“Democracy is not the law of the majority but the protection of the minority.”
Bangladesh, officially called the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a south Asian country. It is eighth largest in terms of population with 164+ million people and ranks 92nd in area wise in the world. Dhaka is the capital city of Bangladesh.
The border of modern Bangladesh was established with the partition of Bengal in 1906 by Britishers on the basis of religion wherein majority of Hindu areas went to West Bengal and the Muslim populated areas were segregated to be called East Bengal. Further, during Independence, the call for separate state for Muslims made Pakistan take the area of East Bengal and it was called East Pakistan. However, later with the feeling of Bengali nationalism and self-determination, the liberation war eventually resulted in emergence of Bangladesh as a new nation-state in 1971.
Demography and Laws
Bangladesh was fundamentally created with intentions of religious division, the majority population in Bangladesh is Muslim and follow Islam as their religion which is around 90.5% of the population, 8.5% population is Hindu and Buddhism and Christianity amounts to nearly 0.6 and 0.4% of the total population respectively. Moreover, the ethnic demography of Bangladesh also is interesting to see, it consists of 98% Bengalis and with 2% of the population that includes Chakmas, Biharis, Santhals, Tripuris, Bisnupriya Manipuris along with other ethnic groups.
The Constitution of Bangladesh deems it to be a secular state with secularism as one of its four fundamental principle in the constitutional text of Bangladesh. The state however, has recognised “Islam” as the state religion through their Constitution but, the principal of secularism and grant of equal rights to the citizens irrespective of their religion is also guaranteed by the constitution of Bangladesh. The constitution states, “The state shall ensure equal status and equal rights in the practice of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other religions.
Ethnic Cleansing of Minorities
The reality of the rights of minorities both ethnic and religious have been jeopardized constantly and continuously in Bangladesh right from the very beginning. To look at the plight it must be noted that there have been a significant decline in the population of the minorities in Bangladesh thereby hampering and changing the demographic situation of the country. For instance, the population of minorities have declined from 23% in 1951 to mere 9% in 2017 which asks for several questions that needs answers.
Vandalism of religious places of worship
There has been a systematic destruction of both feelings and religious places of minorities with Hindus being the most affected of them all. Thousands of Hindu and Buddhist temples and idols have been destroyed in the country continuously since its emergence for the reason being the majority religion Islam prohibiting idol worship and therefore, it gives them the rights and duty bounds them to act according to their religion.
Hathazari Temples for example were destroyed in October, 2012 in Chittagong during a hate attack and several temples including Nadirhaat were vandalised, looted and torched on February, 2012.
Shreemad Satyapriya Mohathero, a 83 years old Buddhist Priest from Bangladesh while referring to the perpetration, vandalism and other atrocities on Buddhist temples and idols says, “Even in 1971, I did not see this grotesque brutality on us.”
Another incident in Satkhira is also bone chilling, where, on 27th March, 2012 Hindu teachers at the School were arrested and taken into custody for allegedly having their involvement in the Act (Drama) at the school that allegedly put Mohammed in bad light. The incident also throws light on how a community can be segregated in the society with the state machineries playing vital role with prejudice and ill will. On 29th March, 2012 the perpetrators entered the Hindu locality and vandalised the homes of the Hindus and burnt them for the incident that happened in the school and in the said case the police sided with the perpetrators and could not and did not help the situation out.
Some People from the majority religion are simply of the view that a Hindu citizen being forced to convert to Islam is a rare happening in Bangladesh and thinks that the frequency of this is quite less outside Bangladesh too. However, there are several studies and researches that suggest that the Muslims of Bangladesh have been converted low-caste Hindus, if you keep looking at the past generations. In that sense, long time back the conversions already took place. A motivation for the converting to Islam was the caste related harsh future that one had to submit because of just for being born in the wrong caste or sect/sub-sect or religion. In early year converts Islam was an escape route to a brighter future. The caste divisions still is prevalent but the fixed destiny or associated hardship factors are not there to an extent. Conversion does not offer a balanced trade off in the present time. we do not see a lot of conversions. psychologically and spiritually one needs to be more accommodating and be prepared to denounce more when converting from Hindu, Christians, Jews are in the end people of the book, significant agreement and common grounds are there between these three religions, that might make conversion options more feasible.
However, the other side of the story is far in consonance with the above said statement so to say that the difficulties faced by minorities are huge in Bangladesh and conversions and forceful shift o religion from Hinduism to islam is prevalant.
In 2017, a Hindu School Girl (15) was kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam from Bhaluka-Mymensingh and was later gang-raped on 03 May 2017 to 11 May 2017 at Boroitola-Kishoregonj under leadership of Jhehadi leader – Md.Ruhul Ameen (24) son of Mahatabuddin of Kotagar of Kishoregonj District. The victim was rescued by police on 11 May 2017 and a case has been filed on the same day (Case 18 of 11 May 2017). Police also arrested Ruhul Ameen.
In another case, Ms Sima Majumder (21), a Hindu School Teacher of Mandir Viddayalaya of Madhabpur Municipality within Hobigonj District, she was kidnapped by Muslim Perpetrators and was forcefully converted to Islam on 15 February 2017. Police was not able to rescue the victim neither could it arrest the perpetrator Mohammed Sheon Chowdhury (25) son of Alauddin Chowdhury. Father of the victim girl lodged FIR before O.C. Madhabpur police station on 16 Feb 2017.
In yet another incident, a lady named Moni Mala Biswas age 30 was kidnapped by Mohammad Zamal Gazi of Sonali, district Satkhira, with the help of other perpatrators. The abductors forcefully converted Moni Mala to change her religion to Islam on 9 June 2010 and renamed her Fatema Begum. She was forced to marry one of the perpetrator, even though he was already married and had another wife. Police did nothing in the case as it neither recovered the women nor arrested the culprits till her murder. Moni Mala Biswas was mforced to withdraw the abduction case, and finally she was tortured to death and was killed by Mohammad Zamal Gazi. A case was filed but no arrests were made.
Another case where, Ms. Lucky Mohanta, a 13 years old Hindu girl was abducted by Muslim perpetrators on 20th Dec 2011 in the evening. Her parents went to local Police to file a FIR, but Police refused to register the FIR. Then the parents went to court and the court ordered and said to the Police to accept the case. Gopalgonj police rescued the girl later on 19th Jan 2012 when they were pressurized. BDMW came to know that she has been converted to Islam by that time. Police did not arrest anybody for it. The incident happened at Bedgram, Gopalganj.
With regards to the land acquisition in Bangladesh being another tool to harass and oppress the minority population of their right to the land is also of a greater concern.
In addition to the fragility of the lives of people, government laws ensure that land and property owned by Hindus is not secure in any particular fashion as well. In 1965 after the Indo-Pakistan War, Pakistan promulgated the Enemy Property Act (EPA) that gave the government unbridled powers to appropriate enemy property that turned out to be negative and highly unfavourable one for the minority population and a euphemism for Hindu owned assets. The new Republic of Bangladesh supplemented the ideas of the previous government and retained the EPA under a new name the Vested Property Act (1974) whereby the Government of Bangladesh vested itself with the “enemy” properties previously seized since the 1965 War and continued to use the discriminatory law to confiscate properties and Hindu land.
In 2001, the Awami League made an attempt to do good and restore Hindu property to its rightful owners through the Restoration of Vested Property Act, 2001; but it was just an eyewash and didn’t do well for substantial population. The requirements were too burdensome and also failed to translate into any benefit at the ground and local level.
Therefore, ascertaining the above mentioned arguments and instances pronounced it is very important to acknowledge thr plight of people living as minority groups in Bangladesh so that they are not discriminated against unfavourably and be given equal rights and special protection to fight with certainty with the powerful and authoritative environment. Moreover, these countries that term themselves as Democratic has also the obligation to protect each and every member of the country who are its subject to meet the ends of justice and fair life.
 Bangladesh 2015 International religious freedom report.
 Bangladesake januna ( National web portal of Bangladesh.
 PART I, Art. 2A, Constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
 Art. 2A, Constitution of People’s Republic of Bangladesh.