Ethnic cleansing in Bangladesh

By K.N. Pandita

In its editorial of November 16, 2016, The Washington Post carried the story of brutal attacks in Bangladesh killing scores of bloggers, foreigners and members of Hindu religious minorities. A Hindu tailor was killed in April, and a Hindu priest was hacked to death in July last. Over almost two years, radical Islamists have carried out a string of brutal attacks on Hindu minority. July attack in Dhaka left 22 Hindus dead. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her governing Awami League accused Islamist opposition of fomenting terrorism. However, involvement of some leaders of the ruling party is not ruled out.

Pretending some “desecration” Muslim youth went on a spree of attacking, ransacking and destroying 15 temples and the homes of more than 100 families in a Hindu neighbourhood in Nasirnagar. A Bangladeshi Supreme Court lawyer and civil rights activist, Jyotirmoy Barua, laments that social media is used to foment violence against minorities. While the Awami League has suspended three local leaders for their involvement in the attack, the credibility of Ms. Hasina’s government is on the line.

In 1941 Hindu population of East Bengal was 28 per cent. The ratio dropped to 22% after the mass migration in 1947. Under Pakistan Hindus faced discrimination and intimidation from the regime. The ratio fell down to 18.5% in 1961. During the liberation war, they faced mass genocide and millions of them took refuge in India. Though some of the refugees returned after liberation yet their ratio fell to 13.5%. In 1981 they were reduced to 12.1%, and only a decade later, the ratio fell to 10%. It is deemed that the recent ratio has fallen below 8%. If the trend continues where will they be in 2050?

On 30th of October, at least 15 Hindu temples and hundreds of Hindu houses in Brahmanbaria’s Nasirnagar were looted and destroyed by a group of 150 to 200 Islamists. According to reports, groups of Touhidi Janata and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat staged two separate demonstrations at the Upazila headquarters protesting a Face book post a few days ago. Administration failed to take any security measure to protect the local temples. Some believe that Hefazat-e-Islam and even the ruling Awami League were behind the attacks

A report in Time magazine suggested that in Bangladesh, a deeply impoverished and overcrowded nation, scarcity of land is at the heart of the matter behind communal violence. Jyotrimoy Barua, a Supreme Court lawyer in Dhaka told Time. “Most of the people’s houses they are burning are those of the poor. If you burn their house, they will leave the country, and you get their land.”

The Modern Tokyo Times reported that the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Bangladesh mirrors a similar emergence of militant groups in Pakistan and threatens hopes for stability in Bangladesh. “Jamaat-e-Islami is a continuing cancer that threatens society directly along with sinister political forces that manipulate Islamists for personal gains,” MTT wrote. “Islamist violence directed towards the Hindu community is all too familiar.”

Writing in The Diplomat, Sanjay Kumar said Bangladesh’s minorities are subject to acts of arson and even rape by J-e-I thugs. After enduring violent attacks and the loss of homes and businesses, many Hindus across Bangladesh live in a state of trauma and fear returning to their native villages. “Jamaat-Shibir (Youth wing of JI) has created a situation of panic in and around the village,” a Hindu grocer in Ramganj named Jaynto Mondol told The Diplomat. “They destroyed around 50 shops in my area and we had to flee to another village to take shelter.” Mondol said he thinks that J-e-I and its allies want to turn Bangladesh into a “purely Islamic country by throwing the Hindus out. We can’t live in peace.”

Deutsche Welle, the German broadcaster, reported that the latest round of violence represented the second such wave of anti-Hindu attacks in less than a year. A few months ago Islamists wrecked hundreds of Hindu homes and shops, apparently in retaliation for the country’s International Crimes Tribunal sentencing of several aging senior members of J-e-I to death for their part in war crimes committed during the War of Independence against Pakistan in 1971.

In 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal had indicted several Jamaat members for war crimes against Hindus during the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. In retaliation, violence against Hindu minorities in Bangladesh was instigated by the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. The violence included looting Hindu properties and businesses, burning Hindu shops and homes, rape and abductions of Hindu women and vandalising and desecrating the Hindu temples.

After the election of 2001, when a right-wing coalition including two Islamist parties (Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and Islami Oikya Jote) led by the pro-Islamic right wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) came to power, many minority Hindus and liberal secularist Muslims were attacked by a section of the governing regime. Thousands of Bangladeshi Hindus were believed to have fled to neighbouring India to escape the violence unleashed by activists sympathetic to the new government. Many Bangladeshi Muslims played an active role in documenting atrocities against Hindus during this period.

The new government also clamped down on attempts by the media to document alleged atrocities against non-Muslim minorities following the election. Severe pressure was put on newspapers and other media outside of government control through threats of violence and other intimidation. Most prominently, the Muslim journalist and human rights activist Shahriyar Kabir was arrested on charges of treason on his return from India where he had been interviewing Hindu refugees from Bangladesh; this was by the Bangladesh High Court and he was subsequently freed.

The fundamentalists and right-wing parties such as the BNP and Jatiya Party often portray Hindus as being sympathetic to India. As widely documented in international media, Bangladesh authorities have had to increase security to enable Bangladeshi Hindus to worship freely following widespread attacks on places of worship and devotees.

On October 2006, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom published a report titled ‘Policy Focus on Bangladesh’, which said that since its last election, ‘Bangladesh has experienced growing violence by religious extremists, intensifying concerns expressed by the country’s religious minorities’. The report further stated that Hindus are particularly vulnerable in a period of rising violence and extremism, whether motivated by religious, political or criminal factors, or some combination. The report noted that Hindus had multiple disadvantages against them in Bangladesh, such as perceptions of dual loyalty with respect to India and religious beliefs that are not tolerated by the politically dominant Islamic Fundamentalists of the BNP. Violence against Hindus has taken place “in order to encourage them to flee in order to seize their property”. The previous reports of the Hindu American Foundation were acknowledged and confirmed by this non-partisan report.

On 2 November 2006, USCIRF criticized Bangladesh for continuing persecution of minority Hindus. It also urged the Bush administration to get Dhaka to ensure protection of religious freedom and minority rights before Bangladesh’s next national elections in January 2007.

Even after the decline of Hindu population in Bangladesh from 13.5% in 1974, just after the independence, Hindus were at around 9.2% of the population in 2001 according to government estimates following the census. However, Hindus accounted for only four members of the 300 member parliament following the 2001 elections through direct election; this went up to five following a by-election victory in 2004. Significantly, of the 50 seats reserved for women that are directly nominated by the Prime Minister, not a single one was allotted to a Hindu. The political representation is not at all satisfactory and several Hindu advocacy groups in Bangladesh have demanded a return to a communal electorate system as existed during the Pakistan period, to enable a more equitable and proportionate representation in parliament or a reserved quota since persecution of Hindus has continued since 1946.

In a recent discussion forum in New Delhi, on ‘Bangla Desh-Shahbagh Rising, Jamaat-e-Islami’s violence and the Indian response’ Tarun Vijay MP made some horrendous assertions. He said that one crore Bangladeshi Hindus lived in a state of fear and agony. We say Bangladesh is a friendly country, and Sheikh Hasina (prime minister) is a friend (of India). But it is horrendous and unacceptable that thousands of Hindu homes are being burnt, looted and police are unable to provide protection.

As a result, over 1600 Hindu families from Noakhali and Chattagram have arrived in India with or without passport seeking refuge from carnage. Many of these refugee families are staying in different hospices (dharmashalas), various branches of Hindu ashrams or with relatives or in rented houses. The poorer Hindu refugees in this phase are also seeking means of survival.

Most of these Hindu uprooted families from Bangladesh are mainly halting in Kakdwip, Basanti areas in South 24 Parganas. Barasat, Banga in North 24 Parganas and Ranaghat, Tehatta areas in Nadia and Cooch Behar and Dakshin Dinaj Pur and Jalpaiguri in North Bengal. Some of these people disguise themselves as patient or pilgrims. Some are preparing to move to states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh or Maharashtra to seek a living.

The Islamists in Bangladesh are trying to wipe out entire Hindu population and its cultural symbols from Bangladesh. Hindu minority is compelled to flee their native land. What an irony that the Government of India still says there is no exodus of Hindus from Bangladesh.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, India: knp627@gmail.com).

Surgical strike on black money

By K.N. Pandita

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav calls PM’s ‘operation black money’ as election stunt. Kejriwal calls it “big scam”. Rahul Gandhi stands in queue to change his Rs. 500 note, and the mercenary media gives it TV hype. During Vajpayee regime, American Enforcement functionaries had detained Rahul at JF Kennedy airport with one lakh US Dollar notes in his baggage. Vajpayee intervened. Modi’s adversaries had begun lampooning his election slogan of eradicating corruption from administration. Continue Reading…

Evaluating Indo-US defence agreements

By K.N. Pandita

Energy, counter terrorism and defence stand out prominently in eight Indo-US agreements signed recently.

The civilian nuclear agreement opens the path for preparatory work on sites for six AP1100 reactors in India to be built by Westinghouse with US Import-Export Bank assuming financing role. India is energy starved. Continue Reading…

On the chessboard of South Asian defense strategies

By K.N. Pandita

Is the South Asian region (or Khurasan according to Islamic exegesis) emerging as the battlefield of a decisive clash of ideologies? Khurasan, originally an Avestic word, stands for the ‘lands to the East’. In geographical terms it could be Eastern part of Iran, Afghanistan and Baluchistan including its oceanic outreach.

The outcome of recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit in Washington is elusive if not controversial.   Continue Reading…

The ‘Great Game’ Reborn in the Indian Ocean: A Tale of Two Ports

By K.N. Pandita

The historic 19th century ‘Great Game’ of Lord Curzon’s making may be in the process of revival, albeit in different setting with different actors and varying interests.

From the vast deserts of Central Asia, the new Great Game seems to be shifting to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the premier commercial waterway of international trade. The actors are not the old imperial powers aspiring for empires but shrewd traders seeking large markets for their merchandise and accompanying political clout. They act not in isolation but in collaboration without losing sight of their respective national interests. Continue Reading…

Reality about fighting nuclear terror

By K.N. Pandita

In the two-day summit in Washington, (March 31 – April 1) representatives of forty-nine countries interacted on the danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security”.

Have four meetings of NSS since 2009 achieved the objective? It is a moot question. Radioactive materials in numerous countries are still vulnerable. International nuclear security architecture continues to be fragmented and predominantly based on nonbinding measures. NSS has not left behind its successor.   Continue Reading…

PM’s visit to Saudi Arabia

By K.N. Pandita

After concluding Nuclear Security Summit meet in Washington (31 March – 1 April), Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Observers are essaying the diagnosis of this visit in the background of various know or unknown complications.

Objective analyses of Modi’s visits abroad reveal his penchant for reassessment of India’s regional and global relationship with a view of infusing new vitality in the tenets of our foreign policy. His first visit to Middle East region was not to Israel as observers would have anticipated but to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Continue Reading…

Is ISIS Closing in on Europe?

By K.N. Pandita

In October 1993, I was in Brussels attending the Socialist Group of European Parliament’s seminar on Kashmir. Dr. Farooq Abdullah and Prof. Bhim Singh were also there. A group from PoK lead by Amanullah Khan of JKLF was also attending. Around midnight, my telephone rang and a local friend on the other end said that Amanullah Khan had been arrested. Indian Government had issued a red-corner letter to Interpol wanting his arrest for murder of Indian diplomat Mhatre in London. Next day, the British Parliament passed a resolution demanding the Belgian government to release Amanullah Khan forthwith. Belgium obliged. I asked my Belgian friend, who, I knew, had close contacts with Pakistanis, how the release came about that soon. She said,” Brussels is the hotbed of jihadis in Europe.” Continue Reading…

Nuclear Security Summit and South Asia

By K.N. Pandita

In his speech in Prague in 2009, President Obama touched on an important subject for the first time. He talked about security against nuclear terror, meaning securing nuclear arsenals against falling in the hands of non-State actors. A year later, the first meeting of stakeholders (NSS) numbering no fewer than 53, was held in Washington to deliberate and gradually inch towards a consensus formula of how nuclear arsenals could be safeguarded.

The fourth and perhaps the final meeting of the NSS, to which India and Pakistan have also been invited, is to be held in Washington 31 March-1 April, 2016. President Putin of Russia has declined to participate.   Continue Reading…

From seat of learning to cesspool of sedition

By K.N. Pandita

It is almost three weeks that Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the ‘prestigious” university of India is aflame. What makes it prestigious? In forty-six years of its life, it did not produce a single Nobel laureate, a single outstanding thinker, a Prime Minister or chief minister or a single social figure of national or international repute. It does not figure among 200 top universities of the world. Continue Reading…

Face to face with Frankenstein

By K.N. Pandita

No surprise that Pakistani terrorist attack on Pathankot air base is getting internationalized; not at India’s asking. Pakistan’s mortification is almost unprecedented.

For the third time, the US has reacted on Pathankot attack. Recently Secretary of State Kerry spoke to Nawaz Sharif asking him to take on the terrorists. Continue Reading…

Pathankot airbase attack

By K.N. Pandita

The four-day-long operation in the premises of Pathankot air base is heading towards completion. Combing operation may still be on partly. Six Pakistani terrorists have been finished. Our forces have suffered bigger loss in terms of human lives. We salute the martyred soldiers and share the grief of their kith and kin.

This is not the first attack of its kind undertaken by Pakistani jihadis. It differs from previous attacks in at least two ways. One, it came soon on the heels of PM’s unscheduled stop over at Lahore. The visit was in search of peace. Two, it was aimed at causing great damage to defence assets of Pathankot air base. Continue Reading…

Breaking India-Pakistan logjam

By K.N. Pandita

On his flight back home from Kabul, Prime Minister Modi broke journey at Lahore. This unusual drop off has become a subject for speculation. Congress spokesman says Indian nation will have to pay heavily for the tea Modi had with Pak premier Nawaz Sharif at his family residence in Raiwaind. The case merits dissection.

Some called the visit “sudden”, albeit honestly; yet it doesn’t seem to be sudden. High level visits, even if for a couple of hours only, are neither sudden nor unscheduled. Of course, the nature of the mission demanded secrecy. Continue Reading…

Stop holding Parliament to ransom

By K.N. Pandita

For one full week the Parliament remains paralyzed by the Congress-led opposition, creating disorder and ruckus when the sessions begin and staging walkouts when serious business needs to be contacted.

What boycotting MPs are doing is illegal. They are paid by the tax payer. The Parliament session is held through huge funding by tax payers. The assurance given to the tax payer is that his problems will be addressed, and if possible, solved at national level. There is also a sort of unwritten bond between the Parliament and the people who give it a shape through their vote, to utilize their money judiciously and in the interests of the country. Boycotting MPs are drawing from public exchequer to mar and not make the sessions. Continue Reading…

To Washington with domestic baggage

By K.N. Pandita
(to give the rest of the world a better understanding, all wikipedia-links are added by Heidi, the editor and blog owner).

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while on his US visit in October last cancelled his scheduled visit to Chicago. He would not give Imran Khan’s brats any chance of spoiling his visit by staging a protest demonstration… Continue Reading…

G-20 fight against terrorism

By K.N. Pandita

Paris carnage shadowed G-20 Anatoly (Turkey) summit. Besides a press release, summing up economic and developmental agenda, the summit released 9-point agenda on its fight against terrorism.

G-20 was not as much specific and vociferous on its policy on terrorism in any of its previous summits as at Anatoly. This shows that it takes terrorism now even if the Mumbai carnage of 2008, which claimed a toll of over 200 innocent souls, did not scratch its humanistic sentiment.   Continue Reading…

Carnage in Paris

By K.N. Pandita

Paris has come under the attack of Islamic militants. It is the bloodiest after World War II. Reports are that 127 innocent people are massacred and 200 injured some seriously. The most beautiful capital in Europe could never imagine that carnage of this brutality would ever befall it. This attack has come close on the heels of January attack in which 17 people were killed in Paris including Charlie Hebdo the editor of satirical magazine, and a Jewish supermarket. Terrorists targeted restaurants, concert halls and market places sending down terror and chaos in the city. The President who was at a stadium watching a friendly football match between France and Germany was evacuated under close security arrangement as the terrorists conducted attack outside the stadium. Continue Reading…

Critical turn in national politics

By K.N. Pandita

The apprehension was that majority mandate in the Parliamentary elections would turn the head of BJP. Unfortunately, that happened. The glamour of victory overshadowed the need for astute state management.

The more powerful sections within BJP leadership drew inspiration from RSS think tank. Seniors and veterans of the party knew the risks involved in party looking for brainwaves from that source. Continue Reading…

The passion for self- mockery

By K.N. Pandita

About three dozen Sahitya Akademi awardees reportedly returned their awards. They did not say whether they returned the accompanying amount also.

Evidently, they had received award for contribution to India sahitya (literature) not politics. It was literature when they received award and it is politics when they return it. A question arises: Was it then their mock contribution. We do not comment on their literary acumen; we talk of their sincerity to the profession. Continue Reading…

Nostalgia of personality cult

By K.N. Pandita

Recently, the NDA government expressed its intention of revamping the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML). It has stirred commotion in Nehruite and Congress circles. They see something sinister in it, like ideological assault on Nehruvian philosophy.

To reinforce their adherence to personality cult and swear by Nehruvian loyalty, they do not hesitate to misinterpret, rather distort, the idea of revamping the said museum. The truth is far from it. Revamping carries no apprehension of denigrating the stalwart of India’s freedom struggle.   Continue Reading…