Hindus in Bangladesh demand more security

Dhaka: Amid nationwide violence in Bangladesh over 1971 war crimes trial of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, the country's human rights body has criticised the government for inadequate steps to protect Hindus from recent attacks as the minority community demanded more security.

"The government must answer why the people of religious minorities were living in insecurity in Bangladesh," Mizanur Rahman, the chairman of Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said at a seminar on Saturday.

His remarks came against the backdrop of countrywide violence following the pronouncement of verdicts against top Islamist leaders for "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 war. In the violence, Jamaat activists torched or vandalised several Hindu temples and damaged hundreds of their homes.

A group of people was trying to use religion in a negative way to create confusion among the common people but "the government and the state have to take the responsibility of protecting the religions of all people," Rahman said.

Talking to PTI a senior leader of Hindu community said "intensified social and political resistance" for their protection as he feared the minority community might face more violence in the coming months.

"The special tribunals are expected to deliver verdicts against Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leaders for 1971 crimes against humanity in next several months when fresh violence could spark exposing us to more insecurity," Kajal Debnath, vice president of Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad, said.

He said according to their counting 81 Hindu temples were torched or vandalised and several hundred Hindu households were damaged in the past two months as the followers of the faith appeared one of the targets of the Islamist bigots who were carrying out a violent campaign to thwart the 1971 war crimes trial.

"Whatever has happened has happened, we now demand steps for our protection in future … police or the other law enforcement agencies would be of little use unless intensified social and political campaign against the bigots," he said.

"And it is the local leaders of the major political parties and particularly the ruling Awami League which will have to take initiatives in this regard," Debnath said.

"Suspected activists of Jamaat and its student affiliate Islami Chatra Shibir went on rampage at their strongholds across the country when they also attacked and vandalised the Hindu houses and temples alongside government establishments," he said.

They launched a violent protest against the death penalty handed down to one of their stalwarts Delwar Hossain Sayedee by a special tribunal for 1971 war crimes charges last month, while the clashes so far left nearly 100 dead, Jamaat claiming most of them being their supporters who were shot dead in police actions.

The High Court in the past one month issued several directives for the protection of the minority community but their leaders alleged that lack of prompt initiatives on the part of lawmakers and local political leaders encouraged the "culprits" to carryout the mayhem.

Asked who he blamed for the attacks, Debnath said Jamaat declined that they attacked the Hindus or vandalised their temples and main opposition BNP leaders also issued identical statements while the Awami League too was not involved.