General Secretary's Note
Introduction_to_the_WHITE_PAPER by Shahriar Kabir
Press_Release_by_UK_Committee_to_Resist_Killers & Collaborators of 71
Call_for_Jihad_against Bangladesh (article)
The eighth national parliamentary election was held on October 1, 2001. Four-party alliance of Khaleda-Nizami won in the election by resorting to all sorts of manipulation and rigging. Key constituents of the alliance Jamaat-e-Islami and Islamic Oikya Jote are known as extreme fundamentalist and communal force. Legacy of the unprecedented communal torture on minority religious, non-Muslim hill people and ethnic communities in Bangladesh that began centring the election continues.
We met different human rights organisation on October 9, eight days after the election, in a roundtable discussion. Our agenda was post-election minority repression and working out what we can do to resist it. Two decisions were taken at the discussion at once then -- 1) visiting the affected areas, standing beside the victims and providing them sympathy and courage and 2) publishing a white paper based on their statements and newspaper reports on minority repression.
Shahriar Kabir presented the concept paper at the roundtable chaired by national professor Kabir Chowdhury and Justice KM Sobhan. The civil society leaders expressed deep concern and resentment at the incidents of election-centring rights violation and especially the unprecedented torture on Hindu communities. Among those who were present there are Prof Khan Sarwar Murshid, Prof Borhanuddin Khan Jahangir, Journalist Santosh Gupta, columnist and singer Wahidul Haque, writer Syed Shamsul Haq, Prof Meer Mobashwer Ali, Prof Ajay Roy, singer Sanjida Khatun, Prof Rangalal Sen, Moulana Abdul Awal, writer Anwara Syed Haq, architect Rabiul Hossain, poet Asad Chowdhury, women leader Ayesha Khanam, Prof Panna Kaiser, architect Shamsul Wares, poet M Abdul Khaleq, social activist Aroma Dutta, Prof Jarina Rahman Khan, Prof Muntassir Mamoon, Prof Nimchandra Bhowmik, educationist Shyamoli Nasreen Chowdhury, Advocate Subrata Chowdhury, sculptor Ferdousi Priyobhasini, artist Prof Abul Bark Alvi, writer FR AL Siddique, filmmaker Shamim Akhter, social activist Kazi Mukul, artist Moniruzzaman, social activist Nargis Jahan, Principal Dulalchandra Saha, social activist Salma Haq, journalist Sohrab Hossain, advocate BA Rashid, journalist Shaheen Reza Noor, Prof Muneer Hossain, advocate Pronoy Kanti Roy, social activist Doulat Ara Mannan, advocate Saikat
Acharya, social activist Selina Tarkabagish, social activist Mayarani Sarker and representatives of different student, youth, women and rights organisations including the Nirmul Committee.
Different rights organisations including Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee have visited different affected areas over the last four years and described the tale of torture before the nation. Different newspapers have published series reports on these. Leaders of different political parties who believe in the spirit of Liberation War also visited the affected areas and demanded to stop the repression.
The ruling coalition kept denying incidents of repression from the beginning. Naturally, no steps were taken from the government's part to stop the repression although the pro-government intellectuals also condemned the post-election repression and urged the government to stop the torture.
We are publishing the whitepaper in accordance with our decision taken four years back. It is going to be published on the occasion of four years of the coalition government in office.
Acting president of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee writer journalist Shahriar Kabir edited the white paper and 19 young comrades and well-wishers of the Nirmul Committee's central, district and thana unit have assisted him. They are Fazlur Rahman, Julfikar Ali Manik, Abu Sayeed, Gouranga Nandi, Farhad Bachchu, Mohsin Ashraf, Samaresh Baiddya, Abul Hossain Khokon, Arup Singha Apu, Jahangir Alam Akash, Shawkat Bangali, Maksudul Anam, Shimon Baske, Kazi Biplob, Sheikh Miraj, Dulal Krishna Acharya, Abul Kalam Azad Thanda, Mostak Alam Tulu and Abdul Hakim Piyal (late).
Different human rights organisations and journalists helped us in collecting information and photographs. Europe and US units of Nirmul Committee and its well-wishers have borne the expenditure of publishing the white paper. On behalf of the central unit of Nirmul Committee, I thank them all on the occasion of publication of the whitepaper.
Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee
October 10, 2005.
The unprecedented torture on religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh that began centring the 8th parliamentary election held on October 1, 2001 has not stopped even after 1500 days. Its cause has to be sought out in the political objective of the ruling four-party alliance.
Partners of the alliance are BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ) and a faction of the Jatiya Party (JP). Founder of the BNP General Ziaur Rahman captured the state power after gruesome murder of chief architect of Bangladesh and father of Independent Bangalee Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 15, 1975. Erasing secularism and non-communal Bangalee Nationalism from the Constitution through the 5th amendment, he introduced a kind of Islamic nationalism in the name of 'Bangladeshi' Nationalism. Cancelling the prohibition on formation of political parties on the basis of religion as was in the Constitution of '72, he created the space for reformation of fundamentalist and religion-based parties including Jamaat-e-Islami, Nezam-e Islam and Muslim League, which was contradictory to the constitution and also the spirit of Liberation War.*
Jamaat-e-Islami and IOJ are self-declared religious fundamentalist parties. Their aim is to establish an Islamic rule
* Recently (29 August 2005) Bangladesh High Court declared in a Verdict that all the amendments of the constitution done by Gen. Zia and Gen. Ershad is illegal. However, followed by a government prayer Supreme Court stayed the High Court Verdict.
in Bangladesh based on Quran and Sunnah, which considers minority religious sects as hostage. In the name of protecting Islam and Pakistan during Liberation War in 1971, the Jamaat leaders encouraged the Pakistan occupation forces to all sorts of destructive acts including genocide and rape by forming killing forces like Rajakar, Al Badar and Al Shams.
Founder of the JP General Ershad also came to power through military coup like Ziaur Rahman. To follow General Zia's footprint, he strengthened Islamisation of the constitution by declaring Islam 'state religion' through the 8th amendment.
The coalition government that came to power through October 2001 election is pro-Islamist. Although the BNP doesn't like to introduce itself as a Islamist party like Jamaat-e-Islam and Islami Oikya Jote, its political philosophy is Islamic nationalism, like that of Muslim League. The two other main partners of the alliance Jamaat-e-Islami and IOJ came to power after declaring to establish Islamic rule. The JP too believes in Political Islam, like the BNP. There is no room of democracy and progressiveness in political Islam. Jamaat's founder Moulana Abul Ala Moududi termed democracy as a 'kufri' (infidal) doctrine. Jamaat and its associates do not approve any constitution written by human being. It is very likely, when such communal and fundamentalist parties form an alliance and go to power, they will concentrate and do whatever necessary to establish a society of religion-based communal politics and society instead of secular democracy.
We have seen during the period of the caretaker government what will be the alliance government's attitude towards religious and ethnic minority when they would come to power. The government of Sheikh Hasina handed over the state power to Justice Latifur Rahman on July 13, 2001 in accordance with the constitution. Numerous reports and columns have been published in national dailies on the caretaker government's engineering to bring the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance to power. Local activists and supporters of the four-party alliance started attack, torture, terrorise and even killing minority religious sects, especially the Hindu community, at different parts of the country from mid-July of 2001. Their main aim was to ensure that Hindus do not go to polling centres and, if go, do not cast their vote for no one other than the four-party alliance candidates.
Most of the religious minority communities support the Awami League and it is likely. In every country of the world, religious minorities generally support secular political parties. Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and ethnic community also cast vote for left-leaning and progressive parties in the election. In the pre-partition Bangladesh, most members of the Communist Party were from the Hindu community. However there are also examples that members of minority sect in different areas also cast vote for BNP and the JP. As it is taken for granted generally that Hindus are supporters of the AL, attacks perpetrated on the Hindu community to cut the vote for the AL during the election. There were many reports in national dailies since mid-July of 2001 on the nature of repression on the marginalized people and what will be their fate if they cast vote for the AL. Although repression on minority people began during the caretaker government with a political aim, later it assumed multi-dimensional character. A study into 1500 days of repression on the minority shows that the torture aimed mainly at turning Bangladesh into a monolithic Muslim country like Afghanistan.
The ongoing persecution religious and ethnic minorities without civil war situation is undoubtedly an unnatural and dangerous phenomenon. Had the alliance government thought the repression should not be let go on, it would have stopped it in the beginning. Political violence centring election is not unusual in a country like ours. But a government with more than two-third seats in the parliament can always implement their declared and undeclared agenda without resorting barbaric method like repression on the minorities. But it did not happen in Bangladesh. The alliance government continuously denied incidents of repression from the very beginning to keep it going. The local administration, for the government denial, did not take any effective step against the oppressors; complaints of the victims were not even recorded at police stations.
Incidents of repression were not published only in Bangladeshi newspapers. Many government reports of western countries including newspapers, international rights organisations, human rights commission of the UN and the US State Department mentioned about ongoing minority persecution. But our government always intended to hide the repression and termed such reports of national dailies on as 'baseless', 'fabricated' and 'politically motivated'.*
To please the government, police administration at times forced the victims to deny the incidents of repression. The victims further forced to say that political rivals were propagating those to embarrass the government. No government explanation in this regard was taken for granted by the international community. The government denial, in fact, was a green signal for the oppressors. Knowing that the government is on their side, the perpetrators were encouraged for further repression on the minorities. Thus persecution on the minority is continuing for over four years since mid-July of 2001.
Emergence of Islam in Bangladesh took place about 1,000 years ago. Sufis, Dervishes, Pirs (religious leaders) and Awlias (saint) who preached Islam in this country were seldom vengeful to other religions. While preaching Islam, they spoke of peace and harmony instead of jihad, killing and hatred for other religions. In many cases, they attempted to develop a progressive and tolerant image of Islam by adopting different elements of Hindu and Buddhist religion and folk traditions and culture. This characteristic of preaching of Islam was not only practiced in Bangladesh but also in other parts of Indian sub-continent. Showing of respect by Hindu people beside the Muslims for different pirs and awlias (saints), which is a result of tolerance in Sufi school in Indian sub-continent, is a common scenario in the sub-continent. The policy of religious division created by the rulers especially during the British colony period took a political character that resulted in partition of Indian sub-continent and creation of Pakistan on the basis of two-nation theory based on religion.
* Janakantha, Daily Star, 16 October 2001
Majority of the Bengalee Muslims came out of their illusion about Jinnah's two-nation theory within six months of the emergence of Pakistan. We saw other manifestation of the rulers' communal attitude during the Pakistan period, which was totally against Bangalee national entity. The Pakistani rulers 'discovered' Hindu, communist and Indian conspiracy in all democratic nationalist movements of the Bangalees since the language movement.
Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and ethnic people of the hills and plains fought and sacrificed their lives during the Liberation War with an objective of establishing a society and state free from exploitation, repression, disparity and discrimination where all people irrespective of religion, race, wealth and ethnicity will enjoy equal rights and honour. The constitution which was made for the newly independent country in 1972 reflected a great part of the spirit of Liberation War, though there was no mention of the separate entity of over 40 ethnic communities of Bangladesh and There was no provision of trial of war criminals. Besides, the 1972 constitution was a glaring example of communal harmony and human rights. Secularism was adopted as the key principle of the state to ensure equal rights and honour to members of all religious communities and stopping repression and indiscrimination in the name of religion. Furthermore, it had prohibition on politics based on religion. If there is any scope for such politics, conflict in the name of religion and torture, discrimination and deprivation for religious minorities are inevitable.
General Ziaur Rahman erased 'secularism' from the constitution and withdrew the prohibition on religion-based politics. He also added 'Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim' at the beginning of the constitution. He further added 'Absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah shall be the basis of all actions' in the Part II (Fundamental Principles of state policy) of the constitution. Following General Zia's footprints, his right successor General Ershad declared Islam as 'state religion' of the republic through the 8th amendment of the constitution.
The two general who turned the secular constitution of Bangladesh into a communal one never had belief in 15 million non-Muslim citizens' rights, honour and existence. No real Muslim can force a non-Muslim to utter 'Bismillah .'. Can a Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or ethnic man admit 'Absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah will be the basis of all actions?' Can they remain in their religion if they admit such notion? Only Khaleda Zia or her party and the alliance can say 'Bangladesh is a good example of communal harmony' by violating the religious rights and honour of Hindu-Buddhist-Christian and ethnic people over days after days, months after months and years after years!
The rampage of minority torture that began centring the 2001 election is now a low. But what will be the answer of our helmsmen of the state when the constitution is saying that the country and the constitution are not for non-Muslims? How can a country having such a communal constitution could be a "good example of communal harmony?"
Apart from the constitution, there are more tools with the government for minority persecution. A key tool of minority repression 'Vested Property Act' is still in practice in Bangladesh. This law was introduced during India-Pakistan war in 1965, considering India an enemy state and local Hindus their agents in order to grab their lands. On signing the Tashkent declaration after the war India was no more an enemy, but Bangladeshi rulers always considered the Hindus as agents of the enemy state. As a result, grabbing Hindu land using the black law still continues at different parts of the country. Many Hindu families were forced to leave the country on falling victim to this law. Many basic demands of the hill people were accepted when the former AL government signed a peace treaty with hill communities to stop repression on minority communities of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). Coming to power, the coalition government did not formally cancelled the hill treaty but had ignored its implementation. As a result, repression of military and Muslim settlers on hill people still continues.
The communal situation just was not created in a day. It was created through Islamisation of the constitution, alarming rise and expansion of religion-based political parties, use of religion in politics and giving a negative idea about religions excepting Islam for a long time. No matter wherever the fundamentalist and communal forces' strongholds are including the government, administration, education and culture, they have prepared a ground for Islamisation of the society and politics as well as repression, deprivation and discrimination on people of other religions. The nature of the rampant minority repression centring the 2001 election, was in fact an expression of violent communal excitement. Beside political vengeance, many minority people were also tortured for economic cause. But an overall study of the repression shows target of the perpetrators was mainly driving out the Hindus from Bangladesh irrespective of financial condition and political affiliation.
It is impossible to establish communal harmony unless the state and government is secular. The 'secularism' in Bangladesh, as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said, is not like that in the Europe. Secularism in Europe is materialism in all spheres of state, government, society and individual. Religion is solely a matter of the individual. Although Christian fundamentalism is rising in the Europe and the US as a counteraction of worldwide rise of Islamist fundamentalism and extension of their network in the West, no country but US ever patronized them.
While explaining addition of secularism in the 1972 constitution, Bangabandhu said on several occasions that secularism does not mean absence of religion; (it means) state will not be bias to any specific religion and religion will be separated from politics and state activities. Some of his left-leaning intellectual critics then said that, his explanation limited the spirit of secularism, changed its definition and manifestation. Although there was enough scope in Bangabandhu's secularism to practice religion in individual and social life, we saw later that fundamentalist and communal opponents always termed secularism as absence of religion. Failing to make a proper reply to such false propagandas, the AL engaged itself in a competition with BNP of using religion politically since 1990s. Important AL leader, former Dhaka Mayor and president of Dhaka city AL Mohammad Hanif recently said publicly that he does not believe secularism. Expressing his support for Jamaa'atul Mujahideen's declaration of a state and government on the basis of Quran and Sunnah, he also claimed himself 'fundamentalist' and 'communal'!*
The way an influential AL leader openly declared jihad against secularism and urged the AL to cast off secularism may appear as the words of an insane or a sign of Hanif's changing party to many and they may be convalescent over the thought. But our observation is that communal mindset and thought are flourishing even in the AL, the largest political party of the country which is the exponent of Bangalee nationalism and secularism. Noted economist Prof. Abul Barakat's research shows, of among the people who grabbed the land of Hindus using the 'Vested Property Act' during the AL rule, 44 percent were involved with the AL and 32 percent with BNP's politics. Even when the BNP was in power, 11 percent such land grabbers were found to be AL followers.**
* Amader Samoy, Janakantha, Jugantar, 22, 23, 24, 25 September 2005
** Paper presented at a seminar jointly organised by 'National Committee for Resisting Vested Property Act' and BILIA in Dhaka, on 28 July 2005
We came to learn from Abul Barakat's research that about 10 lakh Hindu families, 40 percent of total Hindu population, were affected by the Vested Property Act in last 40 years. 2.1 million acres of land, 53 percent of the Hindus' total land (before they were affected) was lost for the law. The lost 2.1 million acre land is worth Tk. 1,451.52 billion (as per 2000 land price rate). Added to this financial loss was attempt of regaining the loss (case, lobbying etc.) and loss of movable property. The two losses, according to Abul Barakat's statistics, is 'at least Tk 1,806.44 billion, which is 75 percent of our total national production'.
On humanitarian and social loss, Barakat wrote: "In fact it is not possible to determine real financial loss of Vested Property Act. Because it is impossible for any economist, statistician or accountancy expert to decide the financial value of human suffering, deprivation, forced breakdown of family tie, mental torture, physical disability ruin of communal harmony, passing nights without sleeping for threats, mothers' mourning for son and son's mourning for mother, forced ousting from parent's land, destruction of manpower, absence of freedom."*
Some intellectuals of our country who are known as secular think that fundamentalism and communalism are two separate issues. Some of them think fundamentalism is obedience to the core principle of religion and Fundamentalists may kill people of their own religion when the issue of capturing power comes up but they don't attack people of other faith. As example, they say non-Muslims are not target of Jamaat attack, rather secular Muslims and anti-Jamaat Alem (educated persons) community. On the other hand, communal forces do not care for religion. Their target is non-Muslims, never the Muslims; and their aim is to capture the non-Muslims' property.
These notions about fundamentalism and communalism already became absolute. Nature, characteristics and activities of both of these have hanged now, both have mingled in many cases. A study of minority persecution in Bangladesh in the last four years will show Jamaat-e-Islami and other extremist militant organisations are equally responsible for communal violence and repression. We went to Kaliganj to visit three tortured housewives of Satkhira - Radharani, Banolata and Aduri - on July 21, 2003. The Janakantha published a report on the torture on three Sarker families and the housewives. It wrote:
'Criminals of Kaliganj tied up housewife Radharani Sarker in her house in the midnight and dragged her through a huge of prickly shrubs. They later raped and tortured her at the embankment. One urinated on her mouth as she called him 'godfather'; the two others continued bestial exultation on her body. Victim of Saturday midnight's terrorist attack and torture in Bishwanathpur village Radharani is about to be mentally imbalance. Both hands of housewife Banolata were fractured in the attack. She cannot move her legs as the terrorists stabbed those. She is carrying marks of torture in her whole body. Aduri, a 40 plus women, is being treated at the hospital with injuries in the hands, head, back and buttock. Her son Bashudev was also injured in the attack. The tragic and barbaric incident took place on four minority families on Saturday night. Evidence of the terrorist attack is still found during a visit to the area, 44 kilometres from Satkhira, on Monday.
'Admitting of the ransack and looting, Kaliganj Circle Superintendent of Police (SP) Shamsul Huda told Janakantha that the barbaric incident took place for instigation by local Jamaat activist and former Union Parishad chairman Abdul Gafur. Non one was arrested although a case was filed. There is allegation that the case was filed under a weak section (of criminal law).'*
* Janakantha, 8 July 2003
Local police told journalists that it is the local Jamaat leaders who are responsible for attack on Sarker families and torturing the housewives. We talked with local BNP leader Dolly Islam. She also said, "criminals belong to Jamate Islami made the attack." We heard same allegation in Gava village of Satkhira district.
Militant fundamentalist organisation 'Al Saiyed Mujahid Bahini' threatened people of Pirojpur and told them to stop worshipping idols two years ago. A report of 'Sangbad' reads: 'Doubt looms over holding of upcoming Durgapuja in Pirojpur. An organization named 'Al Saiyed Mujahid Bahini' (of Halishahar, Chittagong) has sent letters to almost all puja mandaps in Pirojpur and Najirpur and asked not to worship idols. They threatened of damaging the idols themselves on the first day of Puja if the Hindu community does not do so by October 10. They also said worshipping of idols will not be allowed in the birthplace and constituency of Saidee (Jamaat lawmaker Delwar Hossain Saidee). Worshipping of idols is an act of the kafir (non-believers). After getting the letters, leaders of all puja committees of the town met at an emergency meeting at local Kalibari. The deputy commissioner (DC) and SP have been informed about decision of the meeting.'*
Muslim militant organisation 'Islamic Solidarity' has sent letters to four Hindu teachers of Chittagong University, issuing death threat.**
Somebody set fire to Narayanganj Kali temple and hung a notice on the adjacent tree asking for building mosque demolishing the temples.***
Imam of a mosque of in Nilphamari preached during Union Parisad (UP) election that casting votes for Hindu candidates would be violation of religious rites'.****
* Sangbad, 8 October 2001.
** Janakantha, 23 October 2001.
*** Sangbad, 8 October 2001.
**** Ajker Kagoj, 27 February 2002.
Militant fundamentalist organisation 'Harkatul Jihad' sent letters to Hindu families in Manikganj, asking them to convert to Islam.*
Hindu teachers of Hafiz Ibrahim College of Bhola were assaulted and their households came under attack as they did not take part in milad.**
There are many examples of fundamentalists' involvement in minority repression during the coalition government rule as they aim to establish an Islamic rule in Bangladesh on the basis of Quran and Sunnah. Besides, secular Muslims and non-Muslims are also needed to be uprooted. Apart from forcing the minorities to leave the country, the fundamentalists are also doing the task of converting them with a strong zeal whenever they get a chance. Dr Dakua narrated before Nirmul Committee team members how the musclemen of Jamat lawmaker Saidee striped him in a Bazar, chased with a sharp blade, tried to circumcise him in broad day light. Newspapers carried reports on some incidents of forced converting to Islam. Those who were forced to covert left the country secretly as happened in the case of the raped victims.
Ninety percent rape victims did not lodge any complaint with any police station or informed journalists. They left the country secretly in the dark of the night fearing insult and disgrace. Both eyes of Radharani of Thkurgaon were gouged out after rape. Those who read the news of post-rape assault and insult of Chhobi Rani of Bagerhat surely felt themselves ashamed.
* Janakantha, 4 November 2003.
** Janakantha 13 August 2003.
We have seen religious minorities fell victims to harassment, attack and repression at different parts of the country during the 1991 and 1996 parliamentary election. We published a white paper on repression on minority during election in July 1996. Our observation was mentioned in the introduction, which read: "The parliamentary election of June 12, 1996 was held in a free and fair manner in general. Seventy three percent voters cast their votes in the election, which was never seen in any election in the past. Beside this positive aspect of the election, there were some incidents of intimidation on minority people. They were physically abused and barred to go to the polling centres at different places across the country.
"Before the election, it was quite evident from BNP's being unpopular for unlimited corruption and tyranny over five years that they would face a great debacle. Jamaat's debacle was also evident for Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam-launched movement against 1971's killers and collaborators, which was aimed at fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami. Leaders of 'Muktijuddher Smriti Sangrakkhan Kendra' told at a press conference in Dhaka on June 1 (1996) 'if the election becomes free and fair .no-one of the 1971 killers, their collaborators and war criminals will become successful in the election'.
"It was clear from our pre-election study that the BNP will not be able to win in more than 60/70 constituencies. It is already said Jamaat will not be able to win in any single constituency. In spite of it, BNP won in 116 seats and Jamaat in three. For this victory, the BNP and Jamaat jointly took some steps against Awami League. The most important one was keeping minority religious communities away from casting their votes.
"Jamaat and BNP accomplished this task with great success. They terrified and threatened people of Hindu-inhabited areas before the election. They did not let over seven hundred thousand people by setting fire to their houses, barring them from going to polling centres, driving them away from the centres and physically assaulting them. About all of these seven hundred thousand people were supporters of Awami League. Although different newspapers published details of the communal terrorism on the June 12 election, it was learnt by spot visit that the real incident was far more terrifying. Gravity of the communal terrorism could be felt a bit from a description of eight rights organizations made at press conference on June 15. They gave a detail description of the incidents taken place in Chandpur-1 constituency.
"The most heinous incident of terrifying of religious minority and spreading communal propaganda during the election took place at Pirojpur-1 constituency. Former AL lawmaker Sudhangshu Shekhar Halder, who won in 1991 election with a difference of over 17, 000 votes, fell victim to BNP-Jamaat's joint communal propaganda and terrorism."*
Learning from our 1996 experience, we asked Justice Latifur Rahman in 2001 to take all steps necessary to ensure that the religious minority people can go to polling centres and cast their votes without any difficulty. Since their taking office, the caretaker government of Justice Latifur Rahman made some changes in top posts of the administration, which put their neutrality under question and made their negative attitude to Awami League very clear. After the caretaker government took over, I wrote: "We've witnessed communal propaganda, threats in the name of religion and communal repression in 1996; as a result seven to eight hundred thousand voters could not go to polling centres and those who went were assaulted physically.
"In the 1996 election, I went, with a SAARC observers' team, to Chandpur where election at six polling centres was postponed. Re-election was to be held there seven days later. I saw a several thousand Hindu people decided not to cast their votes in the re-election for voter repression and intimidation. Among the SAARC observers there were eminent Pakistani journalist Khalid Mahmud and Indian writer Sunil Gangopaddhya. They asked voters to go to polling centres without any fear. They told them police camps were already set up and army camps would be set up if necessary and that they
* Parliament Election 1996 : White Paper on Repression on Religious Minority, Edited by Shahriar Kabir, publushed by MSSK Trust, Dhaka, August 1996.
will also be present there on the election day. The injured and panicked voters told them that they would be present there for one day, police camps would remain one week at best a month. "But what will happen later? They will attack us again, insult our women," this was their reply. The Hindu voters of the area did not go to polling centres to cast their votes on the re-election day on June 19 and the candidate they supported was defeated with a little margin of vote. Although it is claimed that the election was held in a free and peaceful manner, but incidents of minority repression took place at several constituencies. Even in '96 the government and administration did not take any step against those.
"From my experience of 1996, I can say incidents of communal violence will take place more. It is because the communal and fundamentalist forces competed separately in last election have formed alliance with Khaleda Zia and Ershad and has become more violent. It is the Hindu voters who decide results in more than 40 constituencies. No one will object if any Hindu voter wants to cast his/her vote for the candidate of BNP, Jatiya Party, Jamaat-e-Islami or Islami Oikya Jote or wants to be their candidate in a normal democratic environment. But the whole election will be put on question if they are terrified and not allowed to go to polling centres. Different kinds of communal repression take place before election. It is told sometimes that Hindus will be ousted from the country if the candidate of a specific party wins. As a ploy to torture the Hindus, it is sometimes alleged that Indian Hindus took shelter at some specific houses and villages. It was a major reason of the AL's debacle in last election in the greater Rajshahi region. The Hindu voters of Rajshahi who always used to cast their votes for Boat said they cast half of their votes for Boat and rest half for Paddy Sheaf so that they did not have to leave the country for 'the sin of being Awami League supporters'.
"The government of Justice Latifur Rahman will have to stop communal propaganda for the sake of free and peaceful election and those who will violate they have to be declared ineligible as candidate. The upcoming election may not be termed free and fair unless it is ensured that all irrespective of religion, financial condition, gender and ethnicity can take part in it.
"A volatile ground for this election is the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Representatives of different ethnic communities have demanded for revision of the voter list. Leader of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) Santu Larma demanded for inclusion of representatives of minority ethnic communities in the Advisory Council. There are over 40 minority ethnic communities in Bangladesh. Illegal Bangalee settlers' political, economic and social repression on hill people of Chittagong goes on. If rights, honour and security of the oppressed people are not ensured, election in one-tenth area of Bangladesh will turn into a farce. The caretaker government must pay attention to these issues at the moment to make the election peaceful and acceptable."*
Not only 'Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee', different rights organisations including 'Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad', 'Sammilito Samajik Andolon', 'Ain O Salish Kendra', 'Bangladesh Mahila Parishad' and 'Prip Trust' have demanded security and to stop repression on religious and ethnic minorities through meetings, rallies, press conference and memorandum to the caretaker government. It is worth mentioning that the caretaker government of Latifur Rahman did not pay any heed to these demands at all.
Many could notice the anti-people communal character of the caretaker government by September. Our observation in this regard was -- "The incidents of last two and half months show in short that the main task of the caretaker government is to supervise the fundamentalist Taliban terrorist and clearing the way for the four-party alliance's going to power. Their last step in this regard is doing 'media coup' if the situation is not
* Janakantha, July 23, 2001
in their favour. For this, the government has decided not to allow any channel other than the BTV to telecast election result.
"The chief advisor, advisors and election commission have said a large number of observer groups has been tasked with monitoring the free and fairness of the election. It has been found that Jamaat and BNP men are 80 percent of them. Jamaat-run Islami Bank has been tasked with conducting the election. Taliban terrorist ousted a Janakantha reporter from his area for his reporting on IOJ candidate Mufti Shahidul Islam's Taliban connection. When this reporter went to the police station to file case, police did not record the case. Meanwhile, Narail correspondent of the same daily fled his area and took shelter in Khulna for life.
"We thought Justice Latifur Rahman would arrange a free and fair election, following the path of his predecessors Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed and Justice Habibur Rahman. A civil society delegation led by Prof. Kabir Chowdhury wanted to meet Justice Latifur Rahman after he took charge. In the delegation were those dignitaries who organised 'South Asian Conference on Fundamentalism and Communalism' in last June. Leaders of civil society of five countries of South Asia took part there. Prof Kabir Chowdhury is giving leadership in the movement against fundamentalism and communalism not only in Bangladesh but also in the whole South Asian region. Our aim was to giving advice to the caretaker government on the basis of our past experience and in the light of present situation on how to make the election peaceful, free and meaningful. Although Justice Latifur Rahman had met often with identified killers, their collaborators, war criminals and Rajakars of '71, he did not find time to meet us over the last two and half months. He said as explanation of meeting the Rajakars that he did not know who are Rajakars and who anti-Liberation War elements, he also expressed ignorance about Taliban network. By saying these, he sent green signal to the administration in one hand and the Jamaat-Shibir and Taliban in the other, and the religious minority and rural women are paying its price.
"Central and district-level leaders of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee have organised mass interaction publicity, workshops at union-level and meetings at thana-level in 42 constituencies under 'Muktijuddher Chetonar Obhijatra' campaign. Out of these 42 constituencies war criminals, fundamentalists and Rajakars of Jamaat are contisting from 30, war criminals of IOJ and BNP contesting from the rest. We apprehend after visiting these areas that the upcoming election will not at all be free, fair and neutral.
"The Jamaat and IOJ, political parties of killers and their collaborators of 1971, have always did politics by misinterpreting the Islam and misleading the pious and innocent people. The IOJ candidates said the people who would cast votes for their candidates would not have to perform hajj since casting them vote is similar to hajj. The Jamaat said people who would cast vote for them would go to heaven and those who would not do so, to the hell. Delwar Hossain Saidee issued a fatwa saying this election will be a fight between the Musilim and Hindu. Namaz (prayers) and janaja (burial rites) of those who would cast vote for the Hindus would not be allowed. BNP candidates said in a similar tune that this election is 'a fight between tupi (fez) and dhuti (piece of white clothe worn by Hindus)'. Women and religious minorities have been told that they would not be allowed to go to polling centres on the election day. They have been threatened that the women would be insulted, would be stripped and the Hindus would be ousted from the country. Hindu people of different areas have been forced to pay a big amount of toll.
When such reports came to us during our visits to remote areas we asked the victims whether they filed complaints with local police stations or not. Their answer in most cases was that police do not arrest the terrorists if they go to thanas rather torture on them gets multiplied if the terrorists know about it. Many said they went to thanas but police did not record their complaints. A Hindu businessman of Satkhira sold his betel leaf plantation to pay toll to fundamentalist terrorists. He did not got to thana or tell us their names fearing attempt on his life. Many such incidents are not published in daily newspapers. Some well off Hindu families of Hindu-inhabited areas have sent their young daughters to India and are now passing their days in utter panic.
"As inclination of Justice Latifur Rahman to hardcore Rajakars and Taliban is not unknown to local administration, as they could understand that this government is the government of four-party alliance, they are not interested logically to take any step embarrassing to the alliance.
"Leaders of Bangladesh civil society met with European and US diplomats before the election. Our observation was that situation at polling centres in the town areas will be quite peaceful and normal on the election day as foreign and local observers, military and members of law enforcing agencies will be there. This time the fundamentalists will apply the strategy vigorously which they did during the last election. They will create a situation so that women and voters of religious minorities cannot go to polling centres. Foreign diplomats have also expressed their concern at the situation. But leaders of the four-party alliance are saying there is no torture on religious minority while the caretaker government is saying they will take strong steps if such incident takes place.
"Army has started patrolling in different areas. The panicked villagers know that army will not be there after the election, only the cadre groups of Saidee, Amini and Nizami will be there. At least 25 lakh Hindu voters will not be able to cast their votes if the fundamentalists and terrorist are not arrested immediately. For fundamentalists' fatwa and threats, common village people are telling their women that there is no necessity of going to polling centres. Sitting in Dhaka, the caretaker government is only issuing different formans (proclamation), no steps have been taken to assure the panicked people of different villages. It is not unlikely because they have already cleared the way of the anti-Liberation War Rajakars and war criminals to go to the parliament."*
Although our ideas in other sectors proved right, it was wrong in the case of army. The army pretended neutral till two days before the election. But a day before the election, they arrested and ousted many Awami League leaders and activists from their houses in the name of curbing crime, and worked on the Election Day directly for the alliance government.
Political parties did not show necessary caution and held protest or built up resistance, although newspapers and the civil society were quite alert that the election will be not free and fair because of the incidents of communal violence across the country centring the 2001 election. As a result, sequel of the repression on religious minority and ethnic communities still go on.
Although national dailies was reporting on systematic persecution against religious minorities since July 2001, which made us worried and greatly resentful, the reaction of the government was totally opposite. Justice Latifur Rahman's government was in power for nine more days after the October 1 election. The four-party alliance government led by Begum Khaleda Zia took with on October 10. As Justice Latifur Rahman kept on denying from the very beginning that communal violence took place anywhere in the country, the alliance government did the same thing since they assumed power.
Important dailies of the country excepting mouthpieces of the coalition like 'Inquilab', 'Sangram' and 'Dinkal', published series of reports on communal violence. There is no reason to consider the Daily Star, Ittefaq, Jugantor, Prothom Alo etc. as supporters of Awami League. However, a few column writers of the alliance have remarked that the newspaper reports on communal repression are exaggerated and that those were
* Janakantha, September 27, 2001
published as part of a conspiracy to tarnish the image of the alliance government. A statement of 'South Asian People's Union against Fundamentalism and Communalism' expressing concern and resentment over communal repression published in different national dailies on October 4 (2001). Just after three days Farhad Mazhar, who is known to be a leftist and secular column writer, wrote a big column expressing hatred against it.
Some so-called leftist intellectuals opined like other supporters of alliance government that communalism does not exist in Bangladesh. Some stray incidents might took place and Hindus might be attacked in some places but those incidents were not communal rather political, according to them. Some of these people say it is a reactionary idea to term non-Muslim religious communities as 'minority'. To justify the persecution, some of them mentioned that such incidents also took place during Awami League rule. They even said that repression on Hindus in Bangladesh is nothing major in comparison with torture on minority Muslims in neighbouring India. When brutal torture was launched on Hindus, several hundred temples, homesteads and business houses were demolished over a few weeks after the destruction of Babri Mosque in India on December 6, 1992, some so-called leftist intellectuals said it was nothing big in compare with India. On Taslima Nasrin's novel 'Lajja', which was based on 1992 communal violence, they said it was written to serve the interest of Hindu fundamentalist .
When intellectuals like Farhad Mazhar and Badruddin Umar discover reactionary motives in the write-ups on rise of fundamentalism and communal repression it becomes more clear why minorities of Bangladesh fall victim to continuous repression.
In her first address to the nation after taking office, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia denied minority repression and said, "Followers of all religions including the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians and al ethnic communities are Bangladeshi. I am alerting the countrymen about those who want to erect a wall of difference among us by willingly using the word minority amidst such religious harmony."*
We made a reply of her speech on the following day at a press conference of 'Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee' where Purnima, who was gang-raped and her family were present. We mentioned that, "We don't want anyone to stay in Bangladesh with the identity of minority, but it is very difficult to erase the brand of 'minority', which the state put on them. By erasing secularism and adding 'Bismillah .' in the constitution through the 5th amendment first and declaring Islam as the state religion later through 8th amendment, non-Muslim religious communities have been told clearly that they are 'minority' and second class citizens in Bangladesh. Since they are minority in number the Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and ethnic people are easy prey of communal persecution. Especially, the Hindus are attacked on the ploy that they are supporters of Awami League although they also cast votes for BNP, Jatiya Party and other parties. Since they are minority in number, they have been turned into marginalised people, they don't have the courage to protest these."**
The then home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury told the BBC in an interview and at meetings and later at a joint press conference with BNP secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan said, "Newspapers are publishing exaggerated reports on minority repression. Eighty to ninety percent of newspaper reports are baseless as those do not have any similarity with the reports of the DCs (deputy commissioners)."***
Is it possible for the DCs to term them liars when the prime minister and other top ministers say newspaper reports are untrue and baseless? Since talking over of the caretaker
* Janakantha, October 20, 2001.
** See full text of the statement presented at the press conference in appendix-1.
*** Janakantha, October 18, 2001.
government, the DCs have realized what government policymakers want. The civil bureaucrats also know what punishment they will have to face if not work according to the will of the policymakers. Therefore, it is obvious that there will be no similarity between newspaper reports and those sent by the DCs.
All the leaders of rights organisations who visited the minority-tortured areas are of the same opinion that even half of the incidents of repression were not published in newspapers. It is because:
1. The victims did not dare to file complaints with police apprehending further torture as the perpetrators are mainly activists and supporters of BNP and Jamaat. They were also afraid to inform the thanas and journalists about the torture for the same apprehension.
2. In most cases it is very difficult to know about communal attacks taking place in remote areas.
3. The incidents of rape and women repression seldom complain with the thanas fearing more torture and social stigma. The raped women in many Asian countries including Bangladesh considered unwanted and despicable in the society.
4. Since the government kept denying incidents of communal repression from the very beginning, the thanas willingly overlooked and denied to record victims' complaints in many cases. The complainants have been harassed and physically tortured in many cases while they have been arrested in other cases.
5. There is no way to collect information about thousands of Hindu families who were forced to leave country secretly, losing everything including their property and near and dear ones.
6. The BBC and I myself talked with many of those who went to India. For the prevailing adverse political situation, many of them do not want to admit that they left the country after October of 2001, and
7. Those who have decided not to leave the country in any situation did not want to out their position in danger by disclosing the incidents of repression on them. Although we learnt about those their neighbours from no newspaper published such incidents.
The detail statistics of torture and rampage this time will never be known for these reasons.
Brutality of repression as learnt from newspapers and reports of rights organisations never took place in Bangladesh history except once during the Liberation War of 1971. The members of Pakistani occupation forces who were responsible for the holocaust of 1971, they were outsiders. The repression this time is much more tragic because the attackers are not foreign soldiers; they are Bangalee and neighbours of the victims and maybe from the same village. The minority people who fled the country in 1971 for life came back after the war was over. Many of the victims of communal repression who left the country during this coalition rule told me and the media correspondents that they would never come back.
Repression on religious minority that began in mid-July of 2001 after the caretaker government took over rose widely after the general election. No single day could be found in first three months of the coalition government's taking power when no repression on the minority took place. An analysis of nature of repression during this government's rule shows that incidents of physical torture, looting, setting fire to households, forced extortion and rape were more than the number of killing. From children of 8/9 years to 50/60-year-old women were raped. To insult the raped more, the rapists showed a bestial attitude by stripping them and forcing them to walk nakedly before thousand eyes in broad day light. The victims of murder included people of different age from newborn babies to 75-year-olds. Priests of temple, Buddhist monk and elderly scholars even could not escape brutal death. Hindus were forced to convert to Islam in some places while Muslim or ethnic people who converted to Christianity willingly were tortured and even killed at some other places.
When communal repression became a regular issue, many political parties and rights organisations made a gory portrayal of the incidents before the fellow citizens and urged the government for steps, but the government did not take any step. Exasperated by government indifference, a rights organisation, Ain O Salish Kendra, even filed a case at high court.* The court sought explanation from the government in this regard, but our government did not do so even after four years.
Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International (AI) came to Dhaka twice after the election and expressed deep concern over minority repression during her meeting with the PM and home minister. Top government leaders never paid any heed to the matter. The PM promised the Amnesty International secretary general in December 2001 of forming a commission to probe complaints of minority repression but the commission is yet to form.**
Observing the planned and continuous incidents of communal repression, political observers and social scientists have termed these as 'ethnic cleansing'. Since two and half months before the election, terrorists of BNP and Jamaat started saying that no Hindu would be allowed to live in Bangladesh. In most cases, the Hindus were told after torture to leave the country. BNP and Jamaat took it for granted that all non-Muslims are supporters of the AL and an easy way to avenge the AL is communal torture. BNP and Jamaat think that if non-Muslims leave the country, there will be a cut in AL vote and it will be easier to turn Bangladesh into a monolithic Islamic country like Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Visiting different areas, we have seen that religious minorities irrespective of party affiliation became subject of torture Killers of Jamaat-e-Islami murdered eminent Chittagong educationist Principal Gopal Krishna Muhuri was a politburo member Workers Party. Buddhist monk Gyanojyoti Mahathero, monk Dulal Barua and Hindu priest Madanmohan
Goshwami who never had any connection with politics murdered in Chittagong. Basana Rani, mother of gang-raped Purnima, of Sirajganj said they did not even spared although they told the perpetrators that they cast their vote for the BNP. So it will not be wise to guess that the minority people who are AL supporters fell victims of torture. There is obviously a political reason. Activists of the opposition including the AL are being tortured over the last four years for political vengeance of the alliance government. There is an economical reason too, but the main reason behind ongoing repression on the Hindus, Buddhists and Christians is communal and the fundamentalist attempt to turn Bangladesh's multi-racial society into a monolithic Islamic state.
* See appendix-6 for the text.
** See appendix-5 for the text of AI report.
No dissimilarity found between newspaper information and those disclosed in the press conferences of different rights organisations that visited the places where the repression took place before and after the election. The government accused and harassed different newspapers for carrying 'exaggerated' and 'motivated' reports on minority repression and became angry at rights organisations in the same way. Khaleda Zia government took repressive steps against, rights organisations and NGOs, which were working for security, equal rights and dignity of the minorities since long before the election.
The coalition government arrested me in 42 days into its taking office. I was accused of sedition for taking interviews of the religious minority people who were forced to go to India after the election and of tarnishing the government's image by giving interview to the BBC on minority repression. Coming out of the jail on bail two months later, I described at a press conference physical and mental torture on me during the remand after my arrest.
I was arrested again one year later in December 2002. Along with me, police also tortured two foreign reporters of the BBC Zaiba Malik and Bruno Sorentino, Prof Muntassir Mamoon, journalists Saleem Samad and Enamul Haq amd human rights activist Pricilla Raj. Later, 152 staff of the country's largest NGO Proshika including its president Dr. Kazi Faruque Ahmed were arrested. The AL leaders possibly do not know how many thousands of their leaders and activists were arrested. We have not mentioned in this Whitepaper* government torture on the AL as we are dealing specifically with repression on the religious and ethnic minorities.
Over one hundred journalists of remote areas of Bangladesh came under different sorts of harassment, arrest and torture by the ruling party cadres and administration while writing reports on the repression. Journalists like Manik Saha of Khulna, Dipankar Chakrabarty of Bogra and Prof. Humayun Azad were killed mainly for writing on repression on the religious minority. In his novel 'Pak Sar Zamin', Prof. Azad wrote the involvement of fundamentalists parties with minority repression. The Jamaat workers became so angry that their lawmaker Delwar Hossain Saidee proposed in the parliament to introduce Blasphemy Law to punish him. Many newspapers covered incidents of brutal torture on minority Hindu communities in Saidee's constituency during the 1996 and 2001 election.
Although the degree of repression on the minority after the 8th parliamentary election in 2001 was much higher than any other past reign in the context of cruelty and occurrences, the state did not take any effective step against those and the opposition parties also failed to do so. It is unexpected that the coalition government will take steps to stop these since the perpetrators are local terrorists of the government constituents, but we did not see the progressive political parties to unite to stop the repression this time as they did in the past. Leaders of the AL, JSD (Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal), Workers Party, CPB (Communist Party of Bangladesh) and other like-minded parties visited some affected areas separately and in some cases helped the victims, but they did not do anything unitedly to stop the repression as they did in 1964 and 1992.
Some AL supporter column writers wrote that the attack on the party was so violent and sudden that it became very tough to guard itself and it was impossible to stand beside minority victims as expected. However, our observation is that repression on the minority was less in the areas where the AL leaders remained despite government torture, killing and arrest. Torture was much in the areas that abandoned by the AL leaders after the election. Many victims of the affected areas complained the no leader of the country's largest political party stood beside them. Strength of other anti-fundamentalist and anti-communal political parties is so limited that it is impossible for them to do anything separately. Moreover, there are some parties among them, which did not stand beside the victims for hostility towards the AL. They calculated like the ruling coalition that AL's vote would decrease if the minority Hindus leave the country for torture.
A strong unity among all the parties including the AL that believe in the spirit of Liberation War and effective resistance move were necessary to stop the unprecedented disaster of humanity. But anti-AL mind set in some leftist parties is so strong that such a disastrous suffering even failed to move them. This time hey feared forming an alliance with the Awami League, but when 11 left-leaning parties formed 'Samprodaik Samprity Committee' (Communal Harmony Committee) with the AL in 1992 December, the victims found consolation, the perpetrators were alarmed and the torture did not last long. If the main reason of long lasting of repression this time is the coalition government's political agenda, the second reason will be absence of resistance by the opposition political parties.
It is not possible for people to come forward to resist repression if the political parties fail to put effective resistance. We have witnessed some spontaneous resistance by the people in some cases. We have seen at the same time how a few Muslims were tortured for providing shelter to affected Hindu neighbours.
* White paper on 1500 days of minority persecution in Bangladesh, edited by Shahriar Kabir, published by 'Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee' Dhaka, 10 October 2005
Among the socio-cultural and rights organisations that played active role to mobilise public opinion against minority repression and stood beside the victims over the last five years are: 1) Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, 2) Muktijuddher Smriti Sangrakkhan Kendra, 3) South Asian People's Union against Fundamentalism and Communalism, 4) Bangladesh Hindu-Bouddha-Christian Oikya Parishad, 5) Sammilito Samajik Andolon, 6) Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, 7) Ain o Salish Kendra, 8) Bangladesh Adibashi Forum, 9) Hotline Bangladesh, 10) Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities, 11) Sammilito Sangskritik Jote, 12) Citizens Voice etc. Besides, some NGOs including Proshika, Prip Trust, Nari Progoti Sangha, and Nijera Kori were more or less active and had to pay a good price for it.
Country's noted intellectuals and cultural and activists formed Nagorik Odhikar Sangrakhan O Samprodaikota Protirodh Committee (Committee for Citizens' Rights and Resisting Communalism) on November 6, 2001. This committee decided to form a public inquiry commission to find out the incidents of torture on the minorities and its reasons. A three-member public inquiry commission was formed in December 2001 with Prof Zillur Rahman Siddique as the Chairman. The two other members of the committee were barrister Shafiq Ahmad and Advocate Tobarak Hossain. Nagorik Committee and members of the commission visited several affected areas. The commission published their report of over 100 pages on minority repression on April 26, 2002.
An international convention of conscious citizens titled 'Crime against Humanity' was held in Dhaka on February 14-15 (2002) with the support of Awami League. Several hundred victims of communal repression from different parts of the country took part in the convention.
'South Asian People's Union against Fundamentalism & Communalism' first expressed strong reaction against ongoing minority persecution just after the October 1, 2001 election. A statement signed by leaders of the organisation on October 3 described the brutal torture centring the election the minority communities went through. The statement was published in most of the important daily newspapers of the country on the following day. 'South Asian People's Union against Fundamentalism and Communalism' and 'Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee' organised a roundtable discussion of eminent citizens and leaders of different human rights organisations. The most important proposals taken at the discussion was publishing a Whitepaper on communal repression.
After talking with leaders of different rights organisations, we decided eight days after the October 1, 2001 election to publish a Whitepaper on polls-related minority repression.* We first wanted to publish the Whitepaper with incidents taking place in three months, but the work was hampered after my arrest in November. After my release from the jail two months later, I learnt that a two-day international convention entitled 'Crime against Humanity' is going to be held in February 2002. The convention committee will also publish a document on post-election minority repression.
Several documents were made public at the convention held at Engineers Institute in Dhaka on February 14-15. Two of these were photographic document entitled 'Crime against Humanity: Repression on Religious Minority' and 'Chadarti Soriye Dao (Remove the Wrapper).
The newspaper information accommodated in Prof Zillur Rahman-led public inquiry commission are of the period of September December 2001. Reading report of the commission, one may get the impression that the minority repression centred the election, which stopped or died down after December.
We learnt from newspapers and visiting different affected areas that the area of repression has increased although there was a low in number of the occurrences. Incidents of repression were reported six months or a year later from the areas where no such incident took place during the election. Minority repression spread to most parts of the country during Union Parishad election in February 2003. As the repression was on, we were worried about span of time of our Whitepaper. The repression began in mid-July of 2001 immediate after the caretaker government took over. We thought it would stop after the local government election. It was because public opinion against repression was getting stronger in one hand and international communities, expressing concern and resentment at this, asked the government to stop repression and bring the perpetrators to trial and punishment. We thought in the second phase to publish the Whitepaper with 500 days of repression. It is matter of strong regret that the repression has not stopped even after 1500 days. Since the Whitepaper needs a timeframe, we have limited collecting information of 1500 days of repression.
While sorting our reports on minority repression we had to remain alert on a few sensitive issues. Firstly, we did not include the reports on attack on people irrespective of minority and majority in Awami League-dominated areas centring the election, considering those as 'political violence'. We also refrained from including the incidents where both Hindus and Muslims were attacked during mass robbery in any area, considering those as situation of law and order. General incidents of theft, mugging and fighting are not included in the Whitepaper in the same way. But the incidents where one has been tortured for being a non-Muslim and asked to go to India are definitely communal by character.
While admitting some incidents of minority repression, the coalition government has found no communalism in those and said those are merely political violence or a situation of law and order. They often said the AL was torturing the minority to embarrass the government. After arresting me and Prof. Muntassir Mamoon, we were asked during the remand whether no robbery incident takes place at the house of any Muslim, or a Muslim get killed or a Muslim girl raped. Many of the coalition government-blessed intellectuals and so-called rights organisations make the similar question. According to them, such crime and law and order situation should not be termed as communal. It is because they believe there is no minority and communalism doesn't exist in Bangladesh, but our stand is very clear. Whenever one is tortured for his religious belief, when one is deprived of justice and constitutional rights for being follower of a specific religion, when one's patriotism comes under question or satire for his identity as member of a specific religion or ethnic community, it is indeed minority repression.
The account of the repression the members of minority communities of Bangladesh are going through all the time will not be found in the Whitepaper. Sultana Nahar included in her book 'Minority Communities' the interview of one victim named Pronabkumar Deb. Prof Zillur Rahman's inquiry commission has mentioned it in its report. It said about regular minority repression:
1) Minority people have to face different kinds of problems for their being minority in number. Example: the majority people want to use them for their own interest; maintaining dignity and property become difficult.
2) One cannot use his own property freely, those come under attack often. Example: catching fish from ponds without permission, cutting bamboos and crops, capturing land forcibly in the name of enemy property, disturb by mastaans (hooligans) and extortionists, harassment by influential and police.
3) They cannot move freely. Especially when went to visit relatives at the bordering region, BDR and local Muslims loot valuables.
4) Cannot express their opinion freely, e.g. ban of 'Glani' and 'Lajja'.
5) Cannot enjoy voting right freely. Casting vote against will is very common or refrains from casting it for intimidation and threats.
6) Once tortured as a minority, one does not get social justice. Law enforcing agencies rather harass instead of ensuring security.
7) If minority people want to convert to Islam, the society and law enforcing agencies assist ands encourage them. On the other hand, if a Muslim wants to convert to other religion, they are ready with sword. As a result, it becomes impossible if a minority youth falls in love with a Muslim or if Muslim youths want to convert.
8) The law enforcing agencies get much pleasure in torturing the minority communities. They beat a Hindu accused several times than a Muslim accused in the same case. Total 157 students of different dormitories of Dhaka University were arrested on February 13, 1986 without any crime. About half of them including me arrested from Jagannath Hall. Although police behaved well with the Muslim youths, they called us 'son of malauns', hurled abusive words and beat up us, many of our heads got fractured and our dresses were wet for bleeding. Of the arrestees of February 14, 1983, Hindu students were beaten up several times than the Muslim ones.
9) Although seats remain empty, people in trains, launches and buses do not want to allow Hindu people to sit beside them if they can sense their religion.
10) Minorities cannot observe religion freely and without fear.
11) In some cases, we are been deprived of equal rights by the law, e.g.: Enemy Property Act, drawing loan and deposited money from the bank etc.
12) The state law and administration will not give any security to my life and property. After the demolition of Babri Mosque, many temples, homesteads and shops of Hindus in Bangladesh were been looted, destroyed and set under fire, Hindu women of different ages were raped. I have not heard yet that any of the perpetrators were been given exemplary punishment. We are being deprived of right to get job, especially in the interviews where there is a large number for viva voce.
13) Comparatively poor marks are been given in viva examinations at university level.
Different Problems in Professional Life
1) We have to do more works in comparison with our majority colleagues.
2) Have to face more difficulty than majority colleagues in getting our leave approved.
3) Although we do more works, we are been discriminated in the ACR to hinder our promotion.
4) In comparison with majority colleagues, we have to face difficulties and sufferings of transfer to remote places.
5) Promotion becomes impossible in professional life.
I have to suffer from strong insecurity as a minority member because negative attitude of majority is a big threat to security. I think, a part of majority will encourage and law enforcing agencies will remain inactive if 8/10 Muslims call me 'son of Malaun' and keep on beating me up or set fir to my house or kidnap or rape women. As a result, my life, property, dignity became tools of game to the majority. Furthermore, law of the state and attitude of the rulers are against me. Our experience is so bitter that I think it is better to live with ferocious animals in remote African forest than living in Bangladesh as a minority.
Minority people of Bangladesh are been deprived of their rights for adverse political, administrative, economic and communal environment despite the fact that their literacy rate is high and they are more conscious about rights. Following are some example:
1) About half of the educated population of Bangladesh are from minority communities. Had the government and the administration be neutral, the minority people would have got half of appointments and promotion.
2) Local Muslims of Madhabpur in Habiganj started demolishing Hindu temples, set fire, and loot houses of the Hindus as a revenge of attack on Babri Mosque in India. As the on duty magistrate ordered to open fire to disperse them, two miscreants died. The local administration promised of building a Shaheed Minar for the two and sacked local AC (Land) for pressure of local Muslim movement. The AC (Land) was a Hindu, and he was not on duty or in charge or present at the place that day. No matter they are educated and conscious about their rights, the minority will be deprived of their rights in a country where many people of the majority consider looting and setting fire to minority places of worships and households and raping minority women as acts of 'praiseworthy act' (if not, why the two killed considered martyrs).
3) When Tofael Ahmed MP informed about massive rape of Hindu women and their conceiving as the consequence of the action in Bhola and Barisal, honorable (!) minister Salam Talukder mocked it in a sacred place like Jatiya Sangsad and said: "Had I known that the women of Barisal are so fertile I would have married there."
4) Local Muslims set fire to 56 Hindu households of Dahagram on June 26, 1992, forcing them to go to India. Although the news reached Dhaka, different national dailies reported on government instruction that Indian miscreants came to Dahagram and burnt Muslim households.*
Although the quotation is a long one, the reason to mention is that it describes victims' every day insult and mental torment. Where the state has infringed equal rights and dignity of the religious minorities and ethnic communities, such regular insult, sufferings and resentment is quite usual. There is no scope of accommodating victims' day-to-day mental torment in the Whitepaper. We can mention the incidents of minority persecution that reported on black and white to understand multi-dimensional aspects of brutality. We have asked those who take pride for their 'Muslim' identity, without considering their Bangalee or human identity, whether those who are torturing minorities from different aspects for their strength of being majority, do they think it for once that Muslims are minority in more than 100 countries in the world. How the so-called Muslims of our country, who want to support ongoing minority repression on the explanation of India and Awami League, will react if the non-Muslims of those countries begin torturing the minority Muslims as the backlash of Bangladesh?
Holding Bangladeshi Hindu responsible for any attack on Muslims in India will be illogical and inhumane. It is also barbaric in the same way the attempt to prove logical the minority repression during the coalition rule as a theoretical or class problem on the logic 'Was not there minority repression during the Awami League rule'.
No one can deny that there were been minority repression during the AL reign. There were 'Vested Property Act' and also the existing communal constitution. However, one should also consider how much state sponsorship was there, how the gravity and extent of repression was. There is no reason of thinking that minority repression will stop if the AL comes to power in the future.
If the AL or pro-Liberation political parties come to power and go back to 1972 Constitution, there will be at least a constitutional guarantee of equal rights and dignity of minorities; it will be a bit easy to establish a secular humane state and society. Still there is no guarantee that the government will be secular if there is secularism in the Constitution. Had there been such guarantee, BJP could not go to power in our neighbouring country India and Muslim massacre in Gujrat would be impossible. Had the state and Constitution secular, the oppressed religious minorities have opportunity to get justice, which is not possible in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan.
We think the political parties that have religious consciousness and believe in democracy are not even well aware of the multi-dimensional repression and its long-term effect. We have been noticing since 1991 that the AL, which banned religion-based politics by declaring secularism as the major principle of the state, even used religion during the election. One cannot be secular by writing 'Allahu Akbar' or 'Allah is Almighty' in between 'Jay Bangla' and 'Jay Bangabandhu' on the top of banners and posters and by beginning speech with 'Bismillah .'.
Communalism has gobble up our state, politics, society and culture and has also swathed our mental make up. Communalism cannot be uprooted without nurturing of secularism, democracy and humanity and its application at all spheres of private and public life.
* Sultana Nahar, 'Minority Communities', Dhaka Prokashan, 1994
Although more than ten thousand incidents of communal torture, threat, killing, rape, setting fire to households, looting etc. took place in the last four years of coalition rule, it is doubtful whether police have properly recorded one tenth of the incidents. It is true that a few cases have been filed, some accused have been awarded punishment on different terms, but we did not try to know what happened later.
Two most gruesome and highlighted incidents of minority repression in the last four years are the killing of Principal Gopal Krishna Muhuri, an octogenarian educationist of Chittagong and gang rape of adolescent girl Purnima in Sirajganj . Criminals of Jamaat and its student front Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS) shot Principal Muhuri from a close range on November 16, 2001 in Chittagong. A wave of protest and resentment ran through the country and outside after the reports and photographs of the brutally killed teacher were been published in newspapers. The administration forced to arrest some of the accused. Speedy Trial Tribunal of Chittagong, on February 6, 2003, sentenced four to death, life imprisonment for as a many and fined them Tk 50,000 each for the murder of Principal Muhuri. Shibir cadre Saiful, who was awarded life term, received bail from the High Court on June 17, 2003 as the state side refrained from opposing the bail petition (Prathom Alo, 2 December 2003).
25/30 cadres of BNP raped Purnima, 14-year-old girl of Ullapara upazila of Sirajganj, eight days after the election. No one of Purnima's parents or sister could escape from their attack. Police only recorded the charge of torture, not the complaint of rape. The court received her case when local journalists and leaders of the AL and Nirmul Committee took her to the magistrate. The magistrate also ordered for arrest of the 15 whose name Purnima could tell them that moment. All they are cadres of local BNP. Although police arrested them, they were been released a few days later on receiving instruction from the local lawmaker.
The BNP lawmaker threatened Purnima's family several times. He sometimes allured them of money, asking them to deny the charge of rape. When I was in jail, BNP men offered the family Tk. 20,000 for giving statement against me, asked them to say that Purnima was not been raped, I brought them to Dhaka on financial allurement to tell journalists about the rape incident. They were been asked to say such dirty lies, but Purnima and her poor mother turned down the proposal, with disgust.
The then home minister also denied the incident of Purnima's rape. The local MP appealed to the home ministry later for reinvestigation of the case. On instruction from the ministry, police prepared a new charge sheet in the name of probe and the journalists, lawyers, leaders of the AL and Nirmul Committee who stood beside the family in their days of sufferings were been accused in the new charge sheet.
Purnima's father submitted a 'naraji' (discontent) petition with the court, putting objection to the new charge sheet. Hearing of the petition is yet to begin. The court is giving fresh dates one after another. Purnima's father, who was suffering from beating during the incident four years ago, died two months ago. Purnima's family do not know when the hearing of the petition will begin. It is impossible to begin the trial of the main case before the disontent petition is disposed. The proceedings of a few number of cases filed in connection with on minority repression are going on this way. In many cases, the trial is being hampered for absence of the complainant. The complainants cannot appear before the court for threats by the accused. As a result, the accused are getting out of jail on getting bail from the court without any difficulty and cases are dumping in the record room forever.
The existing culture of indemnifying criminals is turning the whole society crime-prone. If a Hindu girl is not available for rape, Muslim one is falling victims to the perpetrators. Thus brutal crimes like murder, rape and torture are becoming accustomed to people gradually.
The coalition government has succeeded to make the religious and ethnic minority people through continuous repression over the last four years that they will have to live in the country as second-class citizens without having opportunity to enjoy their constitutional rights and suffering all insult, torture and discrimination. If they do not like this life, they have three options before them 1) converting to Islam from minorities' religion, 2) leaving the country abandoning homesteads, business, land and property, or 3) mass suicide.
We came to learn about the attempt to turn the country free of Hindus from newspapers or sometimes while talking with victims in the affected areas. Although we ask the victims to unite against repression when they inquire about alternative means, the truth is that the weak, helpless and marginalised people do not have the strength to resist. Non-communal political parties this time did not stand beside the victims as we saw in 1964 or in 1992 to a limited extent.
The coalition government in a way wanted to hide the plan of turning Bangladesh Hindu-free, the other way, not. Since minority repression became a regular event in newspapers in October 2001, the government kept on saying no such incident took place anywhere in the country, the newspapers are publishing false news, or, if any, the Awami League is holding those to tarnish the image of the coalition government. However, because of the mass media in home and abroad, the incidents could not kept secret.
No matter how much the government denies, the world community could learn about minority repression in Bangladesh from mass media of the US and Europe. Many reports on rise of fundamentalism, minority repression and deterioration of human rights situation in Bangladesh were published in many western dailies and periodicals including the 'Guardian', 'New York Times', 'Washington Post', 'Wall Street Journal', 'Time' and 'The Nation'. Many newspapers in Europe, electronic media like BBC and South Asian countries have also carried news items on these issues. The government did not succeed to hide the incidents of communal repression even after spending crores of taka for this.
Main credit of extensive coverage of communal repression goes to journalists of remote areas who are been ignored as 'mufassil journalists'. All people will be grateful to those journalists who collected reports of the incidents by risking their lives and ignoring threats by the ruling party and administration.
Apart from district and thana-level journalists, the newspapers also could not escape the vengeance and repression by the ruling party and administration. Journalists came under torture, arrested in false cases or have been ousted from their areas for threats on life. Government advertisement has been stopped for the newspapers that published reports on communal repression ignoring government policy, reading and purchasing these newspapers have been prohibited at government, semi-government and autonomous institutions and different kind of cases have been filed against the publisher an editor of these newspapers. As a result, number of reports on such repression has reduced in the newspapers in the last few months. Reading the news of attack on a Christian inhabitated area in Chatmohor in Pabna, I went to the affected area and took interview of the victims in March 2003. After my visit three more attacks were made at the same village of Chatmohor, but no reports were published in newspapers, I learnt it from the report of human rights organisation of Father Timm and Rosaline D'Costa.
The newspapers, which wanted to see victory of Khaleda-Nizami's four-party alliance in the election and mobilised public opinion for this end before the election, have even failed to overlook till the last the communal repression this time for its brutality. Especially after my arrest on November 22, 2001, these newspapers sent reporters from Dhaka to spot cover the communal repression and published reports on these later. The exceptions were BNP's mouthpiece 'Dinkal', Jamaat's ''Sangram' and fundamentalists' mouthpiece 'Inquilab'. Of the three newspapers, Inquilab, which let loose Bangladeshi communal hooligans to demolish Hindu households and temples and loot business houses publishing false news on Babri Mosque demolition in October '90, published reports denying most the incidents of repression.
Different dailies of Dhaka published many reports on minority repression in Bagerhat. A report sent by Babul Sarder from Bagerhat was published in the 'Janakantha' on July 10, 2003. The report headlined 'The Brutal Story of Minority Repression Morelganj -- Extortion and Physical Abuse Regular Phenomena' reads:
"Another brutal incident of minority repression and torture in Morelganj, the most crime-prone upazila of Bagerhat, has been learnt. Accused of more than one cases and identified criminals have established a reign of terror in different minority-inhabited villages of Chingrakhali union. Extortion, looting, robbery, theft, women repression, kidnap and collecting ransom have become regular phenomena there. The criminals are so powerful that no result was found even after informing the DC, SP and MP. Rather, the criminals doubled the rampage after learning about it. Exasperated at their activities, at least five Hindu families have left the country in last month. No whereabouts of elderly Lalit Mondal and his wife could be learnt yet since the criminals captured and took away them. Several oppressed and torture victims of different villages of the area told this at a press conference at Bagerhat Press Club Wednesday.
"Many victims of Gopalpur, Chargopalpur, Singhjor and Mohishcharni villages burst into tears while describing the torture at the press conference. "We have contacted all concerned including the thana and police, but found no result. Rather, the torture increased," said one of them. "We've come to you at last. Please, save us. Otherwise, we'll have no other way than either to leave the country or commit suicide," was many of their pleading.
"Uttam Kumar Mondol read out the written speech. About 25/30 local elites including schoolteachers, agriculturist, businessmen, an service-holders were present there at the time. It has been learnt from the written speech and questioning that accused of more than one cases and identified criminals of the area started torture on the minority people after the last parliamentary election. The criminals have become more fierce and uncontrolled after Jamaat leader Moulana Abul Kashem was elected chairman in the last UP election .."
Not only Janakantha, other newspaper also published the minority repression in Morelganj. But the Inquilab published a totally opposite report the same day. Not only this, they discovered an anti-state conspiracy in this! The newspaper wrote in the report headlined 'Evil Attempt to Create False Issue of Minority Repression in Bagerhat':
"Sensation has been created at Morelganj in Bagerhat over a press conference in the name of an imaginary incident of minority repression. Police said they do not know about any incident of minority repression in Gopalpur and Chargopalpur of Chingrakhali union of Morelganj. No one even lodged any complain with the thana about repression. One Uttam Kumar Mali of the village described repression on minority at a press conference there on last Wednesday. A well-placed source said, some 'dada' (brother in Hindu community) paid for the press conference to create a new issue by describing the false story of minority repression and some people instigated for this. It was told in the press conference that the minority are exasperated by law and order situation like extortion, robbery, theft, women abuse and kidnap in the two villages and that police do not receive their complaints at the thana. Besides, no result was found even after the local lawmaker, DC and SP were informed through courier service. But police said they did not receive any complaint on the so-called minority repression. Sources said, there is a grave conspiracy behind their attempt to create an issue in the name of minority repression by showing a receipt of courier service in support of their sending their complaint. Because, sending complaints through courier service without making the complaint after appearing before the authorities in person has turned the pres conference more mysterious." (Inqilab, 10 July 2003)
If anyone writes about torture on the Hindus, the Inquilab terms him/her as agent of India and its intelligence Raw in a way that resembles some Hindu fundamentalists' newspapers' discovered during minority Muslim elimination in Gujrat the hands of Pakistan and 'ISI' behind it. If one reads the Inquilab regularly, it will be clear to him that the interest of Indian fundamentalists and Bangladeshi Muslim fundamentalist are same. Although Inquilab directly denied communal repression in Bagerhat, Janakantha reported that local BNP lawmaker had asked the SP to control the repression with strong hand. In some cases, we have noticed that local BNP leaders did not deny the incidents of communal repression, especially if the local Jamaat is responsible for the attack.
The multi-dimensional expression of repression on religious minority and ethnic communities we are witnessing for the last four years will be available in selected reports, post-editorials, articles and investigative reports based on spot coverage of different rights organisations which have been publi-shed in the first and second part of the Whitepaper.The number of no-Muslim people of Bangladesh is over one and half crore and their lives, rights and dignity are endangered now.
Population of 176 of total 239 countries of the world is less than 15 million.* No matter how the government tries to deny it, there is no power in the world that scan deny the existence of 15 million people.
Even after much Islamisation of the constitution, the government is not following the sections regarding rights and dignity of the minorities. As a result, the endangered people are becoming more and more vulnerable.
We can divide the steps necessary to stop minority repression into two folds-- 1) Immediate Steps and 2) Long-term Steps. Among the works needed to be done immediately are:
1) Forming a high-profile commission comprising Supreme Court judge, joint-secretary-level representatives from home and law ministries and human rights organisations to verify incidents of minority repression in last four years as reported in different newspapers and reviewing the reports and observation published by different national international rights organisations. The commission will submit its report in six months and make recommendations for stopping torture and discrimination to minority sects.
2) The 'Vested Property Act' to be repealed immediately and compensation must be given to the victims of this black law.
3) The peace treaty signed between Chittagong Hill Tracts people and Bangladesh government on December 2, 1997 should be implemented immediately.
4) The government will have to arrange compensation for different individuals and families irrespective of religion and ethnic identity who suffered for communal violence in the last four years. The land, households and property now in capture of other people should be returned to the real owners.
5) Steps should be taken to dispose the under-trial cases quickly and unwanted political and administrative influence in probe and trial should be stopped.
Strong mass awareness is necessary for long-term program. If we want stop communal violence and minority persecution permanently, we need:
1) Secular constitution, which will not create any discrimination in the name of religion, colour, wealth, gender and ethnicity. The 1972 constitution can be a model with a few amendments. It did not recognise separate entity of indigenous ethnic communities, which is important to be in any civilised country.
2) Only a secular and democratic state can ensure equal rights and dignity to all people irrespective of religion-caste-property-language-ethnicity. Different initiatives taken by newspapers, intellectuals and the civil society can create these values. Secular human values cannot flourish without a strong civil society movement.
3) Education is considered as the backbone of a nation. There should be no education system in the country that creates negative ideas among the students about different religion, language and ethnicity. The madrasa education has to be modernised, scientific and to-the-people.
4) Special opportunities and facilities in education and professional arena should be created for the communities and groups of people that are now lagging behind due to deprivation and negligence over a long time, so that this large manpower can take part equally in building the nation.
5) We have learnt from newspaper reports and observation of rights organisations including the Nirmul Committee that the repression this time has taken place more in rural areas than urban areas. Different socio-cultural and non-government volunteer organisations should initiate long-term steps in rural areas to form and expedite progressive cultural movement including humane and scientific education in remote areas in order to remove narrow mindedness, conservative attitude and evil acts of the uneducated mollahs.
6) Qualification should be prerequisite for government jobs, not religion. We cannot hope overall development of the country until non-Muslim citizens of the country remain deprived of the opportunity to prove their ability in policy making in the arena of politics, administration, economy, society, education and culture. All sorts of written and unwritten restriction and communal mentality prevailing in these cases should be eliminated.
Many may ask why the government will do these when they are always denying of communal repression and human rights violation, especially when this is against their political goal. The reply is no country can survive alone in this world. There is no reason to believe that international community will remain indifferent to continuous religious minority and ethnic repression forever in a poor and densely populated country like Bangladesh. People are forced to take shelter in other countries because of repression. Those who are well off taking shelter in the Europe and the US, while those who not, to neighbouring India.
Apart from increase of population in other countries, this migration will create different kinds of political, economical, social, and cultural and law and order problems there, which may result ultimately in unexpected interference by other countries. This interference could be multi-dimensional, which we cannot approve. However, if cause of the problems remains for an indefinite period, other countries may interfere even if we do not want.
If the helmsmen of the coalition government have least sympathy for the country, they have to do without any delay all what is necessary to stop minority repression and to establish equal rights and dignity to all citizens irrespective of religion-caste-wealth-language-ethnicity. If the government does not want or fail to do this, all patriotic forces will have to unite and form resistance movement to force the government to fulfil the demand in an ultimate bid to save the country and people.
The government must realise that it is merely a futile attempt to hide or deny any incident that creates political instability and social divide in this age of free flow of information. By denying the repression on minorities, the government has tarnished the image of themselves as well as the country before the world.
Continuous repression and migration are changing the political, economic, social, psychological and cultural scenario of the country. It will be impossible to ensure good governance and development by neglecting the dignity, rights and existence of more than 15 million people. The majority people are also being affected due to decrease in the number of minority non-Muslims for their migration. Literacy rate of Bangalee Hindus is more than that of the Bangalee Muslims. The literacy rate of Chakmas of the hills is also more than plain land Bangalees. Migration of the educated people is harmful for any country and society.
We hope this Whitepaper will make the government accountable and aware of its duties. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia often say there is nothing in Bangladesh as 'minority' or 'majority', all are Bangladeshis. We are also saying that it is not right to consider one as minority. Minority-majority discrimination is indeed very inhuman. We want to see reflection of the government's speech in its deeds. The minority non-muslims will not be able to think them equal to the majority Muslims as along as the communal constitution and black laws like 'Vested Property Act' will remain in force. It is a very barbaric attitude to deprive one of his dignity and rights considering him 'minority'.
* CIA World Fact Book, July 2005
We published a Whitepaper on minority repression centring the election in short extent after 7th parliamentary election of June 12, 1996 and we accommodated in the 80-page Whitepaper different reports, interviews of the victims and our observation. For continuous denial of the coalition government this time, we first decided to record all incidents of minority repression as published in national dailies.
When we extended the timeframe from 500 days to 1000 later, we found it impossible to record all reports of the period in book. It was because of: a) limitation of our financial and organisation strength, b) apprehension of losing significance of important reports in less important ones, and c) applicability. So, we decided to that the Whitepaper will contain: 1) headlines of reports on minority repression as published in different newspapers, 2) details of important reports, 3) observations of intellectuals, politicians, rights leaders and column writers about the repression as published in different dailies, 4) observation and reports of different human rights organisation which were not published in newspapers or books, and 5) photographs. The selected reports of minority repression taking place from July 15, 2001 to august 25, 2005 are being published in the First Part (in two separate sections).
We included some editorials of different newspapers in the '96 Whitepaper. The timeframe of the whitepaper was 30 days (June 1-30, 1996). We refrained from inclusion of editorials this time for increase of the timeframe, we have also refrained from publishing letters of the victims although many of those described tragic details of minority repression.
We had to maintain some limitation due to increase of timeframe and our limited ability. We have selected only 16 of about 30 dailies published from Dhaka. Several hundred dailies and weeklies are being published from different districts including Chittagong, Khulna and Bogra. Several incidents of minority repression have been published in some of them which were not published in the newspapers published from Dhaka. 'Manobatar Biruddhey Oporadh: Chattagramchitra' (Publisher: Documentation Sub-committee, Chittagong, February 2002) and 'Nirjatito Sngkhaloghu Biponno Jati' (Executive Editor: Rana Dasgupta, Publisher: Editorial Parshad, Chittagong, January 2002) carried the reports which were published in 'Daily Azadi' and 'Purbokon' published from Chittagong. We failed o accommodate any reports of the newspapers outside Dhaka in our Whitepaper for lack of our strength.
This Whitepaper carried the reports, analysis and observation published in 1) Janakantha, 2) Sangbad, 3) Bhorer Kagoj, 4) Ajker Kagoj, 5) Prothom Alo, 6) Jugantor, 7) The Daily Star, 8) Ittefaq, 9) Observer, 10) Independent, 11) Muktakantha, 12) Matreebhumi, 13) Banglabazar, 14) Khabar, 15) Inquilab and 16) Samakal.
We have meant religious and ethnic minorities while mentioning minority in the whitepaper. Hindu, Christiana and Buddhists are religious minorities while members of 40 small ethnic groups including Chakma,Marma, Tripura, Garo, Rakhain and Santal living in Chittagong Hill Tracts and plain-land are ethnic communities.
Unlike many others, we do not consider Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat of Bangladesh as a minority religious sect. The unprecedented torture on the Ahmadiyya community is also a national and human disaster like minority repression, but not communal in nature. Attack of Jamaat and their fundamentalist associates on Ahmadiyyas is a fight between Islami fundamentalism (hard-line Wahabi Islam) and progressive Islam. We will discuss it separately. Branding the Ahmadiyyas minority, the Jamaatis say they will not be able to stay in the country with the identity of Muslim, they will have to term their mosques merely as places of worship, not 'mosque'. We do not think this statement of the Jamaatis right. Torture on the Ahmadiyyas will be accommodated if we publish a white paper on fundamentalism in Bangladesh.
The objective of publishing this whitepaper is putting an end to all sorts of repression, discrimination, and hatred on the marginalised people of all religious minority and ethnic communities and establishing equal rights and dignity for all people. The aim of our movement is to establish a secular human society.
We think it very important for different social and political parties, rights organisations, journalists and researchers to collect and read the whitepaper. It is most necessary for policymakers, supporters and well-wishers of the ruling coalition. It is because the coalition government, without punishing them, encouraged the perpetrators for further torture by keeping on denying the incidents of minority repression from the very beginning. Denying the incidents of repression is another kind of repression, which was also criticised the pro-BNP intellectuals.
Top intellectuals of BNP's 'Shato Nagorik Committee' (Committee of Hundred Citizens) said, "Members of minority communities of the country are falling victims to post-election violence, newspapers are publishing reports on this. Some said the reports are exaggerated while some others said such incidents also took place in the past. As conscious citizens of Bangladesh, we reject both of such statement with strong hatred We want the administration control the criminals with strong hands and arrange exemplary punishment for them. Legal steps be taken against the perpetrators."* Total 122 intellectuals signed on behalf of the committee. Among them were Prof Syed Ali Ahsan, Prof Emajuddin Ahmad, Prof Dr MA Majed, Prof Askar Ibne Saik and Prof. Maniruzzaman Miah. The coalition government did not pay any heed to the request of its well wishers.
* Janakantha, October 19, 2001
We consider the repression on the religious minorities and ethnic communities is a part of national disaster. The repression is not only harming the victims and their communities, such barbarism is also violation of the constitution and UN Human Rights Charter. At the same time, it is destructive for human relations, value and civilisation. No civilised society can approve such repression on humanity in the name of religion, caste, property, ethnicity, language, power or any faith. The incidents of repression on the non-Muslim minority communities and government indifference to take action against the perpetrators over the last four years have blackened our image in the world and cleared the way of Islamisation of the society and the state inside the country.
We have told it many times that incidents of repression on minorities and violation of their rights tarnish country's image. Protest against such incidents and activities to stop these rather brighten the image. The world outside them comes to know that all people of the country have not turned into uncivilised, there are still some people to resist barbarism. We have also noticed that whenever anyone oppose anti-people activities of any minister or the government or even any leader of BNP or Jamaat, he is identified as 'traitor' and undergo torture in remand after arrest. Policymakers of the coalition government do not even have the general knowledge that any individual, party or government does not account to be state or criticism of any individual, party or government is not the criticism of the state. Had they have this knowledge, there might not be such sufferings and bad reputation of a country like Bangladesh that earned independence for the blood of 3 million martyrs.
Communalism or minority repression is another expression of current day fundamentalism. Bangladesh and Pakistan are the glaring example how religious fundamentalism gives birth to communal hatred and instigate minority repression in the mind of the people. It is impossible that there will be no communalism if the state is based on religion and fundamentalism. Even if the state is secular, it is still difficult to eliminate communalism until leaders of the state are sincere to strictly implement secularism. Communalism cannot be eliminated overlooking fundamentalism.
Two main partners of the coalition government are fundamentalist and fanatics like Jamaat and Islamic Oikya Jote who are involved with worldwide international Jihadi network. To defeat Bangladeshi fundamentalists, movement needs to be extended to the whole world.
Acting President, Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee
General Secretary, South Asian People's Union against Fundamentalism and Communalism
Dhaka, October 1, 2005.
The simultaneous hurling of as many as 500 bombs in 63 of the 64 districts of Bangladesh by the militants of Jama'atul Mujahideen on 17 August (2005) only testifies to the iron grip of the Islamic militants over the country - a fact long denied by the Khaleda-Nizami alliance government. Exploding bombs in almost 500 densely populated places across the country in the span of less than one hour is not something to be taken lightly. Such a horrendous incident only goes to show how well-equipped the religious militants of Bangladesh are, in terms of technical and strategic skills. The Islamic militants who wreaked havoc to the western world by detonating bombs in Madrid last year (2004) or in London this year (2005) are nothing compared to their counterparts in Bangladesh. The Islamic militants of Bangladesh have even accomplished what the Harkat or Mujahideen could not in Pakistan - the breeding ground of Islamic fundamentalism.
None of the 500 bombs exploded simultaneously all over the country was powerful enough to cause much damage to life and property. This was because the militants were inclined to terrorise the nation and not kill anybody right now. Jama'atul Mujahideen exploded the bombs with the sheer intention of making the administration and the countrymen take cognisance of their all-pervasive grasp. They did not think it fit to hide the reason why they did it. Hence the leaflets issued by Jama'atul Mujahideen written in both Bengali and Arabic found near every single explosion claiming responsibility and advocating establishment of Islamic Sharia law!
The leaflet titled 'A Call for implementation of Islamic law in Bangladesh' said, 'In a Muslim country there can be no laws other than the laws of Allah. But it is a matter of great regret that in a land inhabited by 90 percent Muslims the laws of Allah are not enforced in Bangladesh. On top of it from the districts to the capital city in the courts of law justice is dispensed according to laws based on a man-made constitution. This constitution has been framed by some sinful learned men. Whereas men should serve Allah and follow His laws they have instead put forward a challenge by framing a constitution of their own.
'The state powers in the country are wielded by a junta inimical to Allah. Because the process under which the head of the state or other rulers are elected is totally anti-Islamic. The Quran or Hadis do not recognize any democratic or socialist system that is enacted by infidels and non-believers. These systems are in direct contravention of Allah's laws. The laws of the land are the brain-children of infidels, non-believers and Jews precisely to destroy Muslim mores and faith. It is time for the Muslims to stand up and react.
'Jamatul Mujahideen discards the existing judicial system of the country and they stand for the demand for upholding Allah's laws and faith in Allah. At the same time it rejects the constitution that conflicts with Allah's laws and calls upon all to abandon the so-called election process and run the affairs of state according to the laws of Allah and the traditions of the prophet. JM is firmly committed to establishing Allah's Deen in this land of Allah. ...
'The workers of Jamatul Mujahideen in Bangladesh are soldiers of Allah and they have taken up arms to enforce Allah's laws as did our prophet, his companions and all
* Paper presented at the International Conference entitled 'Towards a New Enlightenment' organised by 'Council for Secular Humanism' on October 27-30, 2005 at the State University of New York in Buffalo, NY
fighters of Islam from time to time. Jamatul Mujahideen wants to put an end to irreligious activities and anti Islamic beliefs and customs and secure Allah's pleasure by firmly establishing Tawhid or faith in one Allah. This they believe will bring in happiness for you in both this life and afterlife.*
JM has asked Bangladesh government twice before through leaflets and publicity materials to establish Islamic rule. Each time the government has arrested their workers but JM did not retaliate. This is the third call of JM for Islamic rule in Bangladesh. This time if the government does not establish Islamic rule and instead arrest Muslims for seeking Allah's laws and suppresses Ulemas (learned in religion) the JM will go into action against concerned people and authorities.
An editorial published in 'Daily Times' of Pakistan mentioned that, 'The returning Jihadis from Karachi in 2001 added the latest edge to the Islamic sweep in Bangladesh.' The editorial said, 'The tide of Islamic violence is rising in Bangladesh and it is more lethal than anything we have known in Pakistan. One Mufti Fazlul Haq Amini, who wants complete shariah imposed on the country, sermonises at Dhaka's Jamia Qurania-Arabiyya and is able to gather nearly 600,000 bicycle rickshaws around the mosque, blocking traffic for hours. He writes in Bangla and Arabic but also knows Urdu, which he learned at a seminary in Karachi during his days of jihad. His fatwas run into several volumes. Judging from the number of students he has in his Dhaka seminaries, he can be called Bangladesh's equivalent of Pakistan's Mufti Shamzai who was murdered in Karachi in 2004.
'The two main parties hate each other somewhat like the PPP and the PMLN in Pakistan. The Jamaat-e-Islami, which agitated against independence in 1971 and remains close to Pakistan - and was banned after independence for its role in the war - has slowly worked its way back to political legitimacy thanks to the BNP. Since 2001, the Jamaat-e-Islami has been a crucial part of a governing coalition dominated by the BNP. In 2001, as Pakistan started outlawing militant jihadi organisations, Bangladesh began its tilt into tough Islam. The returning jihadis from Karachi in 2001 added the latest edge to the Islamic sweep in Bangladesh.
'The dreaded Harkatul Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), whose leader Qari Saifullah Akhtar was arrested from Dubai for his involvement in the attempt to kill President Pervez Musharraf in 2003 and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in 2004, has been active in Bangladesh since 1996, as part of a policy of regional jihad radiating from Kandahar under the patronage of Mullah Omar and Al Qaeda. Because of the impunity offered to HUJI by the Bangladesh state, other vigilante groups like Bangla Bhai in the north and Jangi Bhai took the field and created their own domains of power before they were arrested.
'Six years ago when HUJI tried to kill a poet named Shamsur Rehman, the government had to clamp down on HUJI. Around 44 members of HUJI were arrested. Two men, a Pakistani and a South African, claimed they had been sent to Bangladesh by Osama Bin Laden with more than $300,000, which they distributed among 421 madrassas. The seminaries in Bangladesh, now numbering 64,000, have been receiving Saudi funds and stiffening their brand of Islam.'1
Jama'atul Mujahideen has unequivocally conveyed in the manifesto what it wants to do. It has called for nothing short of jihad against the People's Republic of Bangladesh. What is all the more ironic is that the four-party alliance government has blamed it on the main opposition Awami League as well as India, whereas the Islamic militants have left leaflets near each explosion claiming the responsibility in its entirety.
* See appendix-2 for complete text of the leaflet
Moreover, those who where arrested in connection with bomb attack most of them admitted their link with Jamat-e Islami. Huge number of books, booklets and other propaganda materials of Jamat-e Islami were recovered from their den. Thankfully, unlike in the wake of the bomb attacks in Mymensingh in December 2003, the government has not yet gotten columnists like Muntassir Mamun and myself arrested and put on remand blindfolded with the intention of forcing us into 'claiming' responsibility of the vandalism.
Rejecting their link with bomb blast leaders of Jamat-e-Islami- a component of the ruling alliance- have disdainfully opined that the Awami League has done it with the purpose of frustrating the upcoming SAARC Summit, in much the same fashion as the BNP did it after the killing of former finance minister Shah A M S Kibria in January 2005. The Jamat leaders were even more specific in their allegations and held responsible India's intelligence agency RAW and Israel's Mosad. Likewise, the fundamentalist allies of the four-party government have blamed the bomb explosions on left political organisations, intellectuals and some democratically oriented newspapers, albeit the police chief of the country held Jama'atul Mujahideen responsible for this in his interview on BBC on 20 August.2
Majority of those arrested in connection with the August 17 bomb blasts are leaders and activists of the fundamentalist militant outfits Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Jagroto Muslim Janata Bangladesh, Ahle Hadis Andolon Bangladesh and Harkatul Jihad. While on remand, many of them have confessed in the joint interrogation cell of the intelligence agencies to their involvement in the explosions. They have also implicated a handful of militant leaders including their spiritual leader Abdur Rahman, at whose instance the explosions were carried out. At the same time, they have named quite a few foreign trainers including Pakistanis and Sudanise.3 Some of them have said that they will make confessional statements in the court.4
The intelligence experts of the country have opined that this manoeuvre only signalled larger-scale attacks in the days ahead. Two militant leaders arrested in Satkhira are reported to have said that the August 17 bomb blasts across the country were meant to merely signal an imminent jihad.5
Jama'atul Mujahideen is no frail organization. Its activists were arrested in Dinajpur while making bombs in May 2002 and in Joypurhat while fighting against the police in August 2003. The arrestees did not deny their involvement with Jamat-Shibir, a component of the alliance government. The books and documents seized from the house of Mujahideen leader Montejar at Khetlal in Joypurhat served to explain the close link of these clandestine militant outfits to Jamat-Shibir no matter how desperately the latter denies it, vis-à-vis their connection with international terrorist networks of the fundamentalists. Newspapers published reports on what the police seized from this house. ' the police seized electoral leaflets of former Jamat chief Abbas Ali Khan, a letter from Sirajul Islam, a student of Baniapara Ebtedayee Madrasa, seeking financial assistance from Jamat's party fund Baitul Maal, receipts of subscription for Baniapara Ahmadia Madrasa mentioning amounts of subscription received and a copy of the 13 February 2005 issue of the Daily Bhorer Kagoj, whose banner headline read Rajshahi University closed sine die, 2 killed in JCD-Shibir clash, more than 150 injured. The police also informed that they seized a number of books and publications belonging to Jamat-Shibir and diaries of Shibir activists with the party monogram printed on them just the following day.
' Mujahideen leader Montejar owns the house where the militants assembled for training. About one month before the killing of five disciples of a pir (spiritual guide) in the village of Begunbari under Kalai police station in the district of Joypurhat on 20 January 2003, Jamat activists manoeuvred in the vicinity under the leadership of Montejar, who reportedly declared that anti-Islamic activities would be resisted wherever they took place. Consequently, the savage killing was carried out there. At the same time as openly blending with Jamat leaders and organising rallies and processions, the absconding militant leader took it upon himself to raise the armed outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen. He would regularly train more than a hundred people in military and guerrilla tactics in his house, according to local sources. Besides, the police have also seized a letter sent to Montejar by district Jamat Secretary Abdul Matin Sardar giving a plethora of organisational instructions, which confirm the link between Jama'atul Mujahideen and Jamat-e-Islami.'6
The police seized from Montejar's house a number of books on jihad authored by Mowlana Masud Azhar, commander-in-chief of Pakistani militant outfit Joish-e-Mohammad. An Indian Airlines aircraft (IC414) was hijacked in December 1999 demanding Masud Azhar's release.7
Many investigative reports published in different news papers of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan exposed cross country network of Islamic militants. Recently South Asian News-Feature service (internet edition) published a news on Pakistan based Lashar-e-Taiba militant's activities in Bangladesh. Quoting 'The Hindu' of India a SAN-Feature Service report mentioned : 'Abdul Karim Tunda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) militant wanted in India in connection with a series of bomb blasts in Delhi and neighbouring States between 1996 and 1998, is believed to be alive and operating from Pakistan.
'Disclosing this, The Hindu newspaper said today Tunda was so far suspected to have been killed in a blast in Bangladesh a few years ago.
'Abdul Razzak Masood, the alleged LeT chief coordinator in Dubai arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi police last Monday, allegedly disclosed during his interrogation that he came across Tunda during a visit to Pakistan in November-December 2003. He met Tunda in his shop opposite Markaj Taiba main gate at Muridke in Lahore, a place close to the LeT headquarters.
'Abdul disclosed that Tunda has two wives and two sons. The younger one, Shahid, helps him in the perfume business, while the elder son is a LeT activist. An expert in manufacturing bombs, Tunda is wanted in 33 cases under the Explosives Substances Act in Delhi and nearby States.
'Tunda was also instrumental in brainwashing Jalees Ansari, a doctor with the Birhan Mumbai Municipal Corporation, who triggered over 40 blasts in Mumbai and Hyderabad during 1992 and 1993. When Jalees was arrested in January 1994, Tunda fled to Bangladesh and set up his hideout at Jatra Bari in Dhaka, said The Hindu.
'He also visited a madarsa in Dhaka, where he apparently ran a research centre to develop improvised explosive devices. Quoting intelligence sources, the daily said, the building where he lived housed several fundamentalist organisations, which published inflammatory magazines.'8
The hoodlums belonging to militant outfits have to be set free no matter how often the police arrest them, thanks to their strong bond with powerful government ally Jamat. The alliance government did not hesitate to get hapless journalists like me arrested and harassed on police remand. However, this never happened to the activists of the militant outfits of Jamat. The police gave journalists a first-hand account of their experience of interrogating the Mujahideen activists arrested in Khetlal - 'whenever we question them, they start bellowing Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great). Being Muslims by faith, what can we then do?'9 Besides, the police have to frame puny charge sheets against the arrested militants at the directive of higher authorities. When cases are moved to the court, the police are rarely available to bear witness against them. Judges, therefore, have no option but to acquit the militants. Exactly the same thing happened to the Jama'atul Mujahideen militants arrested on 1 April 2004.
There is no evidence whatsoever that the alliance government, since coming to power in 2001, has tried a single militant fundamentalist on grounds of bomb blasts, killing, repression, or dishonour of the country's constitution or sovereignty. Moreover, the Harkatul Jihad militants arrested and imprisoned during the Awami League (AL) rule have been set free and the cases filed against them are being treated like unclaimed corpses in the mortuary thanks to the magnanimity of the alliance government. Even during the AL rule, very puny and weak charge sheets were framed against the arrested militants.
The nation witnessed ruling party leaders grinning on television on 17 August. Asked by journalists about the intelligence failure regarding so many explosions, the state minister for home affairs was all smiles saying 'You could think like that!' Watching a beaming law minister on television on the same date, it appeared as though nothing as interesting as the countrywide bomb blasts had ever happened in Bangladesh. The good-looking law minister was babbling in a way that the viewers could hardly make anything out of it. From his words it appeared as though the bombers were quite unidentified as in case of Madrid and London and hence it was imperative to urge Interpol and Scotland Yard to come and arrest them.
From the words of ruling party leaders as reflected on television, it appeared as though they would really do something this time to arrest this trend. However, we know very well that those who have been arrested will be set free sooner than later and will prepare for the next attack with renewed strength. The kind of threats issued against the administration, judiciary and all infidels only goes to show the vigour of the fundamentalists. Secretary General of the ruling BNP has spoken of administrative measures against them, whereas each and every tier of the administration is composed of fundamentalists. It is far from truth that the government, whose cabinet consists of fundamentalist war criminals like Nizami, Mujahid and S Q Chowdhury would take any measure against more than 70 militant outfits like Mujahideen and Harkat.*
A lot has been written in the press about the failure of the police and intelligence agencies of Bangladesh from time to time. The police and intelligence agencies of an impoverished country like ours may be lacking in modern facilities and logistics. However, there is no reason to think that they are incompetent in terms of merit. They had to either set free those arrested in connection with bomb attacks at the directive of higher authorities or frame stunted charge sheets against them so that they could easily be granted bails as in the past. The Khulna police arrested notorious militant leader Bangla Bhai back in 2002. However, he too had to be set free later.10 In a similar fashion, all of the militants arrested with arms, bomb-making materials and seditionist publications were set free in later periods.
In the wake of the brutal killing of former finance minister and top AL leader Shah A M S Kibria through grenade attacks in last January, the Habiganj police arrested a local leader of Shibir. As a sequel, the local Police Super and Officer in Charge were transferred and the Shibir leader was set free in no time at all. This time also, the Officer in Charge of Satkhira was served a show cause notice because of disclosing information to journalists regarding the militant connection of the arrestees. Newspapers ran stories on how the local leaders of the ruling alliance moved to free the arrested militants in various parts of the country this time as well.11
We are aware as to why the Jamat-e-Islami intends to shift the blame onto AL, India and Israel after the bomb explosions. However, we cannot fathom why left-leaning intellectuals like Badruddin Umar or Farhad Mazhar are intent on ruling out the involvement of Jama'atul Mujahideen and the likes of it in the explosions. Like Jamat-e-Islami, they too have invented Indian, Israeli and American links and implicated the AL. They argue that since al-Qaeda's target is American imperialism, it cannot have anything to do with Bangladesh's JMB or its likes and hence with the countrywide explosions. This is also because the activities of the militant fundamentalists of Bangladesh do not run counter to imperialism.
Notwithstanding, reports of western intelligence agencies including CIA have often made mention of the link between al-Qaeda and Taliban and the Pakistan chapter of Jamat-e-Islami. It goes without saying that there is little or no political and ideological difference between the Bangladesh and Pakistan chapters of Jamat-e-Islami. Regardless of the differences in names and locales, the main goals of all the militant Islamic organisations of the world are to establish Islamic Sharia law based on the Koran and Sunnah in all the Muslim-majority countries and to create opportunities for their network to be expanded in non-Muslim countries. In either case, the fundamentalists are inclined to resort to terrorism.
Those who talk of intelligence failure with regard to the August 17 bomb blasts across the country are indeed living in a fool's paradise. When the top leaders and ministers of the government openly blame the explosions on AL and left organisations, the police and intelligence agencies have no difficulties as to whom to arrest and whom to set free. Thanks mainly to the pressure created by the mass media, the government arrested nearly 400 persons in the first fifty days after the explosions this time around. Out of 400 at least 50 militants admitted their link with Jamat-e Islami. The investigative reports carried in the press in the fifty-day period speaks volumes about the bonds of militant fundamentalists with allies of the four-party government and their dreadful networks both inside and outside the country. In this case, the newspapers of Bangladesh have duly played a significant role in the interest of national security.
The manoeuvre that we witnessed on 17 August is but the work of only 2 or 3 of more than 70 militant outfits active in Bangladesh, and through this JMB warned the government for the third time that unless Islamic Sharia law based on the Koran was imposed in Bangladesh, they would wage jihad. Both Jamat-e-Islami and Islamic Oykko Jote have warned the government against rounding up any capped and bearded persons. Our worst fear is that the government may soon crackdown on leaders and activists of the opposition political parties on charges of August 17 bomb blasts, thereby letting the real perpetrators go scot-free. At this opportunity, many militants have thrown away their Islamic outfits, shaven their beards and started wearing shirts and pants.
In pursuance of the August 17 explosions, an intelligence agency is reported to have cautioned the government that anti-government forces are planning to launch a much larger-scale attack and kill non-Muslim religious leaders. The intelligence report submitted to the government says, 'with a view to intensifying anti-government campaigns and boosting public opinion against the government, some elements are planning on attacking and killing priests and clerics of non-Muslim religious communities. Three non-Muslim religious institutions, namely National Dhakeshwari Temple at Lalbagh, Japmala Church at Tejgaon and Dharmarajik Buddhist Temple at Kamalapur, have been made targets of the attacks.'12
We believe that the intelligence agency has gotten such reports published in newspapers like Ittefaq and Inqilab with the sheer intention of upsetting AL and left political parties. Their attempt is meant to serve two purposes. The trend of harassing religious minorities with the purpose of transforming Bangladesh into a monolithic Muslim state set off in the wake of the advent of the four-party alliance to power in 2001 still continues unabated. Once this plan is materialised, the already endangered religious minorities will be facing extinction and it will pave the path for the extra-constitutional forces to grab power.
Nowhere in the world have the militant fundamentalists ever come to power through democratic means. The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan by waging a bloody civil war. We witnessed the ultimate manoeuvre in Bangladesh on 17 August. The grenade attacks on Kibria's meeting in Habiganj in last January, Opposition leader Sheikh Hasina's meeting on 21 August last year or British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury in Sylhet in May last year (2004) are all sequential episodes of a militant manoeuvre. And it won't be long before such shows will be regularised. We have every reason to believe that armed jihad will be waged even before the next general elections.
It is widely said that fundamentalism in most of the Asian and African countries spreading its roots because of poverty and ignorance of the people. There is no doubt about the fact that young jobless people in poverty striven Muslim dominated countries are easy prey of Islamic Militancy. But it's not the only reason. We have seen the presence of Islamic Militancy in many countries of economic affluence. After the collapse of socialist powers in Russia and Eastern Europe USA emerged as the supreme power, able to do any kind of intervention in any country on any issue and there is no balance of power. Those who wanted to oppose capitalism and US imperialism in cold war era they received all kind of support from Soviet Union and socialist countries of Eastern Europe. Even China in the era of Chairman Mao supported political forces that opposed imperialism. After the collapse of socialist camp Islamic Fundamentalism emerged with an ideological weapon pretending to fight back US interest but targeted anything related with progressive western ideas which include democracy, secularism, women's right, scientific achievements and humanism.
A few verses of Koran and Hadith provided the spiritual strength of Islamic Militancy. In the West Islamic fundamentalists are taking advantage of the identity crisis of young Asian and African Muslims. Most of them born in the western countries, know very little about their national and ethnic identity, facing various types of discrimination, looking for ideological support are easy prey of fundamentalism. When they discover Islam as an effective weapon to fight for political and spiritual power they just grab the idea of Jihad. Leaders of Bangladeshi Jamate Islami are visiting western countries quite often particularly UK & USA. We have a large Bangladeshi population in London and New York. Taking advantage of western democracy these fanatic leaders are preaching hate against the West in the name of Islam.
Bangladeshi Islamic militants are receiving huge fund from the Middle East countries. A few of the militant leaders who were arrested in connection with the serial bomb blasts of 17 August admitted that, they received fund from different Islamic NGOs, based in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. Recently the Asia times Online has disclosed that at least 10 Islamic NGOs are channeling funds to various Islamist extremist outfits in Bangladesh. Quoting the Intelligence agencies, the Asia Times said, 'while the bombs of August 17 did not signal any great technical expertise they were crude, homemade bombs the geographic spread of the operation signaled that a well-established terror network was behind the violence.
The investigative report said "The serial blasts forced the Bangladesh government, which has for years been denying that Islamist extremists are present and active in the country, to admit the involvement of Islamists in the violence.
Quoting "a report prepared by Bangladeshi intelligence agencies", the Asia Times said it has "confirmed long-suspected links between Islamic NGOs and the mounting extremist violence in the country."
"The report, which was prepared after a six-month investigation into the working of Islamic NGOs, named 10 NGOs with links to extremist activity. The NGOs are the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Al-Muntada Al-Islami, Islamic Relief Agency, Al-Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organization, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee and the Muslim Aid Bangladesh", said the Asia Times.'13
David Montero, a correspondent of the 'Christian Science Monitor' tried to explain 'How extremism came to Bangladesh'. In an article on bomb blast of 17 August he wrote, 'For years, they gathered in hidden training camps, mosques and madrassahs, learning how to use weapons and build bombs. In their diaries they scrawled slogans of political alienation. On Aug. 17, their ideology culminated in a series of nearly 500 bomb blasts that shook the nation and killed three people.
'In the aftermath of the attacks, Bangladesh is confronting a realization long suspected but consistently overlooked: Islamist militant groups have taken firm root here, demonstrating a widespread, highly co-ordinated, and well-funded network. The government, after consistently denying the threat, recently blamed Jama'atul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), for the attack.
'Bangladesh is not supposed to be a breeding ground of extremism. Although one of the world's poorest countries, it is often lauded as a development success story. Poverty rates have declined, life expectancy is up, and the economy has consistently grown by 5 percent annually for years above average for most developing nations.
'But remarkable development and extremism are not mutually exclusive. The rise of JMB, observers say, shows how homegrown militancy, invigorated by foreign funds and leadership radicalized in Afghanistan, has flourished here because of growing economic inequalities and acrimonious politics that have crippled the functioning of democracy.'14
We are watching the mushroom growth of Islamic NGOs in Bangladesh. Before present four party alliance Govt. assumed power in 2001 the number of Islamic NGOs was less than four hundred. During the last four years this number has increased up to eleven hundred, which is almost half of the total NGOs operating in various fields in Bangladesh. The social welfare minister of Bangladesh is Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid is the general secretary of Jamate Islami.
Besides, receiving funds from the Middle East countries Jamate Islami has set up a unique economic network in Bangladesh. Eminent economist Prof. Abul Barakat of Dhaka University spent several years in tracing Jamate Islami's growing financial power. Quoting Prof. Barakat David
* See appendix-1 for the list of Islamic Militant organisations active in Bangladesh
Montero wrote, 'What he discovered frightened him. "Their central vision is to capture state power," he says, adding the party generates almost $200 million in annual profit, according to his analysis of Jamaat-owned businesses, which he says runs the gamut from banks and insurance companies to technology and media concerns. "They are an economy within the economy a state within a state," he says, with some profits used to fund militant organizations like JMB.'15
Many of us mistakenly believe that militant fundamentalists will never be able to conquer Bangladesh because peace and harmony have existed in the country for thousands of years and Sufis preached Islam here. As a matter of fact, Muslim Sufis always placed love, knowledge, spiritualism and humanism above religious rituals. We have seen similar humane values in the writings of Hindu saints like Kabir, Tulsidas, Mirabai, Chandidas, Ramkrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Spiritualism and humanism achieved highest level of accomplishment among different faiths in India and Bangladesh.16'
Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Kashmir have an even richer Sufi legacy. The last three decades have witnessed the militant fundamentalists obliterating the humanistic society and the Islam of world peace and humanity that were constructed over centuries by Sufis like Fariduddin Attar, Jalaluddin Rumi, Mahmood Shabistari, Sheikh Sadee, Hafiz and Jami in Iran, Rahman Baba, Abdullah Ansari, Qader Baidel and Hakim Sanair in Afghanistan, Ghulam Farid, Waris Shah, Abdul Latif and Data Ganj Baksh in Pakistan, and Lalladed, Nuruddin Baba and Habibullah Nawsheri in Kashmir.17'
We have also observed some Sufi religious leaders of Chechnya and Central Asia, who are regarded as reaching the height of spirituality, resorting to arms and violence following in the footsteps of the Wahabis. Albeit the general people of these countries with rich Sufi tradition are not fundamentalists as in case of Bangladesh, the fundamentalists could not be prevented from going to power or Talibanising the society.
If we confine our protests to calling a strike or two and organising a few meetings and processions resolving that the people of Bangladesh will never tolerate the fundamentalists' grab of power, the imminent disaster cannot be prevented. The progressive, democratic forces of the country shall have to get united, rally the common people behind them and put up an all-engulfing resistance against the religious militants and fundamentalists. This should not suffice; the peace loving people of the world will have to be united against the outrageous rise of fundamentalism.
If the government is to show a semblance of transparency, it should not be content with cracking down on JMB or Harkatul Jihad only. It should, of necessity, ban Jamat-e-Islami and Islamic Oykko Jote, which actively sponsor and promote militancy in Bangladesh. Putting the top Jamat leaders on remand and interrogating them there will help the administration identify the perpetrators of bomb blasts.
We fervently hope that the political parties believing in the spirit of liberation that is secular democracy and leaders of professional bodies and civil society will have serious discussions among themselves and come up with a national programme in order to save the country from the ferocious clutch of the militant fundamentalists without further ado.
1. The Daily Times, Pakistan, 22 August 2005
2. The Daily Jugantor, Bangladesh, 21 August 2005
3. The Daily Sangbad, Bangladesh, 22 August 2005
4. The Daily Samakal, Bangladesh, 24 August 2005
5. The Daily Samakal and Sangbad, Bangladesh, 19 August 2005
6. The Daily Bhorer Kagoj, Bangladesh, 20 August 2003
8. SAN-Feature Service, August 27, 2005. Exposing Tudas activities in Dhaka this report said : 'In Dhaka, Tunda lived with the pseudonym Abdur Rehman and Suleiman. He had great influence on the Darul students, some of whom would form a security ring around him. Tunda also worked for an organisation that allegedly patronised fundamentalist outfits in Bangladesh . In 1997, he was found living in the Mohammadi Housing Society in Dhaka.
The police learnt more about his activities after two of his Bangladeshi students, Mati-ur-Rehman, code named Moosa, and Akbar, code named Haroon, were arrested from Sadar Bazar railway station in Delhi in February 1998 in connection with the serial blasts. The police arrested 24 other members of the module, including Tunda's confidants, Kamran and Shakeel. The militants, who addressed Tunda as Baba, told their interrogators that they triggered the blasts at his instance.
The newspaper said, Moosa disclosed that he first met Baba when he was pursuing primary education in Dhaka. In that madarsa, Baba would offer prayers and teach students. Like several others, Moosa came close to him and then Haroon also joined him in October 1997. Moosa recalled that Baba would remain busy experimenting with chemicals and taught his students ways to manufacture bombs.
9. The Daily Sangbad and Ajker Kagoj, Bangladesh, 20 August 2003
10. The Daily Prothom Alo, Bangladesh, 22 August 2005
11. The Daily Bhorer Kagoj, Bangladesh, 23 August 2005
12. The Daily Ittefaq, Bangladesh, 22 August 2005
13. Quoted in SAN-Feature Service, October 2, 2005
14. Quoted in SAN-Feature Service, September 8, 2005. David Montero further mentioned : 'Since the Aug. 17 attacks, police have arrested more than 300 people and begun to understand more about the JMB. The group was banned in February after members confessed to bombing 'un-Islamic' targets, including theater shows and the offices of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Abdur Rahman, the spiritual head of the organization, told the press last year that he admired the Taliban and had traveled to Afghanistan. He claimed his organization had been operating underground since 1998, with the aim of founding an Islamic state. His network was active across the country, he said, with 10,000 trained full-time operatives, and 100,000 part-time activists, funded with a payroll of more than $10,000 a month, a huge sum by Bangladeshi standards.
16. Chandidas wrote in 15th century : 'Listen O brother man,/ Man is above everything./ There is no greatest truth than Him.'
Similar words are quite common in medieval Bengali literature. This tradition continued till 19th century. Sufi Baul composer Lalon Shah wrote : 'God created man in eternal beauty/ I am told there is nothing nobler than Him/ Even gods and goddesses pray to be born as Man.'
'All the people ask is Lalon a Hindu or Muslim/ Lalon says I know not what I am/ I do not know my innerself.'
Secular ideas reflected in many of Lalon's writings : 'Oh, when will such a human society be created/ Where no racial distinction will exist between/ Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians.'
17. Iranian Sufis like Jalaluddin Rumi, Shabistari, Sadi and Hafiz contributed in building secular society with humane values. What Lalon wrote in Bengal in 18th century Rumi wrote similar words in 13th century : 'What shall I do, O Muslims?/ I do not recognise myself.../ I am neither Christian nor Jew/ nor Magian, nor Muslim/ I am not of the East, nor the West,/ not of the land, nor the sea.'
In 14th century Mahmood Shabistari of Iran wrote : "I" and "You" are the veil/ between heaven and earth;/ lift this veil and you will see/ no longer the bonds of sects and creeds./ when "I" and "you" do not exist/ what is mosque, what is synagogue?/ what is the Temple of Fire?'
List of the Militant Islamist groups of Bangladesh
These names appeared in daily new papers on different occassion from 20 January 1999 to October 2005. Every year the number is increasing. Most of these organizations are underground or semi-underground. Their activities become public if police raid their den or if they confront with law enforcing agencies. This list does not include main stream Islamic political parties like Jamate Islami, Islami Oikyo Jote, Islamic Shashantantrik Andolan, Zaker Party etc. that take part in electerol process. Students and other front organizations, which are officially linked with these parties also excluded from this list.
1. Jamayatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB)
2. Shahadat-e-al Hikma
3. Hijbul Taohid
4. Al Harat al Islamia
5. Al Markajul al Islami
6. Jamayatul Falaiya
7. Taohidi Janata
8. Bishwa Islami Front
9. Jummatul al Sadat
11. Harkatul Jihad al Islami Bangladesh (HuJi)
12. Jayshe Mostofa
13. Al Jihad Bangladesh
14. World Islamic Front for Jihad
15. Jayshe Mohammed
16. Warat Islamic Front
18. Al Khidmot
19. Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB)
20. Hijbullah Islami Somaj
21. Muslim Millat Saria Council
22. Ahle Hadis Andolan Bangladesh
23. Hijbul Mahadi
24. Bangladesh Santrasbirodhi Dal (Basbid)
25. Hijbul Thahrire
26. Al Qaida
27. Al Islam martyrs' Brigade
28. International Khatme Nabuwat Movement
29. Amra Dhakabashi
30. Araakan Rohinga Force
31. Islamic Solidarity Front
32. Araakan Peoples Army
33. Liberation Mayanmar Force
34. Araakan Mujahid Party
35. Rohinga Independents Force
36. Rohinga Independents Army
37. Rohinga Patriotic Front
38. Rohinga Solidarity Organaigetion
39. Rohinga Islamic Front
40. Jamiate Ahle Hadis Andolon
41. Jamiatul Ehhia-ut-Turaj
42. Hayatul Igasa
44. Ahle Hadis Jubo Sangha
45. Anjumane Talamije Islamia
46. Tahfije Harmine parished
47. Aiammah parished
48. Al Harmaine
49. Khedmate Islam
50. Hifajate Khatame Nabuat
51. Young Muslim
52. Rivaival of Islamic Heritej Society (RIHS)
53. Al Jajira
54. Isalmi Jihad Group
55. Islami Soinnya
56. Ahale Hadis Tablige Islam
57. Islahul Muslemin Parishad
58. Kalemar Jamaat
59. Far East Islami Sangathan
60. Al Tanjib
61. Bangladesh Islam Raksha
62. Tanjim Bangladesh
63. Iktadul Tulah Al Muslemin (ITM)
64. Amanatul Forkan Al Khayriya
65. Ibtedatul Al Muslemin (ITM)
66. United students Association of Arakan Movement (USM)
67. Lujna Mecca Al Khayeriya
68. Al Sayeed Mujahid Bahini
69. Taamir Ud-Deen
70. Allahr Dal
a) Allah'r Dal Brigade
b) Ahsab Bahini (Suicide squad)
c) Shahid Nasrullah Al Arafat Brigade (Suicide squad)
71. Al Islami Sanghati Parishad Bangladesh
Leaflet of Jamatul Mujahideen issued on 17 August 2005
In the name of Allah the most magnificent and the most kind
On behalf of the Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh
A CALL FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF ISLAMIC LAWS
All praises be to Allah and all salutations and prayers be for Muhammad (Sm). I bear witness that there is no Allah but Him and Muhammed (Sm) is his apostle. In the holy Quran Allah has revealed:
No one but Allah can make laws. (Sura Yusuf- 40)
Hear ye! It is for Him to create and give orders. (Sura A'araf-54)
To execute the laws of Allah a group of My creatures will always carry out armed struggle (jehad). They will be harsh on their enemies, who will oppose them but fail to cause them any harm. They will continue to wage the war till the day of resurrection. (Sahi Muslim hadis)
Call to People
Assalamu Alaikum, dear Muslim brothers and sisters of the country,
Allah has created us as his representative on earth only so that we serve and worship Him solely. He sent to us His last messenger Muhammad (Sm) so that we may learn to avoid Tagut in our belief and action Allah says, "I despatch apostles to all people with the responsibility to ensure devotion to Allah alone and rejection of Tagut." (Sura Nahl - 36)
If a human being worships someone other than Allah, serves or owes allegiance to him or makes Allah his partner then such a partner lord is called Tagut. A powerful Tagut is an oppressive ruler who alters Allah's laws, that is he makes laws approving impiety. For example, he approves of rape, interest, drinking of alcohol and obscenity; or he puts up hindrance to jehad. Similarly if a ruler forsaking Allah's laws follows laws made by him or other non-believers he is also a powerful Tagut.
In a Muslim country there can be no laws other than the laws of Allah. But it is a matter of great regret that in a land inhabited by 90 percent Muslims the laws of Allah are not enforced in Bangladesh. On top of it from the districts to the capital city in the courts of law justice is dispensed according to laws based on a man-made constitution. This constitution has been framed by some sinful learned men. Whereas men should serve Allah and follow His laws they have instead put forward a challenge by framing a constitution of their own.
The state powers in the country are wielded by a junta inimical to Allah. Because the process under which the head of the state or other rulers are elected is totally anti-Islamic. The Quran or Hadis do not recognize any democratic or socialist system that is enacted by infidels and non-believers. These systems are in direct contravention of Allah's laws. The laws of the land are the brain-children of infidels, non-believers and Jews precisely to destroy Muslim mores and faith. It is time for the Muslims to stand up and react.
Jamatul Mujahideen discards the existing judicial system of the country and they stand for the demand for upholding Allah's laws and faith in Allah. At the same time it rejects the constitution that conflicts with Allah's laws and calls upon all to abandon the so-called election process and run the affairs of state according to the laws of Allah and the traditions of the prophet. JM is firmly committed to establishing Allah's Din in this land of Allah. As long as the laws of Allah are not enforced, please cease invoking the courts of Tagut laws. Instead seek solutions to your legal issues according to Allah's laws from Khatibs (sermomonizers) of mosques, Muhaddeses ( hadis experts) of Madrassas or experienced Alems (learned men). Neglecting the Tagut laws seek justice from Allah's laws.
Allah has revealed:
"Do they seek judgment on the basis of laws of Jahiliya (Ignorance)? Is there anybody other than Allah who can resolve issues better? (Sura Maidah - 50).
"Shall I look for another judge other than Allah?" (Sura Aanam -114)
"Have not you seen those who claim that they brought faith that was given to them before? They want to establish Tagut although they have been asked to defy Tagut. (Sura Nisa -60)
Call to Bangladesh Government
Salute to those who are willing to listen! Once you have been admonished you cannot turn back to sin and darkness. Allah sent his apostle with true faith as a messenger of good news and warning to people. Those who responded to his call, Allah has guided them well. But those who turned away, the prophet fought them. Thereafter they followed Islam willingly or otherwise. Therefore, Bangladesh government is called upon to enforce the laws of Allah. We shall cooperate with you. We are not after power. We want the rule of Allah's laws and not of Tagut.
The workers of Jamatul Mujahideen in Bangladesh are soldiers of Allah and they have taken up arms to enforce Allah's laws as did our prophet, his companions and all fighters of Islam from time to time. Jamatul Mujahideen wants to put an end to irreligious activities and anti Islamic beliefs and customs and secure Allah's pleasure by firmly establishing Tawhid or faith in one Allah. This they believe will bring in happiness for you in both this life and afterlife.
JM has asked Bangladesh government twice before through leaflets and publicity materials to establish Islamic rule. Each time the government has arrested their workers but JM did not retaliate. This is the third call of JM for Islamic rule in Bangladesh. This time if the government does not establish Islamic rule and instead arrest Muslims for seeking Allah's laws and suppresses ulemas (learned in religion) the JM will go into action against concerned people and authorities.
Call to the treasury and opposition benches
The democratic system under the dispensation of infidels divides the nation into various parties by creating treasury and opposition benches. They cause harm to people by hartals andblockades simply for gaining power. It is within constitutional right to hold people hostage simply to protest the misdeeds of some person or some coterie.
Those who want to strengthen institutional democracy must give up partisan politics and government as well as opposition parties must join hands to seek relief from Islamic rule. Abandoning Tagut laws they must enforce Islamic laws to get rid of irreligious activities, anti Islamic beliefs and customs and obscenities and allow people to follow Islam properly. If you are afraid of Bush-Blair coalition and do not want to set up Islamic rule you better leave Tagut politics altogether. Insha Allah under coordinated efforts of learned religious scholars and Islamic thinkers and leaders, the people will establish Islamic rule in the country.
Call to bureaucrats and judicial officers of the government
If the government does not establish Islamic rule please desist from administering Tagut laws and justice. By cooperating with establishing the laws of Allah glorify your life with Allah's pleasure. Members of all law enforcing agencies -Army, BDR, Police, RAB -should be up and doing in protecting Allah's laws rather than Tagut laws. Do not obey Tagut laws but follow Allah's laws. Do not fight Allah's soldiers for Tagut laws. Give up serving Tagut laws and turn into Allah's soldiers. Those who will not leave Tagut service, Insha Allah action will be taken against them under Allah's laws. Allah says, " The believers carry on armed jehad for Allah's glory while the infidels fight for Tagut. You are bound to fight against the followers of Satan. Verily Satan's circle is very weak" (Sura Nisa -76)
Call to Muslim world
In the world of today George W Bush is the greatest terrorist. He is carrying out terrorist attack on Muslims and trying to take away their faith by imposing infidel's constitution on Muslim land. He wants to establish the infidel system of democracy all over the world and in the name of the new world order seeks to bring the world under his zone of influence. It is like the wish of new Ferauun. But Allah's soldiers will not allow this wish to be fulfilled, nor will they allow the success of the infidel concept of democracy. Democracy is a Tagut invention and the most important weapon for establishing Tagut rule. Those who seek to establish Tagut rule are terrorists and militants. But Allah says, "Ye believers, pick up your arms and spread out in separate or joint formations. " (Sura Nisa -71)
We call upon the world Muslims to compel all your governments to enforce Islamic rule. In all Muslim countries establish Islamic rule through armed jehad and banish Tagut rule. Leave the United Nations of the infidels. Set up a Muslim United Nations and strengthen the followers of Islam all over.
Warning to the infidels and non-believers
All rulers including Bush Blair administrations are hereby warned to give up their occupation of Muslim countries. Do not try any further to patronize Muslim countries. Muslims all over the world have woken up. Please stop persecuting the Muslims or else you will not be safe anywhere in the world. The anti-Islamic NGOs are also being warned to stop their action programmes directed against the Muslims or else Insha Allah they will be completely uprooted.
Press_Release_by_UK_Committee_to_Resist_Killers & Collaborators of 71
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PRESS RELEASE 10 Nov 2005
White Paper on minority persecutions in Bangladesh launched at SOAS (School of Oriental & African Studies), University of London:
Paper draws great concern of human rights activists in the UK
The unprecedented persecutions of religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh which started cantering the 8th parliamentary election held in Oct 2001 hasnt stopped even after 1500 days, said Shahriar Kabir, eminent writer, journalist and human rights defender of Bangladesh.
Mr Kabir, Gen Sec of the South Asian Peoples Union against Fundamentalism & Communalism, while addressing the launch of the book titled White paper on 1500 days of minority persecution in Bangladesh, said Jamaate Islami and Islami Oikyo Jote, the two major partners of the alliance govt are self declared fundamentalist parties with an aim to establish theocratic rule in Bangladesh.
The book launch event was organised by the Ethnic Minorities Studies Dept, SOAS, University of London, on 9 Nov 2005, and was chaired by Prof Werner Menski of SOAS.
The event was also addressed by Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch, Abbas Faiz of Amnesty International, Maggie Bowden of Liberation and former Justice Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik of Bangladesh Supreme Court.
Appreciating the white paper on minority persecution, published by Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee (Committee to Resist Killers & Collaborators of 71), a human rights organisation of Bangladesh, Prof Menski said, Shahriar Kabir and his team did a monumental work by compiling the accounts of persecution in Bangladesh. Prof Menski considers the White Paper as a challenge to Bangladesh Govts denial of minority persecution in Bangladesh.
Abbas Faiz of Amnesty International said, Shahriar Kabir, prisoner of conscience,
has drawn international attention on minority persecution in Bangladesh when the alliance govt arrested him for recording the testimonies of the victims of communal repression who fled to India after the election in 2001.
Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch said, we want Bangladesh Govt to acknowledge the reality of human rights violation in order to prevent human rights abuses including minority repression. He also appreciated the publication of the White Paper and demanded that Bangladesh Govt bring the perpetrators to justice.
Maggie Bowden of Liberation, a UK based human rights organisation said, whatever violation of human rights occurs in any country draws to attention to us and our Govt & the United Nations. She further stated Liberations Chairman, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP is aware of the situation on Bangladesh and strongly opposes human rights violation in Bangladesh.
The event was attended by a large number participants including, UK Home Office officials, human rights activists, SOAS students and members of civil society.
Ansar Ahmed Ullah
UK NC Committee