Bangladesh: ‘Over 3,600 attacks’ on Hindus since 2013, rights groups concerned
With recent violent attacks against Hindus reopening old wounds for religious minorities in Bangladesh, human rights groups have now pointed out that such attacks often go unpunished in the Muslim-majority country even when there has been a “continual pattern” over nearly a decade.
According to estimates provided by a Deutsche Welle report citing Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a Bangladeshi human rights organisation that documents attacks on minority communities, there have been over 3,600 attacks in Bangladesh targeting Hindus since 2013. The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC), however, told the news agency the actual number of attacks could be much higher than what the ASK has estimated.
The study found the attacks against Hindus over the eight years include cases of vandalism and arson targeting over 550 houses and 440 shops and businesses. More than 1,670 cases of vandalism and arson attacks on Hindu temples, idols, and places of worship were also reported during the same period.
As many as 11 members of the Hindu community died in these violent incidents, while another 862 were injured. Several instances of sexual assault against Hindu women were also reported during this time.
Rana Dasgupta, the general secretary of the BHBCUC, also said the real extent of these damages could be much higher. “Although Hindus were also attacked in the 1990s and 2000s, we have been observing a continual pattern of such attacks since 2011, which is alarming,” he said. “We thought the Hindu community would have a better life under the Awami League government, but that didn't happen.”
In Bangladesh, Hindus now comprise less than nine per cent of the total population. The census numbers have shown a marked reduction in the Hindu population over the past four decades, as per the report citing government data. It shows that over the course of the last 40 years, the percentage of the Hindu population of Bangladesh declined from 13.5% to 8.5%.
Dasgupta said security crisis was the chief reason behind Hindus leaving Bangladesh for neighbouring India, although economic reasons also played a part. “The reason behind the attacks is to drive away minorities from their homes, to minimise the minority population of Bangladesh,” he said.
Attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh often unpunished
Dasgupta blamed religious fundamentalists, particularly supporters of Bangladesh's largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, for attacks on the Hindu community. However, the party has been largely inactive after many of its leaders were executed a few years ago for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
Zunaid Saki, the chief coordinator of the left-wing political party Ganasamhati Andolon, told DW the Awami League condemns the attacks, but does little to stop them from happening again.
Saki has visited many locations where attacks against the Hindu community have taken place in recent years.
“The pattern of these attacks is the same: First, something is posted on Facebook and is marked as ‘insulting to Islam’ by others, and then a group of people attack a particular spot where religious minorities live,” he said.
“The ruling Awami League party blames religious fundamentalists after the attack and vows to take action against the culprits. But nothing happens afterward, and nobody gets punished for the attacks.”
Several Hindu temples in Bangladesh were ransacked last week during violent protests triggered by video footage that showed the Quran – the holy book in Islam – being placed at the feet of a Hindu idol during Durga Puja celebrations in the country.
(With inputs from DW)