Bangladesh Newsletter: How Hindus fare
by Sitangshu Guha on 08 Jun 2013 6 Comments

Hindu temple vandalised in Kishoreganj (The Daily Star, 30 May 2013): Fanatics vandalized nine idols at 150-year-old Kuleswari temple at Hossainpur upazila of Kishoreganj early yesterday. Ranjit, a caretaker of the temple, said “I found the idols broken when I went to the temple around 5:00 am, and saw the fragmented idols strewn all over the place.” Locals said the Hindus have been offering prayers at the temple for around 150 years, but no incident of vandalism had occurred inside the temple in the past.


Prodip Kumar, chief of the temple committee, blamed some unidentified criminals for vandalising the idols. Md Siddikur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Kishoreganj, and Md Anwar Hossain Khan, superintendent of police of the district, visited the spot. They assured the local Hindus that the hunt was on to nab the fanatics. Criminals have vandalized and torched more than 28 temples, 175 houses and dozens of shops of Hindus across the country since Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death in a war crimes case on February 28.


7 Deities destroyed at Jokigonj Kali Temple: 15 April 2013: On Sunday night miscreants destroyed 7 deities at Jokiganj Kali temple. Hindus protested the incident, police visited the area. A case has been filed.>.


Hindu temple vandalised in Bhola (The Daily Star, 1 June 2013): Criminals vandalised eight idols of Hindu gods and goddesses at a temple in Annada Prasad village at Lalmohan upazila of Bhola yesterday. Police arrested Jasim, Mobarak and Riaz of the village for their alleged involvement in the incident, said Khondokar Mijanur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Lalmohan Police Station. Locals said the incident of vandalism at Krishna Sarkar’s Aangeena Temple happened following a row over a cow’s ruining vegetables. In the morning, Oli Bepari’s cow entered the garden of Niranjan Das, brother of Kiran Chandra Das, and started flattening the okra plants. Niranjan’s wife Jharna Rani Das, 30, rushed to the field and drove away the cow, which angered Oli. A furious Oli then beat up his neighbour Jharna.


When Kiran, priest of the temple, protested the incident of beating, Oli led a gang of miscreants, including his sons Riaz, Siraj, Mosarraf and Mobarak, for vandalising the idols at 2:00pm, witnesses said. The criminals also attacked Kiran and his family members with sticks, leaving Birangini Baishnab, 75, and Babita Rani, 30, injured. Birangini, Babita and Jharna were admitted to Lalmohan Upazila Health Complex. Joyhind Chandra Chandra, president of Lalmohan Puja Udjapan Parisad, alleged that a dispute over a piece of land might have triggered the incident of vandalism of idols. Filing of a case was under process, OC Mijanur Rahman said.


Bangladeshi Islamists are gaining ground (DW Akademie, 5 May 2013): The Bangladeshi Islamist group Hefajat-e-Islam has demanded stricter blasphemy laws and the segregation of sexes in public. It is bringing followers onto the streets to push the agenda of a more Islamic Bangladesh.


The driving force behind the demonstrations against female Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is the Islamist Hefajat-e-Islam group, which until recently has attracted little public attention. The organization is led by Shah Ahmed Shafi, who claims his organization is apolitical. Its aim, he says, is instead to prevent Islam from being “undermined.” The group wants to enforce a 13-point radical program. Hefajat wants tougher laws against blasphemy, the death penalty for so-called atheist bloggers, and stricter segregation of sexes in public places. The organization demands “special protection” of Islam and for references to Allah to be returned to the constitution. Women, according to Hefajat, should not be permitted to work outside the home.


Another Afghanistan in making?

The Hefajat followers have ‘fundamentalist demands’ that seem to run contrary to the constitution. Such demands are, of course, not compatible with the liberal constitution of Bangladesh. The director of the Islam Foundation in Dhaka, Shamim Mohammed Afjal, rejects the demands of the group. “Out of these 13 demands, some are Islamic, but their interpretation is flawed. Furthermore, Islam does not support violence.”


Sufia Akhtar, a spokesperson for the women’s organization Mahila Parishad and a women’s rights activist, told the media that the Bangladeshi women would not permit the Islamists to “Talibanize” Bangladesh. “Why should we allow Bangladesh to become another Afghanistan?” said Akhtar.


The fear is understandable

Maulana Habibur Rahmen, one of the Hefajat leaders, runs a madrassa in Sylhet. He boasts of his role in the 1980s Afghan war and his support to the former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. His beliefs have earned him respect from the Hefajat followers, especially from students and teachers of the madrassas. Hefajat was first noticed in 2010 as one of the new Islamist organizations which opposed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s secular policies. In 2011, Hefajat took to the streets to protest against the gender equality policies of the government.


‘Supporting the opposition’

Observers believe that the reason Hefajat has gained so much popularity is because another Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, has been literally paralyzed by the verdicts of the war crimes tribunal, and is now putting its weight behind Hefajat. Some of the Jamaat leaders are either charged by the tribunal for their role during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in 1971. Others have disappeared. The Jamaat leaders are accused of genocide and rape during the war of independence. The Pakistan-backed militias are said to have raped more than 200,000 women during the war. In January, the tribunal ordered its first death sentences.


Bangladesh’s biggest opposition party, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), is supporting protests against the government. The BNP, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, views the war crimes trial as a process initiated by the government. It is apparently interested in using the Islamists’ protests to gain political advantage because Prime Minister Hasina has refused to stop the war crimes trial before the scheduled parliamentary elections and is also not prepared to put in place an interim government similar to one set up in 2007. Last Sunday, the Islamists brought Dhaka to a standstill. It is estimated that up to 200,000 protesters blocked the main roads of the capital and shouted “death to all atheists.” More than 150 people have officially died since protests began in January.


Dr. Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain, a leading BNP official, believes the real number of dead is higher. Speaking to DW, he holds the government accountable. “The way that the government has killed hundreds of people in the night, disposing of their bodies wherever, is something that no modern society can accept. I can’t support all of Hafazat’s demands, but I would not say that I don’t support them (generally).” Hefazat resorted to extreme violence against the supporters of the ruling party as well as students and liberal-minded Bangladeshis who, in a series of counter-demonstrations at the centrally located Shahbag Square in Dhaka, demanded the death penalty for those Islamist leaders accused of war crimes. Bloggers involved in the protests were specifically targeted by the Islamists. Several were murdered in the streets.


Charges against the madrassas

To prevent further escalation the government was forced to arrest several bloggers. The Secretary General of the ruling Awami League and prime ministerial advisor, Mahbubul Alam Hanif, accepts this is a concession to the Islamists: “We have accepted some demands, but some we cannot accept. If we were to accept all demands that would mean turning our country into another Afghanistan. We are now going to put an end to all Hefajat activities.”


The police have now filed charges against nearly 200 Hefajat followers. The Minister of Information, Hasanul Haque Inu, accused the heads of the madrassas of preparing their students for “terrorist activities” and sending them to the streets to protest against the government. International human rights organizations and journalists have meanwhile called on the government to respect freedom of expression and free the bloggers. But the violence continues to escalate. Other demonstrations are planned.


Govt hid truth Claim leaders: The indigenous leaders yesterday claimed that the government had provided partial information and hid the truth about the constitutional recognition to the ethnic minorities and implementation of the CHT peace accord at a UN human rights review session. They also said the government made similar promises at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session of the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 to implement the peace accord but no effective steps had been taken yet. Representatives of Bangladesh Adibashi Forum (BAF) and Kapaeeng Foundation made the claims at a press conference at Liberation War Museum in the capital.


BAF General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong said the government claimed that it recognised 48 ethnic groups in the constitution through the 15th amendment, but it did not specify the number. In URP’s second cycle, the government also claimed to have arrived at the final stage of amending the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act though the process had been repeatedly thwarted over the past four years, he said.


10 innocent Jumma villagers tortured by Army personnel in Rangamati (PCJSS CHT): On 30 May 2013 at about 11:30 am, at least 10 innocent Jumma villagers of Basonta Para Lichu Bagan area under Rangamati Sadar upazila of Rangamati Hill District were inhumanly tortured by Army personnel of nearby Subhalong Army Camp of Subhalong union of Barkal upazila. Even the villagers were severely wounded as a result of beating by the Army as per the local sources. It is learnt that at that time the Army personnel, reaching the village of Basonta Para Lichu Bagan area, ordered the villagers to gather at a place.


Whenever the villagers gathered at a place as per the order of the Army, the Army began asking about a person named Kalpati Chakma alleging him as a terrorist. The villagers became feared at such behaviour of the Army and tried to tell the Army that there was no person named `Kalpati’ rather than a person named `Kalobadhi Chakma’. Nevertheless, the Army personnel began beating the villagers indiscriminately one after another, where at least 10 persons among the villagers were wounded. Later, the Army personnel went to and ransacked the house of Kalobadhi Chakma. Kalobadhi Chakma was not house at that time. The 9 out of10 wounded villagers were as follows:


(1) Laxmi Kumar Chakma (27), son of late Fuleswar Chakma, village- Indra Moni Para; (2) Mr. Ananda Chakma (36), son of late Pattar Chandra Chakma, village- do; (3) Mr. Shanti Bikash Chakma (28), son of late Subal Chandra Chakma, village- do; (4) Mr. Kanak Baran Chakma (25), son of For a Chakma, village- do; (5) Mr. Surjya Chakma (28), son of late Pagla Chakma, village- do; (6) Mr. Robi Chandra Chakma (36), son of late Monu Ram Chakma, village- do; (7) Mr. Bana Kumar Chakma (30), son of late Pattar Muni Chakma, village- Jarul Chari; (8) Mr. Satya Jyoti Chakma (36), son of Batya Chakma, village- Changra Chari; (9) Mr. Anil Chakma (30), son of Dafadar Chakma, village- Kandya Mukh Para.


Excerpted from: A monthly newsletter of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC), Vol. 5 Issue 05–May 2013; Published on 2nd June 2013

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