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What you can do about the recent atrocities against the Hindu & Santal community in Bangladesh

 

The situation of religious minorities, violence against Hindus  and atrocities on Santal indigenous people has not changed or improved in Bangladesh. Since late October, government has hardly acted against the identifiable  criminals and to prevent atrocities against Santals and Hindu minorities – let alone rehabilitation of the people who were faced with genocide in their ancestors’ land.  We stand with the victims and survivors in Santal villages. We echo the voices of Hindu victims and support the Santal resilence. We call upon everyone to take action by following the advice of our friends at Secular Bangladesh Movement and Swadhinota Trust. Below is a call out for action that we reproduced from Swadhinota Trust listserve, issued on 10 Dec 2016 World Human Rights Day by the Swadhinata Trust, Nirmul Committee with the support of the Network of Social Change.

 

Hunger Strike outside Bangladesh High Commission in London, 23 November 2016. Photocredict: Atish D Saha

 

We are extremely concerned at the recent atrocities against Hindu community in Brahmanbaria in October and against Santals in Gaibandha in November. These attacks have provoked new fears amongst minority religious communities in Bangladesh.

It is beyond the capacity of the small groups of individuals or communities under sustained attack to assert their rights against very powerful political movements and land grabbers. We therefore need political, moral and, most importantly, immediate financial support from people from across the world who are concerned about this terrifying situation. We hope the vision of a common humanity will prevail over this terrible situation and that help reaches the beleaguered victims as soon as possible.

Things you can do to support

 

Speak out about the plight of religious minorities of Bangladesh with friends, families, neighbours and colleagues to increase awareness

Write to

 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister’s Office

Old Sangsad Bhaban

Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215

Bangladesh

Via facsimile: +880 2 8113244; +880 2 8111015

your local MP, urging the UK govt to take the issue up with Bangladesh government http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/

 

 

Contact lobbying organisations

Amnesty International

1 Easton Street, London, WC1X 0DW

Email: contactus@amnesty.org

Telephone: +44-20-74135500

Fax number: +44-20-79561157

Twitter: @Amnestyonline

 

Human Rights Watch

Audrey House
16 -20 Ely Place
London
EC1N 6SN
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7618 4700
https://www.hrw.org/contact-our-office-london

 

Support organisations working in Bangladesh

Secular Bangladesh Movement UK
Unit 1, Ground Floor Retail Unit, Fondant Court, Payne Road , London E3 2SP United Kingdom
Mobile:0044 7737828922
Nirmul Committee

International Forum for Secular Bangladesh, UK

iforum.secularbd@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/groups/173829836415586/

Swadhinata Trust

International Centre for Community Development

Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities

London Metropolitan University

166/220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB

admin@swadhinata.org.uk www.swadhinata.org.uk

Issued on 10 Dec 2016 World Human Rights Day by the Swadhinata Trust, Nirmul Committee with the support of the Network of Social Change

 


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Memorandum of Hunger Strike for the Prevention of Violence against Minorities in Bangladesh

A symbolic one-day hunger strike held outside Bangladesh High Commission-in London on 23 Nov 2016. Photo credit: Atish D Saha

A symbolic one-day hunger strike held outside Bangladesh High Commission-in London on 23 Nov 2016. Photo credit: Atish D Saha

 

 

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.

 

A delegation of hunger strikers led by Pushpita Gupta of Secular Bangladesh Movement, UK, handed over a copy of the manifesto to Bangladesh High Commissioner in London on 23 Nov 2016. Photo credit: Atish D Saha

A delegation of hunger strikers led by Pushpita Gupta of Secular Bangladesh Movement, UK, handed over a copy of the  memorandum to Bangladesh High Commissioner in London on 23 Nov 2016. Photo credit: Atish D Saha

 

 

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

#HungerStirkeforthePreventionofViolenceAgainstMinorities #JusticeForIndigenousPeople

 

Pushpita Gupta – a community women’s blog member and representative of minority rights hunger strikers stood with a placard for Santal people outside Bangladesh High Commission in London on Wednesday 23 November 2016. Photo credit: Atish D Saha

The last hunger strikers outside Bangladesh High Commission in London in black masks light candles for victims of violence against minority Santal people in Bangladesh in the evening of 23 November 2016. Photo credit: Atish D Saha

The last hunger strikers outside Bangladesh High Commission in London in black masks light candles for victims of violence against minority Santal people in Bangladesh in the evening of 23 November 2016. Photo credit: Atish D Saha

Media contact:

Ansar Ahemed Ullah: +44 7956 890689, philipchand@hotmail.com

Ms Pushpita Gupta, Convenor of Secular Bangladesh Movement, UK:pushpitagupta@gmail.com

Dr Rumana Hashem , Spokesperson of Community Women’s Blog: +44 7936 047597, rowshonrumana@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunger Strike outside Bangladesh High Commission in London, 23 November 2016. Photocredict: Atish D Saha

Hunger Strike outside Bangladesh High Commission in London, 23 November 2016. Photo credict: Atish D Saha


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Minorities, Why can’t you be like us?

By Piya Mayenin 

 

Extreme views have seen deaths of  freethinkers in Bangladesh since 2013. Over the last few years news of Hindus and Buddhists and their temples and shrines being attacked in Bangladesh has also dominated Bangladeshi and even international newspapers. Earlier this year a shocking atrocity where foreigners and foreign born children of Bangladeshi citizens were hacked to death in a café in ISIS fashion killings is perhaps the most chilling and terrifying of its sort to ever happen in Bangladesh.  From the onset of Hindu Diwaali  this year news of temples and idolatries destroyed dominated newspapers once again. Then, last week  was the news of a young man  that has allegedly shared a face book post that some believe has denigrated the Masjid- Al-Haram, the great mosque of Makka, a holy site for Muslims.

 

Islamic group protesters gathered in Nasirnagar in protest and demanded the death of this young man who was hurting religious sentiments.  The young man denied sharing this post and the police arrested him.  However, this did not quell the angry mobs who were given permission to gather repeatedly. They gathered and used mosque loudspeakers to gather more and more people. They attacked Hindu people with sharp weapons including Hindu priests, burned down Hindu homes in the Brahmanbaria district of Eastern Bangladesh temples and idolatries were broken down throughout many parts of Bangladesh from Nasirnagar to Chattak.  It is reminiscent of 2012 when 25000 Muslim rioters burned Buddhist temples. It has been reported that the current and ongoing attacks in Hindu homes and Hindu temples has seen over 17 temples and 100 homes burned across Bangladesh. Some claim it is as much as 300 homes.

 

The shocking part for me was the news that a Minister allegedly reacted to this young man by publicly saying something equivalent to ‘get those Malauns‘. I have not read that report however I have read many media defending the Minister  stating that members of the Awami League ( Ruling party in Bangladesh) had stated that it is perhaps a word he used in private not in public. I have also read reports of the Minister stating ‘I will resign if anyone can prove I have said Malaun‘.  I believed this Minister has said this and in protest of this ongoing attacks on Hindu population in Bangladesh I changed my profile ID to a slogan ‘Ami Malaun‘, meaning I am a malaun in support of friends, brothers sisters of Bangladeshi origin who have been subject to these atrocious and this slur word throughout their lifetime.  Since then another thing that has happened is that I have had unsolicited approach from unknown people (who were on my face book list but not known to me personally) telling me to ‘Take it off’ and that I ‘should be mature about it’. On seeing the same message on my ID, I replied there that it was in protest of what the Minister allegedly said and even if he didn’t it was in support of this ongoing hatred against the decreasing Hindu population of Bangladesh since 1975. However I continued to get private in-box messages that were ‘educating me’ from the same individual and others who were asking me if I knew what Malaun meant and that I should take it down without asking my reasons for putting it up in the first place.

religious-persecution-following-minister-of-animal-well-being-called-hindus-name-malaun-4-nov-2016-jpg-3-source-ajanta-deb-roy

Religious persecution following the comments of Minister of animal well-being, who called Hindus as 'malaun'. Source Ajanta Deb Roy

Religious persecution following the comments of Minister of animal well-being, who called Hindus as ‘malaun’. Source Ajanta Deb Roy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a human being,  I felt it was utterly disrespectful the tone and manner of ‘educating’ me. As a mother of three, two that are teenagers and as an educated individual, I found it alarming, surprising and patronising. As a woman I knew that a large male population feel that they are entitled to educate the woman,  the lesser being,  in this patronising manner.

 

If I was approached respectfully I would have had the mindset to communicate the following:

The word Malaun is a term derived from Arabic which means ‘accursed’  or ‘deprived of God’s mercy’.  It is commonly used by Bangladeshi Muslims and Muslims of Bengal to ethnically slur a Hindu.  If this is said by a Minister of a Country, be it in a slip of tongue or to incite violence then it must be protested.

 

There are some who suggest that this is a manipulation by the current government in order to create tensions and communal violence, while it flies over my head why any government would do that we should remember that attacks on minorities in South Asian countries are not unknown and religious sentiments are incensed to provoke atrocities on minorities. In Bangladesh Hindus are the second largest religion although only 8% of the population. Further please recall the communal violence that has a history of thousands of years in these countries.

 

Initially the invaders brought trade and the spread of Islam to Hindu and Buddhist region, not to mention the other tribal religions that existed and still exist in those regions.  Then invasion in a  the temples of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh when Mahmud of Ghazni came down the Indus plains from Afghanistan and plundered Hindu temples of  gold jewellery and money. By 1024 he  returned and went all the way to somnaath, now known as Gujrat and plundered more with feeble resistance from Hindus who thought that the lord Shiva had punished them. According to historians 50,000 Hindus were killed and temples were destroyed to the ground.  Then came the Muizzu’Din of Turkey in 12th century and the Delhi sultanate in the 13th century and Tughluqs in the 14th, and Timur in 1398 who is said to have seen 5 million deaths. Other names not to forget in Bengal is Alauddin Khilji the early 13th century and Hazrat Shahjalal from Delhi who arrived in Sylhet in 1303 with 360 disciples. A dispute with Gaur Gabindh created a fight which he won. The tensions continued in the Mughal era being the descendants of Timur and Genghis Khan. It was the 16th century Akber the Great who brought a long and ushered Golden Age. He married a Hindu princess and appointed Hindu ministers and this golden era was somewhat undone by Aurangazeb 1658- 1707.  However, even during these times Hindus and the growing Muslim population managed to live, on the whole, harmoniously. It is reported by Indian psychoanalyst and author Sudhir Kakur that ‘It was a multicultural co-existence rather than any merger into a single, composite culture.’  I explain that as Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists and other religions were getting along with each other and accepting each others ethnic similarities and their religious differences.

 

The modern violence and it must be said that no other violence that flared up was the one that did during the British rule in India.  Despite of Mahatma Ghandi’s attempt to unite, the demand to split up Pakistan and India on the basis of religion from Mohammed Ali Jinnah giving it a two state solution was never a solution as communal violence continued between India and Pakistan. What more West Pakistan  which was over a 10000 miles away from East Pakistan and very intolerant and non accepting of Bengali people who were culturally linguistically different. Bengali’s had a history and language of thousands of years and thus were not ‘Muslim’ enough and not clean enough for the rulers of Pakistan based on religion. This was the backdrop of the independence of East Pakistan which is now Bangladesh.

 

The point of this extremely brief history is that this attitude has not changed. Generation after generation an inherent ignorance and hatred of each others’ religion has continued. The same loot and attacks over religious rhetoric. It is astonishing that large groups are given permission to gather in this way in full knowledge of communal violence of south Asia and which is increasingly happening in Bangladesh. A Hindu person commented that even in 1971 Nasirnagar was a safe place for Hindus.

 

It is the responsibility of the leaders of a nation to change this rhetoric and to change this scene and to change it now. It does not happen overnight but the permission to gather over communal rows must be stopped. It is despicable that a Minister is implicated in all this and that is why whether he said it or not he should resign. The use of slurring word such as ‘malaun’  must be banned and a fine imposed so that eventually people learn to live within the law.

 

History of other developed nations has demonstrated that within time peoples attitudes and vision change. Allowing communal tensions to fester and giving in to violence is an easy and an extremely dangerous option which is hovering over the head of every Bangladeshi person especially Hindus.

 

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 nation is one where it is fine to be different. Every evil in the Human world seems to stem from the intolerance of difference which often renders injustice to the minorities. When it is truly learned in Bangladesh that progressive nations work toward harmony though allowing everyone to live under the rule of Law with their own beliefs and with equal dignity.

 

Ends.

 

The author is a solicitor, a women’s rights activists and a member of community women’s blog who speak for the rights of all community women and men.