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|December 3, 2002||
Prasanta K Sarkar
A pogrom without publicityLike former West Pakistan (now known as "Pakistan"), former East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh, was created in 1947 out of British India only to appease Muslim League leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Although Jinnah's lifestyle was hardly that of a perfect Muslim, he steadfastly promoted the division of India only to exploit the age-old mistrust and religious hate-mongering of the Muslims against the majority Hindus. Congress party leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and others, on the other hand, promoted a secular democracy for India.
One could say the Muslim League suffered from tremendous intellectual and political inferiority and wanted a separate nation where they could enjoy blissful equality of nationhood alongside a Hindu-dominated secular India.
While Jinnah himself never expressed his intent to establish an Islamic state of Pakistan, his English-educated party heirs found it very handy to exploit the Koran-memorising, madrassa-trained, basically illiterate population to run either a pseudo-democracy or a military-controlled theocratic nation through an oligarchic administrative machinery.
Between 1947 and 1971, West Pakistan's military rulers and Urdu-/Punjabi-/Pushtu- and other language-speaking bureaucrats administered and exploited Bengali-speaking East Pakistan as a colony. Racially and linguistically different, the Bengali-speaking people developed tremendous resentment towards West Pakistan.
In 1970, the duly elected Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of East Pakistan was denied his rightful place in Pakistan's leadership. He was also arrested and thrown in a Pakistani prison. The hot "East Pakistan issue" that emerged from the ruthless killing of 3,000,000 Bengalis, both Muslims and Hindus, and the army's rape of 250,000 Bengali women in nine short months, finally got resolved with the 'liberation fighters' waging a successful war of independence with the help of India.
Liberated the Muslims were, but they sowed the seed of hatred for non-Muslims in Bangladesh by promulgating the "Enemy Property Act" to eliminate minorities, particularly Hindus. Thus, in 1971, an independent Bangladesh was created with a majority Muslim population, 22 per cent Hindu population, and 2 per cent other non-Muslims. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman promised to establish a secular democracy in Bangladesh, and the Hindus felt safe.
But in the tradition of Muslim rule of India, the assassination of Sheikh Mujib and most of his family in 1975 brought Major General Zia-ur-Rahman to power. He formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and changed the religious neutrality of the country to Islamic fundamentalism. And in 1977, he declared Islam Bangladesh's state religion.
Only four years after this important event, the Hindu population stood at a mere 12 per cent through elimination by covert means, mainly killing, and forceful conversion. And the Enemy Property Act that applied to non-Muslims in East Pakistan was replaced by the Vested Property Act in Bangladesh.
Zia-ur-Rahman was assassinated in 1981 and Lieutenant General Hossein Mohammad Ershad came to power. Ershad encouraged the founding of Islamic organisations like the Jamaat-e-Islami and other Muslim fundamentalist elements to carry out ethnic cleansing through various means.
In 1990 Ershad was ousted, but the BNP government (1991-1996) led by Gen Zia's widow Begum Khaleda continued Ershad's goal of making Bangladesh an Islamic nation very quickly.
The next Awami League government (1996-2001) under Sheikh Hasina Wajed tried to adopt her father Mujib's secular policy, and the Hindu population remained steady at 9 per cent, without a significant decline during this time.
The opposition BNP, however, continued with its agenda of eliminating Hindus, Christians and Buddhists with the help of Pakistan's ISI agents and madrassa-educated local Muslims belonging to the BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami, and other Islamic fundamentalist organisations owing allegiance to Pakistan.
The modern "pogroms" against the minorities commenced months before September 11, 2001, and long before the October 2001 assumption of power by Begum Khaleda Zia for the second term.
In just the past year, thousands of tribals, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians have suffered eviction from their ancestral homes and lands, and many have even been eliminated. Their women and children were systematically raped, beaten up, and converted or forced across the unmanned border to neighbouring Indian states. And these atrocities, in gross violation of the UN Charter on Human Rights, are continuing.
Amnesty International's report of December 5, 2001, titled Bangladesh: Hindu Minority Must Be Protected, failed to move Dhaka. But this poorly publicized modern fascist chain of events perpetrated by an Islamic State must be taken cognisance of by all people with a minimum of conscience.
Indians, in particular, should bring it to the notice of the international media and the governments that care for the human rights of minorities, given that mostly Hindus, tribals, and other minorities are being victimised.
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