The widespread and well-coordinated attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh could not have happened without the complicity of ruling Awami League functionaries and leaders.
And it was primarily because of the involvement of members of the ruling party that the police remained mute bystanders when Islamist mobs assaulted and killed Hindus, molested and raped Hindu women and girls, destroyed Durga Puja pandals, attacked, looted and desecrated mandirs and targeted Hindu homes and businesses.
Top office bearers of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, the apex body of minority bodies in that country, told Swarajya over the phone from Dhaka, Chittagong and other parts of the country that the involvement of members and leaders of the ruling Awami League, as well as the radical Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, is very apparent.
Charu Chandra Das Brahmachari, the general secretary of the ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness) in Bangladesh, has gone on record alleging that “some activists” of the Awami League were closely involved in the attacks on mandirs and Hindu religious institutions. He urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to take strong action against her own party men involved in attacks on Hindus.
An ISKCON mandir was attacked and desecrated in Noakhali district of Bangladesh, and two members of the order were brutally killed on Friday (15 October). Brahmachari warned that the order would not “sit and idly watch” attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh.
Milan Kanti Das, president of the Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad (the apex body of all Durga Puja organising committees of that country, vented his ire: “Everyone from the Home Minister to the Awami League general secretary assured us that they know the people and organisations behind the attacks. If they have that knowledge, why are they not exposing them and arresting them?”
Leaders of the Council who did not want to be named out of fear of being targeted by the Bangladesh government told Swarajya that many Awami League activists were seen in the crowds that attacked Hindus and Hindu religious places. “We have received reports that ruling party members were closely involved in the attacks. We strongly suspect the hand of some Awami League leaders in instigating and planning the attacks,” said a senior office bearer of the Council.
Civil society leaders, including many prominent Muslims of Bangladesh, have blamed the ruling Awami League for the attacks on Hindus. “The Home Minister (Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal) said very casually that he had asked the police to keep vigil on Durga Puja mandaps and temples, but the police did not follow his directives. He should step down,” said Dr Safrullah Chowdhury, founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, one of the most prominent NGOs in Bangladesh.
“Many Awami League workers and leaders have close links with the Jamaat and even some banned Islamist organisations. They are Awami League during the day and Jamaat after dusk. They were closely involved in the attacks,” said human rights activist Sarowar Islam.
Leaders of Hindu rights organisations confirm this. “When it comes to attacking Hindus, the Awami League (AL), the (opposition) Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat all become one,” said a leader of the Hindu Oikya Parishad.
He explained: “After every such attack on Hindus, the Hindus tend to leave their properties and migrate to safer places, and even to India. The Hindus, feeling completely insecure, resort to distress sale of their homes, farmlands and business establishments and local politicians belonging to the AL, BNP and Jamaat benefit from such distress sale of Hindu properties. At times, the local politicians even confiscate properties of Hindus after displacing them. So all politicians stand to benefit from attacks on Hindus and other religious minorities”.
BNP standing committee member Goyeshwar Chandra Roy alleged that the AL was behind the attacks on Hindus. “The AL benefits the most from attacks on Hindus. AL leaders takeover the lands and properties of Hindus who flee violence, and get the votes of Hindus who stay back in the country,” he said.
Another senior office bearer of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council told Swarajya from Cumilla, where the attacks on Hindus first started (read this report in The Daily Star, the leading English language daily of Bangladesh), that the scale of the attacks this time, and the systematic manner in which they happened in many parts of that country, point to meticulous planning.
“There is no way that this planning could have happened without the knowledge and connivance of AL leaders and workers. The police remained mute spectators to the attacks at many places and that happened only because they were asked not to act by the ruling AL politicians and the government,” he reasoned.
In fact, AL ally Workers Party of Bangladesh (WPB), which is a constituent of the ruling alliance, has also said that the attacks on Hindus were “well-planned”. The party has questioned the “nonchalant stance of the police” in preventing the attacks.
The Human Rights Forum of Bangladesh (HRFB), the premier human rights body in that country, alluded to reports that the police had advance information about the planned attacks on Hindus during the Durga Puja festivities.
“If the police had prior information, why did it fail to act and prevent the attacks?” asked a HRFB office bearer who also wondered if the inaction of the police was due to the involvement of ruling party politicians.
Prominent Hindu leaders contended that Sunday’s statement by junior Information Minister Murad Hassan was a “diversionary tactic that only implicitly proves the involvement of the ruling Awami League in the attacks on Hindus”.
Hassan said on Sunday (17 October) that a bill would be introduced in Parliament to revert to the 1972 secular constitution of the country and overturn Bangladesh’s status as an ‘Islamic republic’.
“This (junking Bangladesh’s status as an Islamic republic) has been a campaign promise of the Awami League for decades. The AL has a majority in Parliament, what stopped it from amending the constitution to do away with the Islamic republic status? It is raising this issue now to deflect international criticism and to conceal the role of its own leaders in the attacks on Hindus,” said a senior leader of the Council who is also a prominent Dhaka-based businessman.
Meanwhile, the relentless and horrific attacks on Hindus that started on Wednesday (13 October), continued throughout Sunday (17 October) as well. Nearly 70 houses belonging to Hindus were torched by Islamist mobs after rumours about a social media post that was said to be abusive of Muslims. The post, not unsurprisingly, turned out to be fake.
Leaders of minority communities, human rights activists and civil society leaders say that over the past few years, attacks on minorities, mostly Hindus, were always sparked by fake social media posts.
“Social media is very closely and strictly monitored in Bangladesh, and so it is very surprising that fake posts that allegedly and purportedly insult Islam or Muslims are allowed to circulate, thus inciting passions and leading to attacks on minorities. This proves the complicity of government leaders and politicians,” said Amirul Haque, a writer.
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