01/28/2014, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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As attacks mount, the survival of Bangladesh Hindus in danger

by Nozrul Islam
Every day, temples are violated, and shops and homes are looted. Protests by civil society groups against "post-election atrocities" are proving of no use. The country's Hindu minority has been targeted in a systematic way, especially by Islamic fundamentalists. Like in the past, many are leaving the country, with the community now less than 10 per cent of the population.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Hindu Temples have been desecrated. Hindu offerings and sacred objects have been stolen. Dozens of statues dedicated to gods like Kali, Laxmi and Ganesh have been destroyed, defaced or taken away. Shops and homes have been attacked. Anti-Hindu violence has intensified in Bangladesh since the 5 January elections, becoming a regular feature in the local press.

Yesterday, teachers and students from a number of the country's universities formed a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club in Dhaka, to protest against "post-election atrocities". They also called on the government to pass special legislation to stop the perpetrators of these crimes, because it is wrong that "Hindus are forced to live as aliens in their own homeland."

"Violent attacks are recurrent as the perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity," said Chandan Sarkar, professor at the International University of Business Agriculture and Technology, who was present at the demonstration.

For Subhash Kumar Sengupta, chairman of the Sudhir Kanti-Anima Sengupta Foundation (SKASF), which is among the groups promoting the human chain, "since the country's independence, no government has been able to ensure the security of the Hindus."

In fact, this burst of violence should be seen against a specific backdrop, namely that of a minority that has never managed to find room in Bangladeshi society.

It all began in 1947, when India became independent from Great Britain through the creation of two states based on religion: India for Hindus, and (West and East) Pakistan for Muslims.

In the following years, Hindus were slaughtered in Pakistan and Muslims went through the same in India. In 1971, when war led to Bangladesh independence from Pakistan, Hindus were the first victims of the Pakistani army, allegedly for collaborating with India and supporting separatism.

Today, history is repeating itself at a time of extreme political and social tensions, considered by many as "much worse" than in 1971.

For over a year, the number of strikes (hartals) launched by the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have come with anti-Hindu acts of violence, such as assaults, looting and abuses, perpetrated by Muslim fundamentalists who support the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party.

As the country's largest minority, Hindus have been singled out. Like in the past, those who can, flee, mostly to India, whilst those left behind try to survive as best they can. However, the cycle of violence and exodus has become well established and could lead to the eventual "end" of the Hindu community in Bangladesh.

Since the end of the War of Independence in 1971, the proportion of Hindus in the population has in fact gone from 25 per cent to 9.6 per cent.

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