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BANGLADESH: Hare Krishna (ISKCON) in Bangladesh: why violence continues

Hare Krishna (ISKCON) in Bangladesh: why violence continues

Attacks against temples and murders of devotees are not the products of local mobs only. Some political forces believe they can benefit from them.

By Massimo Introvigne

 

Bitter Winter (30.03.2022) – https://bit.ly/3LRPMwOBitter Winter has already denounced the violence, which has included assaults on temples and murder, against the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishna Movement, in Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, the incidents continue. Police is currently investigating the March 17 assault of a mob of some 200 Islamic radicals against the Wari Radhakanta ISKCON temple located in Lalmohan Saha Street in Dhaka. They destroyed the southern wall of the temple, smashed statues, vandalized the premises, and looted money. A devotee was kidnapped and beaten, although he was later released. ISKCON claims that it called the police during the attack, but failed to obtain any support.

After the attack, the devotees submitted a detailed report to the police, identifying the mob leaders. The police promised to investigate, but whether effective action will be taken remains to be seen.

 

But why are the Hare Krishna devotees targeted in Bangladesh? After the Bangladesh genocide and India’s help to establish Bangladesh as an independent state, the fact that Hindus had greatly suffered during the genocide was acknowledged. In 1972, independent Bangladesh vowed to build a state where the Muslim majority and the Hindu minority, then evaluated at around 13% of the population, would peacefully coexist. Despite decisions by courts of law the Hindus perceived as discriminatory, they trusted that the father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, called Mujib in the country, would keep the promises made to them.

However, Mujib was assassinated during a military coup in 1975. His successors as Presidents gradually moved from secularism to a system where Islam was recognized as the state religion. This system was opposed for obvious reasons by the Hindu minority, which was in turn targeted by the violence of Islamic extremists. The hotly contested 2001 elections brought to power a coalition that included Muslim fundamentalist parties. Hindus, who had overwhelmingly supported the coalition that lost the elections, were targeted by a campaign of violence. Hundreds of Hindu women were raped, shops owned by Hindus were looted, and dozens of Hindus were killed. Many escaped to India, reducing the Hindu population from 13% to 9%.

In 2009, Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Mujib, became Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, a position she still holds today. She promised to act decisively against those who had murdered and raped Hindus. Some of them were arrested, convicted, and executed. The main Islamic fundamentalist party, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, was banned in 2013. Hasina cultivated a warm relation with India, and reopened the files of the crimes committed during the genocide, for which leaders of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami who had been collaborators of Pakistan in 1971 were executed in 2016.

During the COVID epidemic, however, Hasina also tried to improve the traditionally frosty relations with Pakistan, discussing with Pakistani authorities anti-COVID measures and other issues. Positions with Pakistan remain, however, distant on many issues.

ISKCON represents a brand of Hinduism whose devotees have reiterated, in face of violence and even murder, that they do not want to leave. They want to stay in Bangladesh and promote their message there. Without doubt, there are political forces that believe that fomenting sectarian hatred between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh would weaken the Hasina government, poison its relationship with India, and perhaps bring it closer to Pakistan or set in motion events that would lead to a different government. Attacks against ISKCON are not the product of local mobs only, and the inaction of the police shows there are forces in Bangladesh believing they can profit from them.

Photo: Protests in the U.S. after the Wari Radhakanta ISKCON temple attack. From Twitter.

*******************************************************

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

Further reading about FORB in Bangladesh on HRWF website





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BANGLADESH : Genocide in Bangladesh, the politics of disinformation

Genocide in Bangladesh, the politics of disinformation

By Paulo Casaca (*)

 

SADF (25.03.2022) – https://bit.ly/36OmpMY – For the whole eleven years during which I have been actively engaged in South Asia, nothing touched me more than the Bangladeshi people’s struggle for memory, justice, and accountability regarding the Genocide perpetrated against Bangladesh by the Pakistani military authorities. This genocide, organised in tandem with Islamic fanatic organisations from both West and East Pakistan, was meant to destroy the Bengali identity by murdering elites, destroying religious diversity, and raping women.

 

From the successive events and writings throughout both Europe and Bangladesh, my most vivid memories are those written in the wake of the visit to the Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital – where countless victims of the Islamist terror actions were being dealt with. At face-value, the issue was related to the supposedly faulty conditions of the coming elections; however, as ‘Zead-Al-Malum – public prosecutor of the ICT – explained in a public conference on the 7th [December, 2013], ‘protests would vanish if the Government was to accept demands to dissolve the Tribunal’ [International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh (ICT)] (Casaca, 2013a). All the protests regarding the lack of those elections’ democratic credentials were nothing but a smoke screen used to hide the fundamental goal by Islamists to obtain impunity for the genocide’s culprits.

 

None of these facts were ever available in the Western press, and I would have certainly not understood what was going on had I not been in Dhaka myself, speaking to doctors, magistrates, academics, or simple citizens. Quite the contrary, a meticulously built, fictious reality wherein this genocide’s master minders were presented as ‘opposition leaders’, ‘businessmen’ or ‘religious entities’ – mercilessly persecuted by an authoritarian government – was shamelessly hammered throughout the western press (and most in particular by some NGO such as ‘Human Rights Watch’; Casaca, 2013bCasaca, 2018).

 

Realising to what extent reality was turned upside down, how the very same organisations supposed to ‘watch’ for the respect of ‘human rights’ were actually working for providing impunity to genocide perpetrators, was extremely shocking. In fact, I would not have been able to cope with it had I not witnessed before, in Iraq, a similar action from this very same ‘Genocide Cleansing Incorporated’ organisation – aiming at purging responsibilities from the Iranian Islamist authorities regarding the genocide committed in 1988 against their own opposition. The same modus operandi was followed in both cases: blaming victims of genocide for human-rights violations. (Brie et al., 2005).

 

In SADF’s latest contribution dedicated to the Bangladeshi genocide (Uddin, 2022), Professor Uddin quoted ‘The Ten Stages of Genocide’ as described by Gregory Stanton in 1996 (classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, extermination, and denial).

 

The last twenty-five years taught us that we must add a completely new stage to that process: reversal. For the denial stage has been transformed into a more complex category of disinformation.

 

Disinformation is not so much about lying (or at the very least, simply, outright lying). It is rather about creating doubts; magnifying distorted, secondary points and denying on this basis a whole narrative; distorting a context and – perhaps the most modern technique – disinforming in the name of ‘the fight against disinformation’ (SADF, 2021).

 

This last disinformation strategy is itself a reversal: one that is also used on narratives relating to genocides. As I predicted at the time: ‘No degree of appeasement short of complete surrender to a talibanised Bangladesh would do the trick’ (Casaca, 2013a). This prediction became more worryingly closer to reality after the re-talibanisation of Afghanistan (Casaca, 2021b).

 

Six months after the Taliban take-over of Kabul – in the now famous words of the Pakistani Prime Minister on the occasion, the date where Afghans had broken the ‘shackles of slavery’ (SADF, 2022) – we witness inaction by the international community regarding the role of Pakistan in this major crime (against human-rights in general and women rights in particular). The timely ‘Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act of 2021introduced by a group of US representatives was ignored and indeed reversed by the Biden Administration.

 

In fact, in complete contrast with this inaction, we did see the Biden Administration distinguishing Pakistan as a democracy and Bangladesh as a non-democracy, coupling this stamp with a set of sanctions (US Department of Treasury, 2021).

 

Human-rights violations cannot be accepted anywhere in the world, and of course no exception is to be made ever. Notwithstanding, the real issue is whether whatever excesses allegedly committed by Bangladesh’s security forces can ever be compared with the human-rights catastrophe of the re-talibanisation of Afghanistan.

 

Can this condoning of the re-talibanisation of Afghanistan, the whitewashing of Pakistan’s responsibilities on this disaster, and the simultaneous diplomatic war on Bangladesh be interpreted in any other way than as condoning the Islamic, fanatic attack on the largest secular Muslim country in the World?

 

Can we forget that this is simultaneous with the praising of the radical faction of Wahabism (the Qatar Emirate) and the war on the first Saudi leader with the courage to dissociate his country from Wahabism?

 

Can we downplay the Biden Administration’s siding with the Iranian aggression against the Arab World by aiming at a nuclear deal while whitewashing Iran’s terror outfits such as Ansar Allah?

 

Can we forgive this administration for, instead of apologising for its past cooperation with the Genocide perpetrators – so courageously exposed by US diplomats like Archer Blood – siding once more with these very same genocide perpetrators, in a strategy that aims at the talibanisation of Bangladesh?

 

No, we cannot. Both because of the respect we owe to the victims of the Bangladesh’s genocide and for the sake of freedom, democracy, and human rights everywhere in the world – starting with the United States itself.

 

In these circumstances, nothing would serve less the interests of the real human rights defenders than turning a blind eye on the horrendous crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Russian invading forces in Ukraine in the name of whatever simplistic, dichromatic geopolitics. The heroic resistance headed by President Zelensky is achieved despite the Western appeasers, not on behalf of an imagined NATO threat to Russia.

 

The Ukrainians heroically resisting the imperial onslaught on their country, the Mozambicans resisting the Jihad developed in their country to knock-down the country’s gas potential competition (Casaca, 2021a), and the Bangladeshis fighting for their identity, honour and life all deserve the very same respect.

 

As these lines are being written shortly before the 25 March celebration of the Bangladesh Genocide Memorial Day (Foreign Service Academy Bangladesh, 2022), human rights defenders should be hopeful for some apologies by those engaged in genocide information reversal.

 

Reading the Human Rights Watch’s website on the occasion of the Genocide Memorial Day of 2021 (Human Rights Watch, 2021) gives us little hope this will happen. Instead of any apologies or change in attitude, we can see the continuation of the same policy of reversing the role of victims and aggressors.

 

Using as pretext the drama of fire victims in a Rohingya refugee camp in Kutupalong, the text – dated exactly from the 25th of March, 2021, whereas the fire happened days before – is mis-constructed to erase the fact that Bangladesh offered refuge to over one million victims of genocide. In fact, Bangladesh was forced to set barriers in the camp because of actions by Islamic extremists. Human Rights Watch’s text had the effect, once more, of reversing the role of genocide perpetrators and genocide victims, in the case of the Rohingya, also blaming Bangladesh, the only country that assisted the victims of this modern genocide.

 

And, therefore, it is so important, on the 25th of March 2022, for all genuine human rights defenders, to get together with Bangladeshis and together with them say: remember the genocide and demand responsibilities from perpetrators!

 

(*) Paulo Casaca is the Founder and Executive Director of the ‘South Asia Democratic Forum’; founder of the international co-operation association registered in Brussels ARCHumankind, ‘Alliance to Renew Co-operation among Humankind’. Founder and senior partner of the consultancy company on sustainable development registered in Brussels, Lessmeansmore, Land and Energy Sustainable Systems (2010-2020).

  

References

References

Casaca, P. (2021-b, December 8). Comment 223 – On the UN Genocide Remembrance Day. South Asia Democratic Forum.

DOI: 10.48251/SADF.ISSN.2406-5617.C223 

South Asia Democratic Forum. (2021, March 9). POLICY BRIEF 11 – Disinformation in the name of the ‘fight against disinformation’

DOI: 10.48251/SADF.ISSN.2406-5625.PB.11

Uddin, A. (2021, December 16). Comment 224 – Recognition and trial of the 1971 genocide against Bengalis. South Asia Democratic Forum.

DOI: 10.48251/SADF.ISSN.2406-5617.C224

 

Photo credits: Nations Online Project





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BANGLADESH: Hindus denounce violence amid attacks in Bangladesh

Hindus denounce violence amid attacks in Bangladesh

By Julhas ALAM

AP News (18.10.2021) – https://bit.ly/3AUvgGa – Protests continued Monday in Bangladesh’s capital to denounce a wave of violence against Hindus following an image posted on social media that was perceived as insulting to the country’s Muslim majority.

New attacks took place Sunday night in a northern village, where unidentified people burned up to 26 homes of Hindus despite a warning by the government that such attacks would be firmly punished.

The violence has prompted the United Nations to urge the government to take actions to stop it.

On Monday, the followers of the Hindu group International Society for Krishna Consciousness were joined by students and teachers from Dhaka University in blocking a major intersection in Dhaka to demand justice. Several other Hindu groups also joined the peaceful protest at the Shahbagh intersection.

Attacks on Hindu temples have intensified since last Wednesday after a photo was posted on social media showing a copy of Islam’s holy book, the Quran, at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple in the eastern district of Cumilla.

Local media reported that six Hindus were killed in separate attacks, but the figures could not confirmed independently. Local media downplayed their coverage of the violence, apparently under pressure from the government to control any new attacks as Hindus celebrated their largest religious festival, Durga Puja, that ended Friday.

Muslims also held street protests after the images came out on social media, especially Facebook.

Mia Seppo, the U.N.’s resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said in a Twitter post on Monday that the attacks on Hindus are against the values of the Bangladesh constitution and need to stop.

“We call upon Government to ensure protection of minorities and an impartial probe,” Seppo said. “We call upon all to join hands to strengthen inclusive tolerant.”

Asif Hasan, chief government administrator of northern Rangpur district, said Monday that attackers torched the homes of Hindus in a fishing village on Sunday night. They also stole cash, cattle and other valuables during the attack, he said. Hasan said 42 people were arrested.

On Monday, the Ministry of Home Affairs transferred seven police officials from troubled areas for failing to control the violence.

About 9% of Bangladesh’s 160 million people are Hindu. Bangladesh follows a largely secular legal system based on British common law.

Photo : Hundreds of Hindus protesting against attacks on temples and the killing of two Hindu devotees in another district shout slogans in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, Oct.18, 2021. A viral social media image perceived as insulting to the country’s Muslim majority last week triggered protests and incidents of vandalism at Hindu temples across Bangladesh. About 9% of Bangladesh’s 160 million are Hindus. (AP Photo/Mahmud Hossain Opu)

Further reading about FORB in Bangladesh on HRWF website





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BANGLADESH: Bangladesh church attacked twice by Buddhist radicals after weeks of threats

Bangladesh church attacked twice by Buddhist radicals after weeks of threats: report

By Emily Wood

 

The Christian Post (02.08.2021) – https://bit.ly/3lBhPXQ – A small Christian church in southeastern Bangladesh was attacked and destroyed twice amid weeks of threats from radical Buddhists against Christians who refused to re-convert to Buddhism. Many believers in the community are reportedly displaced from their homes.

 

Local reports say two attacks on the church in the village of Suandrapara in the hilly district of Rangamati came after weeks of threats.

 

Buddhist radicals reportedly told the Christians they would destroy the church if the church members did not tear it down themselves. The converted believers, however, refused to renounce their faith in Jesus.

 

“The radicals told us to destroy the church, but we will not,” Tubel Chakma Poran Adetion, the church’s assistant pastor, told Asia News, the official press agency of the Roman Catholic Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

 

“If we have to sacrifice our lives, we will. They threatened us to return to our old religion, but we will not return. Jesus Christ is our savior. We will die for him.”

 

The pastor told the news outlet that believers at the church were previously Buddhists who “met Jesus Christ” in 2005.

 

The Christian residents of Suandrapara built the small brick-and-tin church in January through funding provided by the Bangladesh Bawm Tribal Baptist Church.

 

The pastor said they gathered and prayed daily despite threats and opposition from the Buddhist majority. The Christians were given a seven-day deadline to stop all church activities and re-convert to Buddhism.

 

The believers refused to comply.

 

Buddhist radicals led by Joan Chakma, the leader of the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), a local political group, are accused of attacking the church on July 15. In doing so, the perpetrators broke the church gate, the cross and other parts of the church, Asia News reported.

 

The Buddhist radicals attacked the church again on July 22, damaging a wall, the door and the tin roof.

 

The attackers threatened more consequences if the Christians reported the indecent to the media or the police.

 

Adetion said the church did not report the destruction to the police station for security reasons and the Christians’ desire to live in peace.

 

“We are a minority and Buddhists can do anything to us. We want peace by talking to them,” he told Asia News.

 

Rev. Leor P. Sarker, general secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Fellowship (BBCF), a Protestant church organization in Bangladesh, explained to the press agency how church leaders are worried for the church in Ranfamati.

 

“We are concerned about our members,” Sarker was quoted as saying. “There are about 50 of them. They live in fear. Most of them are staying away from their homes to protect their life after the attack.

 

“We are praying for the attackers, that they may change their way of thinking and let our people live there in peace,” he continued.

 

Persecuted church watchdog organization Open Doors USA ranks Bangladesh at No. 31 on its 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the greatest persecution.

In Bangladesh, many believers must gather to worship in secret house churches for fear of attack.

 

Christians primarily face persecution from Islamic extremism, as the majority of the country is Muslim. However, Open Doors warns that Bangladeshi Christians also face persecution from the Buddhist minority.

 

Christians also faced discrimination from the government during the pandemic when many Christians suffered starvation or severe health issues after being left out of government relief, Open Doors reported.

 

Bangladesh’s population is nearly 170 million, and less than 1% identifies as Christian.

Bangladesh also has the eighth-largest population in the world and is one of the most densely populated countries.

 

Bangladesh is also home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The country struggles to care for them despite help from the international community.

 

Photo : People leave service at a Christian church on March 20, 2016, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. | Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Further reading about FORB in Bangladesh on HRWF website





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BANGLADESH: Hindus, Buddhists and Christians ‘No to Islam as state religion’

Every year the anniversary of the constitutional amendment recognising Islam as state religion is marked as a ‘black day’. “If this state of affairs continues, Islamic extremism and communalism will end up creating serious problems”, says the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council.

By Sumon Corraya

 

Asia News (10.06.2021) – https://bit.ly/2TTZB7T – In Bangladesh, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian religious leaders yesterday marked “Black Day” together. On 9 June 1988, Islam became state religion following the adoption of the eighth amendment to the constitution.

 

The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC) has promoted the initiative on June 9 each year. This year, in a virtual meeting due to the pandemic, representatives of the largest organisation defending the rights of religious minorities renewed its call for the amendment to be scrapped.

 

“With the amendment, the seed of sectarian politics were planted,” said BHBCUC president Nirmol Rozario, a Catholic, speaking to AsiaNews. “In a country where Hindus, Buddhists and Christians also live, a single religion cannot be the state religion. We object to it.”

 

Constitutionally, “Bangladesh is a secular country, but its state religion is Islam. This is a clear contradiction,” Rozario explained. “If this state of affairs continues, Islamic extremism and communalism will end up creating serious problems.”

 

At the meeting, Sultana Kamal, a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate, noted that secularism was asserted at the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 in a bloody war. Hence, she wonders why the current prime minister* agrees with such discrimination. “Usually,” she noted, “constitutions are changed to improve them, but in our country in 1988 it was done to favour only one religious group.”

 

In light of the present situation, BHBCUC general secretary Rana Dasgupta called for the establishment of a security commission for minority communities. “Religious minorities are often persecuted by the majority group. For our security, we strongly demand a minority ministry and a commission for religious communities.”

 

* The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, is the daughter of the Father of the Nation Mujibur Rahman.

Photo : AsiaNews.it

Further reading about FORB in Bangladesh on HRWF website


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