A Report on the Incidents of Human Rights Violation on the Minorities (Religious and Racial) – 2016

There have been 1471 reported incidents of human rights violations on the minorities (Religious and Ethnic/Racial) of Bangladesh in 2016. This number is five and a half times more compared to 2015. There were 262 such reported incidents of human rights violation in 2015. In most individual cases multiple persons, families and organizations have sustained losses, totaling to an estimated figure of 33 thousand. In 2015, this number was 1562 only. On the other hand, these incidents of human rights violations has created a deep psychological trauma among the millions of people living in Bangladesh and all over the world, who are akin to the victimized people, living alongside them in the ruinous areas, belonging to the same social and religious belt. 71 people have been murdered, most of which were gruesome murders. At the same time there have been 29 mysterious deaths, all of which seem like palpable murders. These numbers are 4 times compared to that of 2015. There were 24 such incidents of murder in 2015.
10% of the murders that have taken place in this time were pre-planned murders (target killing), behind which religious extremism has been deemed responsible. Religious preachers and priests of temples and monasteries were targeted for killing. In 2016, these killings began on the 21st February of the aforementioned year, in Debiganj of Panchgarh, with the brutal murder of the Principal of Gaudiya Sant Math, Maharaj Joggeshwar Ray and such incidents kept on happening one after one, with temporary breaks. The administration has not taken any effective steps to put a stop to or subdue the murderers. Finally, on the 1st of July of the aforementioned year, after the killing of about 20(18) foreigners (29 total including 5 gunmen and 24 victims – 18 foreigners, 2 locals, 2 policemen, 2 bakers according to Wikipedia/sources) in Holey Artisan Bakery of Gulshan Thana area, the government and administration was compelled to take action under tremendous pressure. Owing to this step taken by the administration to counter terrorism, the mass killing of Hindu priests came to a halt. Had the Holey Artisan incident (Dhaka Terror Attack) not taken place, would the administration have taken any steps to counter terrorism? The terrorists were active since much before. Starting from the Abhijit murder case in the 21st February Bookfair, 2015, the administration had been callous in bridling their programs for about a year and a half. The killing of writers, bloggers, priests and cleaning staff did not put any effect on the large middle class crowd of a developing nation’s economy. However, the killing of the representatives or buyers of imported clothing and the consultants of the Padma Bridge is definitely a great hindrance to the ongoing development of the nation. Therefore even though the government and administration have shown their amazing promptness in putting a halt to such killings, no such promptness has been seen in offering security to the minorities.

In this time, 875 people have sustained injuries owing to various violent attacks and physical assaults, 28 people have been victims of abduction, there have been 32 cases of rape among which there were 15 gang rapes. There have been 2238 incidents of attack on land and property, temples and businesses, loot-plunder and arson. There have been 1158 incidents of land grabbing and 386 incidents of forced possession of houses/land and eviction. At the same time 168 families have attempted to flee the nation. At least 259 idols have been destroyed. Other than that, owing to consecutive murder threats and murders of people of temples and monasteries, the daily prayers and oblations in 365 temples came to a halt. Several priests, curators and attendants of temples were forced to abscond; some even fled the country. There have been multiple complaints that Hindu families have been threatened to convert to Islam.

All information has been collected by reviewing national daily newspapers, online news mediums and organizations

In the above image we can see that the incidents of murder have occurred least in the month of January and it has been at its peak in July. On the other hand, in the very next month, in August, there were much fewer murders. It is apropos to mention that post the Holey Artisan tragedy in Gulshan, the counter terrorism activities undertaken by the government brought down the incidents of murder and incidents of terror related murders finally came to a halt after a long span of eighteen months. 

At the same time, there have been 28 incidents of attempt to murder. In one such incident, the locals caught hold of the miscreant who attempted to murder Ripon Chakrabarty, Professor of Mathematics at Najimuddin College (Government Institution) of Madaripur district, and handed him over to the police. This incident took place on the evening of Wednesday, 15th of June, 2016. On the 17th of June, 2016, Friday late evening, in Boram village of Naogaon Patnitala sub district, an old man named Maina Chandra Mahanta, belonging to the minority community was stabbed with sharp weapons by miscreants in an attempt to murder incident. He was stabbed in the head and on multiple parts of the body and left for dead. On the 22nd June, 2016 an attempt to murder was made on a temple priest named Swapan Chakrabarty of Gajipur Kaliakoire. On the 1st of July, 2016, an attendant of Vivekananda Library and Temple of Kishoreganj’s Naguwa area, Palash Chakrabarty was attacked at the dead of night. 11th July, 2016, Monday night, 4 suspicious looking young men had come looking for the priest of the Central Magura Kalibari temple. 20th July, 2016, Wednesday, early morning, in Biyanibajar sub district, 2 unknown men tried to barge in and enter the Panchakhanda Ramakrishna Sebasram of Biyanibazar subdistrict. They stood in front of the entrance and demanded to see the priest. Meeting resistance from the guards they went back. On the 23rd of August, 2016, miscreants stabbed Chittaranjan Arya, the curator of Narsingdi Kali Mandir with a machete and left him with deep wounds.

Among these incidents of attempted murder, one such incident of 27th June, 2016 moves us in an altogether different manner. Mrinmoy Majumdar, a student of Jahangirnagar University was going home for the Id holidays. This young man was stabbed with a knife by terrorists near Bagerhat. As the terrorists left him, certain that he’ll succumb to his injuries, the mortally injured youth somehow managed to run away. Before stabbing him, the young man was asked his name, later he was asked to remove his pants in order to make sure of his religious identity and when he was identified as a Hindu without any reasonable doubt, the terrorists picked up their weapons and stabbed him. This incident takes us back to 1971. Such an incident, where a man is forced to remove his lungi or pants for making out his religious identity, in an independent nation built on the main principles of secularism, proves how actively powerful the communal and anti-libertarian powers still are.

In 2016, there were 96 listed incidents of murder threats. During this time several head priests of prime temples belonging to religious minorities as well as several temple staff received death threats. On the 15th of June, 2016, the principal of Dhaka’s Ramakrishna Mission received death threats. On the 28th of June, 2016, the chief priest of Dharmarajika Buddhist Monastery (Dharmarajika Bauddha Bihar) received death threats. Throughout the nation, several temple attendants of remote areas received such threats. These threats disrupted the normal religious routine of the concerned communities.

There have been 32 reported incidents of rape. Among them 15 were gang rapes including the mother-daughter joint gang rape case. On the 11th of July, 2016, mother and daughter belonging to Hindu minority community, were gang raped in Patuakhali’s Bauphal subdistrict. Owing to high political connections of the accused, the two women have been deprived of justice. On the 15th of June, 2016, a Hindu housewife was gang raped in Jaypurhat’s Akkelpur subdistrict. 4th of April, 2016, in Mirsarai, 4 miscreants attacked a tribal family, tied up the husband and gang raped the wife. 22nd April, 2016, Friday morning, a Hindu housewife was tied up and gang raped in Gajipur’s Kaliakoir subdistrict, Sahebabad area. 12th May, 2016, in Kushtia, a Christian teacher (female) and on the 21st May, 2016, in Narayanganj’s Siddhirganj Signboard area, a Hindu school girl was gang raped. In September, a housewife belonging to the minority community, in Chunkhola Union’s Sholabaria village of Bagerhat’s Mollahat subdistrict, was allegedly intimidated and raped for 15 days in a row. The rapist threatened to kill every member of the family and kept them detained inside their house/under house arrest. The rape victim was not let to be taken to a hospital even though her ankle was chopped off with a sword. October 3rd, 2016, while returning home from the Durga Puja venue, a minority school girl of 8th standard (grade) was raped in Sunamganj’s Jamalganj. The rapist’s uncle being a local UP chairman, has allegedly created obstacles in the way of taking help from the police and getting treatment. 16th October, 2016, in Palli of Habiganj’s Nabiganj subdistrict, a Hindu housewife was allegedly held for 3 days and gang raped. Other than these aforementioned incidents, on the 19th of October, 2016, there was also an incident of child rape in Dinajpur’s Parbatipur, where a 5 year old child suffered from inhuman torture and rape. Finally on the 31st of December, the last day of the year, a Garo woman was the victim of gang rape.

28 people have been victims of abduction/kidnapping in 2016. On the night of 8th May, 2016, Monday, 11 year old Hindu school girl Bristi Rani was kidnapped. On the 24th of May, 2016, in Fasiakhali of Lama subdistrict, a 13 year old adolescent Pahari girl named Hlasaing Marma was kidnapped and later she was reported to have been a victim of forced conversion and marriage. Since the girl was a minor the validity of the marriage and religious conversion is questionable. At the same time, there have been several kidnappings of temple priests and attendants.

There have been 77 incidents of attack on religious establishments, vandalism and arson in 2016. At the same time, there have been several incidents of forced possession of property of religious establishments. Incidents of seizing of minority property and attack with that intent, persecution and oppression of minorities were quite mainstream in this country, during the reign of the previous government. But what amazes us is that the state policy deports and exiles the minority from his property. Since the very beginning it has been customary in this country to seize the land of the Chakma, the Garo, the Khasiya, the Santhal, the Rakhain, the tea-community and native settlers in the name of bestowed property, in the name of state autarchy/authoritarianism and national security, in the name of development, in the name of tourism, in the name of special economic zone or industry and in the name of forest preservation. Most recently, on the 6th of November, we witnessed the inhuman atrocities committed by the merciless Bangladesh administration on a defenseless community of people in Gaibandhar Gobindaganj. In their attempt to cling on to their ancestral lands, they were brutalized by direct and indirect efforts of the administration and public representatives who committed murder, loot, arson and forced eviction.

In the past few years, information technology has been used as a weapon for the persecution of minorities. In September of 2012, the incident involving Ramu was witnessed by the nation in great shock and horror. Following this incident there has been multiple incidents of minority persecution where ‘offending religious sentiments’ have been used as watchwords. Even teachers are not exempt from these attacks. Finally, on the 30th of October, 15 temples were vandalized and over one hundred and fifty houses belonging to Hindus was ransacked in Nasirnagar after rumors were spread that Islamic sentiments were offended in social media. The callousness of the local administration was clearly noticeable during this incident. After the main incident, several smaller attacks were perpetrated but the administration was operative by then. Several attacks on temples were perpetrated simultaneously throughout the country. While trying to identify the miscreants the two leading political parties started playing the blame game on each other. Hence the result is, as always, the masterminds of the attacks, the ones who made the blueprints of communalism, remained unidentifiable. Whenever an attack on minorities occurs, the ruling party or the government accuses the opposition or claims that some communal or terrorist group is trying to put the government under pressure. If this blame game politics is not put aside and the perpetrators are not identified, such incidents will keep on repeating. Before the aftershocks of the attack on the Hindu community in Brahmanberia’s Nasirnagar were absorbed, there was an attack on the Santhals in Gaibandhar’s Gobindaganj. The administration has allegedly played an active role in brutally evicting the Santhals. The Santhals are marginalized people of our society. Such state sponsored brutality on Santhals is an example of extreme violation of human rights. Over two months have passed and the offenders have not been arrested. The victims are living subhuman lives under the open skies in the extreme cold.
Documented by: Priya Saha

Translated and Editing by: Mousume Sarker

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