02/16/2022, 15.30
BANGLADESH
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Religious minorities demand representation in Election Commission

by Sumon Corraya

Bangladesh’s largest interfaith (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu) forum demands representation in the body responsible for next year’s election. Forum’s president Nimol Rozario, “If a party is defeated, its supporters often blame minorities,” increasing risks for the latter during the vote.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC), the country's largest interreligious forum, wants minority communities to be represented in the new Election Commission set up ahead of next year’s elections.

“In this country, at least 12 per cent of the population belong to religious and ethnic minorities,” said BHBCUC president, Nimol Rozario, speaking to AsiaNews.

For this reason, he calls on “the search committee and President Abdul Hamid of Bangladesh to keep at least one representative from minority groups so that they can be the voice of faith minorities.”

According to Rozario, who is Catholic and chairs the Bangladesh Christian Association, experience from previous elections shows that during the vote the risks for minorities increase.

“If a party is defeated, its supporters often blame minorities for not voting for it and the latter become victims of retaliation.”

The previous electoral commission, set up in 2017, scheduled elections on minority religious holidays, ignoring the views of these communities, which were forced to stop celebrations.

This would not happen if Christians, Buddhists and Hindus were represented in the commission.

On 5 February, the Bangladeshi government set up a six-member search committee headed by a Supreme Court justice, Obaidul Hasan, to recommend names for the new Election Commission.

Some 300 names were submitted by various stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organisations and individuals.

The mandate of the outgoing Election Commission ended on Monday.

In past election campaigns, some established extremist groups incited hatred against minorities by associating them with a particular political party.

Incidents in 2001 were particularly serious, when with the BNP-Jamat came to power. At that time, members of minority groups, mostly Hindus, were subjected to violence, with people killed, women raped and property looted just because they voted for the Awami League.

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