Bangladesh’s minority Hindus seek security before polls

December 6th, 2008 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Dec 6 (IANS) Most of the minority Hindus in Bangladesh, in a survey, said they faced “repression” during the 2001 poll and want greater security for the elections scheduled for Dec 29, a media report said Saturday.According to a survey released Friday, 64.76 percent of 1,388 respondents said they were subjected to repression in the 2001 polls, while 38.2 percent of 1,403 respondents said they felt insecure for being members of the Hindu community, The Daily Star newspaper said.

At least 36 percent of 1,426 respondents said they and their relatives think of leaving the country for the same reason, said the report of the survey conducted on 1,552 Hindus.

During the discussion on the survey, a group of human rights activists and academics decided that the Election Commission (EC) should arrange special security measures in the upcoming national polls in the constituencies where minority communities were subjected to repression during and after the 2001 elections.

“Memories of rape and barring from casting votes in many constituencies in 2001 polls still haunt the minds of the Hindus, the speakers said,” The Daily Star newspaper reported Saturday.

Such incidents have increased the sense of insecurity among minority communities before the polls, said the speakers.

“We should write to the Election Commission asking it to mark the constituencies where minorities were repressed during and after the 2001 polls as ‘red areas’,” said Bangladesh Mahila Parishad general secretary Ayesha Khanam.

The discussion on the survey report on the state of minority communities in Bangladesh was organised by Sampriti Mancha, an NGO.

Presenting the survey report, journalist Ajoy Dasgupta said the properties of the Hindus were grabbed by influential people in some areas after the election violence in 2001, increasing the sense of insecurity among the community members.

“The authorities concerned must take steps to ensure that the violent incidents occurred during 2001 polls do not take place again in the upcoming election,” he said, adding that a huge number of Hindus were deprived of their voting rights in the last election.

Dasgupta said 59.5 percent of 1,440 respondents were afraid that their properties were under threat because of the Vested Properties Act (VPA).

The VPA is a law that was called Enemy Property Act in the era when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. The nomenclature was changed after 1971, but the provisions continue to target the religious minorities, especially the Hindus who were the landed gentry during the British era.

Terming the findings about the Hindu community ’sad’, Regulatory Reforms Commission chairman and former adviser to a caretaker government Akbar Ali Khan said the whole society gets affected when a state makes discrimination against any section of its population.

“We must root out the vested groups that patronise fanatics,” he added.

Imtiaz Ahmed of the international relations department of Dhaka University said the Muslims of Bengal were basically tolerant.

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