Broken promises push Christians, Hindus and Buddhists to go on a hunger strike
Some 500 people, mostly members of the country’s religious minorities, will stop eating to protest the failure of the ruling Awami League to protect minority rights, which is driving many out of the country. For Nirmol Rozario, a Catholic, the hunger strike is a way “to defend our existence”.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCU), an interreligious minority rights organisation, today launched a 48-hour hunger strike at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka.
Some 500 Hindus, Christians and Buddhists have joined the protest, which will last until Sunday morning. The goal is to highlight once again the lack of guarantees for minorities in the country.
“Before the general elections held in 2018, the Awami League included pledges in its election manifesto. Four months from another general election, and they didn’t fulfil their previous election pledges,” lamented Nirmol Rozario, a BHBCU president.
These promises included adopting a vested property law, returning assets to owners, setting up a national minority commission, enacting a special law to protect minorities, and finally implementing the quota system.
"We are taking part in this hunger strike to defend our existence in this country," Rozario explained. "We have been in many other demonstrations, but the government is not listening to us. We are now disconsolate."
In a country of 173 million people where 90 per cent of the population is Muslim, Hindus represent 8.5 per cent, Christians 0.4 per cent and the rest belong to other religious groups.
Minorities are often attacked by those who want to grab their land and properties. Given such persecution, many leave the country for security reasons. As a result, minorities are getting smaller.
“If the government fulfilled its promises, it would bring a great of deal of good to Bangladesh's religious minorities and tribal peoples,” said BHBCU's joint secretary, lawyer Prashanta B Barua.
He is also critical of the 22 parliamentarians who represent minorities in the country’s parliament who are not loud enough in raising these issues.
"The last (pre-election) parliamentary session is underway,” noted BHBCU Secretary General Rana Dashgupta. “We hope that this government will announce or take the initiative to fulfil its election pledges at least this time.”