Kashmir To Kumilla

Ghosts of Pakistan haunt Everywhere

Shahriar Kabir

Centred around durga puja, the recent attacks on Hindus by the fundamentalists and communal terrorists in different places in Bangladesh, right from Rangpur to Kumilla, is not an accident, nor an isolated event either. Although the long-cherished cultural heritage of Bengalis is characteristically non-communal, there was no dearth of individuals or organisations in the sub-continent, instigating communal disharmony, hatred and conflict between the two religious groups, namely Hindus and Muslims, on various pretexts, at different points in time. Such attempts assumed an institutional form during the British colonial rule.

The policy of divide and rule, devised and followed by the British raj, turned Hindus and Muslims into ultra-Hindus and ultra-Muslims and instigated communal disharmony and hatred between them. The first phase of such endeavour culminated in the birth of the artificial or pseudo nation, called Pakistan, by dividing India in the month of August, 1947. This happened at the behest of the proponents of two-nation theory, namely, poet Iqbal, Chowdhury Rahamat Ali and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Jinnah, the father of Pakistan, made a valuable discovery at the brink of his life that the Hindus and the Muslims, the followers of the two prime religions, are basically two separate nations and, therefore ,cannot cohabit in the same national territory! Since the Hindus are the majority in India, the Muslims, being minority, need a separate nation state of their own. The making of Pakistan,by dividing India on the basis of religion following Jinnah’s two-nation theory, claimed about 20 lakh lives and caused displacement or eviction of more than two crores of people in the subcontinent, all at the altar of political pyre.

Chowdhury Rahamat Ali, the then a student at Oxford, did the naming of Pakistan in 1933 by taking the initials of Punjab, Afghan Province, Kashmir, Sindhu (Indus) and Baluchistan in English. In the ‘Pakistan’ he conceptualised, the Muslim-majority province Bengal found no place. In 1940, even the Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League reiterated the need for making separate states for the Muslim-majority areas of India. After the Muslim League came to power in Bengal, the pluralist meaning of ‘separate states’ was given farewell. The State of Pakistan was founded on such treachery and hypocrisy. Some leaders of the Muslim League and the Congress, such as Suhrawardy, Sharat Basu and Abul Hasim, were not in favour of including Bengal into Pakistan and dividing Bengal on the basis of religion. But the central leadership of the Muslim League and the Congress paid no heed to such objections. Ultimately, the game of communal politics paved the way for partition of Bengal at the cost of crores of lives and displacement of innumerable people.

According to Jinnah’s theory, the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), was supposed to be a part of Pakistan. Though Jammu and Kashmir was a Muslim-majority state, Hari Singh was the Maharaja of the State, and Sheikh Abdullah, the undisputed leader of the majority of Kashmiri Muslims, known for his secular standpoint, was a staunch critic of Jinnah and vehemently opposed the Pakistan movement. At the time of partition of India in 1947, there were as many as 584 native states of different sizes, which enjoyed special status under the British rule. The Maharaja of J&K, the biggest of the states with an area of 84471 square miles, wanted to remain independent. To this effect, he even signed a “Standstill Agreement” with both Pakistan and India on 12th of August, 1947. But, flouting the agreement, Pakistan attempted to seize J&K forcefully by sending its armed forces in the disguise of tribes on 22nd October. About 35000 civilians of the Valley lost their lives in ‘Operation Gulmarg’, the joint attacks by the Pakistani forces and their tribal counterparts. Thousands of cases of rape of women, looting of houses and setting the houses ablaze were the outcomes of the ‘Operation’. A much larger version of the same would be witnessed later in Bangladesh in 1971 in the name of ‘Operation Searchlight’.

On 22nd October,1947, the day the Pakistani occupying forces almost reached Srinagar, the capital of the state, Maharaja Hari Singh sought India’s help to protect the state of J&K from Pakistani invasion. On 27th October, the Maharaja signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ agreement for the inclusion of J&K within India. By that time, however, Pakistan had captured almost one-third of the land of J&K. Since then, the people of J&K have been observing 22nd October, the day of Pakistani invasion and mass murder, as a ‘Black Day’. Sardar Shaukat Ali, the chairman of United Kashmir People’s National Party, sought recognition of and justice for the mass killings by Pakistan in J&K, while showing solidarity with us in many of our programmes organised in Switzerland under the forum of “Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee” (Committee for Elimination of Killers and Touts of ’71) for international recognition of the massacre in Bangladesh in 1971.Over the last seven decades, Pakistan has been exporting fundamentalism and communalism to J&K for recapturing it. The Pakistani Mujahideen forces were instrumental to the mass killing of Hindus in Kashmir in 1989. Kashmir has hardly any Hindu population now.

Pakistan and the followers of its two-nation theory have been trying hard to apply the same strategy right from 1947 to make Bangladesh a Hindu-free nation like Kashmir. According to the Census and government data of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hindus in present-day Bangladesh accounted for about 28 percent of the total population in 1941. After the creation of Pakistan, the said percentage was found to have come down to 22 percent in the 1951 Census. According to the Census data, the number got further reduced to 18.5 percent in 1961, 13.5 percent in 1974 and 8.54 percent in 2011. The immediate reasons behind the drastic fall in the percentage of Hindu population from 1974 to 2011 were the riot in 1964, the Liberation War (Muktijuddha) in 1971 and the rise of Pakistan-induced communal and fundamentalist power in Bangladesh politics from 1975 onwards. The continuous fall in the size of Hindu population in Bangladesh is a reflection of diverse manifestations of two-nation theory preached by Pakistan.

Bangabandhu Mujibar Rahman, the father of Bangladesh, broke away from Pakistan and was able to establish Bangladesh as a secular and democratic nation, putting the death nail of the politics of two-nation theory. The reason behind the assassination of Bangabandhu along with his family members in 1975, could be traced back to the creation of democratic Bangladesh, smashing the communal two-nation theory of Pakistan. Unless Bangabandhu was killed, the two pivotal principles of the State, namely, ‘secularism’ and ‘Bengali nationalism’, could not be wiped off the Constitution of 1972, nor could Pakistanisation of the Constitution be successful, in the name of religion. Although Bangabandhu had put the death nail on Pakistani communalism, General Ziaur Rahman, the founder of BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party), dug out the Dracula-like ghost of communal politics from the coffin. Tying up with Jamaat, BNP never spared any opportunity to attack the Hindus. When the Babri mosque in Ayodhya was demolished by the Hindu fundamentalist rogues in India in 1992, Khaleda Jia-led BNP was in power, with the support of Jamaat, in Bangladesh. To retaliate the demolition of this single mosque in India, the Pakistan-supported fundamentalists in Bangladesh turned 3600 temples to rubble. There had been no less crushing of temples in Pakistan at that time, though the size of Hindu population there was less than 2 percent. The world has witnessed the ugliest form of such an annihilation of Hindus by Jamaat-BNP alliance during the 8thJatiya Sangsad(National Parliament) Election in 2001. This writer is a victim for raising voices against this minority bashing in 2001. According to the Report of Sahabuddin Commission, about ten thousand incidents of communal violence have taken place in Bangladesh from 2001 to 2006. As a result, the Hindu population got reduced to only 8.5 percent as per the Census of 2011.

The discriminative policies against the religious minorities in terms of government job opportunities and the like have largely decreased after the Great Alliance led by Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangabandhu, came to power in 2009. The four basic principles of the Republic have been firmly re-established in the Constitution. Barring a few exceptions, the religious minorities had been celebrating their Pujas and other religious festivals peacefully. This amply bears out the reason as to why the Hindu population has gone up to 10.3 percent in 2014, as per Bangladesh Statistical Bureau. This upward trend continues, firstly because the cases of communal atrocities have come down significantly, and secondly, many of those who were forced to leave the country during BNP-Jamaat misrule, have been returning to their homeland.

For the past few years, Durgapuja, the biggest festival of the Hindus, was being celebrated throughout the country in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Though the Mollahs of Jamaat-Hefazat kept on issuing strictures in the waz against participation of Muslims in the Durgapuja festival, Sheikh Hasina herself often visited the puja pandals and so did many ordinary Muslims, ignoring the fatwas. Hasina remarked, “One can practice his/her own religion, but the festival is meant for all”. This is the expression of communal harmony cherished by Bengalis over the past thousand years.

For those who can commit the heinous crimes against humanity including the brutal massacre of people and the rape of women to make Bangladesh a part of Pakistan or those who want to convert Bangladesh into Mollah Umar’s Talibani Afghanistan or into a fundamentalist terrorist state like Jia-ul-Haq’s Pakistan, it is no wonder that they would attempt to destroy any expression of communal harmony of Bengali culture. Throwing canards against those preaching different religions, nurturing different opinions and practising different life styles as well as continuous bashing of India and the Hasina Government have become common in the congregations of the ghosts of Pakistan,in the Jumanamaz and in the social media, Islamic TV channels and blogs. The ghosts of Pakistan had always been there in the Government administration and are still present. There has been influx of them into the Awami League over the last decade. This is one of the reasons as to why communal terrorism persists in spite of Awami League being in power. There is no denying that Sheikh Hasina government could not wipe out the roots of communalism. Owing primarily to the limitations of conventional laws, her government failed to take the communal terrorists to task. However, to hold the government responsible for the communal terrorism is tantamount to taking the side of ghosts of Pakistan.

Two months before the Durgapuja, Pakistan installed their pet Taliban counterparts in power in Afghanistan.This inspired a fresh round of communal violence by the ghosts of Pakistan in Bangladesh. Even before the Kumilla incidents, the destruction of the Durga idols in many places in Bangladesh has been reported in the media. The flag bearers of terrorist politics in Bangladesh, who love to rejuvenate dead Pakistan like a Dracula by sucking the blood of the Hindus, are the masterminds of the communal vandalism around Durgapuja. The sporadic arrests of some petty miscreants, instead of putting behind the bar the terrorists like Abbasi, who threaten to oust Hasina government in the wake of the Kumilla incident, calling her an agent of India and the Hindus, and who intend to enforce Islamic rule of Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the land of Bangladesh, would not yield any tangible outcome. Still fresh in memory is the heinous violence inflicted upon the Hindus in Bangladesh in 1964 by spreading the rumour that the Prophet’s sacred hair had gone missing from a mosque in Kashmir. The Kumilla incidents are much better planned. The Jamaat and Hefazat terrorist bosses never fail to give their excuses. They are backed by the ISI in Pakistan. Unless the fundamentalist and communal propaganda in the name of ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ in the waz could be stopped, not only the safety of the minorities in Bangladesh will be at stake, but the map of secular Bangladesh drawn at the cost of blood of thirty lakh martyrs will also be lost.

Oblivious of the ideals of Bangabandhu, the Father of the nation, who led the Liberation War in 1971, if the Awami League continues to give political and other favours to the ghosts of Pakistan, while celebrating the golden Jubilee of the 1971 Liberation War and Independence of Bangladesh, it goes without saying, Bangladesh is heading towards a grave disaster.

(Translated by Mausumi Bhattacharyya from the Bengali article of the author, published in Dainik Janakantha, Dhaka, Bangladesh, October 22, 2021).

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Vol. 54, No. 22, Nov 28 - Dec 4, 2021