Hindus in Bangladesh endure ongoing misery throughout the year. However, as seen over the last couple of years, these incidents rise as the Hindu holiday season approaches. As the Durga pujas draw near, extreme Islamic mobs have begun to gain momentum in their persecution of innocent and vulnerable minorities.
Given that Bangladesh’s population is declining year after year, the Hindu community is at risk as a result of the country’s rapid Islamization. Many Hindus have left India due to religious violence, and those who have remained see themselves as second-class citizens. The first nation in South Asia to declare itself a secular state with Islam as its official religion was Bangladesh. The 2019 Report on “International Religious Freedom: Bangladesh” states in Section II, Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom, “The State shall ensure equal status and equal rights in the practise of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and other religions,” despite the fact that Islam is the Republic’s official state religion.
In Bangladesh, the number of Hindus has decreased by 7.5 million over the past 50 years, according to statistics. The population decreased from 22% in 1951 to 8.5% in 2011, according to Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Adivasi Oikoyo Parishad (translated from Bangla).
According to Dr. Abul Barkat’s work, “An Inquiry into Causes and Consequences of Deprivation of Hindu Minorities in Bangladesh through the Vested Property Act,” the concentration of Hindus was only really substantial in a few regions. Jamalpur (6.3%), Kushtia (9.2%), Chandpur (12.6%), Narayanganj (12.8%), Kishoreganj (13.3%), and Pabna (13.6%) had the highest concentration of Hindus in 1961. Khulna (35.3%), Dinajpur (29.7%), Faridpur (27.3%), Sunamganj (25.1%), Jhenaidah (21%), and Barisal (20.9%) had the highest concentration of Hindus The significant Hindu population, however, was found to have decreased in 1991 in Jamalpur (2%), Kushtia (4.2%), Chandpur (7.2%), Narayanganj (6.4%), Kishoreganj (6.8%), and Pabna (4.5%), as well as Khulna (25.7%), Dinajpur (20.6%), Faridpur (11.9%), Sunamganj (16%), Jhenaidah (11.7%), and Barisal (13.1%
Large-scale mob violence, outward migration, and low fertility among Hindus are the main contributors to the low population. The proportion of Hindus in the national population has decreased as a result of their slower rate of population growth than that of other religions, according to the journal article “Hindu Population Growth in Bangladesh: A Demographic Puzzle.” In comparison to Muslims, Hindus have lower fertility, higher mortality, and higher rates of international emigration.
According to Tapas Das, a researcher on Bangladesh politics, when describing the historical context of Islamization in Bangladesh, “When Bangladesh won independence in 1971, there were two groups: liberation advocates and anti-liberation supporters (who supported Pakistan).
Many anti-liberation sympathisers had their citizenship cancelled by Bangladesh; many then fled to Pakistan. But after 1977, they gradually went back to Bangladesh and started working in the government. Following that, they established the political party Jamaat-e Islami (deregistered from the election commission). ”
In addition, a number of Islamist soldiers who had fought in the Afghan War on the 1970s aspired to impose Islamic authority in Bangladesh when they returned from their service in the 1990s. When civil society began to emerge after 1992 under the leadership of Shaheed Janani or Jahanara Imam, who established the Ekattorer Ghatak-Dalal Nirmul Committee, extremism rose concurrently.
All the small adjustments led to numerous conflicts, including a terrorist attack in the Holey Artisan cafe in Dhaka in 2016. No government has since been able to lessen the frequency of communal crimes. As a result, crimes against Hindus are still being committed, despite the fact that atrocities committed under the Awami League’s reign were significantly worse than those committed under the BNP’s islamist government.
The Vested Property Act, which permits the government to seize property from Hindus who have fled to other countries, has a significant political impact because Hindus have no choice but to vote for the Awami League or have their lands taken by local leaders, according to Das. “Other communities are automatically considered second-class citizens when a country defines Islam as its state religion,” Das said.