Why is Sheikh Hasina's 'secular' govt so woefully inept at curbing atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh

There does not seem to be a let up in the ongoing atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh. While Bangladesh continues to add more muscle to its military might – strengthening its defence through several deals with China, including the purchase of two submarines – it seems that the Sheikh Hasina government is still hapless when it comes to containing the incessant excesses being committed against the Hindu minority in the country.

The Muslim aggression against Hindus was first unleashed at Nasirnagar of the Brahmanbaria district on 30 October, during the Hindu festival of Diwali (Kalipuja for the Hindu Bengalis). Islamic fanatics torched several Hindu houses, vandalised and desecrated temples and openly looted property. The big question here is that whether the fanatics acted with the connivance of the local goons of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League party.

The Hasina government has always claimed to be secular and pro-Hindu. Yet, acts of terrorising Hindus continue unabated, with law and order authorities watching the violence as silent spectators. Therefore, by default or by implication, it will not be a reach to suggest that there is a State connivance to such undesirable activities.

 Why is Sheikh Hasinas secular govt so woefully inept at curbing atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh

The Hasina government has always claimed to be secular and pro-Hindu, yet acts of terrorising Hindus continue unabated in Bangladesh. Reuters

How else can one explain the fact that it has been nearly three weeks since the violence erupted and there have been no signs of any fire fighting. This is indeed appalling. Reliable sources confirm that the planning for the attacks on Hindu temples and houses was carried out in local mosques, and that Muslim extremists paraded on the streets with arms, openly exhibiting their anti-Hindu tenor.

Following the attacks in Brahmanbaria, the anti-Hindu excesses spilled over to Govindgunj of the Gaibandha district on 6 November. Here, a Santhal village came under communal attack, leading to two avoidable deaths and the wanton destruction of property, in what can only be described as organised cases of arson and murderous attacks on Hindu Santhals.

Almost simultaneously, the Khulna and Bagerhat districts also saw episodes of large scale and planned violence, conducted on the pretext of grabbing immovable Hindu property. An ordinary incident of land dispute in the region led to arson, loot and anti-Hindu sloganeering that was reminiscent of the ugly scenes of Partition days. The women were not spared either. The authorities looked clueless in spite of several credible reports claiming that 17 temples were desecrated and over 100 Hindu homes were usurped.

In lieu of the ceaseless inhuman atrocities against Hindus, it is pertinent to point out that the Hindu population in Bangladesh has shrunk drastically, from 13.5 percent to a meagre 8.5 percent. Sceptics attribute this decline in number to the fact that Hindus are being forced to flee to India, so that their prime-landed property can be appropriated.

Many secular quarters in Bangladesh have voiced their concern and have expressed surprise over a studied silence on part of India, especially the Hindu activists. They condemn the Indian government for failing to prevail upon its Bangladeshi counterpart and for not being able to contain the communal situation, that seems to be getting out of hand.

Earlier, the Bangladeshi minority problem was debated rather loudly in the British Parliament (House of Commons) with British MP Bob Blackman taking the lead on behalf of the Hindus in Britain, vehemently castigating the perpetrators for their continued attacks on Hindus. Similar protests have also been observed in other European capitals including in Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam; resonating the Hindu grievances of being easy targets of Islamic intimidation and atrocities.

It must be noted here that Hindus form a sizeable vote bank in Bangladesh and that they have traditionally voted for the Awami League in all the elections. The government and the ruling party must work in sync to tackle this unwieldy communal problem started by the majority community, lest it assumes serious proportions. Civil rights groups should also make the right kind of noise to keep the secular fabric of the country intact. As of now, there are no signs of any optimism in this regard. It's high time the government wakes up and meets the challenge.

In the past, atrocities on Hindus were always and conveniently blamed on to the communal and anti-Hindu Jama'at-e-Islami party. But this party is now proscribed and above all, all its top leaders have either been executed or are languishing behind bars. If that is the case, then who are the real culprits? That is something for the Hasina government to identify, thus enabling it to take some visible punitive measures to safeguard Hindus from the fanatics' onslaught.

(The writer is a retired IPS officer who is a security analyst and a Bangladesh watcher. All views expressed are personal.)

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Updated Date: Nov 18, 2016 17:16:57 IST