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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Majority-Minority issues in South Asia, and only Hindus lack state support

South Asia, which is defined in both geographical and ethno-cultural terms, consists of 8 countries, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bharat, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. It has a total population, according to Wikipedia is currently approximately 1.95 billion of which, roughly 1.26 billion are Hindus and 556 million are Muslims

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC is the regional intergovernmental organization of states in South Asia. Its member states are those 8 countries and it was formed on 8 December 1985. Out of those 8 countries, the majority population of Bharat and Nepal are Hindus, but these countries consider themselves secular (there is no official religion).

On the other hand, the majority of the population in Pakistan, Maldives, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh are Muslims and each and every one of these countries have declared their state religion to be Islam. The two other countries – Sri lanka is a republic with Tharaveda Buddhism as the official religion, and Bhutan is a monarchy with Mahayana Buddhism as the state religion.

There are no countries in South Asia where Christians are substantial in population, however, Bharat has four states with dominant Christian population: Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh. Besides these, the states of Goa, Kerala, Manipur, and Andaman Nicobar Islands have significant Christian presence.

In Bangladesh, only 0.3% of population are Christians, but they are well organized based on local churches and seems to be less persecuted; it might be because of the fact that the world’s powerful democratic country populations are dominantly Christian. Buddhists are persecuted in Bangladesh, but after the attack on Buddhist temples, monasteries, and households in Ramu in 2012 Japan and Sri Lanka came forward to support the reconstruction and there were protests in Sri Lanka in front of Bangladesh Embassy. In contrast, Hindus in are routinely persecuted as they do not have a country to stand by them.

South Asia does not have a country where Hindu Dharma is the official religion. Hindu Dharma used to be the official religion of Nepal until 2007 when it declared itself to be a secular republic. Such action would be unthinkable in a Muslim-dominated country. If anything, the reverse is true. After its birth in 1971, Bangladesh proclaimed itself to be a secular country.

Then in 1977, the chapter on secularism was removed from the constitution and in 1988 Islam was declared the state religion. The Bharatiya constitution has enshrined secularism in its preamble and had three Muslim Presidents so far. Election of a Hindu or another religious-minority person to such a high position would be unthinkable in a Muslim country.

Hindus are systematically persecuted and uprooted from all the Muslim-dominated countries of South Asia. There are almost no Hindus in the fabled “Gandhara” of Mahabharata which is the modern-day Afghanistan. Pakistan had 28% Hindus and other non-Muslims in 1947, that number currently stands only about 2%. Bangladesh had a Hindu population of 20% in 1971 and now it is less than 10%.

In 1971, Bangladesh had a population of 75 million with a Hindu population of 15 million. After 50 years, the number of Hindus remained almost the same or less, while the total population ballooned to 180 million. On the other hand, the Muslim population in Bharat was 11% in 1947 while currently it is over 14%.

In Bangladesh, many among the Muslims love to say that the country is 90% Muslim. In their minds this number translates into a meaning that everything in Bangladesh should follow the Islamic tenets. The Government also chimes in by stating openly that the country will run according to ‘Medina Charter’ which falsely guarantees the security of non-Muslims in an Islamic theocratic state. It further declared that and there be no laws against the Quran and Sunnah, which is the tradition and practices of Prophet Muhammаd. So even though Bangladesh claims to be a People’s  Republic for all practical purposes its behavior cannot be distinguished from an Islamic Republic.

Nepal is vastly Hindu majority, but we do not know how many mosques were destroyed there by 82% Hindus? Most probably none! Bharat’s 1.3 billion Hindus destroyed one mosque (controversial Ram Mandir/ Babri Mosque and the court verdict goes in favor of Ram Temple)! On the other side Pakistan destroyed almost all its temples and in Bangladesh you will not find a single large or renowned temple which was not attacked or destroyed or deities desecrated in the last 50 years.

The list includes Dhakeswari Temple and Ramna Kalibari in the capital Dhaka city. Hindu majority Bharat has the largest population of Sikhs and Parsi in the whole world. Hindu majority Bharat has the second largest population of Muslims in the world. Whereas Muslim majority Afghanistan has hardly any Sikhs or Hindus left, while Pakistan has hardly any Parsis and its Sikh, Hindu population is fast dwindling! Numbers tell the reality. Situation is exactly similar with Bangladesh and other Muslim countries too!

It is ironic that when a number of parties want Bharat to be declared a Hindu nation, people around the globe are agitated and protest against such a proposal, but these very people are absolutely silent about the mass expulsion of Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh. When Bharat was divided, Pakistan became a homeland for Muslims only, but Bharat declared itself a secular country for all where Muslims got equal rights. Bangladesh, after a very brief period started to follow the path of Pakistan, and by doing so, it has become a ‘mini-Pakistan’ today, at least with respect to the religious minority population’s demography and persecution.

When the four Muslim dominant countries in South Asia are proud of their majority status, why not Hindus be proud in Bharat and Nepal or Buddhists be proud in Sri Lanka or Bhutan and claim that their countries will run according to their religious scriptures and will emulate Pakistan & Bangladesh in what they did with their religious minority population? Why not Hindus say that we are majority in South Asia, hence everything will go according to our tenets? Question is, do we really want that?

Bangladeshi Hindus are tired of hearing that, “it’s a country of 90% Muslims, and you have no room in this country and go to India”. Bottom line is that, if this majority-minority division becomes much wider, and religious minorities can’t live with honor and dignity in a Muslim dominated country, sooner or later the whole of South Asia will suffer!

For references

Population of Bangladesh is 14.9 crores, 772,364 as per 2011 census. Out of that, 135,394,218 are Muslims, and 12,730,651 are Hindus, 898,635  Buddhists and others. In percentage terms, that constitutes roughly 90% Muslims and 10% others.

Bharat has a population of according to 2011 census Hindus are 79.80% i.e. 96.62 crores, Muslims 14.23% i.e. 17.22 crores, Buddhists 0.70% which is roughly 84.43 lakhs.

Sri Lanka’s 2012 census shows that 70.10% of the population are Buddhists, which is 1.4 crores in number: 12.58% are Hindus or 25.6 lakhs and Muslims 9.66% or 19.6 lakhs.

Bhutan has a total population of 794,009, out of which 84.1% is Buddhist, 11.3% Hindu. According to Wikipedia, Islam has no recognition in Bhutan but has a population of 1% or 7000.

The PEW Research Centre’s Forum on Religion estimates that out of Maldives total population of 3,95,921, Muslims are 98.4% and non-Muslim population is a mere 6335.

Afghanistan is an Islamic republic, in which most citizens follow Islam. Accordingto The World Factbook, Sunni Muslims constitute between 82.7 -89.7% of the population, and Shia Muslims between 10 – 17%, 0.3% follow other minority religions. The current population of Afghanistan is 3.9 crores as per latest United Nations data.

According to the 2011 census, 81.34% of the Nepalese population is Hindu, 9.04% are Buddhist, 4.39% are Muslim, 3.0% are Kiratist (indigenous ethnic religion), 1.4% are Christian, 0.1% are Sikhs, 0.1% are Jains and 0.7% follow other religions or no religion. Total population as of 2019 was 2.8 crores.

According to the 2017 Census, Muslims make up 96.2% of Pakistan’s population, Hindus 1.6%, Christians 1.59%, Scheduled Castes 0.25%, Ahmadis 0.22%, and other minorities 0.07%. Another report says in 2019 Islamic State Pakistan has 96.4% Muslims and 2.14% Hindus of the total population of 21.6 crores.

 Country Hindu Muslim Buddhist
Afghanistan 0 39.46 million 0
Bangladesh 12.7 million 135.39 million 0.89 million
Bhutan 89,723 7000 0.66 million
Bharat 966.2 million 172.2 million 8.4 million
Maldives 0 0.389 million 0
Nepal 23.26 million 1.26 million 2.57 million
Pakistan 4.64 million 208.8 million 0
Sri Lanka 2.5 million 1.9 million 14.2 million
Total (Roughly) 1.26 billion 556 million 26.72 million

-by Sitangshu Guha


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