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Bangladesh: State must protect minorities from political violence - select editorials & reports

4 March 2013

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Editorial, New Age (Bangladesh), 4 March 2013

Onus on govt to ensure safety of religious minority people

ATTACKS on places of worship and homesteads of people belonging to the religious minority communities, especially Hindus, have become a regular feature as leaders, activists, sympathisers and supporters of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir continue to run riot in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Sunday, two Hindu temples and one Hindu homestead came under attack in Barisal and Bagerhat on Saturday; statues of Hindu deities were damaged and set ablaze. The Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikya Parishad secretary was quoted in the report as claiming that more than 100 temples and more than 1,000 houses have come under attack since the sentencing to death of frontline Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee by International Crimes Tribunal 1 on February 28 sparked off widespread violence and vandalism by leaders, activists, supporters and sympathisers of Jamaat and Shibir. Although Jamaat has officially denied involvement of its leaders and activists, sympathisers and supporters in the attacks on the religious minority communities, such denials could have very little credibility or acceptability under the circumstances. Moreover, in the past, Jamaat and Shibir have both displayed their predisposition to intolerance of not only other faiths but also other sects within Islam.

Regardless of whoever is responsible for the attacks on the religious minority communities, their places of worship and homesteads, the attacks themselves may not have been unexpected. Even if Jamaat and Shibir were not involved, as they claim, there had always been the possibility that the volatile situation arising out of their violent protests against trial and conviction of their top leaders on the charge of crimes against humanity perpetrated during the war of liberation in 1971 could lead to such attacks — for religious reasons or otherwise. Regrettably, however, despite the clear writing on the wall, so to speak, the Awami League-led government appeared abysmally underprepared, if not unprepared, to ensure safety and security of the religious minority communities, which is not just unfortunate but unacceptable as well.

The attacks on religious minority communities in the past couple of days have already attracted international attention, as they should have. According to another report also front-paged in New Age on Sunday, a spokesperson of the US state department told a news briefing in Washington on Friday that the US government had taken note of ‘reports on attacks on a Hindu temple.’ It is fair to say that, in respect of rights of the minority communities, religious and otherwise, Bangladesh has in recent years found itself on a somewhat sticky ground, especially given an increasing incidence of violence and vandalism perpetrated against them. The latest attacks on the temples and homesteads of religious minority communities, come as they do hot on the heels of a series of attacks on monasteries, shrines, and houses of Buddhist inhabitants in Ramu upazila in Cox’s Bazar in September 2012, could only raise questions about the incumbent government’s ability, if not willingness, to protect the national minority communities.

Ultimately, therefore, the onus is on the incumbents to ensure safety and security of the national minority communities, not only amidst the ongoing violent agitation by the Jamaat-Shibir people now but also against religious bigots predisposed to hate- and fear-mongering against people of other faiths throughout the year. To this end, they need to credibly investigate the latest attacks on religious minority communities, identify the perpetrators, and have them prosecuted and punished.

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Editorial, The Daily Star March 4, 2013

Violence against minority community:
Nip it in the bud

We note with a great deal of concern that the recent eruptions of political violence have been marked by some attacks on members of Hindu community with their houses and temples vandalised. Reports of such incidents have come from different areas of Noakhali, Chittagong, Barisal, Bagerhat and Gazipur.

That this is very unfortunate as well as outrageous is saying the least. We condemn the perpetrators of such cowardly and despicable acts in the strongest term. The government must deal with the situation firmly to nip the sinister trend in the bud.

Since the members of minority community are vulnerable to the machinations of trouble-mongers, necessary precautionary measures should have been put in place earlier on to pre-empt any untoward incident.

At first, reports of violence on the community came from Begumganj in Noakhali after the verdict on Delwar Hossain Sayedee came out on Thursday; then a pattern set in.

The government must fill in the gaps in its security arrangements as it cannot afford to be caught unprepared in the future. We urge the government to ensure reinforced police presence, especially in places that are inhabited by the people of minority community.

As a society having homogenous ethnic texture, communal harmony has traditionally been Bangladesh’s hallmark. Throughout the ages people of different religious faiths have been coexisting peacefully in these parts.

So, the violence that has happened might have been a ploy of the vested quarters to smear the secular image of the country.

The government should now stand by the victims, maintain constant vigil by law-enforcers as well as by local people to thwart any further attempt to attack them or cause communal disharmony.

Every specific instance of vandalism against the minority community, their houses and religious places must be probed to identify the culprits and take measures to bring them to justice. At the same time, the victims need to be compensated so that they are able to rebuild their lives.

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The Daily Star - 4 March 2013

Protect minorities
HC asks govt as fresh attacks on Hindus in Dinajpur, Barisal

Staff Correspondent

The High Court yesterday directed the government to protect until further orders the minority communities and places of worships attacked allegedly by activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP in Noakhali on Thursday.

In a suo moto rule, the authorities concerned were also asked to repair the houses and places of worships and to bring those back to their previous condition. A report on the compliance of the directives has to be submitted in the court in 10 days, the HC said.

The court passed the rule on the government following a report published in The Daily Star on March 2 with the headline "Attacks on Noakhali Hindus: Victims feel insecure."

The HC directives came in tandem with fresh attacks on minority establishments reported from Dinajpur and Barisal yesterday.

Soon after the International Crimes Tribunal-1 passed a verdict against Jamaat-e-Islami Nayeb-e-Ameer Delawar Hossain Sayedee for war crimes on Thursday, leaders and activists of Jamaat, its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir and local BNP men launched attacks on the Hindus at Begumganj in Noakhali, according to the March 2 report.

The opposition party men torched, vandalised and looted at least one temple and many houses at Begumganj, sending the minorities into a panic, the report says. Jamaat-Shibir men also damaged six temples, torched 36 houses and vandalised 40 other houses after looting those at Alampur and Aladin Nagar villages in Rajganj.

Witnesses said Shibir activists Saddam and Alauddin and BNP activists Khalil and Ibrahim led the attacks.

The HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik and Justice Mahmudul Hoque yesterday issued another rule upon the government to explain in 10 days why it should not be directed to arrest and prosecute the criminals.

Home secretary, inspector general of police, deputy commissioner (DC) and superintendent of police (SP) of Noakhali, and officer-in-charge of Begumganj have been made respondents to the rule.

Deputy Attorney General Amit Talukder told The Daily Star that he had already informed the DC of Noakhali of the HC order and asked him to take steps.

Unidentified miscreants tried to torch a Hindu temple at Aliganj Bazaar of Hizla upazila, Barisal, but were resisted. In another incident, police arrested three people in connection with damaging and torching of idols of Hindu goddess at Sarbojoneen Durga Mandir in Gournadi upazila of the district.

OC of Gournadi Police Station Abul Kalam Azad said police had raided different areas in the early hours yesterday and arrested Mizan Khalifa, 20, first year student of Dhaka Titumir College, Baharuddin Ahmed 31, a businessman of Dhaka and Aminul Islam, 18, student of Gournadi Kasemabad Madrasa.

"We have sent the arrestees to the court in the afternoon with a seven-day remand prayer for interrogation," the police officer said.

In Dinajpur, harvests of rice belonged to nine Hindu families were burnt to ashes and at least 50 trees were felled on the Dinajpur-Panchagarh highway at Birganj upazila allegedly by Jamaat-Shibir men.

Fire brigades rushed to the spot and doused the fire, Abdul Kader Zilani, officer-in-charge of Dinajpur Sadar Upazila, confirmed.


The above content from Bangladeshi newspapers New Age and The Daily Star is reproduced here in public interest and is educational and non commercial use