Terror Timeline: Attacks On Hindus In Bangladesh Are Not ‘Isolated Incidents’ But Part Of A Continuous Hindu Genocide

Terror Timeline: Attacks On Hindus In Bangladesh Are Not ‘Isolated Incidents’ But Part Of A Continuous Hindu Genocide

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Tuesday, October 19, 2021 07:05 PM IST
Terror Timeline: Attacks On Hindus In Bangladesh Are Not ‘Isolated Incidents’ But Part Of A Continuous Hindu GenocideHindu persecution continues unabated in Bangladesh
  • The persecution of Hindus of Bangladesh--assaults, slaughters, rapes, forcible conversions and displacement from properties--is designed to terrorise the Hindus and ultimately drive them away from that country.

    This fits the definition of genocide as codified by the United Nations.

Many in India have been trying to falsely portray the latest horrific attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh as “isolated incidents” that are aberrations and not reflective of the ‘secular and syncretic’ culture of Bangladesh.

But they are wrong, and grossly so. The attacks this time (they started Wednesday last week and are continuing) are part of the Hindu genocide that commenced exactly 75 years ago in Noakhali where hundreds of Hindus were killed, countless womenfolk raped and forcibly converted to Islam, and Hindus displaced from their properties.

Since 1946, Hindus in Bangladesh have been attacked, maimed and killed, Hindu women (including minor girls) raped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to old men or sold to brothels, millions of acres of land belonging to Hindus have been forcibly taken over and tens of thousands of Hindus have been evicted from their homes and denied livelihood.

That is why millions of Hindus have migrated to India since 1947. Had the continuing attacks on them been ‘isolated incidents’ and ‘aberrations’, millions of Hindus would not have fled their homes and heath and abandoned whatever little they possessed across the border to migrate to India and become ‘stateless citizens’ here over the last 75 years.

Hindus constituted nearly 31 per cent of the population of the province of East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in 1941. In fact, the majority Muslim population there started making life difficult for Hindus even before 1946, thus trigerring a steady exodus of well-off Hindus to the western part of Bengal (the state of West Bengal now).

This has been well documented by many historians and researchers. “Harassment of Hindu women, minor attacks on Hindus, restrictions on observance of Hindu festivals, desecration of mandirs, economic boycott of Hindu traders and other such acts which remained well below the radar made Hindus feel very insecure in the Muslim-dominated districts of that province. Hindus who were relatively well-off started migrating to the western part of Bengal and to Assam after selling off their properties there,” said researcher Bibhas Kumar Mukhopadhyay.

That is why the percentage of Hindus came down to 29.7 per cent when the province became East Pakistan in 1947. The pogrom against Hindus started receiving state sanction and patronage from 1947 under Pakistan’s Islamist rulers.

The first widespread and acute persecution of Hindus in East Pakistan started in late January 1950. The next major pogrom was in 1964 when frenzied and rabid Islamists attacked, killed and raped Hindus and pillaged Hindu properties (read this).

The trigger was the alleged disappearance of a hair of prophet Muhammad from a shrine in faraway Srinagar (Kashmir) in late December 1963. Though Hindus of East Pakistan had nothing to do with it, they became fair game for Islamists who have always professed their hatred for kafirs and malauns (a pejorative term reserved for Hindus, it means a person who is accursed and unworthy of Allah’s mercy).

The next phase of major ehtnic cleansing started with Operation Searchlight launched by the West Pakistani army and their Islamist collaborators in March 1971 to silence demands for East Pakistan’s independence and Bengali nationalism.

The Hindus bore the brunt of the West Pakistani army’s ire and of the estimated 30 lakh killed, a majority were Hindus. Over 80 per cent of the one crore who fled East Pakistan and sought shelter in India were Hindus, and most of them never returned even after East Pakistan gained independence to become Bangladesh.

Of the estimated four lakh women who were raped by the West Pakistani army and their collaborators (called Razakars, all were rabid Islamist bigots) from March 1971 till the country’s independence in December that year, more than 80 per cent were Hindus.

At the time of the country’s independence in December 1971, Hindus formed just 19.6 per cent of the country’s population, down from 29.7 per cent in 1947.

Though attacks on Hindus ceased for a short while after 1971, the genocide resumed with a vengeance from 1988 when the military junta under General H M Ershad altered the country’s constitution to make it an ‘Islamic republic’. That was taken as a licence by Islamists to start cleansing their country of Hindus.

Once again, hundreds of Hindus were killed, a couple of hundred women raped and forcibly converted to Islam and thousands displaced from their properties. Another round of exodus to India followed due to this chapter of cleansing that continued over the next two years.

The demolition of the Babri masjid at Ayodhya in 1992 triggered another round of Hindu genocide in Bangladesh. This time, hundreds of mandirs were desecrated, looted and destroyed. The physical attacks, killings and rapes were, of course, part of this pogrom as well.

There has been no let-up in this Hindu genocide that has followed a set pattern since 1946--low-key and continuous attacks on and persecution of Hindus to terrorise them and make them live in a constant state of fear, interspersed with major periodic flareups in violence against Hindus that hit the headlines.

The advent of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Jamaat-e-Islami combine to power in 2001 triggered the next wave of large scale attacks on Hindus.

After Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2008, Hindus of Bangladesh expected the ethnic cleansing to ease. But to their acute disappointment and contrary to assertions by Hasina, the attacks on Hindus have continued.

The continuous persecution of Hindus is evident from statistics. From 19.6 per cent in 1971, the percentage of Hindus in Bangladesh fell to 14.6 per cent in 1974, to 11.7 per cent in 1991, 10 per cent in 2001 and is estimated to be just about 8.3 per cent now.

According to government statistics, 1.25 crore Hindus migrated to India from East Pakistan from 1950 to 1971. But from 1974 till 2016, an estimated 1.5 crore Hindus have left Bangladesh.

According to a study conducted by Professor Abul Barkat (he teaches economics at Dhaka University) in May 2007, nearly two lakh Hindus have lost 22 lakh acres of their land and houses between 2001 and 2007. The value of the properties lost, he calculated, was half Bangladesh’s GDP at that time.

The displacement of Hindus from their properties and forcible occupation of their farmlands, homes and business establishments by the politically powerful cutting across party lines continues.

Professor Barkat contends that there will be no Hindus left in Bangladesh by 2050. Studies conducted by Professor Barkat and his team have revealed that the daily rate of migration of Hindus from East Pakistan to India was 705 persons before 1971, it fell to 512 in the 1971-1981 period and a further 438 between 1981 and 1991.

But the daily migration rose to 767 persons (per day) from 1991 to 2001 and went up to 774 persons per day from 2001 to 2012. The rate of migration has remained the same over the last nine years.

What also debunks the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League’s claims about Hindus being safe under its rule is statistics compiled by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a leading legal aid and human rights body of Bangladesh. ASK, which prepares annual reports on human rights violations in that country, says that 3,679 attacks on Hindus took place between January 2013 and September this year. These attacks included vandalism of and torching 559 houses and 442 business establishments belonging to Hindus. During this period, Bangladesh saw 1,678 attacks on Hindu temples and religious institutions.

Hindus were targeted in the 2014 post-election violence that year, said the ASK report. As many as 761 houses belonging to Hindus, 193 Hindu-owned business establishments and 247 mandirs were attacked in 2014.

Even amidst the pandemic last year, 67 mandirs were attacked and desecrated. Seven Hindus were killed in attacks by Islamists in 2016.

Not only Hindus, Ahmadiyyas, Buddhists and Christians were also attacked and persecuted over the last nine years. Seventeen houses and four business establishments of the Ahmadiyyas were attacked in 2019 and 2020, injuring at least 50 members of the sect. Buddhist monasteries in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong were attacked and looted and rare manuscripts burnt while members of the order were assaulted and some Buddhists were forcibly converted to Islam.

The Hindus, of course, are the primary targets in Bangladesh. And despite the pious proclamations of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Hindu genocide has continued unabated under her watch.

All this is also why sinister attempts by India’s leftists to pass off the attacks on Hindus as ‘isolated incidents’ is completely erroneous. The persecution of Hindus of Bangladesh--the assaults, slaughters, rapes, forcible conversions and displacement from properties they are subjected to--is designed to terrorise the Hindus and ultimately drive them away from that country.

This fits the definition of genocide as codified by the United Nations in its 1951 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This genocide needs to be called out, and the Sheikh Hasina government of Bangladesh should be held accountable for it.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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