The Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council hold a rally, demanding implementation of poll promises made by the ruling Awami League during the 2018 polls, in the capital Dhaka on July 16, 2022. (Photo: Stephan Uttom)
The minority community in Muslim-majority Bangladesh fears that violence will increase against minorities ahead forthcoming polls in January due to non-fulfilment of poll promises by the ruling party.
Despite our repeated demands, poll promises made by the ruling Awami League “in the 2018 election manifesto have not been fulfilled,” Hemanta Corraya, secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association (BCA), told UCA News.
The ruling Awami League party of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made several promises to protect minorities before polls in 2018, including the enactment of a Minority Protection Act, formation of a National Minorities’ Commission, and implementation of the Inequality Abolition Act and Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, which brought peace to the mountainous region after an armed conflict in 1997.
The promises given to the minority community “have not been implemented these past four years,” Corraya said.
These laws are undoubtedly necessary for the safety of the population, said Rana Dasgupta, secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC), a common platform of religious minorities.
“We are concerned and alarmed. Because we have noticed that before the elections, a particular sectarian group has been targeting religious and ethnic minorities,” Dasgupta added.
They were speaking at a meeting organized by the BHBCUC called, "National Election 2024: Rights of Religious-Ethnic Minority People," in Dhaka on May 31, where participants called on the government to implement poll promises ahead of the next general election scheduled for next January.
“The government's reluctance towards helping minorities in past years has given rise to our fear,” Corraya said.
Minority groups, including the BHBCUC, are planning to meet the election commissioner to ensure that there is no unfair persecution of minorities during, before and after the elections.
Prime Minister Hasina, 76, cruised to victory for a third straight term at the 2018 general election by clinching 260 seats in the 300-member parliament.
Bangladesh’s opposition rejected the “farcical” results and at least 17 people were killed with claims the Awami League rigged the nation’s first contested election in a decade.
Under Hasina's stewardship, Bangladesh has witnessed booming economic growth but the dynastic leader is accused of running an authoritarian government by human rights groups.
The 2014 general election, boycotted by almost all major opposition parties, was blighted by violence in which religious minorities were targeted. The violence saw many Hindu temples burnt, vandalized and looted.
Fearing large-scale violence against the minority community again, Father Hubert Liton Gomes, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, said, “Just because it has happened in the past, it cannot be said that it will not happen in the future.
“Our country does not have a strong democracy. The importance of the minority vote has diminished to a great extent. So, I think the government should run the state democratically,” Father Gomes, a Holy Cross priest, told UCA News.
About 90 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people are Muslim, and about 8 percent are Hindus. Buddhism and Christianity make up for the rest.