The Decline of the Hindu Population in Bangladesh

The Decline of the Hindu Population in Bangladesh

At the time of Partition in 1947, the Hindu population, in what is now Bangladesh, was

about 31%.4 By 1961, Hindus comprised 19% of the population. By 1974, the Hindu

population had further reduced to 14%. And in 2002, it was estimated that the Hindu

population was only about 9% of the total.5 By comparison, the Muslim population in

India has grown from 10% of the total in 1947, to 13.2% in 2001.6

The plight of Hindus in 2004 was precarious in Bangladesh and is documented in this

report. The violence and atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh today are a tragic

consequence of contemporary politics and the turbulent birth of that country.

Daily assaults on Hindus in Bangladesh in 2004, included murder, widespread gang-rape,

kidnappings, looting, desecration of temples, attacks against religious celebrations and

psychological intimidation. This daily, “low intensity violence” has been described by

Afsan Chowdhury, a Bangladesh journalist, historian, and human rights activist, as a

“silent disaster.”7 Such daily attacks are largely ignored by the regional media, and

consequently, rarely receive mention in the international media. The continuing threat to

Hindus and the violation of their human rights are largely omitted from the annual reports

of established human rights organizations.

Political polarization is often blamed for the attacks against Hindus since the Awami

League (AL), currently the main opposition party in the Bangladesh Parliament, is the

principal beneficiary of Hindu votes. The Bangladesh National Party (BNP) routinely

accuses the AL of being agents of India and therefore regards its Hindu constituency as a

legitimate object of its hostility and violence. The reasons are both political and religious

since BNP leaders assert that Bangladesh’s Islamic character is endangered by Hindu

religious practices. It should be noted that the BNP heads a four-party coalition that

includes two hard-line Islamic fundamentalist parties, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islami

© Hindu American Foundation 2005 5 United States Edition

Oikya Jote.8 As international observers note with growing alarm, these groups support

Osama bin Laden and proclaim the desire for a Taliban-style regime in Bangladesh. The

support of the ruling BNP of Begum Zia Khaleda and their active sponsorship of Islamic

fundamentalism—and its repercussions on the Hindu minority—are clearly manifest in

Bangladesh today.

The BNP policy of religious discrimination is not new. This report discusses the use of

legislation by the government to systematically disenfranchise Hindus. Briefly, in 1993,

the Home Ministry asked commercial banks to limit the withdrawal of large sums of

money by its Hindu depositors, and these banks were also asked to stop business loans to

the Hindu community. The BNP also initiated surveys of “vested properties,” which

were an alibi to persecute the Hindu minority.9 Seven years ago, Samad wrote: “…the

Hindus are passing through a disaster situation as their lives, property, and peace have all

been made to feel insecure by the lack of security and existing state policies and public

action which are forcing them to exit to another land.”3 Today, the condition of Hindus in

Bangladesh is even more severe. Unless the focus of the United Nations and the nations

of the civilized world turns to Bangladesh, Hindus could very well be completely

ethnically cleansed and cease to exist as a community. This is what has already occurred

to the Hindus in Pakistan, who are now a minuscule minority, with few political rights,

despite constituting almost a quarter of the population at Partition in 1947.


Source : Hindu American Foundation 2005