At least one Hindu man was hacked to death, a dozen others attacked and injured and scores of houses belonging to Hindus looted across Bangladesh, over the last three days since the declaration of results of the parliamentary elections in the country.
Their crime: they were perceived to have either voted for or against the Awami League, or had abstained from voting.
Barun Ghosh, an Awami League (AL) functionary at Jhenaidah town in the country’s western Khulna division, was hacked to death Tuesday (9 January) evening.
Ghosh, 48, had campaigned extensively for his party in the Jhenaidah-2 parliamentary seat and had reportedly received many threats. But he was assured of safety by AL seniors. An independent candidate, Nasser Shahriar, had defeated the AL candidate in that constituency.
Barun Ghosh was attacked by some Muslim men near his house in Majhipara locality of the city, which is just about an hour's drive away from the border with Bengal.
At Sirajganj in the country’s western Rajshahi division, Hindu houses were looted and temples desecrated because Muslims affiliated to the AL felt that the Hindus had not voted for the party’s candidate in the Sirajganj-5 parliamentary seat, Abdul Momin Mondol.
Even though Mondol won the elections, Hindus were subjected to attacks throughout Tuesday and Wednesday (10 January).
The same scenario played out at Gaibandha in the country’s northern Rangpur division. Supporters of the victorious AL candidate from Gaibandha-5 parliamentary constituency, Mohammad Fazle Rabbi Miah, attacked many Hindu homes in that town and destroyed a Hindu shrine.
“The attacks started Tuesday evening. Since Monday (8 January) morning, Awami League activities had been accusing us (Hindus) of abstaining from elections or not voting for Miah. Tension was building up and though we informed the police, they did not respond,” Sudhin Malakar, a school teacher and AL functionary, told Swarajya over phone from Rangpur city where he has taken shelter at a relative’s house along with his family.
Malakar said at least two dozen Hindu homes were attacked and looted.
“The intention of the attackers was to loot our homes. They looted all valuables, including TV sets, brass utensils and jewellery. One shrine was attacked and the murti smashed to pieces,” he said.
This happened even though Miah (the AL candidate) won by over 2.22 lakh votes.
“The allegation against Hindus that we didn’t vote for the Awami League was completely false and was circulated by people who wanted to loot our properties,” said Malakar.
Hindus came under attack in Faridpur in central Bangladesh. According to a senior functionary of the Bangladesh Hindu Parishad, AL functionaries attacked Hindus who had gone to vote.
“The Awami League activists assumed that Hindus would vote against their party and thus wanted to dissuade Hindus from voting. They told Hindus that their votes would not be required. But when Hindus defied them and went to cast their votes, Hindus were attacked,” said the Parishad leader.
In many other parts of the country, purported activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other Opposition parties attacked Hindus.
Even those Hindus who had not voted were attacked by AL activists who assumed that the Hindus were supporting the call to boycott elections, given by the BNP, and some other opposition parties.
Hindus of Bangladesh, thus, find themselves in a desperate and helpless situation.
“If we vote for the Awami League, we earn the wrath of the BNP. We are attacked by the Awami League if we abstain from voting out of fear of violence. Often, the Awami League attacks us for voting. We are caught between the devil and deep sea,” a senior functionary of the Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad told Swarajya over phone from Dhaka.
According to many Hindu activists, the attackers simply take the cover of political parties. “They are not driven by political affiliations, but only by their hatred towards Hindus. And their sole objective is to kill us, loot our properties and take over our lands. The agenda is communal and politics is just a cover,” the Parishad leader explained.
“The political affiliations of the attackers — all of them radical Muslims — are fluid. They may belong to the BNP or AL or Jamaat or Hefazat, but they are united in their hatred for Hindus,” he said.
This hatred is what drove Bangladesh cricket team captain, Shakib Al Hasan, who won from Magura parliamentary seat in western Bangladesh on an Awami League ticket, to serve beef curry to Hindu party workers (read this report).
Hasan, who is known to be an Islamist and is no stranger to controversies off and on the pitch, reportedly forced some Hindu workers of the party to consume beef at a dinner he had hosted at his residence, for those who were campaigning for him.
Magura is a Hindu majority town and Hasan had told his guests that the meat being served was mutton. But when some of the guests raised doubts and refused to eat, Hasan and his father threatened the Hindus, reports say.
Bangladesh Supreme Court lawyer and Hindu rights activist Animesh Kumar Ghosh, a resident of Magura, confirmed this incident to Swarajya.
The incident caused such a lot of outrage that some local AL leaders issued apologies to Hindus.
“Political affiliations of those who attack us are irrelevant. They may belong to the Awami League, BNP or any other party or Islamists organisations like the Jamaat and Hefazat. They are all anti-Hindus and driven by the agenda to attack and kill Hindus, or forcibly convert Hindus to Islam and to loot our properties, destroy our temples. They call us malauns, and treat us as second-class citizens and kafirs. There is no hope for Hindus in Bangladesh,” Subir Kumar Das, who was once a functionary of the AL at Jessore and fled the country ten years ago, told Swarajya from Bongaon (in Bengal’s North 24 Parganas) where he has settled down with his family.
Das, who was a businessman at Jessore, now runs a grocery store in Bongaon. There are countless others like Das — their numbers run into millions — who have fled Bangladesh due to religious persecution.
This persecution has continued unabated even since 1947. And the Awami League returning to power for the fourth consecutive term earlier this week will make little difference to the embattled Hindus of Bangladesh.
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