East Bengal and its successor states, East Pakistan which is presently Bangladesh has had a bloody history of Islamist indoctrinated and incited, targeted violence against Hindus. Such incidents of violence unleashed by a numerically superior majority community are often labelled as riots which mistakenly conveys an impression of violence by all sides. In reality these are pogroms or acts of genocide as was the case in 1971 when the state and its armed forces participated in the act of killing of mainly Hindus and political workers of the Awami League. The Bangladesh genocide of 1971 led to another wave of migration of Hindus into India. Even though these heinuous acts are recorded in history, the perpetrators have seldom been brought to justice.

However, nearly 40 years after the formation of Bangladesh , January 28, 2010 was a landmark day. On this day Lt.Colonel Syed Faruque Rahman of the 1st Bengal Lancers and the foremost plotter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s assassination alongwith 5 other co-conspirators was hanged. It signified the relentless zeal (which some may call ruthless) with which Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s government pursued the assassins of the Bangabandhu who had managed evade the consequences of the heinous assassination and infact had been rehabilitated with sinecures by successive non Awami League governments after 1974. This single-minded-ness in pursuit of justice by the government goes a long way to set an example in society and precedent, for the consequences of any action.

Today Bangladesh appears to have come a long way. Apart from a strong growth in GDP and many human indices the threat of falling prey to military coups also appears to have receded. The delivery of justice in both the Bangabandhu and General Zia Ur Rahman’s case have also been contributory in confidence building. Yet, the plight of Hindus in the country continues to languish despite cursory assurances from the government. Infact the stark contrast behind Sheikh Hasina’s zeal in pursuit of Bangabandhu’s assasins and her mere lip service to law enforcement for  the regular incidents of intimidation, assault, rape, organized violence, damage and destruction of Hindu temples during even the holiest of Hindu months speaks volumes about the intent as a leader of her country and Bangladesh in general. The Hindus of Bangladesh are a pawn and hostage to a life of serfhood at best and to be traumatized and tortured for imaginary woes that fall foul with the religious character of the majority and the state.

The Bangladesh constitution  affirms the character of the state to be Islamic in nature and the state religion being Islam. It reads as follows:

The state religion of the Republic is Islam, but the State shall ensure equal status and equal right in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions.

Despite all the reassurances the Government of Bangladesh gives from time to time, the extreme violence unleased against Hindus in 2021 during Durga Puja were a reality. Even this year (2022) the Bangladeshi International Cricketer Liton Das’s simple personal act of marking the advent of Durga Puja attracted vile comments urging prosletysation or affirmation of the supremacy of Islam. While mature argument would suggest ignoring this type of baiting, if for a moment we consider that he had reacted with a counter narrative of return to the glorious past of Hinduism, one shudders to think of the consequences of what might have happened. The crime of Blasphemy would be invoked, as was done in 2021 Durga Puja upon a fake allegation of the desecration of the Koran. Spectacular violence had followed even touching the famed Krishna Conciousness (ISCKON) temple leading to pogroms involving mob lynching and killings.

Blasphemy is a commonly used technique in Bangladesh to unleash the most unspeakable level of violence against Hindus. Time and again such devious methods have been used to accuse Hindus of Blasphemy. Sadly no amount of Legal speak of the constitution can insulate the Hindus from such an inherent propensity of deception as a technique of violence.

It has been seen many times after an incident of Islamist violence that faith leaders are called for a resolution. The Islamic Imam can be found exhorting the assembly to emulate the life of the prophet, PBUH. Not only can this be very dangerous but also  very problematic as the Islamist interpretation of the Koran when left to individual reader’s or Imam’s  dangerous interpretation.

The following Surah’s and ayat’s of the Quran (given in Table 1) needs special cautionary interpretation, if one is to believe that they do not convey the threat of violence against non Islamic or non believer communities (which otherwise literally they do).

https://quran.com/1

Surah or Chapter Ayat or verse
Surah 2 (Al Baqarah) ayat 193 ayat 216
Surah 3 (Ali Imran) ayats 169-171
Surah 4 ( An Nisa) ayat 66
Surah 5 ( Al Ma’idah) ayat 82
Surah 8 (Al Anfal) ayat 12 ayats 15-18 ayat 39 ayats 59-60 ayat 67
Surah 9 (Al Tawbah) ayats 2-3 ayat 5 ayat 36 ayat 39 ayat 73 ayat 111 ayat 123
Surah 25 (Al Furqan) ayat 52
Surah 47 (Muhammad) ayat 4-15
Surah 48 (Al Fath) ayat 29
Surah 49 (Al Hujurat) ayat 15
Surah 66 (At Tahrim) ayat 9
Surah 69 (Al Haqqah) ayats 30-33

 

Niether should the Hindu Community  accept the exhortations during such interfaith meetings at face value, nor should naivete lead to acceptance of the facile talk about building bridges through societal dialogue. What is often ignored is that to build an effective bridge one needs a good understanding of the soil in both sides of the bank. If the soil in the bank on the other side is poor, the foundations will be weak, and the bridge will invariably collapse. This is the reason bridges with Islamists are doomed to fail every time. A  comprehensive understanding of the nature of the wiles and deception employed by Islamists needs to be understood both by the government and the Hindu community. Accusation of Blasphemy, is just one of the ruses used by Islamists to subjugate minority Hindus.

Societies that come under the influence of Islamist ideologies have a tendency to abandon well accepted principles of humanity. Regrettably Islamist societies have time and again shown the evidence of taking this to extreme levels of oppression of their minority neighbours and particularly so if it lacks the power of retaliation.

During the advent of Islam when Islam spread through conquests, a covenant is said to have been enforced during the conquest of the erstwhile Christian population of Syria by Caliph Ibn Umr Khattab. This covenant commonly known as the Pact Of Umar laid down strict conditions on the conquered Christian populace that it had to practise in order to practise their faith and live. Not only were the conditions demeaning but it was onesided and easily broken at will by the power holder. While the composition of Bangladeshi society is different and population is largely of a common stock sharing the same language and various other attributes with the exception of faith, the belief systems of the Islamic and non Islamic populations result in entirely different human proclivities. Further as it is a human trait to envy success or good fortune, disputes between individuals and communities invariably result in the Islamist inspired majority population drawing from the covenants outlined in the Pact of Umar and applying it to the Hindus. The Hindu population is therefore a perfect hostage in Bangladesh given that their numbers have dwindled to less than 10 percent. The risk and fear in which the Hindu population of Bangladesh lives in is a clear reflection of the level of governance capacity in that country.

Besides intimidation, the other way in which the Hindu population is victimized is by land grabbing.

Governance has been described at length in many philosophical texts. The fear of the ruler’s retribution upon transgression comprises a key pillar of same. The fear of  disproportional retribution of a strong ruler keeps the ethics of morality of subjects under check, it curbs any propensity for cruelty transforming it to tenderness. The vicious abandon all pretension of violence, the cruel no longer torment the weak and truthfulness permeates all actions. Modern societies recognize that the only thing that can curb even an intention for violence by citizenry or communities is the disproportionate retribution capability of the administrative state or government.

Now Bangladeshis of all faiths will understand these virtues only too well given that such a large proportion of them (especially men) reside and work in the Middle-East in countries such as the UAE. Even the  UAE is an Islamic country. Has any one ever heard of communal violence or blasphemy from there? It is a simple matter of governance! Even the present government in bringing Lt Col Faruque Rahman and his cohorts to justice have demonstrated a perfect understanding of this virtue.

The Hindu population of Bangladesh (and infact globally) needs to understand that fostering community strength and a robust violent riposte is the fundamental guarantee against violence. The prospect of retribution is the singular guarantee of peace. The Ramayana states- Comity (or harmony) often has an underlying element of fear (of consequencs otherwise). A famous Persian proverb states ‚Äď Peace rests under a canopy of swords. Thus if the state is not willing to exercise its legitimate power, families need to organize themselves in self defence.

A state that practices discrimination in providing security to citizens on the basis of religion opens up the space of intervention by a 3rd party who can be an arbitor. Political organization and clamour for such intervention needs to be done.

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