Survival does not look easy for the minorities, even as Bangladesh claims to conduct ‘democratic’ elections. The Awami League presents itself as a minority-friendly, ‘secular’ political party but its members are often seen persecuting religious minorities in the country. Two such incidents have come to light recently, in the lead up to civic polls in Bangladesh.
Hindus in Bhatbaria village of Sarutia union, Shailkupa upazila, Jhenaidah district were threatened with weapons by the current chairman of the union, candidates for Awami League’s boat symbol and their supporters.
Locals said Subrata Ghosh, son of late school teacher Ranjit Kumar Ghosh, had been campaigning for the pineapple symbol (an Opposition party) for several days. Since then, they have been receiving regular threats. Their house was vandalized a few days ago. The residents of the area are spending their time in panic and apprehension.
On Friday, December 31, at noon, a correspondent for u71news.com visited the area and saw that most of the houses of the Hindu community were without men. On the way, he met Ajit Kumar Ghosh, a retired school teacher. “They never let us stay at home. At night, they are threatening us with domestic weapons. If you don’t vote for the boat, it will bring you a lot of sorrow, they say. If the boat does not pass in this union (election), then I will not be able to stay in the country. Where will we go in this old age?” Ghosh lamented.
Mahmudul Hasan Mamun, the candidate for the boat symbol, denied all the allegations and called it a ‘conspiracy’. In this regard, Shailkupa Circle SP Amit Kumar Barman said, the matter is very sad. We will quickly investigate and bring the culprits under the law.
In another instance, Helal Uddin Helali, contesting on Awami League’s ticket for the Fansiakhali Union Parishad election in Chakaria upazila of Cox’s Bazar district, alleged that the voters from the minority community in his union have been intimidated and threatened against voting for him by some leaders of the Awami League itself.
Helal Uddin Helali has made the above allegations by tendering a written complaint as well as making an oral statement at the chief election office on Wednesday, December 22. Helal claims Gias Uddin and his associates are going door to door and campaign for his younger brother Nasir Uddin, who is contesting as an independent candidate with the election symbol of a motorcycle.
Hindus and Buddhists living in various wards of the Fansiakhali Union are being intimidated by Gias Uddin and his followers, who have also been accused of tormenting religious minorities in the past.
In an earlier report, we have detailed how the Bangladesh Awami League has given the election ticket to Selina Hayat Ivy Rahman, the incumbent mayor of Narayanganj City Corporation, to contest in the City Corporation election despite multiple accusations of grabbing acres of temple land by exercising the political influence brought up against her.
Last October, PM Sheikh Hasina’s party had also given tickets to two leaders from Brahmanbaria district — charged by police with vandalising and attacking Hindu houses and temples in Nasirnagar upazila in 2016 — for chairman posts in the union parishad (UP) polls to be held on November 11.
Dewan Atikur Rahman was the incumbent chairman of Haripur union while Abul Hashem. held the same post in Nasirnagar sadar union. Atikur Rahman had been named in the case’s chargesheet as the mastermind of the attacks. Hashem was also named in the chargesheet along with 226 others.
The Brahmanbaria attacks took place in October 2016, after Islamists accused a Hindu man for making a ‘blasphemous’ Facebook post. 15 temples and more than 100 Hindu houses were vandalised or set on fire and valuables looted. More attacks took place in the following weeks. Police later found out that the Hindu man who was assaulted and arrested over the Facebook post, did not make the post. Someone had hacked his Facebook ID and made the post.
Police arrested Atikur Rahman on January 5, 2017. The local government ministry suspended him from his post of UP chairman on January 23, 2017. The suspension was withdrawn later and he walked out of jail on bail on November 6, 2017.
Facing severe domestic and international outcry over the anti-Hindu pogrom that broke out in Bangladesh during Durga Puja last year, Awami League backtracked and withdrew nomination of both men. Later, Bangladesh foreign minister dismissed much of the violence as ‘cooked-up stories’.
The main opposition party in Bangladesh, BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party), led by the jailed Khaleda Zia has an even worse record when it comes to persecution of minorities. BNP is allied with radical Islamists of Jamaat-e-Islami and unleashed horrific barbarity whenever they came to power. But the truth is that Awami League is only superficially better – most of their cadre and leaders too nurse the same bigoted Islamist worldview and regularly prey on Hindus and other minorities.
As Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, declared after yet another pogrom in Gopalganj district in November, 2019: “It turns out that the Awami League wants an exclusively Muslim country. As I said before and still say, Sheikh Hasina has a secret conspiracy in order to establish Shariah law. I urge the international community to come and visit. Only then will you understand how the government plans to expel Hindus, Buddhists and Christians from the country!”