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November 7, 2001
1419 IST

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Hasina asks Bangladesh Hindus to retaliate

Ershadul Huq in Dhaka

Former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina has asked the country's Hindu minority to retaliate against any further attacks by supporters of the ruling party (Bangladesh Nationalist party) and its allies.

Hasina's Awami League, said to enjoy the support of the 30-million minority population, including nearly 20 million Hindus, lost last month's parliamentary elections to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's BNP-led four-party coalition. The alliance includes the rightwing Jamaat-e-Islami.

Since then, there have been reports that Hindus in Bangladesh have been targeted by the ruling coalition.

At a rally attended mostly by Hindus in Faridpur district, Hasina said: "No more wailing and woes, build up resistance and retaliate if any further attack comes from terrorists of BNP-Jamaat."

Hasina urged Hindus to be united and said her party would stand by them.

"This is your country, your motherland. Irrespective of our religious beliefs we liberated this country, shedding much blood. You should live here with your full rights," she said.

"If the alliance leader (Zia) thinks she can eliminate Awami League by holding the hands of Jamaat, she is making a mistake..."

The latest incident of attacks on Hindus occurred at Mirersari in Chittagong district in which one person was allegedly chopped to death, and 16 others seriously injured.

Reports said a gang attacked Hindus at village Daspara on Monday night and looted 20 houses. Police arrested 12 people for their alleged involvement.

Bengali language daily Janakantha quoted a Hindu woman as saying: "The attackers asked us to leave Bangladesh."

The attacks on the minorities had started before the October 1 elections but intensified after the debacle of the Awami League.

Reports say thousands of Hindus have fled their homes and taken refuge elsewhere in the country. Some have reportedly crossed over to India.

The Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a woman's group, last week said repression of minority communities was taking a serious turn as the authorities had not taken any action against the attackers.

A Janakantha report said: "In some cases repression against the Hindus surpassed the torture in 1971." During the 1971 independence struggle that was backed by India, more than 250,000 women were tortured and raped by Pakistani troops.

Prime Minister Zia has, however, repeatedly called for an end to violence against Hindus and warned of 'stern action' against those attacking minorities.

Indo-Asian News Service

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