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December 18, 2000

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Varsha Bhosle

What can you expect from a religion that worships cows?

Two weeks ago, Bangladesh's foreign ministry lodged a formal complaint with its Indian counterpart against Mayer Dak, a newspaper published from Calcutta. In a letter to the MEA, Bangladesh requested that the Government of India ban the newspaper since it's "spreading disinformation about Bangladesh in India and internationally." Typically, the ministry suggested that Indian authorities should avoid making "too much noise" while taking steps to dismantle the publication. According to Mayer Dak, some months ago, Abu Tayeb, the "Council of Press" of the Consulate of Bangladesh, Calcutta, made a threatening phone call to its editor, whose response was: "We won't submit to any kind of pressure, the newspaper will continue as it is. We will promote the paper further internationally."

I got to know all this through a pal who forwarded me the press release of the Human Rights Congress for Bangladeshi Minorities, an international, non-political NGO dedicated to the welfare of the minorities in Bangladesh, which protested the attempt by the government of Bangladesh to shut down the newspaper. You see, Mayer Dak doesn't just present news events from Bangladesh, it focuses on the plight of the minority communities residing in what was once East Pakistan. Considering the hullabaloo unfailing raised by our great and good when it comes to decrying perceived threats against the rights of the minorities in India, it was no surprise that no national newspaper bothered with this attack on the freedom of the press. For the major minority community in Bangladesh is Hindu.

The HRCBM is a Santa Clara-based organisation that investigates and exposes human rights violations in Bangladesh, and whose mission is to end the discrimination and xenophobia existing in that country. For the HRCBM, "minorities" constitutes the Hindus, Christians, what-have-you's in BD. However, unlike NGOs, I'm neither great nor good -- I'm interested only in the predicament of the Hindus stuck in BD, no matter that the majority of Hindus, especially in India, are the apertures on the nether parts of their rear torsos. I urge you to visit the org's website and read the details of attacks on Hindu temples/property and the rape and abductions of Hindu women in BD. To give you an idea of the condition of Hindus in the Islamic country, I reproduce terribly few cases:

  • On October 6, 2000, Muslim devotees, after offering namaaz at the Gajipur Jama Masjid, strolled across to the Hindu Kali temple, destroyed the puja pandal, smashed the idols, and desecrated the prasad. They were armed with axes, knives, swords and sticks (collected so quickly on their exit from the mosque) and continued the jehad by looting nearby Hindu-owned shops.
  • On October 1, 1998, Muslims attacked the Durga procession at Agrabad with firearms and bombs. Over a hundred Hindus were injured as the Islamists destroyed 20 trucks carrying images of the Goddess.
  • On March 29, 2000, Malarani Roy of Karagola village was abducted by Muslims. She was brutally beaten up and gang-raped. The local police found her, but refused to register a case.
  • On June 26, a group of Muslims directed Smriti Rani Saha of Sirajganj town to migrate to India. When she refused, she was abducted, gang-raped and brutally murdered.
  • On November 29, 1999, teenaged Ranjana Roy of Chandpur city was abducted by Shibli Noman, who forced her to convert to Islam and marry him.
  • On July 25, 1998, Muslims abducted Sheema Rani Sarkar and released her 45 days later after receiving ransom from her husband. Not only was Sheema repeatedly raped but she was also converted to Islam.
  • On May 26, 2000, Indrajit Kumar Biswas of Harishpur was stabled to death by a Muslim gang.
  • On May 28, Debasish Saha of Poradaha was fatally shot by a Muslim gang.
  • On June 4, Mayaram Tripura of Balipara was shot dead by local Muslims.

Take a look at the figures of the Hindu population of our good neighbours; why did it dwindle...?

Year Pakistan Bangladesh
1941 Approx 25% Approx 30%
1948 Approx 17% Approx 25%
1991 Approx 1.5% Less than 10%

The tabulation of such matters, then, has gotten the goat of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, daughter of the late Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, whom India helped install as head of Bangladesh. I've found that most Hindus, believing gratitude to be a universal phenomenon, tend to look upon Bangladesh benevolently. Don't know about that quality, but stupidity is certainly usurped by us. Just how bhai-bhai is Bangladesh with India...? Perhaps --I stress "perhaps" -- the following items will infuse some chi in the still-born Hindu spirit:

ToI, July 13, 2000: "Indian and Bangladeshi troops have been firing at each other across the border all week... Military forces of both countries have been put on maximum alert along the 4,123 km border, and residents have fled villages on both sides, officials said."

NENA, Feb. 7, 2000: "At the recently concluded three-day border conference between the BSF and the Bangladesh Rifles, the BDR has denied the existence of any camp of insurgent groups from the North-Eastern states on Bangladeshi soil... The BSF had sought BDR's co-operation to counter militant activities of NE outfits based in Bangladesh."

The Indian Express, November 20, 2000: "The recent spate of killings targeting Hindi-speaking settlers is a calculated move by ULFA to prove that it is still alive and strong... Sources in the Assam police said that this was ascertained from a message sent by ULFA armed wing chief Paresh Barua to his deputy Raju Barua, which was intercepted recently. Barua had sent the message from his Bangladesh hideout."

The Pioneer, August 16, 2000: "The ULFA leadership received a severe blow when one of its top-rank leaders, Lohit Deuri, surrendered along with 287 other militants on Tuesday... A disillusioned Deuri said that ULFA had completely lost its revolutionary characters and independent thinking, and was under the clutch of the ISI of Pakistan and its allied operatives in Bangladesh."

The Asian Age, April 15, 1998: "Captured ULFA vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi has revealed the existence of three big training camps in Bangladesh and Bhutan. Acting on information extracted while interrogating Gogoi and then passed onto Dhaka, Bangladeshi security forces raided an ULFA camp in the Maqbol Bazaar area near Dhaka. However, all that they found were charred documents."

TAA, April 13, 1998: "During interrogation Pradip Gogoi is reported to have said that he was not involved in any assassination case. Rather, he was busy buying arms from Nepal and Bangladesh."

The Hindustan Times, July 5, 1999: "Opinion in Bangladesh is still firmly against granting India transit facility... Participants at a round table discussion on the issue also said India is not really asking for transit but just a corridor for quicker access to its own northeastern states through Bangladeshi territory. Many alleged that India wants to ensure safe military supply to its northeastern states through Bangladesh. Lawmakers, academics, retired army generals, businessmen, former bureaucrats and journalists took part in the discussion... The participants, irrespective of their political affiliations, opposed corridor facility to India."

Jang, September 1997: "Bangladesh Nationalist Party senior leader Abdul Hai Shikder said that although Bangladesh separated from Pakistan after the 1971 war of independence, 'our heritage did not divide'... 'A strong Pakistan and Afghanistan are needed for Bangladesh as India is our eternal enemy,' Shikder said... Ehsanul Kabir, BNP's information and research secretary, said 'we have no objections if anybody calls us Razakar (Pakistan collaborators)."

The Tribune, October 13, 2000: "It is estimated that around 1,900,000 Bangladeshi nationals are illegally settled in four districts of Purnia, Katihar, Araria and Kishanganj of Bihar... The district is notorious as 'mini Pakistan' and Pakistani flags and national anthem are openly flaunted here. The four districts are said to be the ISI haven and the stronghold of cross-border smugglers and arms Mafiosi."

ToI, December 28, 1999: "[Masood] Azhar had said he had come to India via Bangladesh on a fake passport to set up advanced arms training camps in remote areas of Doda district of J&K."

The Pioneer, November 5, 1999: "Pakistani trained Mujahideen infiltrate into various parts of the country and settle down almost undetected... They are supposed to strike and then melt into the crowd. Abu Nasir, a Bangladeshi Lashkar [L-e-T member] who was arrested in West Bengal revealed names of many Lashkars who were operating in the country. The Siliguri corridor has been targeted by the ISI through Lashkars for establishing bases."

HT, August 27, 1999: "Explaining about the activities of the ISI in the North-East, [intelligence] sources said that the ISI has also set up a huge base in the jungles of Chittagong of Bangladesh and Myanmar with direct wireless links with Pakistan... 'Later, two organisations, Jamait-e-Islami and Islamic Chatra Shivir of Bangladesh, were also contacted for setting up bases in the North-East'... The new route of infiltration and smuggling of arms is now through Myanmar and Bangladesh, the sources said."

India Today, June 17, 1999: "Prime Minister Vajpayee will arrive in Dhaka on Saturday for his first trip to Bangladesh amid tight security, as extremists have sent warnings of a protest wave over the Kashmir conflict. They will observe a black day to mark PM Vajpayee's visit, with the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islami Oikya Jote and the extreme rightwing Jatiya Ganatantri Party, saying they would organise protests to coincide with the trip."

Jamhooria Islamia, February1999; statement of Nawabzada Nabiullah Khan: "Bangladesh was not a result of language riot. The very idea that they are Muslims will bring the Bangladeshis to Arabic. We already fund heavily on the Arabic language courses all over India, Bangladesh and Pakistan... Even Bangladesh will start speaking in Arabic... Right now our aim is just for reunification without touching on the language issue of Bengali. Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh is working towards this aim."

Dawn, December 1, 2000; columnist Ayaz Amir: "The Muslim League saw its birth in Dhaka. The idea of Muslim separatism gained strength from the partition of Bengal in 1905... Let us not forget that at that time Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs lived largely in amity in Punjab. In Bengal, on the other hand, the sense of Muslim grievances, fuelled in no small measure by the fact that the great movement of Hindu revivalism in the 19th century arose from Bengal, was stronger. In the 1946 elections which set the stage for the partition of India it was only in Bengal that the Muslim League emerged as the single largest party, capturing almost half the seats... So the question is pertinent: without the push that the Muslim cause received from Bengal, could there have been a Pakistan?"

A leopard does not change its spots. East Pakistan became Bangladesh -- but Noakhali remains the same. But to expect direct action from Hindus...? Hahaha... As my friend David Frawley writes: "For all the thousands of destroyed Hindu temples through the centuries, Hindus don't even have the will power to reclaim one mosque, even if it is built upon the birthplace of their greatest hero. Who can take such militants seriously?... But what can you expect from a religion that worships cows?

Varsha Bhosle

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