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Monday, May 29, 2023

Beaten, humiliated, killed: Hindu teachers are on Islamist radar in Bangladesh

Back in 2016, Hindu teacher Ripon Chakravorty was attacked by knife-wielding radicals at his doorstep. Earlier Islamist fundamentalist groups used to carry out these attacks. These days the students of Hindu teachers have taken up this task. Hridoy Chandra Mandal, a science teacher, is one of the latest victims of this conspiracy. He was arrested for allegedly insulting the Quran and Muhammed in one of his classes.

A class four student had filed the complaint. Another Hindu teacher, Dharani Kanta Barman, serving as the headmaster of Daul Barbakpur High School in Mohadevpur, was sent to jail over a hijab-related misunderstanding. In another incident, the acting principal of Mirzapur United College in Narail, Swapan Kumar Biswas, was forced to wear a garland of shoes by a mob of Muslim students for an alleged “insult to Islam”. In the most recent and horrific incident last month, Hindu teacher Utpal Kumar Sarker was beaten to death by a class 10 student of Haji Yunus Ali School and College in Savar. 

Life was never easy for the Hindus in Bangladesh. But to everyone’s surprise, the living conditions of the Hindus have only deteriorated during Sheikh Hasina’s administration. It is widely acknowledged that the liberal-minded Hasina government would bring some respite for the religious minorities. However, in the garb of the new Digital Security Act, a new and institutionalized attack has been launched on the Hindus in Hasina’s reign.

Hindus in the teaching profession have become the new target of Islamists in the villages and towns of Bangladesh. It is worth pointing out that Hindus still hold key positions as teachers in schools and colleges in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. This is both a fact and a case of envy. It is a fact that Hindus still excel in education and academics.

Most of the women in the Muslim community are under-educated and are homemakers. Though Hindu women form only 7% of the Women population, they have a more significant presence in the education sector and work as teachers. After the 1947 partition, the Hindu majority migrated to Bharat as the country became East Pakistan.

Yet, 80 percent of the students in the school were from Hindu families. Eighty percent of the teachers were also Hindus. Following the Hindu Massacre in 1984-85, another large section of educated Hindu classes left the country, and the classrooms were rendered almost empty. Sixty percent of teachers were missing also.

Even after 50 years of liberation from Pakistan, the Muslims of this country lagged in terms of education. However, the marginalized section of Hindus remaining in Bangladesh continued to flourish in this area. As it is evident in recent times, these educated Hindus have become the target of Islamist ire. Even Hindu leaders and activists of the Awami League are not being spared.

Hindu teachers of schools and professors of colleges are randomly accused of blasphemy, insulting Islam or the Prophet of Islam, and are being arrested in Bangladesh. The Police are arresting the accused in a fit of rage and framing them under the digital security act. Investigations show that in most cases, the victim had not made comments on Islam or Muhammad; someone made them from a fake ID.

Even after the truth is revealed, the Hindu victims’ names are not cleared from the registers. Rasraj or Titu Roy are still being harassed by the Bangladesh administration despite the proof of him being a victim of fake ID in the investigation. The fact that this country is only for Muslim Bengalis is constantly being reminded to the non-Muslim Bengalis and the indigenous people belonging to hill tribes.

The government has remained silent on this rise of fundamentalist Islamist forces. In most cases, the local government party leaders and activists lead the agenda against the Hindus by framing fake blasphemy charges. Encouraged by this silence, the Islamist conspiracy against Hindu educators is catching momentum in all parts of the country.

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