Bangladeshi Panorama

Who are the Minorities?

Badruddin Umar

The emergence of a communal situation in Bangladesh is very much essential for the ruling party of India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and their parental organizanition, Rashtriya Sawamsevak Sangha (RSS). They need it just in order to fortify their position as extremist communal outfits. Hence, even if what is known as communalism is non-existent in Bengal, the BJP has been trying to create such a situation in an extremely planned manner. According to a newspaper report, (Pratham Alo, 01.06.2016), Arun Halder, leader of a delegation touring in Bengaladesh and a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP, recently told the BBC in an interview that 'many Hindus in Bangladesh had told them that they were feeling insecure in Bangladesh and the Hindus of Bangladesh were now mentally shaky.' Mr Halder also told that they would apprise Modi of this attitude on the part of Bangladeshi Hindus.' Arun Halder further said,' Some time ago, a headmaster of Hindu faith was made to kneel down with his hands on his ears. Besides, isolated reports of oppression came from different places. Still we thought that they were sporadic events. But now thousands of people are saying the same thing.'

There is no doubt that such talks are entirely untrue and are aimed at inciting communal violence, because in reality, there is no such oppression on the Hindus in Bangladesh. The anarchy and deterioration of the law and order situation that prevails in the country has been conducive to the oppression of the people irrespective of community. Their security is endangered and many are kidnapped and killed by the Awami League and those owing allegiance to their government. Among them, the number of Muslims is larger, because they form the vast majority among different religious communities. But Hindus too form a part of the population, about 9 to 10 %. Hence, as a part of the people, they are also hurt by the oppression of the people by the official and non-official criminals. Yet it should be pointed out that their number in proportion to the total Hindu population is not much. But what is noteworthy here is that when Muslims are harmed, or even killed, in much larger numbers nobody says that Muslims are hurt or that the Muslim community is attacked. But if a Hindu becomes a victim, some persons sing in chorus that 'Hindus' are oppressed. But in actual fact, this oppression is not due to their Hindu identity. Those who are grabbing others lands, looting houses and oppressing the people, are criminals-thieves, dacoits and abductors-not communal miscreants. Their aggressiveness does not have anything to do with communalism or particularly, oppression of the Hindus. But in Bangladesh, a handful of persons having linked with the Indian intelligence branch and extremely communal persons like an important Hindu Awami League leader are talking in this vein. If Arun Halder, on the occasion of a religious ceremony in Madaripur, really heard such protestations, those who protested were communal Hindus like that Awami League leader, not ordinary Hindus of this country. In that event, he had no opportunity to listen to such talks from "thousands of Hindus'. These are planned and false communal propaganda, in which the BJP is particularly adept.

Long since, the BJP has been trying to incite religious communalism in Bangladesh in various ways. Some time ago, Mr Tathagata Ray, one time president of the West Bengal unit of the BJP (now promoted to the post of governor), came to Bangladesh and held meetings in some places including the Dhakeswari Temple. In a meeting held in the Temple premises, Mr Suranjit Sengupta, one of the major leaders of the Awami League, argued that the BJP was not a communal party and that it was indulging in communal talks just for tactical reasons. Can there be a more ill-conceived communal argument? And the speaker here is a person who, ensconced in the shelter of the Awani League, is the owner of much property and riches, as well as the scam of embezzlement of railway funds. As a matter of fact, it is such corrupt persons of the Hindu community, not the ordinary Hindus that continue to propagate various lies about communalism in Bangladesh.

Mr Arun Halder has mentioned the persecution of a 'Hindu' headmaster. But the headmaster was persecuted not because he was a Hindu, because many Muslims are also persecuted by rogues in this fashion. This has no relation with communalism. But although Mr Halder has committed a piece of mendacity by calling this act communal, he has done a greater wrong. He has completely suppressed the fact of countrywide protests by students and teachers of schools, colleges and universities as well as by intellectuals and common men. Among these protesters, 95 % are Muslims by faith.

As said earlier, to propagate that religious communalism is getting stronger in Bangladesh is necessary for the BJP in order to give legitimacy to their own communalism before the Indian people. They are trying every possible means in this direction.

Now another issue dealing with the minorities may be taken up. In Bangladesh there are not only religious minorities, but national and linguistic minorities also. But now only the Hindus are meant as minorities, and by minorities' problem, only the problems of the people of the Hindu community are meant. Here it should be kept in mind that in Bangladesh one type of national chauvinism dominates from the very beginning. This national chauvinism is Bengali nationalism. It is from this nationalistic position that in 1972, Sheikh Mujib told the Chakma leader Manabendra Larma, who was also a member of the Parliament, that there is no identity in Bangladesh that can be called a national minority, and hence there is no question of special rights for such minorities. Not only that, he asked them to become Bengalis. The way Sheikh Mujib wanted the national minorities like the Chakmas meant that the Bengalis were sole rulers of Bangladesh. Hindus form a part of these Bangladesh. Although they are minorities from the point of view of religion, they belong to the majority nationality. It should be kept in mind that if there is something like the rule of Muslims in Bangladeh, more important is the rule of Bengalis. In this respect, there is scarcely any difference among parties like the Awami League, the BNP and the Jatiya Party. All of them stand in opposition to the interests of the various minority nationalities of Parvatya Chattagram and other national minorities like Santal, Garo, Hajong, Rakhaine etc. All of them, in order to retain their privileges, are habitual oppressors of these national minorities and the Urdu-speaking non-Bengali minorities. Till today, they have not behaved in a friendly way with any of these identities, and have turned a blind eye to the advantages of the latter. Besides, the exploitation and oppression they are subjected to everywhere in Bangladesh are perpetrated by Bengali Hindus and Muslims together, cutting across the barriers of religion. In this respect, the Hindus have a special position among the minorities. In a class-divided society, any minority identity has some disadvantages, and the Hindus of Bangladesh too have them. But they are of minor importance, because they are minorities on one hand, and as a national majority community, form a part of the Bengali ruling classes. Those who cry themselves hoarse over communal repression of the Hindus in Bangaladesh should be mindful to these phenomena, but they deliberately run a blind eye. The reason is that indifference and silence on this issue is beneficial to their vested interests.

Reports of indescribable torture on national minorities like Santal, Garo, Hajong, Rakhaine, Urdu-speaking Beharis, Chakma, Marma, Tripara etc are scarecely found in newspapers and television channels. Yet the silent oppression is endless. Displacement and even killings are regular events. The reason is that they are non-Bengalis and much poorer. Besides, a small happening against the Hindus creates much heat and campaign in the strong state of India, and threats are issued to the Government of Bangladesh. But nothing like that happens in case of such national and linguistic minorities. A few months ago, during the slum-clearing campaign in Mirpur in the presence of the local MP and the police, ten Beharis of a refugee camp were confined to a room and burnt to death, but the local Pallabi police station refused to file a case. No remedy of it has as yet been made. It is needless to point out what reaction would have been generated throughout the whole of India had any Hindu house would have been attacked and then burnt alive. Hindus form nine to ten percent of the population of Bangladesh, but their representation in jobs is not less than that; rather it may be somewhat more. Besides, in many cases, these Hindus are in high positions in the state and private sectors. Their position is also very much to be seen in cultural pursuits, e.g. music, drama, films, literature, propaganda media, politics etc. Their status is honourable in all spheres of the society. This can hardly be seen in case of other national and linguistic minorities. Yet by minority in Bangladesh, only the Hindus are meant and by oppression of the minorities, only the oppression of the Hindus is suggested. Can there be a grosser perversion of truth? It is necessary to stand against this untruth and highlight the real minorities problem, the problem of those minorities who are not religious minorities (Hindus). They are national, ethnic and linguistic minorities, particularly Santals, Garos, Rakhaines, Hajongs, spread all over the country and about fortyfive minority non-Bengali nationalities including thirteen nationalities of Parvatya Chattagram.

[05.05.2016, Jugantar)
[Translated from original Bengali by Anirban Biswas]

Vol. 48, No. 52, Jul 3 - 9, 2016