Sultan M Hali
BANGLADESH became a surrogate state of India ever since Sheikh Hasina Wajid became Prime Minister in her second stint but Hindu extremism is targeting Islamic sentiments and fomenting trouble. Bengalis may be led astray by demagogues of the ilk of Sheikh Hasina, who thrives on feeding venom against Pakistan to hide her own government’s ineptness and at the behest of India, but when there is the matter of targeting Islam, the people of Bangladesh are in the forefront for defending their faith. India has nurtured Bangladesh from its very inception, creating hatred against West Pakistan in erstwhile East Pakistan; using sedition to create insurgency and finally severing ties with the federation of Pakistan.
It is ironic that Bengalis were in the forefront of the Pakistan Movement. Nationalist leaders like Nawab Sir Salimullah, AK Fazlul Haq, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, fought tooth and nail for creation of Pakistan. It is true that myopic policies of some West Pakistani leaders alienated Bengalis but disgruntled elements could have been satisfied and ultimate breakup could have been averted. India on other hand, exploited the sentiments of dissatisfied Bengalis and through sedition, created rabble rousing elements like Mukti Bahini, which was infiltrated by Indian Spy agency RAW’s elements. The RAW agents, under a carefully orchestrated but sinister plot, initially massacred and raped some Bengalis but laid the blame on Pakistan Army deployed in its Eastern Wing. When tempers flared to a height, Bengalis were incited to turn upon the Pakistan Army as well as non Bengali residents of East Pakistan. In retaliation, Pakistan Army too killed elements of the Mukti Bahini and insurgents. Now India and its proxy leadership of Awami League distort history and present exaggerated figures of genocide committed by Pakistan Army in East Pakistan. For evidence, they present the mass graves of the non Bengalis slaughtered by their own henchmen as Bengalis exterminated by Security and Law Enforcing Agencies of Pakistan.
The truth has been exposed by erudite Bengali scholars like Sarmila Bose in her thoroughly researched book “Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War”. This ground-breaking book chronicles the 1971 Pakistan-India war by reconstituting the memories of those on opposing sides of the conflict but more importantly, nails the lie of the overstatement of the number of Bengalis killed by Pakistan Army and hiding the massive toll of lives, tales of torture and moral deprivation of Bengalis and Indian RAW agents in slaughtering non Bengalis and Pakistan Army personnel. While Sheikh Hasina Wajid continues to kowtow to her Indian masters and in accordance to their heinous plot of denigrating Pakistan, she is making the political opposition face trumped up charges of aiding and abetting Pakistan during the 1971 War and sending them to gallows. Simultaneously, extremist Hindu elements have their own agenda to target Islam.
The highly emotional and sensitive Bengalis have reacted to the assault on their faith. Communal violence has stirred the peace in Brahmanbaria district located to the east of Dhaka, bordering with the Indian North Eastern State of Tripura. Violence erupted when on October 28, 2016; a Hindu youth posted a picture on his Facebook page depicting the Hindu deity Shiva atop Holy Kaaba. The gross violation of one of the most sacred sites for Muslims, created a furor and supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam and Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat brought out rallies demanding capital punishment for him. Resultantly, on October 30, five temples, 7-8 idols and around 100 houses and business of Hindus were vandalized in Brahmanbaria. The Puja Committee of the Hindus claimed that 15 temples were vandalized and 200 houses were ransacked. Since then, violence has spread to adjoining districts. In neighbouring Habibganj district, a Kali temple came under attack.
The Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Oikya Parished (BHBCO), Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Prishad (BPUP), Bangladesh Jatiyo Hindu Mohajote (BJHM), Sammilito Sangskritik Jote and other organizations staged demonstrations, formed human chains and brought out processions across the country protesting attacks on minorities. Along with the opposition parties, they are castigating the Awami League government for failing to protect the minorities and demanded immediate resignation of Fisheries and Livestock Minister, Sayedul Haque for his derogatory comments. The Minister who represents Brahmanbaria constituency, while addressing the media, down played the incident by saying ‘journalists are exaggerating the matter’. He is also being blamed for inciting violence. Police has arrested the Hindu youth for hurting Muslims’ sentiments and more than 70 people for attacking the temples. The widespread communal violence did not go unnoticed in India as its External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj expressed concern over the safety and wellbeing of the Hindu community in Bangladesh and asked the Indian High Commissioner to convey the concern directly to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid. Indian High Commission has conveyed its concern to the government of Bangladesh. Statement from Indian External Affairs Minister has drawn criticism for using undiplomatic language and interfering in internal affairs of Bangladesh.
The incident is not isolated as it depicts the undercurrents of Bangladesh society especially outside Dhaka, where the people are imbued with strong religious sentiments. Muslims’ animosity towards Hindus is increasing especially in light of the Hindutva plots to disparage Islam. The Hindus in Bangladesh are widely perceived as exploiters and extension of the Indian government. Whereas fear of persecution engulfs majority of the Hindus in Bangladesh, they have the Indian Govt and its extremist Hindutva policies to blame for their predicament. In 1947, Hindus comprised 35% of East Pakistan’s population and in December 1971, percentage was 28%. They now form 8-9% due to migration to India amid fears and facing attacks since 1971.
It is for Sheikh Hasina Wajid to take cognizance of the threat to her own community. India is not a well wisher of Bangladesh. She may toe the Indian diktat to preserve her seat in government, but the price that she is paying for it will ultimately destroy the moral fabric of Bangladesh. Modi and his RSS goons are out to attack Islam, wherever it may exist and Sheikh Hasina is but a pawn in their evil machinations.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.