The Hindu population of Bangladesh fell by 0.59 percentage points to 7.95% in 2022 from 8.54% in 2011, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
The BBS unveiled the latest data while releasing the primary report of its first digital ‘Population and Housing Census 2022’ report in Dhaka on Wednesday. According to the 2022 census, Muslim population increased by 0.60 percentage points to 91% from 90.4% in 2011, while Buddhist population fell marginally by 0.01 percentage points to 0.61% from 0.62% in 2011.
Over the past 50 years, the total population of the country has more than doubled, but the Hindu population in Bangladesh has dropped by around 7.5 million (75 lakh) compared to what it should have been based on their percentage at the time of Bangladesh’s creation. The number of Buddhists, Christian and persons of other religions has remained more or less constant.
The 2022 census report mentioned two factors contributed to the fall of Hindu population; the first and foremost is outward migration of Hindu population meaning that they are leaving the country, and the second is lower fertility rate among Hindus. Higher use of birth control contraceptives, higher propensity to not want more than 2 children, not marrying at an early age are some of the reasons for lower reproductive rate among Hindus. Researchers have also found a comparatively higher rate of neonatal mortality among the Hindu community.
What is the reason for the outward migration of Bangladeshi Hindus? After the bloody partition of 1947, East Pakistan still had 22% Hindu population. But that further plummeted due to sustained persecution, frequent pogroms such as the ones in 1950, 1964 and a brutal genocide by the Pakistani Army to ‘cleanse’ East Pakistan of Hindu influence in which 2.4 million Hindus (and 0.6 million Bengali Muslims) were killed and millions fled to Bharat.
All this meant that by the time Bangladesh was formed in 1971, Hindus made up just 13.5% of the population. But despite the new nation being birthed due to intervention of Bharat, attitudes towards Hindus did not change. Their gradual genocide has continued ever since, both under the soft-Islamist regime of PM Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League and the openly Islamist BNP-Jamaat combine.
Professor Abul Barakat of Dhaka University’s department of economics has been researching for over three decades on the economic, social and political reasons behind Hindus leaving the country. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, “No one wants to leave their own motherland, their own hearth and home, to go to another country. It is because of persecution that the Hindus are leaving Bangladesh and that their numbers are fast decreasing. Many of them have lost everything due to the Enemy (Vested) Property Act and have left the country.”
As per Prof. Barakat’s calculation, by 2050 there will be no Hindus left in Bangladesh. It is estimated that a staggering 26 lakh acres of land was snatched away from Bangladeshi Hindus through Vested Property Act and other illegal means between 1965 to 2006.
In 2020, despite the pandemic-induced lockdowns, Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mohajote reported over 40,000 incidents of anti-Hindu violence – 149 killed, 53 raped, 7,036 injured, 2623 forcibly converted, 370 murtis vandalised, 2125 Hindu families either evicted or forced to leave the country (not counting those who were threatened to leave but have resisted till now), 1055 land grabbing cases and much more.
Every few months, there is a major pogrom against Hindus – the latest one happened this month in Narail which left 108 Hindu families of a village staring at an uncertain future. The anti-Hindu violence during last year’s Durga Puja after a fake blasphemy allegation was manufactured by Islamists, affected almost half of the districts of the country and left many Hindus dead, raped or homeless.