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Bangla Minorities

Bangla Minorities

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Statesman
Date: November 25, 2001

Introduction: Time for action to protect them

It is disappointing to hear the same cliches being repeated by ministers of the BNP-led government that they would not tolerate persecution of minorities in Bangladesh. Heart rending reports of their continuing persecution and the killing of a principal of a Chittagong college in broad daylight by supporters of Jamat e Islami, are still being published by Bangladesh's press. How can Reaz Rahman, minister of state of foreign affairs, dismiss reports of communal atrocities as "politically motivated" when Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia herself has asked her principal secretary and other senior secretaries to prepare a report on the nature and extent of such incidents? It is incredible that a former foreign secretary is apparently ignorant of the reason for about 20,000 Bangladeshis streaming into West Bengal and Tripura in the last six weeks. Hasn't he read countless letters written by victims and published by Dhaka dailies urging Begum Zia to "save the minorities by taking away our voting rights since we are not supposed to have a political choice of our own"? It is a travesty of fact to say that "only criminals" have gone to India. The hapless victims are still streaming into India either by bribing the police or dodging Bangladeshi border guards. The effort to deny the problem fails.

Thankfully there are senior ministers like Saifur Rahman who don't share this perception and want to see the Government's intent to deal with communal elements with an iron hand translated into action. He deserves kudos for speaking up from public platforms and calling Durga Puja Bangladesh's own festival. His seemingly "friendly advice" to the home minister, a former chief of air staff, at a recent meeting - "Do you know what's happening on the ground? Don't float in the air, have your feet firmly on the ground"- was actually a sharp reprimand of the minister's inability to deal with the communal carnage. Already some key officers of the worst affected districts have been transferred for dereliction of duty. We hope Saifur Rahman's courageous lead will succeed.

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