Pope Francis meeting religious leaders during his Apostolic Journey to Bangladesh in 2017 Pope Francis meeting religious leaders during his Apostolic Journey to Bangladesh in 2017  (AFP or licensors)

Report records 1,045 cases of violence against minorities in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC) presents its annual report on violence against religious and ethnic minorities recording over 1,000 cases of human rights violations in a year and resulting in the death of 45 people.

By Lisa Zengarini

Persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Bangladesh continues unabated amid a lack of justice and impunity for perpetrators, a Bangladeshi minority forum says.  

The Muslim-majority Asian nation witnessed some 1,045 cases of human rights violations against minorities, according to the latest annual report of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC) presented this week.

45 members of minority communities killed

The interreligious forum’s findings are based on media reports from July 2023 to June 2024.  During this period, 45 members of minority communities were murdered and there were 10 attempted murders and 36 death threats.

A total of 479 people were attacked, physically abused or injured, and 11  were victims of extorsion. The violence included 25 gang rapes, while 12 people were abducted, went missing or forced to convert. Eight  were arrested on false charges of blasphemy.

The report also recorded 102 attacks, acts of vandalism, looting and arson against homes and businesses belonging to minotity communities.

According to the BHBCUC, 70-75 per cent of the violence is centred on land grabbing, often under the influence of political parties and with the complicity of government agencies. The findings reported 47 incidents of land and homestead encroachment and 45 cases of land occupation, eviction activities, and threats, as well as 11 threats or attempts of expulsion.

The parliamentary elections in January this year saw 32 incidents of communal violence while local elections reported five incidents of this kind.

Organised violence and influence of extremists groups

At the press conference presenting the report, BHBCUC secretary general Rana Dasgupta, a Supreme Court lawyer, affirmed that these incidents are part of organised violence.

He noted that the influence of extremist groups is growing in all areas, including the government administration, politics, and society, making minority communities more insecure and distrustful, forcing many of their members leave the country. Before the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence against Pakistan, the minority population was about 19 per cent. “Now it has come down to 8.6 per cent,” Dasgupta  said, cited by Asianews  agency .

Need for more protection for minorities

BHBCUC chairman, Nirmol Rozario, a Catholic, called on the governing Awami League to implement the pledges it made during the electoral campaign, including the creation of a national minority commission to prevent the persecution of minorities and the drafting of a law to grant them special protection.

“Persecution of faith minorities will decline if the Bangladesh government fulfils their manifesto for the minority,” Rozario said.

The latest census in 2023 found that 90 percent of the total population of 170 million in Bangladesh are Muslims, with Hindus still making  up the largest minority group at 8 percent, while Christians represent less than 1%.

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10 July 2024, 14:43