So, still, there are some people, belong to different political organisations or they might be fans of influential personalities, either religious or social, who do not think twice before swooping on the minorities physically or verbally when they hear of any sort of threat is made against them or coming towards ‘Islam’. As human beings, such reaction could come from the minorities’ side too as retaliation. But, in case of Bangladesh, it doesn’t happen.
Media reports say incidents of repression on the minorities – Hindus, indigenous people, and Dalits and Horijons – continue across the country, though not at an alarming level, but consistently.
And, these cases are mysteriously not handled by the government’s policymakers but through local representatives or law enforcers. With such low-priority the apparent minimisation of a further violent situation could be avoided only for a temporary period. But its recurrence revives.
The now-much-active media, meanwhile, tries to publish those incidents briefly, to avoid spread of unrests. It’s wise.
But what if the government, the present so-called secular one, would have taken stern action in one incident and thus establish an example in a bid to thwart many other crazy plans and perceptions of the fanatics against minorities in Bangladesh or any part of the world.
We did not see any strong stance of the government high-ups regarding the atrocities in Hat-hazari in February triggered by so-called ill-intentions of some cunning people and it later resulted in a severe vandalism in 15 temples, 15 houses and 12 shops; looting; and arson. It looked like a communal riot, though was one-sided, in a specific area and only for two days.
Speculations say religious leaders and Jamaat supporters were behind the unfortunate incident, while the police or the supporters of the ruling party were not found to be coming to tame the issue in the beginning. And, thus it spread and the adverse results increased.
Even though the government high-ups mysteriously refrained from speaking in public against the communal people, the High Court after holding several hearings on the issue, in its own motion, on March 1 ordered the government to compensate the Hindus affected and repair the temples. The court also expressed its concern over the role of Hat-hazari police.
And two months later, on March 31 and April 1, a similar violent incident tookn place – upon propaganda – in Satkhira’s Kaliganj area. Here, frustratingly we’ve experienced the same crisis – inaction of the local cops and the activities of members of the ruling party, who are ironically, at different parts of the country have been accused of grabbing the lands of minority people.
Until now, it’s been proved that there was nothing derogatory in the script of the drama that was staged on March 27 at Fatehpur High School ground to mark the Independence Day. The local Muslims were instigated by one Mizanur Rahman, a journalist of a local newspaper, who through a report on the event in Daily Drishtipat’s March 29 issue spread the false allegation of demeaning Prophet Muhammad in the drama.
After Juma prayers the next day, ‘blind Muslim devotees’ brought out a procession, staged a sit-in demonstration in front of the UNO office and blocked the Kaliganj road for an hour in protest against staging such a derogatory drama.
Following this, police the same day arrested the headmaster and an assistant teacher of the school and filed a case against them for arranging the drama.
The next day, at least five houses of the minority Hindus were torched and over 25 houses were looted. The next day, the agitators looted and set fire in seven houses of the Hindus in Chakdah village, some 10 kilometres from Fatehpur.
On April 2, the district police super and Kaliganj OC were stand released for their failure to contain the incident.
Minority leaders the next day visited the areas and found that there was nothing derogatory on the script. They blasted the local newspaper and questioned the administration’s reluctance.
Until the April 4 protest of some 500 Dhaka University students by putting barricade on Shahbagh intersection in the capital to let the world know what happened in Satkhira, no cases were filed against the perpetrators.
Several newspapers and television channels that day highlighted the protest programme as ‘troublemaking’ for the mega-city dwellers, most of who are of working class, for the massive traffic jam it triggered.
Despite such negative labelling, many other media houses, however, went on to carry the statements of the protestors who wanted proper investigation and exemplary punishment of the perpetrators.
Because of the reservation of media in publishing sensitive news items, an unofficial taboo, until the protest many people elsewhere in the country did not know that something like this happened in Satkhira.
I praise the media’s role as publishing of sensitive stories may spark agitation, but the other side of being silent is much destructive.
The administration was quite relieved because of no pressure from the media, and therefore, was approaching slowly. But they couldn’t move slow any further because of the Shahbagh protest. People from different strata including the groups working with minorities, human rights organisations and a minister from the minority Hindus reacted sharply.
Several initiatives followed April 4 protest. Though the home minister did not appear in Shahbagh as demanded by the protestors to assure them of justice, the same night, three cases were filed against 94 named and another 2,200 people, two of which were lodged by the police.
The next day, the railway minister – the only senior member of the government and the ruling party to say anything on the incident – at a programme in Dhakeswari Temple suggested that the home minister or her deputy visit Satkhira, and inform the parliament on the matter following investigation. He termed the violent attack on the minorities shocking and also echoed the protesting students’ demands.
The home minister or deputy, however, did not respond to the call in public, and did not visit the area. The railway minister a week later had to face a corruption scandal.
The Satkhira district magistrate on April 11 cancelled the declaration of the decade-old local newspaper. The administrative order said the dialogues of the drama “Hujur Kebla” based on a story by Abul Mansur Ahmed had been scrutinised, but no derogatory remarks about any religion were made there.
The culprit journalist was arrested the day next.
But what irks the minorities in Bangladesh is that in such cases, there’s always a slow-pace in the local administration’s approach in taking action and also in the government high-ups at the first sight.
May be it happens due to the complications which are created out of the blend of politics and religion; precisely, in fear of losing the ground of claiming that Bangladesh is a non-communal country!
What significant have the governments so far done to stop recurrence of such problem and continue claiming they are secular? Is it impossible that such incidents may take place in a country where Muslims are prominent as Islam is the state religion, and there are many small minority groups?
Media reports suggest that small incidents of religious confrontation take place regularly in the country, mainly in the rural areas. With the course of time, the proportion of Hindus has come down, due to many reasons, mainly those social. Then, where is the positive and rational approach of the so-called secular government, despite being a Muslim-majority, in trying to protect the people of all religion from aggression of the majority?
The High Court yesterday directed the government to form a three-member judicial probe committee to investigate into the recent incidents of repression on minority communities in Satkhira.
It also directed the committee, to be headed by a joint secretary of the law ministry, to submit a report on the investigation to it within May 17.
The incidents were brought to the court’s attention on April 15 when Bangladesh Minority Watch President Rabindra Ghosh brought forth some newspapers reports.
The HC bench comprising Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Jahangir Hossain Selim fixed May 17 for further hearing on the matter and directed the duo to appear before it that day.
Habibur Rahman, superintendent of police of Satkhira, and Syed Fariduddin, officer-in-charge of Kaliganj Police Station, who were closed following the incident appeared yesterday as per the court’s summons on April 15, the day which the court also issued a suo moto rule asking them why they should not be suspended for their failure to stop the attack and save the properties.
Yesterday the court also directed the committee to investigate the duo’s role in the incident and see whether Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) was disrespected in the drama.
Senior lawyer Yusuf Hossain Humayun appeared on behalf of the duo while Additional Attorney General MK Rahman moved for the state.