Anindya Banerjee: Move over the intimidation and harassment of Hindus in Pakistan. The minority community is in no better condition in Bangladesh either. In the latest case reported from Bangladesh’s Jamalpur Sadar, a woman from the minority Hindu community was tied up to a tree.
She claimed it was done to take possession of her land. She also claimed that another woman, who was reportedly her granddaughter was allegedly assaulted.
Though Bangladesh authorities tried to gag the media from publishing this report, it made its way to social media and went viral.
Latest case of persecution
Sumon Debnath, a school teacher of the Khamarpara village of Kendua Kalibari in Jamalpur Sadar complained that an influential person Sultan Mahmud Fakir was eyeing her land. Fakir is the son of another influential person Mokeshad Ali. Suman Debnath alleged that on April 18 more than 16 decimals of her land was occupied with the force.
Sultan Mahmud Fakir, the accused made a betel leaf temporary enclosure overnight on the land he forcefully grabbed. The shocking part is this didn’t stop here. Suman Debnath’s 58-year-old mother Protiva Devnath was tied up to a tree for protesting the incident, said an eyewitness. Meanwhile, Subarna Debnath who is the granddaughter of Protiva Debnath and also a school teacher was assaulted too.
Later, locals rescued them. Tortured Protiva Debnath said, “Sultan Fakir tied me up to a tree and built a house on my 16 decimal of the land. In front of my eyes, my granddaughter Subarna was beaten, assaulted.”
The visibly traumatised and shaken Debnath went on, “I want justice. I want Sultan Fakir who assaulted, beaten and tied us up to grab our land to face justice”.
Though a customary police complaint was filed against the accused at Narayanpur police station, no definitive action was taken. Cops arrested an accused by the name of Nazrul Islam on April 19 but was freed on bail on Sunday.
The accused who were released on bail were not only threatening the family from the minority Hindus but they are soon losing hope of getting back their land.
After the matter created a buzz on social media in Bangladesh, cops were forced to act upon it. But the Sultan Mahmud Fakir outrightly denied all allegation, in spite of many eyewitnesses, who the victims allege, were never testified by the police. The accused maintain they purchased the land, but predictably couldn’t provide legal documents to support the claim.
Religious persecution rampant in Bangladesh
This is not a one-off case from Bangladesh but part of a larger design of intimidating, assaulting minorities, primarily Hindus in the country. The country in spite of having a relatively secular image has seen large-scale destruction of temples, an unofficial ban on exercising Hindu rituals and even forced conversions.
While holding a press conference last December, the secretary general of Bangladesh National Hindu Mahajote Gobinda Chandra Pramanik said, there have been 1,792 incidents of persecution against people of religious minorities in Bangladesh in just 11 months.
Till last December, 2734.81 acres were grabbed by local musclemen as a tool of majoritarian intimidation. Sumon Debnath’s land grab and assault of women of the family would just add to that statistics.
At least 8,000 incidents of violence are yet to put on trial and 20,000 to be marked criminals. These criminals are out roaming free, unafraid of a legal system that itself seems to be sympathetic to the accused. Every week some temple is desecrated, or someone’s land is forcibly grabbed and or someone is hacked to death when one tried to raise a voice.
Last month when 13-year-old Raveena and 15-year-old Reena were kidnapped by a group of influential men from their home in Ghotki district in Pakistan’s Sindh province on the eve of Holi to forcibly convert them, it drew worldwide condemnation. But the minorities of Bangladesh languish in anonymity, just to brave another day of religious persecution, not knowing in what form it will come.