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HVK Archives: Hindus in Bangladesh

Hindus in Bangladesh - Organiser

Sisir K. Majumdar ()
22 December 1996

Title : Hindus in Bangladesh
Author : Sisir K. Majumdar
Publication : Organiser
Date : December 22, 1996

The core issue in the relation between India and Bangladesh is the status of
religious minorities and the establishment of their fundamental human rights.
Bilateral problems like the Ganga water, etc, are secondary. The question of
Hindu rights is pricking the very moral fabric of the Indian nation.

The tale of religious minorities in Bangladesh has been a tale of tears,
sorrows and sufferings since midnight of August 14, 1947, when Bengal was
partitioned to be a part of theocratic Pakistan, which was formed on the
basis of the "two-nation" theory. The British colonial police, of
divide-and-rule lies at the root and is still maiming the minorities in
Islamic Bangladesh as also in Pakistan, Today Bangladesh is a multi-religious
country with population of 12,00,93,000 (1995). It has a homogeneous society
comprising 88.3%, Muslims 10.5% Hindus. 0.3%, Christians 0.6% Buddhist and
others 0.3%. Before its liberation from Pakistan this region was called East
Pakistan.

The exodus

>From the very dawn of 15 August 1947, migration of minorities started because
of uncertainties in the days ahead and about a million Hindus migrated to
India within one year. Another million or more followed suit after the
large-scale communal disturbances in 1950. The severance of economic
relations between India and Pakistan in 1949 led to this tension between the
two neighbours.

Then the Nehru-Liaqat Pact (1 950) was signed in New Delhi on April 8, 1950.
Refugees were allowed to return unmolested to dispose of their property,
abducted minority women and looted property were to be returned, forced
religious conversions of minorities in Pakistan were unrecognized and basic
rights of minorities in Pakistan were confirmed. To implement these terms,
minority, commissions were established in Pakistan and confidence among
minorities in East Pakistan was, in fact, restored for a time. The migration
of minorities to India ebbed a bit following the United Front's victory in
the 1954 election in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), when 72 members from the
minority community were elected to the then Legislative Assembly.

The steady exodus from Bangladesh continues unabated. The extent of the
missing Hindu population is estimated around 1. 22 million during 1974-1981,
and about 1.73 million during 1981-1991. On this basis, Mohiuddin Ahmad an
expert at Bangladesh census, infers that about 475 Hindus on an average have
been "disappearing" daily from Bangladesh since 1974. The destination for the
majority of them is India. It was pointed out at a seminar held in Dhaka in
April 1996 that more than 53 lakh Hindus had been forced to migrate out of
the country since the mid-sixties. An estimate revealed that 538 Hindus had
migrated from Bangladesh everyday on average between 1965 and 1971 According
to the Dhaka-based Daily Star April 14, 1996, the figure now stands at 703
per day.

If this exodus continues at this rate, the already overburdened neighbouring
State of West Bengal in India will be further burdened. and the social and
geo-political equilibrium of the Eastern India will be disturbed. As a
consequence, the Government of India, of whatever political colour, will be
compelled to act. Religious cleansing is an act of medieval barbarism,
Muslims of Bangladesh must understand it and behave rationally.

The cause

The history of the persecution of Hindu's continued with the establishment
of military dictatorship in Pakistan in 1958. Six top minority, leaders were
disqualified from public life by the Elective Body Disqualification Order
(EBDO) in 1959. The remaining confidence of the minority Hindu community was
shattered beyond repair. The Indo-Pakistan mar of 1965 was complemented with
communal riots engineered junta. Migration to India continued and reached its
peak during 1970-71. As a result of the 1971 war a secular state of
Bangladesh was born. But before that the, following acts or ordinances of the
military government of Pakistan were also responsible for the large-scale
exodus to India:

(1) The East Bengal Evacuee Property (Restoration/Possession Act of 1951) (2)
The East Bengal Evacuee (Administration of Immovable Property) Act of 1951
(3) The East Bengal Prevention of Transfer of Property and Removal of
Documents and Records Act of 1952 (4) The East Pakistan Disturbed Persons
(Rehabilitation) Ordinance of 1964 (No minority property could be sold or
transferred without government permission.) (5) The Defence of Pakistan
Ordinance. 1965-East Pakistan Enemy Property (lands and buildings)
Administration and Disposal Order of 1966 (6) The Vested and Non-Residence
Property Act of 1974

There were other acts of discrimination as well. The intention of all these
acts and ordinances was to emasculate the minority in its own land of birth.

After the killing of Shaikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of Bangladesh. secular
ethos of that nation were also filled with a sloth, but steady and planned
way. Finally Bangladesh was declared to be an Islamic county. Cultural
castration and linguistic pollution (by introducing the so-called Pak-Bangla
version of our sacred mother-tongue) were the first steps to exterminate the
community as a whole. The ugly process has been going on for some time now.
The newly elected Government in Bangladesh must show genuine honesty and
sincerity, in reversing this dangerous trend and must be shown to be acting
in that direction. It is an essential precondition to improve relations with
the people of India.

Minorities participated wholeheartedly in the war of liberation in 1971 with
the hope that in the new secular Bangladesh (1972 constitution) they would
enjoy equal rights ant status with the majority community. Unfortunately,
the so-called Enemy Property Act remained untouched; the religious freedom
still stood stabbed. For instance. he famous Ramna Hindu Temple of the
Goddess Kali was destroyed by the Pakistani Army in 1971 and was not
reconstructed.

The hated 8th Amendment of the Constitution which was originally, based on
"nationalism, secularism, democracy and socialism" in 1972. declared
Bangladesh an Islamic State in total violation of the spirit and philosophy
of the liberation struggle for the creation of Bangladesh. It is very sad to
note that, because of the hostile anti-minority policies since 1947, 60% of
the religious minority property has been grabbed illegally by a few
influential member of the majority Muslim community, many of whom may hold
powerful positions in all political parties and government. If the Enemy
Property Act is repealed, many cats of the majority community would be out of
the bag. That is why all ruling parties are keen to maintain the status quo;
many hands are stained. This is totally unacceptable in a civilised society.

The Vested and Non-Resident Ordinance of 1976 was further complemented with a
circular issued on May 23 1979, which empowered tahasildar, circle officers,
SDOs, ADCs and commissioners to declare a minority property as enemy (vested)
property. None but the ministry concerned can release it. It was also
mentioned in the above circular that one-fourth of the property value would
be given as rewards to the informers. The aim of this vicious clause in the
circular was to generate further mistrust, animosity and hatred between the
majority and the minority community. People of conscience will abhor this
sort of state-inspired meanness. Islamic fundamentalism has already killed
the moral conscience of a significant section of the majority community.
They are religiously misguided, morally corrupt and politically bankrupt.

More than ten million of minority people had migrated from Bangladesh during
the twenty-five years since 1971. It is pathetic. Communal riots in 1986,
November 1989. October 1990 and February 199 1, totally devastated the moral
fabric of the minority community,. They are helpless. Conditions must be
created locally in Bangladesh and internationally abroad in all continents,
so that our helpless brethren of Bangladesh can regain their moral strength.
It is high time they stood up and be counted.



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