GBHC requests urgent preventive measures to ensure safety of religious minorities

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Hill Voice, 3 January 2024, International Desk: Global Bengali Hindu Coalition (GBHC) submits a memorandun to the President of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh requesting urgent preventive measures to maintain law and order and ensure the safety of religious minorities in Bangladesh during and after the election.

This memorandun was submitted on December 31, 2023 to the President of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh, Mohammed Shahabuddin, and copied to the Prime Minister SK Hasina and Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal. Signatories of the memorandun were Dileep Karmaker, Montreal, Arun Datta, (Toronto), Shebu Chowdhary (Toronto), Shimul Das (Conrnwall, Canada) Sitangshu Guha (New York), Tuhin Paul (Shopkane, Washington), Chita Paul (Stockholm), Arun Barua (Geneva), Aniruddha Dey (Delhi).

It was mentioned in the memorandun that they have serious concerns regarding the upcoming parliamentary election in Bangladesh, scheduled for January 07, 2023. Unfortunately, the country has been facing ongoing chaos and turmoil in its political arena.

They also want a violence-free, peaceful, impartial, and participatory election. Still, as you know, some politicians always give hate speeches openly against Hindus and people of other ethnic minority faiths. They are targeting Hindus and igniting communal politics as a tool to divide the community, destroy harmony, create chaos, unrest, or a panic-stricken situation so that religious minority people do not participate in the election poll. On the other hand, another group who thinks the minority votes as their vote bank also becomes furious if the minority voters do not participate.

With our experience, GBHC apprehended violent attacks on religious minorities, especially Hindus, during the forthcoming pre- and post-election period. Due to a lack of sufficient security and protection, in connivance with the local administration and law enforcement agencies, the Hindus are being harassed; their properties are being grabbed by force, and the women are being humiliated or molested by the goons and influential party cadres with flimsy grounds on certain pretexts, either for not participating in the polls or voting against them. Since the independence of Bangladesh, the Hindu population has approximately dwindled from 19% in 1971 to 8% in 2022.

In the wake of acute uncertainty, GBHC requested urgent preventive measures to maintain law and order and ensure the safety of religious minorities in Bangladesh during and after the election. GBHC proposed a few specific actions to prevent any unforeseen events, as outlined below:

1) A public statement should be issued to administration and law enforcement agencies, instructing them to have zero tolerance for communal violent attacks during or after the election.
2) Armed forces should be deployed in all Hindu-populated areas and at vote centers that are prone to violence.
3) All fundamentalist politicians who are inciting communal violence and preaching against secularism, regardless of their party affiliation, should be immediately arrested.
4) Vigilance should be arranged, and 24-hour temporary armed guards should be deployed at all temples, churches and pagodas in sensitive areas.
5) An ordinance or advance circular should be issued to all officers in public offices and law enforcement agencies deployed to conduct the forthcoming election duty, stating that any negligence or violation of the above instructions will result in disciplinary action as per the law.

The leaders of the GBHC, the people of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh living abroad, would like to write to the President as the guardian and a freedom fighter head of the State. They want to appeal to the President and the Chief Election Commissioner to take immediate and effective measures to promote religious harmony, ensure peaceful and violence-free elections, and maintain equal rights for all citizens.

GBHC urged the President to unite the excellent and progressive forces in the country to uphold the spirit of our martyrs who sacrificed their lives for our independence. GBHC believe that by working together, the countrymen can ensure that the government upholds the values of democracy and justice.