March against the persecution of religious and tribal minorities in Bangladesh


Much less known than Pakistan, Bangladesh was the eastern part of the dominion before seceding in 1971. The situation of minorities in the former East Pakistan is less talked about than that under the authority of Islamabad, but it remains of concern. On January 7, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists completed a united march to ask the government for better protection against persecution and discrimination.

No less than 33 associations marched on 6 and 7 January to ask for respect and protection of the different non-Muslim communities while Islam is the religion of 89% of Bangladeshis. The march was organized by the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Oikya Parishad (BHBCUC) and the United Front of Ethnic and Religious Minorities in which 32 minorities have banded together.

Participants converged from all over the country on Dhaka, the capital, echoing slogans such as "Religion belongs to all!" », « The State belongs to all! or “Form a Minority Commission!” Their representatives took their grievances to the office of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The organizers wanted to show themselves again, a year before the general elections scheduled for January 2024, after having demonstrated several times last year. Rana Dasgupta, secretary general of the BHBCUC, pointed out that since the beginning of last year minorities have been pointing the government back to seven electoral promises made before the 2018 parliamentary elections which have not been kept.

The Awami League, in power, had notably promised a law on the protection of minorities, the creation of a National Commission for Minorities as well as a law against discrimination. Among the other demands contained in the memorandum, the application of a 2001 law which should allow restitution of property confiscated from minorities under the Enemy Property Act from when Bangladesh was Pakistani. This law, which mainly targets Hindus, was adopted in 1965 during the second Indo-Pakistani war.

Largest minority, Hindus are the main victims

According to the Bangladesh National Hindu Grand Alliance, violence against non-Muslims caused 154 deaths and 360 injuries in 2022; 39 women and girls were raped, 27 of them by groups of men. 791 members of minorities have been arrested for blasphemy, false charges according to the Hindu organization.

Ahead of Christians and Buddhists, the first non-Muslim minority is the Hindu community, which represents 10% of the population and is the main target of attacks. Between October 13 and November 1, 2021, a wave of violence had descended on the Hindus after the publication on Facebook of a photo showing a copy of the Koran on the knees of a Hindu god in a temple: nine people had been killed - including four beaten to death -, 117 temples and pavilions had been attacked, 301 homes and businesses had been vandalized across the country.

The government fears that recognizing minority rights could be detrimental to it at the ballot box, according to Father Anthony Sen, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Dinajpur who declared:

“The Catholic Church must also play an important role in ensuring the security and justice of minorities, and for this we need the direction and authority of our main leaders. »

If the political power does not hasten to guarantee the protection of the rights of minorities, the Supreme Court confirmed in 2021 the death sentence of Salauddhin Salehin, an Islamist who murdered a former Muslim Christian in 2004.

Jean Sarpedon

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