Target: Bangla minorities

Hindus and other religious minorities in Bangladesh were the target of widespread violence before during and after the general elections in October last year, in the Bangla Nationalist Party and Jamaat–e–Islami led alliance’s successful bid to grab power. Perceived as supporters of the ‘pro–minority’ Awami League, a large number of Bangla Hindus were killed, women raped and their property looted or destroyed, leading to their distress migration to India. Independent human rights groups, women’s organisations, other civil society actors and much of the press did a commendable job in highlighting atrocities against the country’s minorities. But the chief beneficiary of minority votes, the Awami League, was content to shed crocodile tears only after the orgy of loot, killing and rape was over. (See CC, December 2001, cover story).

A fresh round of violence in recent months indicates that the minorities of Bangladesh are being targeted with a vengeance yet again. In early April, a report in the Far Eastern Economic Review described the country under the new political dispensation as a "cocoon of terror." As was only to be expected, the Review report was accused of being ‘biased’ and ‘prejudiced.’ But within days of the ban on the April 4, 2002 issue of the magazine, a Buddhist monk and a Hindu priest were killed in their monastery at Hingala (Raozan PS, Chittagong district) and a temple at Manikchhari (Khagrachari district) respectively. Yet another Buddhist monk, also in the Raozan area survived only because locals came to his rescue.

Following a field investigation and interviews with victims, Rabindra Ghosh, an advocate and the Dhaka-based country co–ordinator of the global organisation Human Rights Congress of Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM) reported gang rape of Hindu women and torture of men in Palagram village in Chittagong district in separate incidents on May 8 and May 14. In the assault on the night of May 14 by an armed group whom the victims described as "Islamic terrorists". "After they raped the women of the household (Hore family), miscreants threatened to slaughter the head of the household if all the belongings are not given. About 40,000 Taka worth jewellery and cash were stored in a steel Almery which was pushed upon Mr. Hore (72) until he agreed to hand over the belongings to the miscreants," says Ghosh’s report (

In an earlier incident on May 8 in the same village, an armed group of about 25–30 miscreants mercilessly thrashed Shri Pradiwpananda Brahmachari, principal of the local ashram, some of the miscreants gang–raped two young girls (aged 12 and 16) of the local Dey family and severely beat up their mother. "I asked them why they did not report this to local police, they flatly told me if they have done so justice will not be attained, miscreants will never be arrested instead, they will be subject to more torture and perhaps brutal slaughtering," Ghosh reported. The report also said that in what appears to be a new trend, several orphanages being run by and for members from the minority communities are being targeted.

Following a second field investigation and video–taped interviews with victims and police officials in Satkhira district on June 21 and 22, Ghosh has documented serious incidents of persecution of Hindu families. In one of these incidents, a local MP from the ruling BNP party, Md. Habibur Islam Habib is charged with terrorising a Chatterjee family in a brazen attempt to force her to leave the country and grab the substantial land they own. In the second incident at village Fatepur, about 14 kms from Satkhira town, Muslem Ali Gazi, a local Jamaat–e–Islami leader is accused of torturing a local Sadar family. "The mother and son of the Sadar family were unclothed and dragged out of their house tied up with rope and beaten up on the way to the torture cell of the accused Jamaat–e–Islami leader".

And on July 1, the HRCBM website sent out an action alert, stating that Ghosh, an advocate at the apex court, was abused and attacked by some pro–BNP advocates "with the help of some terrorists" inside the Supreme Court’s Bar Association Hall at Dhaka while a meeting was in progress. The video–tapes and other documentary evidence collected by him during the Satkhira investigation were also snatched away from him.

Meanwhile, newspapers have reported that fanatics from the border township of Haluaghat have been inciting Muslims over the public address system to kill local Christians to avenge the massacre of Palestinians in Israel.At a meeting of the Aid Bangladesh Consortium in March, the donor countries had warned that they would be forced to suspend aid to the country unless the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation is brought under control. But the continuing targeting of Hindus, Christians and Buddhists in different parts of the country since then leave little room for optimism.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2002 Year 8  No. 79, Neighbours 1



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