Minorities face risks of more rights violations
Minorities face risks of more rights violations
With the general elections slated for January 2007,
On 26 October 2006, the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia split and about 100 party leaders including 12 Ministers including State Minister Alamgir Kabir, Deputy Minister Moni Swapan Dewan, PM's Adviser on Primary and Mass Education, Prof Jahanara Begum quit the BNP to form a new political party, Liberal Democratic Party.
The formation of the Liberal Democratic Party is an expression of negation against the BNP's alliance with the Jihadis. The BNP has been facing opposition for links with the Jihadis. On
It remains to be seen whether the Jatiya Party led by former President H M Ershad will support the BNP led fundamentalist alliance or whether the Liberal Democratic Party form an alliance with the Awami League. As the electoral prospects of the BNP and the Awami League hang in balance, the minorities who constitute about 12% of the total population can be crucial in many constituencies. The importance of the minorities also increases the risks of being attacked both prior to and after the general elections.
i. A ruling-party “Caretaker government”?
The Constitution of Bangladesh provides for appointment of a non-party caretaker government headed by the immediate former Chief Justice of Supreme Court to conduct the elections in a free and fair atmosphere.
But the Opposition parties were strongly against the appointment of immediate former Chief Justice, Justice K.M. Hasan on the ground that he is a founder member of the BNP and therefore is not fit to head the non-party caretaker government. Suspicion had been brewing in the minds of the Opposition parties over the political motive of the ruling government since May 2004 when the BNP-led government passed the Constitution (Fourteenth Amendment) Bill 2004 to increase the retirement age of the Supreme Court Judges from 65 to 67 years with alleged calculations that Justice K.M. Hasan would be the immediate retired Chief Justice to head the caretaker government in 2006.
Even the Election Commission (EC) of Bangladesh has been accused of being partial towards BNP. The credibility the Election Commission was further eroded because of its defiance of the High Court's directives of 4 January 2006 not to prepare a fresh voters list, which the Awami League alleged was full of “ghost voters”. On
ii. 2001 general elections
Violence against the minorities, especially the Hindus, during the October 2001 general elections was well documented. Prior to voting, minorities were harassed and threatened against voting for a certain political party and were obstructed from casting their votes.
The minorities faced a backlash after the election which was won by the BNP-Jamaat alliance. Several Hindus were reportedly killed, about 100 women were raped and their houses burnt. Hundreds of Hindu families were driven out of their homes. The attacks particularly took place in
The attacks continued over a month. On the of
There was virtual impunity for the atrocities perpetrated against the minorities after the general elections in October 2001. In a rare case of justice against violence against minority women, on
iii. Need for protection against attacks on minorities
Under the BNP-Jamaat alliance rule, intolerance and violence against the minorities increased substantially. Minority Hindus, Christians and Buddhists faced serious persecution including physical attacks, killing, abduction, threat, torture, rape, destruction of temple and grabbing of their lands.
The ruling party activists were responsible for the systematic attacks. Some of the atrocities perpetrated in 2005 include the destruction of a Hindu temple and three idols by one Rashid s/o Nurul Islam alias Kina and several of his accomplices in Lalbagh on 25 January 2005, rampaging of two Hindu temples and idols at Sandira village of Adamdighi upazila in Bogra on 17 March 2005, vandalisation of a Durga temple at Palora village in Manikganj on 15 September 2005 and attacks at three puja mandaps in Khulna, Faridpur and Jessore on 6 October 2005.
The lands of the religious minorities continued to be grabbed by the political party leaders and thugs. In February 2005, ‘Siddique Bahini' men tortured and forcibly occupied the land of 14 poor Hindu families at Kapalipara village in Patuakhali. On
Similar atrocities against the Hindu minorities were also reported throughout 2006.
As the polls draw near, the minorities have been increasingly feeling insecure. Providing full security to the minorities and ensuring their right to participate in the elections without fear and intimidation must be the priority of the non-party caretaker government. International community too must press for the protection of the minorities in