As the general election scheduled for January is approaching, the minority communities in Bangladesh anticipate a rise in violence directed towards them.
The leaders and representatives of the minority communities have raised their concerns over the election campaigns of the political parties. They highlighted that religious minorities frequently face attacks, especially in the pre-election time. They expressed their concerns during a press conference at the National Press Club in the capital yesterday.
They said the Hindus were also the target of attacks during the earlier elections in Bangladesh.
In this context, the leaders have apprehended the fundamentalist groups who are trying to chase Hindus and take advantage of civil disturbances to pursue this agenda.
The main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and an allied Islamist political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, have declared to boycott the upcoming polls in protest of parliamentary elections being run by the ruling party Awami League rather than a neutral caretaker government, they said.
Rana Dasgupta, secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC), said upcoming national polls mean violence to the Hindu minorities now as the miscreants attacked this particular community before and after the county's general elections since 1970 until today.
“The vested quarters are trying to create an unstable situation by attacking the Hindu minorities in election time,” he said.
"We have already met the election commission (EC) and expressed our appreciation of attacking minority people by the vested quarters before and after the country's general polls," he informed.
"We already urged the EC to take steps to deploy required forces including BGB and RAB to the minority-prone areas before election and in the next 15 days of polls to avoid any unexpected situation by the miscreants during election time," he added.
At the same time, the religious leader asked the minority people to set up own-gourds at the minority-prone areas as the miscreants cannot attack them before and after the election.
Talking to The South Asian Time, Rana Dasgupta said, “We are concerned and alarmed. Because we have noticed that before the elections, a particular sectarian group has been targeting religious and ethnic minorities.”
“Minority groups, including the BHBCUC, met the election commissioner to ensure that there is no unfair persecution of minorities during, before and after the elections,” he said.
Fearing large-scale violence against the minority community again, Rana Dasgupta said, “Just because it has happened in the past, it cannot be said that it will not be repeated in the future".
“There is a rise of attacks on minorities, hate speech based on religion, sexual harassment of Hindu women to disrupt peace and stability ahead of the national elections to challenge the secular fabric of the country,” he said and added “It’s been a trend in Bangladesh since 2001.”
"We have conducted many programmes for seven-point demands. But no initiative of the government has been observed,” he added.
Following the concern of the leaders, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told The South Asian Times that there is no sign of commuting incidents to the minority communities of the country.
“No incident took place during the celebration of Durga puja, chiasmas day and Buddha Purnima. So, I believe that no occurrence will take place following the country’s national polls,” he said.
He informed that he already asked the law enforcement and the intelligence agencies to take necessary steps as no one can attack the minority people at polls times.
Earlier, the Bangladeshi minorities submitted a 7-point demand before PM Hasina seeking rights, security.
The seven-point demands are: Enactment of Minority Protection Act; Formation of National Minority Commission; Enactment of Elimination of Discrimination Act; Enactment of Interstate Property Conservation Act; Return of Vested Property Act; Proper implementation of Hill Peace Treaty and Hill Land Commission Act and Formation of separate Land Commission for Plains Adivasis.
The 2018 election manifesto of the ruling Awami League had these seven-point demands. But the minorities of the country allege that the poll promises have not been fulfilled.
According to the rights group Ain o Salish Kendra, Bangladesh’s Hindu community suffered nearly 3,700 attacks between January 2013 and September 2021 alone.