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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

NGO ‘Bidyanondo Foundation’ feeding poor during Covid-19 hounded over “Hindu” name and Hindu founder – Bangladesh

Kishore Kumar Das, founder of Bidyanondo Foundation, a voluntary organisation in Bangladesh that has been lauded for its work in feeding needy during the coronavirus pandemic and in providing education to underprivileged children, is under attack on social media.

The attacks against Kishore and propaganda against the organisation become so personal and intense, that he was forced to announce his resignation as chairperson. However, the executive committee of Bidyanondo did not accept Kishore’s resignation and he has now retracted his earlier decision.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Kishore said, “I decided to resign following personal attacks against me on social media, due to my religious affiliations. But later I realized that it would negatively impact the foundation’s campaign and activities.”

Kishore is a graduate from Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET) and founded Bidyanondo Foundation in 2013. Currently, he is working in an IT company and living abroad, from where he steers the organisation.

Bidyanondo has been widely praised in Bangladesh for their work for the betterment of underprivileged children, fighting against hunger and social taboos. It has been feeding the underserved through a project titled “Ek takay ahar” (Food at Tk 1). Kishore dreams of a world where no child would suffer and no one would go to sleep with an empty stomach.

After the coronavirus situation started unfolding, the foundation became even more active and started supplying food for the needy, spraying disinfectant in public vehicles and other areas of Dhaka,feeding street dogs and carrying out a multitude of activities that earned them praise from all quarters of society.

However, the good work Bidyanondo Foundation did was called into question by certain religious quarters upset with the seemingly “non-Muslim” sounding name. For the last two years, activists of the organization have been subjected to attacks on social media based on its name and the founder’s religious affiliations, insiders said.

Through a Facebook post, Bidyanondo Foundation was forced to clarify that the foundation’s name was given by a brand expert with the slogan of “Learning with fun”.

An opinion piece titled ‘Bidyanondo should not have to defend itself’ written by a Bangladeshi Muslim, Tanim Ahmed, Founder and CEO of Omnispace, lists out some of the ridiculous allegations hurled at Bidyanondo and its founder –

“First it was said that their cheap meals were laced with sedatives to put children to sleep and traffic them. Of course, that did not stick.

Soon the children found out this was a well-meaning initiative and the food was good and they would practically swarm the food carts. In previous years, their iftar has been said to be laced with cow urine/dung to convert “gullible” Muslims into Hindus. More recent allegations have been even more far-fetched and ludicrous.

It has been said on social media that Bidyanondo is in fact a Hindu missionary (ISKCON) organization funded by India. Even their preparedness for corona outbreak was criticized as a certain indication of nefarious intentions.

It has also been said that through Bidyanondo’s efforts to collect zakat and distribute it to the poor, these Hindu missionaries are collecting these precious funds and smuggling them into India. People have remarked on social media platforms whether the iftar basket from this apparently “Hindu” organization would in fact be acceptable before the Muslim almighty.

There are strings of comments and remarks on social media questioning the authenticity and true intention of a Hindu organization being charitable, solely because it has a Bengali name and a founder who is said to be a Hindu.”

Ahmed rightly concludes –

“…points to the growing religious intolerance among Bangladeshis. It is becoming obvious that Bangladesh is increasingly becoming a country of “Muslims” only, where people of other faiths will become second-class citizens while others like atheists and maybe even Ahmadiyyas will be hounded down. “

But how deeply the Islamic bigotry has taken roots in the country is inadvertently revealed by the well-meaning Tanim Ahmed when he says, “..the charity founder, who happens to have a Hindu name (whether Kishor Kumar Das is a practising Hindu is another matter)..”

So if Kishore Kumar Das were indeed a practising Hindu, would it justify the attacks he and his organisation have been facing? We believe this Freudian slip is indicative of how deeply the anti-Hindu rhetoric has seeped in Muslim societies; the demonization of Hindu Dharma as “oppressive, superstitious and usurious”, followers of which needed to be rescued by the “egalitarian, just and charitable” religion of Islam, has entered deep in the sub-conscious mind of many educated, progressive Muslims too.

A country where Muslim population is over 90% and growing, where Islam is the state religion, is still so insecure about losing its Muslim-ness that an organisation which just happens to be founded by a Hindu, but which still uses Islamic concept of zakat (charitable contribution) to motivate people to donate for its programs and which runs its strongest program during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan, is being hounded for not being Muslim enough!

The writing on the wall is clear – Awami League might be better for Bharat geopolitically, but within Bangladesh the ‘secular’ party is just a lighter shade of green compared to the openly Islamist BNP-JeI alliance. No party can go against the direction its majority decides to take. The relentless persecution of Bangladeshi Hindus will continue regardless of who is in power – and the over 2 lakh Bangladeshi Hindus who seek refuge in Bharat every year will continue fleeing.

One idea that Bharat’s policy makers should ponder, if there are any clear-sighted, Hindu-minded policy makers in our establishment i.e., is a total population transfer of Bangladeshi Hindus and the roughly 2 crore illegal Bangladeshi Muslims living in Bharat. Of course, the necessary precursor to any such proposal would be to end the charade of secularism and openly declare Bharat as a Hindu nation – as the natural homeland of oppressed Hindus and other Dharmics wherever in the world they might be.

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