Rights for Minorities in Bangladesh

Rights for Minorities in Bangladesh



Since long the issues of minorities especially that of South Asia  have been into the lime light. Topics like out-migration, unemployment, genocide, man-slaughter are the certain examples of violation of human rights which are also consequences of violation of human rights generally minorities. This paper would shed light on the rights of minorities of one such South Asian Country which is Bangladesh. This paper would give a brief introduction shedding light on the brief history of Bangladesh. Followed by the minorities present in the country who are to be intrinsically focused on in the second part of this paper consisting of the criticism  and rights of those minorities in the country. This paper would try to critically analyse the right, provisions and policies of the government of Bangladesh. Actions and Inactions of the state are also taken into consideration. Ending with a way forward as a part of how a proclaimed democratic state should approach the minorities of the country taking externalities into consideration. The geography of the country is such, on the east and north-west it is bordered with India, South eastern border with Burma and in the south falls the Bay of Bengal.


Historical background


Bangladesh a country into existence for about only 50 years but its roots go back to the colonial period. By the 7th century Bangla as language was emerging and by 11th century it was mature. Hindus were in the trend and the remaining were lean towards Buddhism. However, when Muslims invaded from the North-West, Islam won the loyalty and the followers increased eventually ending up being a majority.

June 1757 British sent Robert Clive to attack Bangladesh and defeat the ruler then who was Nawab Siraj-ud-dwolas also known as Battle of Plassey. Until then, Bangladesh was being acting autonomous though India was Invaded by British, Portuguese and many Europeans. British were content to leave Zamindari system in control. Most of them were upper caste Hindu who collected money from peasants.

It was 1905 when the British decided to divide Bengal into two, Dhaka a capital of east and Calcutta of the west. Never the less, this tactic of British face a considerable amount of rebel and did not yield to what they wanted. Eventually in 1912 they had to reunite the province.

By 1946 it was knowledgeable that the British were about to leave India. It was decided by then Bengal’s Muslim League Chief Minister Hussein Shahod Suhrawardy and Hindu local leader that Bengal would be an independent state. Instead in 1947 the partition was made not on the basis of language but on the basis of religion. The eastern part became East Pakistan While the Western part was still part of India. After the independence the ties between the two Pakistans were weak. Mohmad Ali Jinnah always promoted Urdu as their language. After military took control of the west Pakistan there were many conflicts and he genocidal attack by them led to around 10 million Hindu refugees to evict Bangladesh and obtain the refugee status in India. Awami league leaders declared Independence on 26 march, until in the December 1971, the Indian Army invaded and ejected Pakistan army from the territory of Bangladesh


Minorities in Bangladesh


The majority ethnicity is Bengali, containing more than 98 percent of the population. As per the 2011 Census, roughly 1.8 percent are native ‘Adivasis’, adding up to around 1.6 million. They live in the north and southeast along the Chittagong hills tracs where they are also called Jumma. The pre-dominant groups are Chakmas, Marma and Tripura. The public authority perceives 27 ethnic communities however not perceives the idea of indigenous people.

Since long, Bangladesh’s census has seen decline in certain religious communities, reflected in the general decrease of minorities from 23.1 percent of the population in 1971 to 9.6 percent today – a withdrawal to a great extent because of the mass movement of Hindus, who at 8.5 percent make up the biggest minority, trailed by Buddhists 0.6 percent and Christians 0.3 percent.[1] Also, Roughly 300,000 Biharis structure a little however huge minority ethnic group living in and around the capital city Dhaka.[2]

However, while most of Muslims are Sunni, a little extent are Shi’a and as such speak to a partisan minority. Similarly, roughly about 100,000 Ahmadis, who self-distinguish as Muslim, have for quite a long time been derided by other majority.



Rights of the minorities


Constitution of any country is a safeguard to citizens’ rights against any kind of oppression. Bangladesh has proved its anti-minority stand through various amendments, legislative actions and policy measures thus, keeping the minority badly affected. The original constitution came with the idea of Democracy and secularism but the spirit of minorities was not recognised. When the “Bangladeshi Nationalism” failed to address the Hindu Minorities. It questioned its own spirit of cultural pluralism.

After the pro-Pakistan era in Bangladesh ended some basic changes were made to the constitution which brought the country contradictory to its stand of secularism and democratic spirit. The 5th and 8th amendment of the Bangladesh constitution made religious and ethnic minorities a second-class citizens. Established predominance of a specific conviction and State’s courtesy to the prevailing dominant part Muslim people group just added fuel to the doubt, dread and instability of Hindus and different minorities in Bangladesh.

Biased law and policies prompted discrimination and hardships. Post 1975 State strategy urged greater minority lands to be snatched, minority business to be denied from bank loans, hardships in the enlistment and advancement, unlimited coercions from home and business, outrageous brutality to ladies, superfluous provocation by police and other law upholding organizations, strict spots and functions, open danger to life and property, bogus enemy of minority purposeful publicity in the public medias and reading material and so on A similar strategy kept the minority daydream of any development. Minority gatherings’ way of life has nearly been missing from public medias. Every one of these things have made the minority kid brought into the world in dread, filled in dread and live in dread. Spending days and evenings in dread, a Bangladeshi minority regularly faces an unnatural finish of his life. For the duration of the existence human nobilities stay obscure to Bangladeshi minorities. Each attack caused the minority individuals fled from Bangladesh to neighbouring India and different nations, be it after significant uproars, or Government snatched their properties by calling them as State adversaries, or by persuasive Bengali settlements in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, or genuine shared abuse during general races or anything against Muslim occurs in India. After parcel in 1947 the non-Muslims made up almost one-fourth of the all-out population of East Bengal (presently Bangladesh). After autonomy Bangladesh got in excess of 15 percent of its population as minorities. As per the most recent statistics report in 2001 minorities are just 10.30%, while they were 12.70% and 13.30% in 1991 and 1981 individually.[3] It is also not a matter of amusement that the government of Bangladesh denies the facts. Shedding light on the matter it would be a great concern if the report of ALRD, an NGO of Bangladesh is discussed:






Source : Self-analysed from the report




This clearly indicated that there was a displacement/ out-migration of Hindus.

Not only is about the demography but the representation minorities seem to have no right in the bureaucracy, politics or economy. Less than 2 percent of the parliamentarians belong to minorities.[4] With all this this minorities are included in the secular structure on paper but in real are not even considered as a part of the so called secular and democratic nation. Rights of minorities are a mere formality on pages and raise a question, the only right of minorities in Bangladesh is to remain silent?









Constitutionally every Bangladeshi citizen gets equal treatment and security under and of the law.[5] Equivalent Protection is assured to similar individuals that will be managed likewise.[6] The constitution of Bangladesh doesn’t perceive any minority and, hence, permit no uncommon protection or promotion for them. In any case, investigating the current constitution one would run over that there are some genuine oddities and logical inconsistencies while regarding the non-Muslims as residents. One may however observe how the uniformity conditions become pointless for other people, when State herself puts on Islamic character and communicates full biasness towards its dominant part Muslim people group. For example, in the second part, article 11 of the constitution says, “the Republic shall be a democracy in which fundamental human rights and freedoms and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person shall be guaranteed.” And now in article 8 (IA) it is stated, “Absolutely trust and faith in the Almighty Allah shall be the basis of a actions.” these statements are totally opposite.[7] In the Article 28(1) the Constitution says, “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.” In this article the State is under the impression not to distinguish the citizens on any of the unfavourable grounds or means which would lead or create any biases. But, this article becomes complete useless when you read the Article 2A of part one of the constitution which says, “The state religion of the Republic is Islam”.[8] Some Constitutional assurances though hypothetically look stable and better just in words, however barely any minority gets its advantages. May be the goal of the Constitution is to put the minorities on equivalent balance with others, yet that doesn’t really guarantee them equivalent advantages of law, essential protection and adequate help with development.

Under article 23 State is to adopt measures to conserve the social customs and heritage of the individuals. A similar article guarantees the chance individuals to contribute towards and take an interest in the improvement of the public culture. Truth be told by ‘public culture’ the prevailing Bengali Muslim culture has consistently been implied in this nation. Subsequently the other religious or ethnic minorities can never feel that this is to cultivate and improve the language, writing or specialties of their own. No significant public step has yet been taken to save and secure the social customs and legacy of the minority individuals of Bangladesh.

Concerning the advancement of International Peace, security, and fortitude State’s undertaking to unite, save and fortify friendly relations among Muslim nations dependent on Islamic fortitude[9] just expands the anxieties of minorities about their worldwide protection and social security. Constitution of Bangladesh clearly declares only Bangla as states language which clearly gives out the indication that other smaller linguistic groups are avoided and this is worrisome for the existence of rights of those minorities.



Way forward


Democracy is sustained on three pillars namely, Equality, Justice, Protection and respect of Human Rights. On the off chance that the majority rules the system and basic freedoms could be maintained in a Constitution and State practice, at any rate hypothetically it could guarantee herself popularity based to its minorities. To be empathetic and at first character of the Constitution should be re-established with fundamental acknowledgment and protection for minorities. Simultaneously the State should surrender this double-dealing pattern of hypocrisy to deceive the global communities. For long Bangladesh has been a long ways behind from the base norm of majority rule government and common freedoms. Or maybe to ensure Human Rights the State of Bangladesh has put on a disregarding character in its Constitution and policymaking. Because of their super-biased enemy of vote based activities, exclusions of minorities have been politically non-existent, monetarily demolished and demographically evaporated. The cycle proceeds rapidly yet quietly, regular, after a seemingly endless amount of time after year, with no consideration from any corner. Democracy is genuinely impossible if there is no equality in the state. International peace and coordination can only be achieved where all the global citizens including majority and minority are given equal status and opportunity with at most respect in the society and live by the motto of “वसुधैव कुटुम्बकमwhich simply translates to “the world is one family”.






U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (Washington, DC, USA) May 2006.


  1. Rehman and N. Roy, ‘South Asia’ in Minority Rights Groups (eds.), World Directory of Minorities (London, MRG, 1997) 545 – 547.




National Census Reports


Kabir, Shahriar, Human Rights in Bangladesh: Focus on Communal Persecution at www.secularvoiceofbangladesh.org



[1] Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Overview: Bangladesh (2005) “retrieved, https://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/01/18/bangla12267.htm


[2] Refugee International, ‘Bangladesh: Stateless Biharis Grasp for a Resolution and their Rights’ (Washington, USA, March 2006) “, https://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/8245/?PHPSESSID=3fc64258eda9d44c2


[3] National Census Reports

[4] Human Rights Features, South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre, New Delhi, HRF/13/00 in Mandal, Gobinda Chandra, Rights of the Minorities: The Case of Bangladesh in “Human Rights and Good Governance”, (ed) Rahman, Dr. Mizanur, ELCOP, Dhaka 2004, p.169


[5] Article 27: “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”

[6] Afzal, A.T.M. J. in Sheikh Abdus Sabur v. Returning Officer and Others 41 DLR AD 30

[7] Kabir, Shahriar, Human Rights in Bangladesh: Focus on Communal Persecution at www.secularvoiceofbangladesh.org

[8] 8th Amendment to the Constitution

[9] Article 25(2) of the Constitution of Bangladesh

Article written by-

Krunal Parekh

Student at Jindal School of Government and Public Policy

(HRDI Internship)