it has a large Muslim population, it is not only a Muslim country. Along with Muslims, Bangladesh had large number of Hindus, Ahmedias, Buddhists, some Christian population and 45 other indigenous communities who were there when the nation-state was born in 1971. The country is one of the fastest growing economies in South East Asia. It’s fight to be an independent nation-state based on democratic principles of freedom and justice was hard won 45 years ago. We believe Bangladesh will not give this fight up to any religious hardliners.
Religious extremists hate Bangladesh’s secular position and have been trying to destroy the nation’s secular values and space long since. For a country that prides in its secular democratic vision, in practice very little is done to bring about unity and cohesion and tolerance in Bangladesh. A successful secular nation is one where people of different practices should be able to stay safe and in harmony. Every evil in the Human world seems to stem from the intolerance of difference which often renders injustice to the minorities. Bangladesh should be able to overcome intolerance and malevolence. As progressive nations work toward harmony, Bangladeshi administration should work harder to ensure everyone including religious minorities to live in harmony, with their own beliefs and with equal dignity. All perpetrators of religious atrocities in Hindu and Santal villages must be brought under the rule of Law with immediate effect.
We stand with victims of ongoing violence against religious minorities in Bangladesh. This Hunger Strike and Solidarity Vigil has been joined by Bangladeshi community organisations of all cultural, religious and ethnic background. It is time for us to stand united against religious violence. It is time to forget all of our differences. It is time for the concerned authorities to act with honesty and with courage to ensure safety of people and social cohesion. Bangladesh must not fail to confront religious violence. We demand the authorities to act audaciously. The fight for secular values, equality of all, and social cohesion in Bangladesh is necessary to regain our diversity and democracy.
Secular Bangladesh Movement UK and Alliances
Ansar Ahemed Ullah: +44 7956 890689, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms Pushpita Gupta, Convenor of Secular Bangladesh Movement, UK:email@example.com
Dr Rumana Hashem , Spokesperson of Community Women’s Blog: +44 7936 047597, firstname.lastname@example.org