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Bangladesh\’s Crossroads: Navigating Rising Extremism and Anti-Hindu Persecution

Rahul Pawa

Since its inception in 1971, Bangladesh has borne witness to an alarming trend of persistent human rights violations against the Hindu minority. The initiation of this harrowing journey can be traced back to the Bangladesh Liberation War, which tragically saw hundreds of thousands – some estimates even escalating to 2.4 million – of Hindus losing their lives.


In the subsequent two decades, from 1971 to 1991, the Hindu demographic saw a significant drop from constituting 13.5% of the population to a mere 9.2%. As time went by, the situation didn\’t improve; the 2011 census data further revealed the Hindu population dwindling to 8.5%, showcasing the grim reality of a consistent Hindu exodus induced by relentless persecution. Instances of violence, particularly the distressing post-election attacks of 2001 where an estimated 200 Hindus were killed, and many more were displaced, serve as stark reminders of this sustained oppression. The history, darkened by the tales of these atrocities, underscores the urgent need for robust and comprehensive action to protect the rights and wellbeing of Bangladesh\’s Hindu minority.

Recently, the persecution of Hindus has taken an even more disturbing turn with the rise of Islamist extremism, spearheaded by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their ideological ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). On Friday, July 28, 2023, these radical Islamist factions orchestrated a series of deplorable acts, magnified by a rally staged in the Naya Paltan area of Dhaka city. This gathering, attended by over one hundred thousand Islamists, served as the platform for the announcement of a continuous agitation program, delivered through a video message by BNP’s acting chairman and convicted terrorist, Tarique Rahman. This climate of fear and hostility has effectively marginalised Hindus, relegating them to the status of second-class citizens in their own homeland. Such developments pose serious challenges to Bangladesh\’s secular fabric and its commitment to uphold human rights. On multiple instances, a host of leaders from the BNP have fearlessly expressed their intentions to strike back against every member of the Sheikh Hasina lead Awami League. Their rhetoric ominously suggests that the \”agents of Awami League,\” which includes Hindu supporters and India (Bharat), would be subjected to severe consequences should the BNP regain power. This hostile stance was reflected at the recent gathering as well, with attendees zealously participating in anti-India and anti-Hindu chants. A particularly disconcerting sentiment emerged from the crowd as they proclaimed, \”Bangladesh is Muslimstan, Hindus go to Hindustan\” – a blatant effort to exclude and marginalise the Hindu community, this sets a dangerous precedent for a potential escalation in an already volatile and strained environment.

In stark contrast to the ominous atmosphere generated by the BNP rally, another event, a peace rally organised by the youth front of the Awami League, presented a deeply human and sympathetic face to the issues at hand. The rallying cry came from Purnima Rani Shil, a Hindu woman who suffered an unthinkable ordeal at the hands of BNP members at the tender age of 14, in the Ullapara area of Sirajganj district in 2001.

In her moving testimony, Purnima conveyed the stark reality of what a BNP return to power might mean: \”If BNP regains control, I fear thousands of Hindu girls may become victims of this notoriously anti-Hindu party. They stole my childhood and my youth. They exiled my family from our village. I found no justice anywhere, as from 2001 to 2006, the country fell into the clutches of Pakistani agents and enemies of humanity. Khaleda Zia is the matriarch of anti-Hindu atrocities, with her son, the convicted terrorist Tarique Rahman, functioning as a marionette of the Pakistanis. They aim to transform a secular Bangladesh into another Pakistan.\”

 Alarmingly, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party recently declared what they ominously labeled as the \”final part of war\” against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her governing body, the Awami League. Urging their supporters to make Dhaka city their stronghold until the ruling government is unseated, this call to arms rings a dangerous bell, not just in Bangladesh, but echoes ominously across the globe. What\’s particularly disconcerting are the financial streams that the BNP is purportedly benefiting from. Media reports suggest that the party is being showered with millions of dollars from dubious sources. These funds, murkily acquired, are directed towards sustaining a challenge against the incumbent government. Even in the face of severe economic collapse, Pakistan appears to be pumping substantial sums into the coffers of the BNP, raising concerns over its vested interests. Disturbingly, infamous figures such as terrorist Dawood Ibrahim are believed to be aiding the ultra-Islamist party with substantial financial support. This level of global backing raises serious questions about the international networks of radicalism and the ideological hatred driving these alliances.

The BNP is also believed to be deploying the power of propaganda to influence minds and fuel divisiveness. It has reportedly poured millions into lobbying activities across the United States and Europe.  Simultaneously, the BNP is staging an alarming media assault against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government. Utilising the reach of social media and international news outlets, the party is disseminating a narrative steeped in extremist ideologies. This massive propaganda drive seeks to undermine the established peace and unity, as it fuels societal divisions on a large scale, aided and abetted by the malignant forces of Islamist hatred. The dangerous undertones of their activities are a stark reminder of the relentless threats that peace-loving societies face around the world and how nations that fall for such extremist views and ideas are destined to collapse.

The persistent plight of the Hindu minority in Bangladesh, marked by rising religious extremism and significant financing of such factions, highlights the pressing challenges to peace, social harmony, and human rights in the region. As Bangladesh continues to grapple with these complex issues, the manner in which it safeguards minority rights and counters religious extremism will be pivotal. These developments, resonating far beyond national boundaries, necessitate vigilant observation and strategic intervention from regional and international stakeholders, underscoring the critical role of collective action in the preservation of human rights.

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