Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hindu Houses, Shops Looted in Lalmonirhat, Bangladesh

12 hurt in attack by 'Jamaat-Shibir men'

A villager watches a shop vandalised and looted by Jamaat-Shibir activists at Ghoshpara village in Jongra union of Patgram upazila under Lalmonirhat district. The activists vandalised, torched and looted five shops and two houses of Hindus at the village yesterday, the third day of the main opposition BNP-led 18-party sponsored countrywide blockade programme. PHOTO: STAR
Hindus came under attack allegedly by activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir at Patgram upazila in Lalmonirhat for the second time in a month yesterday.

The attackers beat up at least 12 women and children and torched and looted at least five shops and two houses at Ghoshpara village of Jongra union on the third day of the opposition-sponsored 71-hour blockade.

The incident fuelled concerns over a fresh spell of attacks on the Hindus as men of the village have fled in fear of further attacks.

Earlier on October 28, Jamaat-Shibir men along with BNP activists unleashed a terror on another Hindu majority area at Shafinagar in Bawra union during hartal, torching at least 18 shops.
Ghoshpara, situated nearly 87 km from the district headquarters, is only three kilometres away from Shafinagar.

Opposition activists on November 4 also attacked another village at Satpatki Majhipara in Sadar upazila. They vandalised and looted several houses after villagers had refused to pay them toll.
About 200 to 250 Jamaat-Shibir activists and supporters led by Patgram upazila unit Shibir president Rana Islam yesterday made a sudden attack on the shops and houses from a procession, said police and witnesses.
They vandalised and looted three groceries owned by Manik Chandra Ghosh, Subhas Chandra Ghosh, and Jamini Ghosh, a fertiliser shop of Khokan Chandra Ghosh, and a pharmacy of Koyel Chandra Ghosh. The attackers also vandalised two houses belonging to Koyel Chandra Ghosh and Dhanjit Ghosh Tapos, president of Bangladesh Chhatra League of Rangpur district unit.

Locals were confused about the reason behind the attack. Some said the Jamaat-Shibir men were angry with Dhanjit and attacked his and other Hindu houses.

A number of Hindu villagers however alleged that ruling party men had instigated the attack.
Police arrested Nazrul Islam, member of local Union Parishad and former president of Shibir of Patgram upazila.
Officer-in-charge of Patgram police Sohrab Hossain said Rana was a listed criminal and was on the run.

Gopal Chandra Barman, general secretary of district Puja Udjapan Parishad, said several male members of at least 23 Hindu families had left the village and were in need of security.

Rabindra Ghosh, president of Bangladesh Minority Watch, said after the two incidents, the Hindus of Patgram were living in fear and a sense of insecurity.


Bangladesh: Turmoil May See Return of Terrorism

By Bhaskar Roy
It is about time that the United States Congress realized that the current political turmoil in Bangladesh may see a return of terrorism to Bangladesh.
Eradication of terrorism from the country was one of the top priorities of Sheikh Hasina when she took over prime ministership in 2009. She delivered on her promise. Bangladesh was fast becoming a new center of terrorism under the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) government. The Al Qaida was testing the grounds. The return of the Awami League led 14 party alliance government thwarted externally promoted and JEI spearheaded conspiracy to turn Bangladesh into a Wahabi Islamic country.
The Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs organized (November 20) a 90 minute hearing titled “Bangladesh in Turmoil : A Nation on the Brink”. An apt title for the subject, given the open threats the country is facing from its own constituents.
Representative Steve Chabot who chaired the meeting highly appreciated Bangladesh’s development but was dismayed by the positions taken by the political parties threatening the upcoming general elections. Chabot had just returned from a visit to Bangladesh where he met the top political leaders including Prime Minister Sk. Hasina and opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia.
Ed Royce, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee told the hearing that the Bangladesh government was not doing enough to protect the minorities. He raised a pertinent question : whether madrassa education was instigating fundamentalism in Bangladesh like in Pakistan. He noted the deep crisis that fundamentalism has created in Pakistan as the authorities failed to nip it in the bud.
Maj. Gen. (Retd) ANM Muniruzzaman, President of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) felt that Sk. Hasina’s refusal to bring back the “caretaker government” (CG) system could delay the elections and ultimately draw the army in. The constitution has been amended to make coup a treason, and the three current services chiefs have sworn not to interfere in politics. Bangladesh is no stranger to military coups and martial law, but one of the reasons a coup was avoided in 2007-08 was the UN Secretary General’s warning that a coup would render Bangladesh military personnel ineligible for lucrative UN peace keeping jobs.
A recent editorial, in the influential New York Times (NYT) held Prime Minister Sk. Hasina responsible for all the woes of Bangladesh. It said that top political opposition leaders and human rights activists have been arrested; courts have delivered guilty verdicts and death sentences that flout the most basic standards of due process; the banning of the JEI, an ally of the BNP, from participating in the electoral process was only forcing frustrated supporters into the streets.
An influential weekly, the Economist, has been reporting biased stories against the Awami League which included swipes at India, for almost three years. A couple of its earlier articles appeared almost dictated by the opposition leaders.
It is known that the western countries especially the US, exercise significant influence over Bangladesh. They are the main donors and control aid agencies and international financial institutions. On one platform, they all demand free and fair elections which is what everyone wants. This is how it should be.
However, should outside interference force a democratic sovereign nation to change its constitution to accommodate their favourite parties? While writing a secular and democratic constitution, should a popular government elected by the people in an internationally acknowledged free and fair election have draft national constitutions passed by foreign powers?
These questions arise because there is quiet pressure on the Bangladesh government to reinstate the caretaker government system. Certainly, Sk. Hasina in the past had favoured the caretaker system. But the experience with the last caretaker government showed this body could easily be manipulated by the immediate government.
This is exactly what happened in 2006. The caretaker government which was supposed to hold elections within 90 days of its takeover failed to do so. Many members changed. There was a plan to jail both Sk. Hasina and Begum Khaleda, the famous “minus two” formula and bring in a third front. The caretaker government got extended by almost two years.
A repeat of that situation is in nobody’s interest, and the country would stand to lose its impressive development trajectory. If the BNP suspects rigging of the elections by the government it could have joined the poll time government and scrutinize the election process. This they have refused to do.   
Begum Khaleda’s uncompromising demand is the removal of Sk. Hasina from her post. This is politics of personal vengeance. Polls are to held by January 24, next year, and many BNP leaders are beginning to lose patience with these leaders. Politicians cannot stay away from parliament for long.
The interest among western governments, NGOs and media to encourage a free and fair elections, as said earlier, is welcome. But there is something curious about the way they are conducting this process.
The Awami League is seen in the west as a socialist inclined party and does not fully subscribe to the American sense of democratic politics. So are most of Awami League’s allies. The BNP, on the other hand, is perceived as more capitalist oriented in sync with some western political views.
Is there a 1971 hangover in the US government and media? Despite US support to Islamabad Pakistan lost the war and Bangladesh was born at a huge humanitarian cost. People of that generation still recount that the waters of Foy’s Lake near Chittagong turned red with bodies of Bangladeshis including minorities killed and dumped there by the Pakistani army and their Bangladeshi collaborators who represent the JEI.
There is a clear sympathy for the JEI for having been banned from elections. Would western democracies allow political party like the JEI who refuse to abide by the national constitution and promote Sharia Law, where the ideology goes back to the dark ages and who are emphatically anti-women, take part in their politics? The JEI is the vector of radical Islamism in Bangladesh. The Hifazat-e-Islam (HEI) put up by the BNP and the JEI has emerged as a serious religious arm of the JEI-BNP agenda.
When US Congressman Ed Royce blamed the Bangladesh government of not doing enough to protect the minorities like Hindu and Christians from, violence, he apparently forgot to mention who or which party was committing the violence. It is mainly the JEI and they are not afraid to own it. In their ideology non-muslims including Ahmediyas have no right to exist.
There is a lot of criticism of the trial of the 1971 collaborators who killed Bangladeshis in hundreds and thousands. The west shows little or no understanding that unless the 1971 killings are put to rest there will be no peace in Bangladesh. More people were killed and more women raped by the Pakistani army and their collaborators than the Nazis did.
It is time the US Congress and others sit down and take into account how and why terrorism grew during the BNP-JEI rule between 2001-2006. It is time the Richard Nixon-Henry Kissinger policy towards Bangladesh be buried in the US State Department, Congress and the media.
BNP president Begum Khaleda Zia is making a momentous mistake of overly depending on the JEI. It will be the case of the tail wagging the dog.
(The writer is a New Delhi based strategic analyst.  He can be reached at e-mail

Friday, 22 November 2013

Congressional Hearing on Bangladesh Highlights Hindu Plight

Washington, D.C. (November 21, 2013)Persecution of Hindus and religious minorities in Bangladesh took center stage at a Congressional hearing entitled 'Bangladesh in Turmoil: A Nation on the Brink,' hosted by the Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific yesterday.  Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affair Committee, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who served as the acting Ranking Member of the hearing, peppered witnesses with questions about concerns over growing radicalization and recent violence targeting Bangladesh's Hindu population.  The panel of three witnesses lacked any minority representation.
"I am particularly concerned over issues...regarding religious freedom and specifically over attacks on the minority Hindu community remaining in Bangladesh today," said Rep. Gabbard. "I think it's unfortunate that sometimes perpetrators of crimes against this community go unpunished, and it's up to the Government of Bangladesh to act authoritatively against those who incite and commit violence against anyone and protect the rights of all minorities."
While noting that the majority of the population in Bangladesh had no role in violence against minorities, Chairman Royce drew a parallel to Pakistan in expressing concern over the growing radicalization of young men being educated in Islamist schools.
"Unless the State in Bangladesh is ready to come forward and close these particular Deobandi schools, the ones that have been identified as the most radical, the ones that are telling their charges, their graduates to go out and commit this kind of violence...[Bangladesh, like Pakistan,] are going down roads here where the consequences will eventually engulf the state itself," said Chairman Royce.
For ten years, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has highlighted the plight of the Hindu and other minority populations in Bangladesh.  Earlier this year, at its 10th annual DC Advocacy Days, HAF delegations urged Congressional leaders to host a hearing that would examine more closely the growing crisis in Bangladesh and its potential impact on U.S. interests in the broader region.  HAF also submitted written testimony to the Subcommittee yesterday.
"While we were initially concerned by the lack of Hindu or any minority representation on the witness panel, we're pleased that the plight of Bangladeshi Hindus as well as other religious minorities became the central theme of the hearing," said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF's Senior Human Rights Fellow. "We appreciate Chairman Royce, Rep. Gabbard, and Rep. Sherman for being vocal critics of the violence being perpetrated against innocent minority populations in Bangladesh."
The International Crimes Tribunals generated much debate from both panelists and Congressmen alike.  Rep. Gabbard marked that despite the "obvious flaws" with the tribunals, clearly this was an issue of bringing about justice, albeit forty years later, for the absolutely heinous acts of violence against humanity. Panelist Ali Riaz, Ph.D., Fellow in Residence at the Woodrow Wilson Center, agreed in testifying that it was imperative for the international community to allow the Tribunal proceedings to continue and to stand by the verdicts.
The Tribunals are widely popular in Bangladesh and have thus far issued nine convictions, with eight pending trials and three ongoing investigations.  The majority of the convicted or indicted war criminals are leaders from Jamaat-e-Islami, a radical Islamist organization with ties to militant networks throughout South Asia and the pro-Islamist right-wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party.  Officials and supporters of both groups have also been implicated in recent incidents of large-scale anti-minority violence.
When asked of his overall impression of the hearing, HAF's Associate Director of Government Relations, Jay Kansara said, "In spite of the efforts of a lobbying firm, hired by the family of a war criminal, to discredit the Tribunal over the past two years, today was a day of reckoning long awaited by Bangladeshi Hindus -- especially those in the U.S., who have fled persecution in their home country."
Source: Hindu American Foundation Press Release

Saturday, 9 November 2013

US concerned over attack on Hindus in Bangladesh

November 7, 2013 at 00:46
US concerned over attack on Hindus            
Asks government to ‘act authoritatively’ against the perpetrators Expressing grave concern over the recent attack on Hindus in Pabna and Lalmonirhat districts, the US embassy has urged the government to protect the rights of the minority communities.
The call came through a statement issued on Wednesday by the embassy in Dhaka.
The statement read: “We call on all those involved in these incidents to desist from abusing the rights of minorities, and ask all parties to ensure they are stopped immediately and the perpetrators are held accountable.”
It asked the government to act authoritatively against those who incited and committed this violence. The statement also expressed concern over the deaths, injuries, and ongoing violence associated with hartals.
 “While engaging in peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic right, we firmly believe violence is never the answer.” 
We look to the government of Bangladesh to ensure the safety of all its citizens and encourage all Bangladeshis to peacefully express their views,” it added.
It also urged all political parties to stage peaceful demonstration programmes to avert violence.

Human Chain Held in Patuakhali, Bangladesh

Human chain held in Patuakhali against attack by fundamental Muslim thugs on Hindu temples & Hindu people in Pabna, Bangladesh.