A ‘false narrative of persecution’ woven around the Hindu minority in Bangladesh
By Samina Akhter*
In the wake of the recent eruption of communal violence in Bangladesh against Hindu minorities, countless arguments and criticisms have come to light. Something strange is happening – Bangladesh is portrayed by elements as a violent state that Hindus continually persecute and flee to India. Hindus are being tortured in Bangladesh.
Some have argued that Bangladesh has become a veritable case of ethnic cleansing – subtly but forcefully evicting Hindu minorities across the border. Some have even gone further, claiming that Bangladesh has failed to form a state where different religious and ethnic groups can coexist based on the principle of secularism, one of the four fundamental pillars of the 1971 liberation war. .
To prove these criticisms, most of them point to the continued decline of the Hindu minority population in Bangladesh – a case fired to demonstrate that Bangladesh is a prolific breeding ground for persecution against Hindus. But an objective discernment of these claims, particularly through full statistical evaluation, relative systemic efforts, and the larger political landscape, causes them, for the most part, to lose their foundation.
A country of communal harmony like Bangladesh is rare in the world. Although it is a predominantly Muslim country, for thousands of years other religions have lived together in a very peaceful and harmonious environment. In the 50 years of independence, there have been no communal riots like in any other South Asian country.
In Bangladesh, there have been no incidents of murder, oppression or torture of people of different religions. Doesn’t happen anymore. Even though there are some isolated incidents, the fuel and motivation of some anti-Bangladeshi is behind all this, only ordinary people can understand.
Those behind these incidents need to be investigated and legal action taken against them to this day. The reason is not difficult to understand. Domestic and foreign conspirators still remain elusive. However, the government must be vigilant and aware that those who hide behind the scenes.
Some acquired neighborhoods have become active and could try to destabilize the government by undermining communal harmony during the next national elections. It is true that the government of Bangladesh is trying to take all measures to maintain community harmony in Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has previously said the government will ensure strict action against those who disturb communal harmony in the country. “No community discord will be allowed here. The government is firm in ensuring the punishment of those who destroy community harmony by creating anarchy,” he said.
Khan said this while addressing Indian media staff in Dhaka in view of the recent attack on the Hindu community in Narail over a social media post. According to him, Bangladesh was trying to achieve sustainable development, but a quarter invested was trying to dismantle things.
He added, “Bangladesh today is the non-communal Bangladesh of Bangabandhu Sheik Mujib. We are a united nation. No community discord will be placed here and will never have the opportunity to take root here.
“The government will take tough action against all these evils,” the home minister said, saying the number of minority communities, including Hindus, was increasing in Bangladesh.
Apparent statistics and assumptions
According to BBS (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics) data, the percentage of Hindu community to the total population was 13.5% in 1974 during the first population census of Bangladesh, which at the last census in 2011 , stands at 8.5% and is rising again. to 10.7% in 2015.
Apparently, these statistical figures, in continuous decline in percentage, seem to give voice to the prevailing arguments concerning the decline of the Hindu population. But a simple percentage estimate tells only half the truth about the broader demographic landscape of the Hindu minority in Bangladesh.
If we take into account the increase in the total number, other than a mere percentage, over the years, as well as other factors that have contributed to the decline, this will significantly clarify the big picture and weaken the prevailing narratives about the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh.
In 2011, after the restoration of secularism in the Constitution of Bangladesh, the percentage of Hindus increased to 10.7%.
It is true that the growth in numbers is a bit slow among the Hindu population and could only reach 22 million by 2011 if it increased linearly in percentage terms as shown in 1974 (13.5%). But this is not because of systematic persecution against the minority, but rather, in large part, because of international economic migration, a relatively lower birth rate and a high death rate among the population. Hinduism, a higher rate of contraceptive use and a particular political reality in the history of Bangladesh.
The study found that the tendency towards late marriage and not having more than two children and the relatively higher use of contraceptives also contribute to the low birth rate among the Hindu population.
An even higher number of deaths, 4 more than that of Muslims in ten thousand, can also be attributed to the percentage decrease. Finally, the researchers concluded that 71% of the low growth rate can be attributed to low fertility rates and 23% to international emigration of Hindus.
In the report, they also observed that since 2006, more Hindus have opted for countries other than India for emigration. Only 36% of migrant Hindus in Matlab went to India between 2005 and 2012, but the bulk of them went to states other than India to live better – evidence contrary to the prevailing propaganda that more of Hindus left for India due to persecution.
Political upheaval and systemic accountability
To be true, the percentage of Hindu minority compared to that of Muslims has decreased over the last 50 years. But this estimate overlooked a subtle but solid point: a fundamental political upheaval and the constitution of Bangladesh from 1975 to 1991. Just consider the number, from 1974 to 1991, the percentage of Hindu minority in relation to the total population fell from 13.5 to 10.5 in 16 years.
But, after the end of anti-secularism fueled by military rule in 1991 and the installation of constitutional democracy, the percentage decline slowed down a bit – from 10.5 in 1991 to 8.5 in 2011 in 20 years. In 2011, after the 15th amendment to the constitution of Bangladesh, secularism was restored; which notably contributed to the increase in the percentage of Hindus in the total population to 10.7% in 2015.
Unlike its two border states, Myanmar and India, the former denying citizenship to the Rohingya Muslim minority since 1982 out of pathological hatred and the latter rendering Muslims stateless through anti-Muslim laws, Bangladesh has never, in particular since 1991, intended to promote any discriminatory policy. , whether in practice or by law. The commendable and swift action taken by the Government of Bangladesh against the threat of the recent Durga Puja incident is a glaring example of this.
Minority is such a phenomenon that every country must have, whether ethnic, linguistic or religious. But state-sanctioned discriminatory politics, inherent ethnic or religious tensions, or historical schism mobilized by political interests generally contribute to violence against minorities.
However, in Bangladesh, mostly politically cornered vested groups have played on minorities to stoke the crisis and tame the situation to their end. Moreover, the long-cherished pluralist sentiment in Bangladesh is, rather at times, threatened by the “ripple effect” of politics and politics in close neighbors, of course by fringe political groups.
* Women’s rights and human rights activist based in Dhaka