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Bangladeshi Hindus Face Religious Persecution

The book brings to fore sexual assault, rapes, extreme inhuman discrimination perpetuated by Muslim vandals on minority Hindus.

Prakhar Sharma

“Being Hindu In Bangladesh” is documentation of a narrative often sidelined in mainstream discourse. Authored by Deep Halder, an esteemed editor and Avishek Biswas, a seasoned professor, this publication offers first-hand account of the lives of Hindus in Bangladesh, transcending mere secondary research to provide a grassroots perspective.

The book cover serves as a powerful prelude to the content within. Adorned with stark red blood sign, it commands attention and sets tone for the narrative. This imagery resonates deeply evoking visceral responses and hinting at harsh realities faced by Hindus in Bangladesh. It captures author’s experiences in Dhaka.

Within the pages of this tome lie two prevailing sentiments that encapsulate plight of Hindus in Bangladesh. Firstly, there is the pervasive fear that under the rule of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the already precarious situation of Hindus would deteriorate further with murderous mobs threatening their very existence.

Secondly, even under governance of the Awami League, Hindus continue to harbour concerns about their future, uncertain about what awaits them beyond the tenure of Sheikh Hasina.

Halder and Biswas meticulously unravel these beliefs, presenting a harrowing portrait of challenges faced by Hindus in a predominantly Muslim nation. They delve into grim reality of unprovoked violence, where Hindus routinely lose not only their land and livelihoods but their homes and daughters to marauding mobs. These incidents, occurring year-round and predominantly in rural areas, remain obscured from journalistic scrutiny, compelling the authors to undertake a journalistic odyssey akin to war reporting.

In “Being Hindu In Bangladesh,” Halder and Biswas have not only shed light on a marginalized narrative but have provided a platform for voices that often go unheard. Their work stands as a testament to resilience of a community grappling with adversity, urging readers to confront uncomfortable truths and advocate for change.

“Dalit – Muslim Unity is a false Narrative”

Yes, you have read it correctly. Deep Halder, the book’s author, ventured to Mandal’s house in Bangladesh, gathering evidence and first-hand information for his narrative. The book meticulously unravels the story behind “Jai Bhim – Jai Mem,” a narrative that has been romanticized over decades.

Halder skilfully captures life of Jogendranath Mandal, Pakistan’s first Law Minister and a towering figure in pre-partition dalit leadership. Mandal, who opted for Pakistan over India, envisioned harmonious coexistence between dalits and muslims in newly-formed nation. However, as communal tensions escalated, Hindus began fleeing East Pakistan for India in large numbers with Mandal eventually following suit.

Few in Mandal’s lower-middle-class neighbourhood now recall that this very house was host to the eminent leader during his twilight years. Mandal, disillusioned and broken, spent his final years here, perhaps reflecting on his shattered dream of Hindu-Muslim unity in East Pakistan. He passed away in obscurity in Bongaon, North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, in 1968.

The house, adorned with blue windows and nondescript outer walls, is owned by Bharat Chandra Adhikary. Adhikary extended refuge to Mandal upon his return to India in 1950, offering solace to a man who had resigned from the Pakistani cabinet in despair. In his resignation letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, dated October 8, 1950, Mandal expressed his belief that economic interests of Muslims and Scheduled Castes in Bengal were aligned.

However, disillusionment with Muslim League and scepticism towards Indian National Congress and Hindu Mahasabha eventually led him to accept unpopularity of his decision to support Pakistan.

Halder’s exploration of Mandal’s life and choices offers readers a nuanced understanding of complexities surrounding identity, politics, and communalism in tumultuous era of partition. Through meticulous research and poignant storytelling, Halder brings to light the untold story of a man whose ideals and aspirations were ultimately overshadowed by harsh realities of history.

“Noakhali Horror”

In a poignant interview reminiscent of haunting tales depicted in “Pather Panchali,” Deep Halder met with Smritikana Biswas, a 90-year-old witness to horrors of Hindu – Muslim riots in Noakhali in 1946 and subsequent atrocities in 2021 which included attacks on Hindu temples and homes. Biswas recounted a chilling memory of her father’s desperate attempt to save her sister during the 1946 pogrom, where violence threatened their village located hours away from Dhaka.

It was a haunting decision but the only means to safeguard the girl. Even now, the trauma of witnessing mutilated bodies and stench of blood still lingers, as Biswas confessed to Halder, reflecting on tragic events that have left an indelible mark on her life.

Each time I revisited this chapter, I found myself recoiling in horror. Through first-hand account of Purnima Rani Shil, detailed in “Horror In The Countryside,” the grim reality of plight faced by Bangladesh’s Hindu population came into stark focus. Shil’s harrowing experience on the night of October 8, 2001 where she was brutally assaulted and violated until losing consciousness, serves as a reminder of unfathomable brutality endured by countless individuals. Even worse, the perpetrators and their associates continue to torment her with incessant harassment.

Why This Book is ‘Different’?

What sets “Being Hindu In Bangladesh” apart from other contemporary literature is its distinctive focus on a narrative often overlooked in discussions of war and history. While numerous books delve into broader themes of conflict and violence, this publication stands out by addressing a significant gap in partition literature which has predominantly been shaped by a selective narrative favoured by left historians.

Moreover, Partition of Bengal and its aftermath remain underexplored topics, lacking the attention it rightfully deserves. Authors Deep Halder and Abhishek Biswas seize the opportunity to rectify this oversight. They embark on a unique journey into lives of Hindus in Bangladesh, traversing the country to document their experiences, challenges, and broader socio-political landscape. By shining a spotlight on this overlooked aspect of history, the authors offer readers a more comprehensive understanding of complexities inherent in post-partition societies.

Hindu American Foundation’s report revealing that 11.3 million Hindus have fled Bangladesh due to religious persecution and intolerance between 1964 and 2013 underscores gravity of the situation. An additional 230,000 individuals continue leave annually, further depleting the Hindu Bangladeshi diaspora.

As one delves deeper into the book, unrelenting documentation of atrocities may prompt a pause, a moment to catch one’s breath amidst the grim realities depicted. Yet, amidst desolate panorama, there shines a beacon of hope in the form of minority Muslims vociferously advocating for secularity promised by Banglabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. However, such voices remain tragically sparse.

(Author Prakhar Sharma is a PhD candidate at the Delhi School of Social Work University of Delhi and works on the topics of Education and Social change. He is an Alumnus of London School of Economics and TISS Mumbai. He works at Rishihood University, Sonipat)

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