By Shyikh Mahdi
Minorities, most notably the Hindu and Buddhist communities had always been subjected to repression, violence and political victimization in Bangladesh. The political culture depicts Awami League, the present ruling party of Bangladesh as the savior and patron of those minority communities. Since 1971, when the Pakistan Army started their armed campaign against Hindu minorities, Awami League being the only pro-liberation political party then, was the last resort of minority communities. On the contrary, BNP and especially Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist platforms (which are been described by many as a radical factions with extreme communal hatred) are thought as the key people behind all violence against them. However, this ‘myth’ of Awami League being the Protectors of Minority Community had been shattered in many ways in last few years, most notably is the events of last few days as well.
A glimpse of the human right violation incidents documented by Odhikar will help to understand the situation.
The latest rampage on Hindu community: Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria
Last Sunday (October 30th, 2016) at least 15 temples in Nasirnagar Upazila of Brahmanbaria district were vandalized on allegations of disrespect shown to Islam on Facebook. Over 100 houses belonging to Hindus in the area were also vandalized and looted.
Locals said the incident started with a Facebook post by one Rasraj Das, son of Jagannath Das from Harinber village under Haripur Union Parishad. Police detained Rasraj on Friday immediately after the allegation of blasphemy had surfaced against him. He was sent to jail following a court order.
Protests against Rasraj’s post were called under the banner of ‘Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’ in Habiganj district headquarters and Nasirnagar. A group of madrasa students demonstrated on the premises of Brahmanbaria Press Club while hundreds of people blocked Sarail-Nasirnagar-Lakhai road by torching tyres on Sunday afternoon. From the demonstrations, a group of miscreants started to vandalize and loot the Hindu temples; hundreds of houses of the Hindu community were ransacked.
After the mayhem for hours on Sunday afternoon, two temples in adjacent Madhabpur upazila of Habiganj district also came under attack, police and witnesses said.
Role of the local Administration under serious scrutiny
According to the witnesses and journalists, the assaults on the Hindus in Brahmanbaria’s Nasirnagar Upazila could have been thwarted away had the local administration and police acted instantly and taken preventive measures.
Police just sat there without gears and any actions, asserted Anjan Kumar Dev, Vice Chairman of the Nasirnagar Upazila and Kajal Jyoti Dutta, President of the Upazila Puja Udjapan Committee. Both of them were injured by the assaults. Both Anjan and Kajal noted that the administration and the police ought to assume liability for the assaults on the Hindus, and they were “surprisingly late” in their reaction to the assaults.
However, Mr. Choudhury Muazzam Ahmed, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Nasirnagar stated that, some bigots from the rally under the banner of Touhidi Janata launched an attack on the Hindus in the area. He acknowledged that the administration had given permission to hold rallies upon promises from both the Islamist groups that those would be peaceful.
“I don’t see any negligence on the part of the administration,” said the UNO.
Under police protection, the UNO himself attended the rally of Touhidi Janata that began at Sunday morning. APM Moniruzzaman Sarkar, Chairman of the Nasirnagar Upazila Parishad and Abdul Quader, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Nasirnagar Police Station were also present there.
Meanwhile, local Awami League demanded resignation of the UNO and the OC of Nasirnagar Police Station for their “failure” to prevent the violence.
In response to the heinous assault, Mr. Kazi Reazul Hoque, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh stated that the reasons behind attacks on Hindu temples and houses in Brahmanbaria were negligence, indifference and lack of prudence of the local administration. “They can’t avoid their responsibility for the losses caused by the attacks,” the NHRC chief told a press briefing in its head office following a report submitted by a three-member probe committee formed by the commission.
However, according to a report published in Daily Bhorer Kahoj, Mr. Sayedul Haque, the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries is reported to state that, the ‘Malaun’s descendants’ have exaggerated everything, they just made a mountain out of a molehill. The offensive remark of that magnitude coming from a responsible minister of the Govt. has sparked a huge uproar and criticism amongst the Hindu community as well as the civil society of Bangladesh.
Even more interestingly, Mr. Abdul Kader, the OC of Nasirnagar Police Station was initially withdrawn for alleged negligence and administrative lapse during an attack on Hindu temples and homes.
However, Minister Sayedul Haque stated that the order of withdrawal has been cancelled since OC Abdul Kader is a good man and he is needed in that area.
The Blame Game and escaping responsibility
Adesh Dev, President of the Nasirnagar Hindu-Budhist-Christian Alliance, claimed to a news portal that in total 15 temples had been looted and destroyed. “Several devotees were injured in the communal attack and police did not interfere into the looting. A BGB platoon has been deployed but only after the damage was done,” Dev said.
On the other side, Mr. Riazul Karim, convener of Nasirnagar unit of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (who initially organized the protest rallies) stated that, “A group of Hefajat-e-Islam supporters launched the attack on the Hindu community and vandalized their houses and temples, while we were just holding a peaceful rally.” 
Blaming the Jamaat-Shibir men for the attack, Mr. Mizanur Rahman, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Brahmanbaria district stated that a vested group carried out the attack to tarnish the government’s image. “Those who were behind the attack will be arrested as soon as possible. Already we have detained six persons in this connection.” Mizan added .
Muklesur Rahman, chairman of Qawmi madrasa-based Islamist organization Touhidi Janata‘s Nasirnagar unit (Co-host of the protest rally), acknowledged that they had organized the protest rally at the school playground, but denied the allegations that they were involved in the attacks. “We condemn the attack and demand punishment of the culprits,” Muklesur, also imam of Nasirnagar Upazila Complex mosque, said he had no idea about the attackers wearing panjabi and prayer caps as described by the witnesses.
Land Grabbing is the main reason?
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Bangladesh stated that their initial investigation into the attacks on several Hindu temples and households in the central Brahmanbarhia district’s Nasirnagar indicated that they were pre-planned. These premeditated attacks were carried out in order to grab lands of the minority community.
“Our investigation is still underway but our initial findings suggest that an organised quarter carried out the attacks in a pre-planned manner,” Enamul Haque Chowdhury, NHRC member and chief of a three-member fact-finding committee of the rights panel, told PTI.
Hindu community leaders had also earlier said the attacks were carried out to evict Hindus from their own lands by creating fear.
Aftermath of the incident
Two cases were filed so far accusing 1,000 to 1,200 unidentified persons in Brahmanbaria over the attacks on Hindu community. Police said two persons, including the local temple’s priest, filed separate cases on Monday (October 31st, 2016).
“The cases accuse 1,000 to 1,200 unidentified persons”, said Mr. Abdul Karim, Assistant Superintendent of Poice. “Nine people, held over Sunday’s attacks, were showed arrested in the cases”, he added.
However, another phase of attack has been launched again last night (November 3rd, 2016) where at least five houses of two villages at Nasirnagar were attempted to set on fire. No one was arrested yet from connection of these attempts.
As intended, this issue has gained traction in the international media, spread fear amongst minorities and fired up many in the pro government camp with moral indignation. The reason behind the persisting nature of this problem is, it has never been addressed properly. Ensuring rule of law, accountability and good governance would be the stepping stone towards a peaceful Bangladesh.
As long as the question of equality and Human rights comes into existence, it poses a big question to the democratic situation of Bangladesh. As the Govt. must protect its every citizen irrespective of religion, cast, colors, the Minorities of Bangladesh must be given preferences and their security must be ensure at the first hand. Political parties of Bangladesh must come out of their traditional outlook towards the 10% population of Bangladesh; their lives and properties must not be used for cheap political gain-loss anymore.
Strengthening the Political institutions and maintaining accountability and internal democracy is also crucial. Every responsible person should be neutral in their judgment; police and law enforcement agencies should play their role as mere law enforcement agencies, without supporting or manipulating executive power for any socio-political gain.
In the end, the government is the guardian and protector for every human being of the country; but if it turns against its own people, where would they go?
Shyikh Mahdi is a blogger and trainee lawyer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He can be reached at [email protected]
 A very offensive word for the Hindu communities in Bangladesh; ‘Malaun’ is an Arabic word which literally means Cursed, and often being referred to the Devil or Lucifer.