Since Hindus in East Bengal turned Bangladesh participated in all nationalistic movements right from the beginning of our glorious Language Movement in 1948, 1952 and 1966 to the heroic War of Liberation in 1971, along with their co-linguistic brothers and sisters belonging to the major religious group of Bangladesh, their hopes and aspirations have naturally become very high.
What happened in the early fifties, happened again in Bangladesh in 1992 and 2001. As a result the silent migration of Hindus from this country could not be stopped. The state failed to provide security to the minorities despite equal rights guaranteed to them in the constitution.
The self-contradictory “State Religion Provision” and “Vested Property Act” compromised making the State pledge meaningless.
This is an unending story of Hindus. Now we are talking about the present situation in Bangladesh. The print media reportedly published a number of incidences of violation of human rights. I could quote the headline of those stories published in the local dailies during the last 12 months in 2009, that would tell of its saddest thoughts of humiliation of Hindus.
The sacrifices of the Hindu leadership were never acknowledged either officially or publicly.
Does the nation pay respect to those departed souls? Is there any room for the Hindu leaders in the history who fought for the cause of history and the War of Liberation?
The so-called Bangladeshi nationalism in Bangladesh’s politics is a revival of two-nation theory. Here ” Bangladeshi ” means the Muslim citizens of the land, others like Hindu, Buddhists, Christians and tribal origins are aligning citizens, they would be absorbed in the majority community by conversion or make them compelled to leave Bangladesh.
In the post-August 1975, Bangladesh, Bengali, Hindu and India are equated with a typical psyche by the ruling cliché. “The existing literature on the history of Bangladesh underplays not only the inner contradictions of the Muslims of Bengal, but also other significant features of her past.” It is very difficult to guess about the inner world of the present-day Bangladesh.
The minorities of East Pakistan had not only fought for independence of Bangladesh together with all citizens of other sections of society. Hindus had to pay a great sacrifice for Bangladesh nationhood, but after August 1975, they are cornered, ciphered and uprooted due to property and vote’s bank assaults like erstwhile Pakistan military regimes.
Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (UDHR)
On December 10, 1948 the UN General Assembly endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) the first international expression that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights:
(Article 1). This declaration (comprising 30 articles) forms the basis of essentially all humanitarian work around the globe today, and sets a human rights standard by which all societies are judged. The vast majority of UN member states adopted the UDHR.
Thus, December 10 represents a day to celebrate hope and the triumph of humanity. It is also a day to look back, renew the resolve and reinvigorate commitments to the dignity of people irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or any other identifiers that may be used for selective exclusion and deprivation.
The UDHR is a declaration of the principles of international law, and as such, is non- binding. However, it is accompanied by a series of international human rights covenants or treaties. These treaties require sovereign parties to enact coherent domestic measures and legislation that provide tangible legal mechanisms to protect the human rights guaranteed under international law.
Bangladesh is party to almost all the core conventions, such as the, ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), ICESCR (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), and CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women).
It may be noted that the UDHR came about at the same time as the partitioning of India in 1947. The partitioning gave birth to Pakistan as the homeland for Indian Muslims, even though a substantial Muslim population chose to remain in secular India. The minorities, especially the Hindus and Buddhists who lived in East Pakistan (as it was then) faced varying degrees of discrimination and threats to life, property, dignity and freedom. An atmosphere of exclusion and hate prevailed.
Over and above other cultural conflicts under the military dictatorship in Islamic Pakistan, unhappiness in East Pakistan with the inequitable distribution of political and economic power led to the independence struggle.
Free, democratic, secular Bangladesh came into being in 1971. However, the Islamic forces never accepted this idea of nationhood.
In August 1975, brutal annihilation of almost the entire family members of founding Father of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Thus, power reverted back to the military.
Islam (as the state religion) replaced secularism. This allowed the Islamic fundamentalists a kind of constitutional footing in Bangladesh.
Against this background, it is probably not surprising to find that the human rights abuse minorities received under Pakistan’s framework also continues in Bangladesh.
The Hindu temples are damaged. Temple sites and other property are unlawfully occupied with new structures erected on them. Young girls are abducted for forcible marriages into Islam. Police authorities dismissively discourage investigation for such cases with communal undertones.
Naturally, despite a constitution that guarantees all citizens equal protection of law (Article 27), minorities in Bangladesh do not live with the confidence that their human rights will be respected. The minority population has dropped (through emigration) from 23% in 1954 to 11% in 2001.
However, with their parliamentary representation decreasing from 23.3% (on a quota basis) to 2%, minorities are under-represented in administration, judiciary and police. In those figures, one finds little cause for confidence ? a regrettable scenario, as Bangladesh, with its mostly progressive Muslim population, possesses a great potential to rise to the UDHR standard. Yet its human rights record (a standard normally judged by the way a country treats its vulnerable population) leaves a lot to be desired.
In Calcutta to participate in the rally called by Furfura Darbar Sharif, a Muslim organisation demanding reservation, the former Indian skipper Muhammad Azharuddin MP said: “I have raised the issue in Parliament. Reservation is a must for Muslims. I hope the Central government will go for reservation. I have been asked by Pranab Mukherjee to come here. I am his messenger and I represent the Congress.” (The Telegraph, 2 Feb 2010).
Pradip Bhattacharya, working president of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee said: “We have accepted the Rangnath Mishra report. It was our Congress government in Andhra, which first provided reservation of seats to minorities. Pir Saheb Maulana Toha Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif, meanwhile, expressed his gratitude towards Pranab Mukherjee for the “help” extended to the community.
“If political parties don’t work of us, be it Left or Right, we will kick them out. I had called Trinamool leaders Partho Chatterjee, Mukul Roy and Mamata Banerjee here, but they did not come. Time has come for all Muslims to rise up.” He added: “We demand reservation. The party that looks after us will look after them. This time only words will not do, show us what you can do. I am thankful to Pranab Mukherjee who extended all help to us.”
Mamata too smells blood
With the ruling Left Front backing Rangnath Mishra Commission’s recommendations calling for 15 per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee too threw her weight behind the quota proposal today, saying her party will implement them when it comes to power in Bengal. “This is nothing new. Look at our manifestos in 2001 and 2006 where we have said the same thing. We had already suggested this (reservation for Muslims).
The state government is shirking its responsibilities on the issue. Why is the state government not passing a resolution (in the state Assembly) and implementing it?” she told reporters at her Kalighat residence.
But what is happening in Bangladesh , if minority organisations raise this sort of demands, they would be termed as communal .
Bangladesh Minorities are slaves to their fate to the destiny of history also.
The distortion of the history of Bangladesh and with it the Bangladesh foreign policy objectives started following the fifth and eighth amendments to the constitution of Bangladesh in post August 1975.
After 1990, the two dominant parties -BNP and Awami League- had altered power, BNP winning in 1991, Awami League in 1996 and 2009, and a BNP-Jaamat led 4-party alliance again in 200.
The former 4-party regime and its beneficiaries disguised in the administration are marking time to create environment befitting for them. The government should look into those cases meticulously and lapses in the field administration be dealt seriously. We are receiving complain of grabbing lands from Madaripur, Dinajpur, and other districts. We have been receiving news of violation of human rights in the form of grabbing lands, religion and abduction and cases of rape in Sirajganj, Dinajpur, Jaipurhat, Jhinaidah Nagaon and Magura .
We don’t find any difference of behavior, particularly on minority issues, in administration and the nature of humiliation whether democratic regime or autocratic regime or Caretaker Government run by Emergency backed by Army rules in Bangladesh. That is why, the humiliated Hindus left Bangladesh to become a ‘stateless-citizens’ in neibouring states in India and their number became 1.5 crore since the period between1975 and 2006.
This has created a great divide in the society of Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, being a Hindu means being a victim of oppression, torture and discrimination. The educated Hindus, who could play a leadership role in the community, left the country. The poor, who lacked leadership qualities, stayed back. Eminent personalities of the minorities who stayed on in Bangladesh live in the cities, so there are none to look after them in times of distress.
Whereas minority Muslims in India deserve a 15 percent reservation in Jobs. Is there any leader in Bangladesh to come forward to rescue these humiliated minorities?
We want legitimate share in every share of public posts not puja dole for appeasement. Echoing the tune of Pir Saheb of Furfura Shariff as stated above , we also put the same voice, “If political parties don’t work of us, we will kick them out. …We demand reservation in jobs in government services and parliament. The party that looks after us will look after them. This time only words will not do, show us what you can do”.
Each nation has to be mindful of this consequence —Bangladesh also included this time.
Rabindranth Trivedi is a retired Additional Secretary and former Press secretary to the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh presently Secretary General Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities ( HRCBM)-Dhaka.