Extortion, attack on Hindus and communalism

Badruddin Omar 15 November,2013
Badruddin Omar

[This article was written in Bangla by an eminent columnist of Bangladesh, Badruddin Omar and was published in Daily Jugantor. It is translated into English by RTNN]


In a few days after the assault on the Buddhists in Cox’s Bazar in 2012, Hindu temples and houses were very often seen to be attacked in different places of Bangladseh. Though no casualty was there in those attacks, a huge damage to their properties was done with destroying the houses of the Hindus through burning and ransacking those. But the remarkable thing is that various political parties, especially the ruling party and the press, held a lot of conversations and discussions, but no police investigation is conducted anywhere. About a year after such massive attacks in Buddhist temples, the government built their temples as compensation; though the event was not investigated. None was punished. Despite rebuilding the temples, the local Buddhists have a lot of anger against the government. Although the Buddhist temples are rebuilt, there is no sign of happy feelings among the local Buddhists.

The ruling Awami League and BNP, both parties publicized many speeches and statements accusing each other reciprocally, during the time of such a huge type of attacks. Actually, the incidents of those attacks were not made to happen by any party. Participants in those were the men of Awami League, BNP and other parties, even some with no partisan identity. The government did not conduct any investigation due to their men’s involvement - in fairly a good number, in attacks on the Buddhists, although there was no organizational decision on it, and also due to having no scope of averting its proofs. Without punishing anybody, Awami league tried to make the Buddhists happy through rebuilding their temples. This was not unnoticed to the Buddhists. For this reason, no cheerfulness was sighted on the occasion of building of the temples and their opening by the Prime Minister. Nothing was seen but the only formalities.

Same were the consequences of attacks on the Hindus, like those on the Buddhists. Despite scattered attacks on the Hindus in different places, none of them is investigated. Nobody is punished for those. Most recently, a few incidents of attacking on the Hindus occurred in Pabna and Lalmonirhat. The matter is not difficult to understand through looking into the reports on the incidents in Pabna published in the newspapers. Since the month of August last, the incidents of torturing on the Hindus have been being occurred in more than one place of Santhia in Pabna. Might be there happened such incidents in the past, but no report was published on that. (Daily Star, 07.11.2013)

A group of young men stormed headmaster Gopal Chandra Ghosh’s room in Bonogram Girls’ High School on August 24, dragged him out and beat him up with sticks, iron rods and hammers. Reasons behind this assaulting, is due to his refusal to be extorted Tk 2 lakh. Though he filed a case against the men while he was still being treated for his wounds at a local clinic, later he withdrew it as police didn’t touch the criminals and they threatened to kidnap his family members and threatened him with life.

The local people said that Gopal Chandra paid Tk 1.70 lakh to the criminals though he denied paying them any amount of money. He refused to talk more to the press. He just said, “Hindu families and traders are the victims of systematic extortion but they do not dare to protest or complain fearing for their lives.” (Daily Star, 07.11.2013).

Locals claimed that leader of the gang of extortionists Fazlur Khan had worked for a BNP-backed candidate in the last union Parishad polls but the fact was he and most of his gang members belonged to no political party at all. They said the gang of 20-odd men performed this torture on Hindus maintaining liaison with leaders of all political parties, including the ruling party (for their protection). In return, the politicians use their muscle when required. Denying any affiliation with the criminals, local Awami League leader Korban Ali said, “They [the people who extort] have no party, they are just criminals.” (Daily Star, 07.11.2031).

Mahbub Morshed Jyoti, president of Sathia BNP, claimed that the criminals were under Awami League leaders’ protection and that BNP has no relation with them. The gang has become untouchable. Actually, nobody has the ability to touch the group of miscreants as Police takes no step against them (Daily Star, 07.11.2013).

A month after the attack on Gopal Chandra, the gang went to Sima jewellery shop in Bonogram Bazar in the constituency of State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku, and demanded Taka 3 lakh. When shop owner Bashi Rajbonshi refused to pay money to them, they hit him with a table fan. That time he saw off them giving taka 8,000 for ‘having sweets’, but his shop was also vandalized during the mayhem later when over 100 Hindu homes and shops were ransacked and looted in the area. Most Hindu families and traders have to pay the gang “protection money” regularly to continue with their businesses. But they do not complain to police or the local administration as it only puts their lives at risk. Some Muslim traders also have to pay the extortionist “protection money” regularly. (Daily Star, 07.11.2013)

The local people accused inactiveness of police and the administration for attacks on houses of one hundred Hindus. Shafiqur Rahman, secretary of Bonogram Bazar Traders Association, said to the reporter of the Daily Star that most of the Hindu traders are compelled to pay toll to the extortionists secretly. A total of 343 traders do business in Bonogram Bazar and 99 of them are Hindus. About 900 families live in Bonogram and one third of them are Hindus and they are in fear.

On 6th November, 4 days after the attack on one hundred houses of the Hindus in Shahpara and Ghoshpara areas, MP of the Shanthia area and State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku visited the area accompanied by Disaster Management Minister Hassan Mahmud Ali and State Minister for Local Administration Jahangir Kabir Nanak. They brought a rally there in protest of attacks against the Hindus.

Rubel and Mithun, two local criminal extortionist were seen participaing in their rally arranged by the local administration! The Daily Star photo shows that they are chanting slogans right behind the state Minister Tuku! Watching this image, the local people and affected family members strongly said, those two both participated in looting and ransacking.

Moreover, a thief and extortionist named Annie who is a resident of the adjacent village Gauripur, was seen in this procession. He also participated in the attacks on the Hindus. A big official team including the State Minister for Home, the other two Ministers, Inspector General of police, RAB high-ups etc. performed protest rallies against the attacks on the Hindus, but none of the extortionist criminals has been arrested or even punished till date. Was such an inactiveness of the police and administration possible without involvement of these miscreants with the ruling party Awami League? How the most notorious extortionist criminals in the area can participate in the rallies of the Ministers and Police-RAB officers? What’s the explanation?

The true thing is that, these extortionist criminals have no actual political identity. They are conveniently - of all the parties. All the parties use them in their local politics. As the Awami League is in power at present, these criminals are involved with Awami League and they conducted all of their offences, as well as, attacks on the Hindus under the shelter of the Government. Awami League and intellectuals related to them and some other people termed the attacks on the Hindus as communal. They publicize that communalism in Bangladesh is on a rise and Hindus are the victims. Indeed, no such thing is happening. Looting, terrorism and anarchy are  currently going on around Bangladesh. Huge newspaper reports available daily are ensuring that things are going so. This looting, terrorism and anarchy have no communal character. Regardless - The Hindus and the Muslims are the victims of those incidents. However, these kinds of attacks are happening in some places comparatively more on the Hindus as they are the minority. These have no relation with communalism.

The National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman visited Banagrama in Pabna on November 7. During that time, he showed the Assistant Superintendent of police in Pabna Abu Bakr, a few pictures of some participants in the rally with State Minister for Home Tuku, published in the daily Star. He also asked when the journalists can identify criminals with the help of the local people, why the police can not do it. Answer is known to all. So there is no more scope to discuss on it.

The matter should be noted here is specifically that, how some of the so-called anti-communal persons in Bangladesh discuss on raising communal powers referring to the incidents including of that in Pabna, nothing is true therein. The actual thing is that, disorder and anarchy spread all around Bangladesh, and it is increasing.
 
Taking this opportunity, all types of criminals are conducting their activities. The more the political parties are being detached from the people, the more they are using the criminals in their political interest. But the situation is so severe that the anarchy already reached at a level where controlling it is not being possible by anybody. Consequently, there exists no security for anybody in the society.

The opposition political parties spread this anarchy now on the streets launching shut down programmes, one after another. The way Hindus are being attacked now, should be considered in that context. Local Muslims are not involving in the attacks, which usually occurs during the communal riots. On the contrary, they are opposing it. In addition to this, according to the newspaper reports, the Hindus, being attacked by the rogues are taking shelters in the Muslim houses in surrounding areas.


Those who observe the attacks on the Hindus as communalism rather than observing it as related to the deterioration of the current law and order situation in the country, might be praiseworthy to the BJP leader of India Mr. Narendra Mody. But it will be a distorted form of explanation to the situation. It would not open any corridor of positive changes rather would dangerously derail the possibility of any such attempt to that. 

 (Jugantor, 10/11/2013)

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