Why should Hindus be excluded from the power game?

Minorities in Bangladesh have been facing woes of laws and its differential treatment upon them since August 1947. It is obvious that security and safety of minority communities do not depend only on the goodwill of majority community and safeguard ensured in the fine paper of the Constitution.

The confidence of the minority would be ensured in Bangladesh if due representation of the community in the field of all decision –making institutions of the Republic. I.e. representation of minority in the Parliament, Administration, Army, Police, Judicial and Foreign services as well as public offices at all level is effectively ensured.

Beside those the so-called amendments to the Constitution under the name of 15th Amendment, has been an impediment to the socio-economic and political development of the Community. Political high sounding words and platitude of the fine quoted decencies would not serve the interest of the minorities in Bangladesh.

Why targeted violence is happening?

‘The state has failed to protect the minorities from post-election violence in different parts of the country although it was predictable, Even now, the survivors of the attacks in Satkhira, Sathiya of Pabna, and Kernai, Goyra of Dinajpur are passing their days in fear of fresh attacks as the perpetrators have not been brought to book yet, said Prof. Kaberi Gayen ofDhaka University.(The daily Star, 1 Feb 2014). Muhammad Nurul Huq in a post titled “Beyond Communal Attacks” opined :“ recent attacks ( in January 2014) on Hindus and their property demonstrate the immensely sad but blunt reality that even after forty two years of democratic pluralistic existence, the religious minority of Bangladesh have not been able to save themselves from the deadly embrace of communal fire.

The fact of the matter is that Bengali Hindus did suffer in great measure in the 1946 communal riot, particularly in Noakhali. Thereafter, in 1950, in the then East Pakistan the Bengali Hindus were victims of communal flare ups. One can recall the Liaqat-Nehru pact- in April 1950 which was aimed principally to protect and save the minority from communal violence. Such violence, however, did recur later owing to socio- political factors both in India and Pakistan. The Hindus suffered again in terms of life and property in 1964 before suffering en masse in 1971. Prior to that, following the India-Pak war of 1965, the enactment of Enemy Property Act reduced them to the status of second class citizens; and in 1971 they were quite clearly victims of what in later time came to be known as ‘Ethnic cleansing.’(The daily star, 25 Jan 2014)

The declination of minority representatives in the Assembly/Parliament since 1954 is very much noticeable. In 1954 East Bengal Assembly Minority MLA 72 out of 309: in 1962 East Pakistan Assembly o2 out of 242: in 1965 EP Assembly 03 out of 148: in1970 National Assembly 01 out of 160 and Provincial Assembly 10 out of 310.

After Independent Bangladesh in 1973-75 First Sansad 11out of 315 MPs; under Martial Law regimes 1979-90: Second Sansad 06 out of 330Mps; Under second term martial law (1982-90) in 1986-87 Third Sangsad 04 out of 330 Mps ; in 1988-90 Fourth Sansad 02 out of 330 MPs ; Post martial law period 1991-96 Fifth Sansad 07 out of 330 MPs; in 1996 Sixth Sansad 01 out of 330 MPs: in 1996-2001 Seventh Sangsad 10 out of 330 MPS; in 2001 Eighth Sansad 04 out of 330. Ninth Sansad 15 out of 345. Tenth Sansad 11 out of 300.

On 21st October 1955, the Awami Muslim League dropped the word ‘Muslim’ from its name at a special council of the Awami Muslim League, making the party a truly modern and secular one. Sheikh Mujib was re-elected General Secretary of the party. On 3 February 1956, Awami League (AL) leaders, during a meeting with the Chief Minister, demanded that the subject of provincial autonomy be included in the draft constitution.

A coalition government led by AL comprising minority and left party members formed the cabinet. First time AL took power in the centre for 13 months (12 September-18 October 1957) and in East Pakistan for 18 months (6 September 1956- 31 March 1958) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Dhirendranath Dutta, Monoranjan Dhar, Mashiur Rahman, Mansur Ali ,Abdur Rahman Khairat Hossain ,Khafiluddin Chowdhury, Muhammad Ali ,Rasharaj Mondal, Sarat Chandra Majumder and Gour Chandra Bala were also members of the AL Cabinet.

In 1956, The Awami League then entered into negotiations in a big way with Pakistan Congress Party led by Hindu leaders like Akshay Kumar Das, Dhirendranath Dutt, Monoranjan Dhar, and so on so forth. The Congress assured the Awami League of the support of a solid minority group of the UPPP, the Scheduled Castes Federation and Independents.

The Congress and the Awami League signed an agreement on the basis of a five-point programme. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called the Panch-Sheel of Congress- Awami League unity. The Hindu leadership had signed a 5-point secret agreement with the Awami League Leadership under Prime Minister H S Suhrawardy in 1956 just before the electorate bill provided for a joint electorate for East Pakistan and separate electorate for West Pakistan was passed on 10th October 1956.

Hindu Leaders 5-point secret agreement with the Awami League: The agreement was kept a secret. It was, however, known that the agreement included:

a) A firm commitment by the Awami League to fight for securing a joint electorate system and in the event of its capturing power at the Centre;

b) To amending the constitution to make it secular and democratic

c) To ensure equal citizenship to all Pakistanis without distinction of Caste, creed or religion;

d) TheAwami League assured all schools, houses, and properties that had been snatched away from the members of the minority communities during the Muslim League regime would be restored to the respective owners.

e) It also assured that 23% quota of services and other privileges reserved for the minority communities would be honored.*

(*Sen Gupta Jyoti, 1974 History of Freedom Movement in Bangladesh (1947-1973),Naya Prokash, Calcutta. P-84}.

Since 1956, Hindu leaders mortgaged their votes and politics at the hands of Awami League. After achieving Bangladesh, as an independent country, Awami League never remembers their old agreement and commitments besides pleads for vote banks.

Our fragile democratic structures are again under severe threat and we have witnessed BNP-Jamaat terrorized-success in the name of democratic movement when muscle power and modern device has been used in tenth parliamentary elections. The Hindus of Bangladesh are being wiped out, and no one seems to care. Waiting for those world bodies to do the right thing about this will accomplish nothing but to insure the death of Bangladesh’s Hindu community—just as it has done for Pakistan’s Hindus.

And now that we know this, we each have a choice: either act courageously and relentlessly to stop the slaughter; or do nothing and be complicit in it. The widespread perceptions of discrimination among the Minorities in Bangladesh need to be addressed. There are hardly any empirical studies that establish discrimination. Research in this area needs to be encouraged but is particularly difficult at the moment due to non-availability of data. Hopefully, better availability of data would result in more studies in this area. While equity in the implementation of programmes and better participation of the Community in the development process would gradually eliminate this perception of discrimination, there is a need to strengthen the legal Provisions to eliminate such cases. The Bangladesh Constitution in ‘Part-III – Fundamental Rights’ has exhaustively provided not only for equality of all citizens irrespective of their religion but has also provided special provisions for protecting the rights of minorities in respect of their religion, language and culture. Thus, any violation of the rights of the minority by the State could be challenged in a court of law.

The minorities, many a time, may feel that there is discrimination against them in the matter of employment, housing, for obtaining loans from the public or Private sector banks or opportunities for good schooling in religious education and general sectors. It is self evident that if minorities have these perceptions, law must provide an effective mechanism which should examine their complaints and be able to give effective relief. It is imperative that if the minorities have certain perceptions of being aggrieved, all efforts should be made by the State to find a mechanism by which these complaints could be attended to expeditiously. In Bangladesh, we may start afresh with the available data and resource for formulating a new ministry called Ministry of Minority Affairs by its nomenclature.

Justice Sacchar ,in his report said,”This mechanism should operate in a manner which gives full satisfaction to the minorities that any denial of equal opportunities or bias or discrimination in dealing with them, either by public functionary or any private individual, will immediately be attended to and redress given. Such a mechanism should be accessible to all individuals and institutions desirous to complain that they have received less favourable treatment from any employer or any person on the basis of his/her religious background and gender”.

Indian journalist M J Akbar writes: “The Sachar committee has done a good job of exposing implicit and explicit discrimination. But other commissions before have said this as well.

My question is to others: “Does the political class really need another commission to tell them the facts?

Don’t ministers and MPs see the truth on a million faces when they go to beg and plead for Muslim votes?”

Mr. Akbar opined that will reserving seats for Muslims as category help? The instant answer is yes, if this is the way the political game is being played, then why should Muslims and Christians be excluded from the game? Almost everyone else has been allotted a piece of the cake, so why not them? Are they paying the price for being “foreign faiths,” that is, religions that originated outside the Indian subcontinent?

If that is the truth, then the establishment should change the truth before the people change the establishment. If that is not the truth, then someone should let us know what the truth is. (The daily Star, 20 Dec.2006)

We do also endorse the arguments of M J Akbar , so we may put questions to politicians , Don’t they see the truth aftermath of tenth parliamentary election when plead for minority votes? So we demand that to dissolve this ugly face of politics it will resolve only after reserving seats for minorities as category help?

Moreover, It is an ardent desire of minority community particularly the Hindus that the Government of Bangladesh shall create a new specialized Ministry of Minority Affairs, as it is done in India in 2006 (WWW.minorityaffairs.govt.in ) The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO ) of Bangladesh shall initiate the matter immediately by constitute a task force or committee with expertise minority leaders for preparation of report on the Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Minority Community of Bangladesh.

By exercising of the power conferred by Article 55(6) of Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the government shall create a new specialized Ministry of Minority Affairs just to ensure a focused approach towards issues relating to the minorities and to facilitate the formulation of overall policy, planning, coordination, evaluation and review of the regulatory framework and development programmes for the benefit of the minority communities. The Government of Bangladesh shall ensure justice to the Minorities to uphold religious rights of minorities and Devuttur Property (Endowment Act) by promulgating a new Act with broader perspective to help secure fair and equal access to justice.

Source: Asian Tribune