Christians, Hindus and Buddhists join a rally in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on Nov. 7 to protest recent attacks on religious minorities. (Photo: R. Noel)
Hundreds of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians joined nationwide rallies in Bangladesh to seek justice after a series of recent attacks on religious minorities over the alleged hurting of Muslims’ religious sentiments.
Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council organized the rallies in capital Dhaka and all divisional cities and district towns across Bangladesh on Nov. 7.
Recent attacks have targeted Hindu girls and women in Parbatipur area of Dinajpur district and Hindu houses in Muradnagar of Comilla district, while defamation charges and arrests of minority students and a professor have followed allegations of hurting religious sentiments.
Protesters also condemned the brutal murder of Shahid-un-Nabi Jewel, a mentally challenged Muslim man, by a Muslim mob in Lalmonirhat district on a baseless allegation of desecrating the Quran.
Leaders and activists have placed a host of demands in front of the government including an end to harassment of minorities, immediate release of arrested students and dismissal of cases against them, formulation of a law for protection of minorities, and a separate commission and ministry for minorities.
“A conspiracy is ongoing against religious minorities and social media has been exploited to circulate defamatory posts from hacked accounts of religious minorities to set a pretext to abuse and attack them. We are frustrated to see that in most cases police and local administration didn’t take a quick initiative to save minorities,” said Rana Dasgupta, secretary general of the council.
Dasgupta, a Hindu and Supreme Court lawyer, also alleged that all the attacks were planned by a vested quarter with an intention to tarnish the image of minorities and to destroy communal harmony.
“All kinds of abuses and attacks on minorities should stop and the government must ensure justice for all attacks on religious minorities,” he added.
Nirmol Rozario, president of Bangladesh Christian Association, noted that minority Christians are aggrieved to see a new wave of attacks on minority communities in various places.
“Targeting minorities over false allegations is deplorable and it causes panic and frustration in all minority people. Minorities are equal citizens of the country and they must be protected from all kinds of abuses and attacks. We appeal to the government to put in place a proper mechanism to ensure the upholding of rights of minorities,” said Rozario, a Catholic.
The recent cases show an urgent need for a law to protect minorities as well as a commission and ministry for them, he added.
About 90 percent of more than 160 million people in Bangladesh adhere to Sunni Islam. Hindus make up about 8 percent and the rest belong to other faiths including Christianity and Buddhism.
Bangladesh has a long tradition of religious pluralism. However, violence against minorities often stems from issues relating to national and local politics as well as land and property disputes.