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Commission on Human Rights Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Commission on Human Rights

Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

11th Sessions of Working Group on Minorities

30th May to 3rd June, 2005

Intervention Under Item 3(a) of the Provisional Agenda:

Violation of Linguistic and Cultural Rights of Minorities of Bangladesh

By

Biva Rani Biswas, Working Group on Minorities- Representative of Human Rights  Congress for Bangladesh Minorities-Dhaka-Bangladesh.

Thank you very much giving me opportunity to ventilate the grievances of the Minorities of Bangladesh.

Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM-Dhaka) is dedicated to (i) promoting human rights in Bangladesh, (ii) stopping human rights violations against Bangladesh minorities by creating worldwide awareness against such violations, (iii) helping victims by providing shelter, rehabilitation   and other forms of humanitarian assistance,  and (iv) helping victims of natural disasters, irrespective of religion or other affiliations :

The widespread barbaric acts of violence against the religious minorities, that started before the October 1, 2001 general election in Bangladesh and gained unprecedented momentum immediately after the victory of BNP led four party coalitions, still continue unabated as we appeal to the conscience of the civilised world today . The carnage has affected hundreds of  thousands of minority families. The violence range from burning alive to death, killing, gang rape of minor children to elderly women, abduction, attack on temples, churches and orphanages, looting, unlawful and forced land grabbing and eviction, forced conversion to Islam, brutality, virulent abuse of human rights etc. Minorities are being forced to pay Jiyiya tax (infidel tax) to live in their own ancestral homes. Thousands of displaced and victims families are being forced to flee to India. The law enforcement authorities are neither providing adequate protection to the minorities nor co-operating in filing cases against the perpetrators of these crimes. Rather they are helping the criminals commit their heinous acts of barbaric dimensions with impunity in many instances. Criminals are not being captured, prosecuted and punished promptly. Even in those cases where verdicts punishing the criminals have been announced, the life and safety of the survivors and the lawyers involved in the prosecution are being threatened. The Rule of law is not being implemented.

2. Demographic Picture :

Bangladesh is the fourth largest Muslim populated country in the world. Racially and culturally it is still a diverse nation. The total population of Bangladesh is about 141 million. Muslims constitute nearly 88% of the total population, while Hindus and others (Buddhists and Christians) constitute 11% and 1% respectively. There are 45 districts indigenous peoples in Bangladesh. They follow Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism beside their indigenous faiths. Their total population is totally different from that of the majority Bangla-speaking Muslims. The largest group of the indigenous people  known as “Jumma” lives in the three Hill districts – Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban – of the Chittagong Hill Tracts(CHT). Their total population is around 7,00,000.

3. The politics and Fundamentalist parties:

Bangladesh Islamic hardliners got a new impetus when they came in touch with the highly trained and sophisticated foreign terrorists. Bangladesh became a meeting point of international Islamic terrorists including the ones suspected for the Bali Bomb Blast in Indonesia. This fact is well known to those who are aware of “deadly cargo”. Times Magazine 21 October 2002 Issue, New York, USA and Bertil Linter’s ‘ BANGLADESH’ A cocoon of Terror”, the Far Eastern Economic Review, 4 April 2002. Beyond that the following developments support our point.

4. State-sponsored discrimination in respect of right to property:

This law has been promulgated in the year, 1965 War between Pakistan and India. The previous Awami League government passed a Bill in the Parliament namely : “Vested Property Amendment Bill-2001” which did not fulfil the desired goal of the Minorities of Bangladesh. It was nothing but a tokenism. £The then Land Minister Mr. Rashed Mosharaf in a press conference expressed that the Vested Property Amendment Bill has been passed for the benefit of Muslim community. So the black law is still continuing and by the operation of law the properties of Hindu Minorities are being seized systematically.

While many incidences of ongoing violence and human rights abuses against the religious and ethnic minorities- the Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and indigenous people, the weaker section of the population, are not reaching the news media, and while the government of Bangladesh continues to deny and downplay incidences of violence, many such reports continue to be published in the national and international media everyday. We appeal to the conscience of the people, governments and human rights institutions, including the United Nations, for immediate protection of the lives and properties of the religious, ethnic, national and indigenous minorities of Bangladesh.

5) Indigenous People kidnapped in Two Separate Incidents in CHT

On 23 March, eights indigenous people from Naniachar under Rangamati Hill district were kidnapped by armed cadres belonging to the United People Democratic Front (UPDF), a pro-government organization of the indigenous people allegedly working with Bangladesh military and Islamic extremist groups to undermine the CHT Accord. The persons kidnapped are: Primary school teacher Praphulla Chakma (50), Ripan Chakma (21), Tejendra Chakma (35), Milan Bihari Chakma (32), Bilas Chakma (28), Shiru Chakma (25), Dipanyan Chakma (28), and Sadalya Chakma (30). The kidnappers demanded Tk 5 lakh as ransom for release of their victims. Nothing was known about the fate of the victims till the compilation of this report.

6) Minority Women and Children are raped and gang-raped:

We have investigated some of the incidents of atrocities against the Minority Women and Children in different parts of the country. Recently we HRCBM went to Tarakanda Police station within the district of Mymensingh  A destitute Minor Hindu Girl – Ms. Anjali Rabi Das aged about 8 years, daughter of Tongu Rabi Das of Bhatia, Tarakanda P.S., Dist. Mymensingh has been raped and tortured by a Muslim boy –  Al-Amin on 20th of April, 2005. Case has been filed – Rapist has not yet been arrested by Police. We have investigated the incident of rape on the basis of report published in the daily “Ajker Kagoj” dated 26th of April,2005.

Patuakhali, 15th March,2005, Janakantha.

The mother of Gobindra Gharami at Boufal Police station within the district of
Patuakhali, Bangladesh was gang raped infront of her son. On 2nd of March,2005
the ganstgers of BNP cadres belonging to Jonal Hazari Zangir unlawfully entered
into the house of Gobinda on the point of gun the mother of Gobinda was
gang-raped. On the next day the local Chairman Union Parishad forcefully
obtained signature of the victim on the blank paper threatening her not to
lodge any FIR in the police station. The victim’s son Gobinda fled away from
the house and reported the matter to the Superintendent of Police, Patuakhali
and the S.P. directed the O.C. Pauakhali PS to take necessary action. Due to
such complain the destitute Hindu family is absconding for fear of life.

7) Housewives of minority families raped en masse

Date line 11th July, 2004: Damurhuda (Chuadanga)

The social decease called communal repression against ethnic and religious minorities continuing unabated, though it may appear, at least on the surface slowing down in comparison to what were happening years back. But the slow and steady process is continuing un-noticed and unreported. Because, the local reporters are now tired of reporting such too familiar incidents that news editors of the national dailies are no more interested in repeating the same known phenomenon again and again. These events, even in the eye of general readers, have little news values. News values might have been belittled, the events may be kept in the dark to the countrymen or to the outside world, but that does not solve the problems of those wretched families facing even in remote corners of the countryside where neither the hands of administration (police or civil) or the good wills of the human right organizations could reach.

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8) Forceful conversion:

A Minor Hindu Boy – Rajan Chandra Das (16) son of Khokan Chandra Das (F) and Ms.Chinu Rani Das (M) of village Uttar Da, P.S. Laksam , District- Comilla Bangladesh forcefully converted to Islam. The guardians of the victim are in great threat.

Rajan Chandra Das, a student of Class X of Laksam Pilot High School, Dist. Comilla was a meritorious student of the School. The boy was kidnapped from the house of Khokan Chandra Das by Chattra Shibbir activists on or before 19.10.2002. A general diary No. 953 dated 20.10.2002 was made by his legal guardian Khokan Chandra Das at Laksam P.S.

Rajan came back later on from the possession of Chattra Shibbir on 30.4.2003 in the house of his parents. But the Chattra Shibbir Member Fariduddin filed two G.D. Entry No. 95 dated 03.05.2003 and G.D. Entry No. 101 dated 03,.05.2003 in Lalsam P.S. on the plea that Rajan embraced Islam and he has been renamed as” Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mamun” and he should not stay at the house of his parents.

Accordingly Laksam Police as per above general diaries brought the victim Hindu boy from the house of Khokan chandra Das most illegally and produced him in the court of Magistrate Ist Class, Comilla. The Magistrate without any lawful authority handed over the victim boy Rajan to Chattra Shibbir activist – Fariduddin instead handing over the victim to his legal guardian by its order dated 03.05.2003.

The legal guardian of the victim appeared in the Office of HRCBM-Dhaka to-day, 6th of April, 05 with an appeal for getting their minor innocent son back as their son is being tortured by Chattra Shibbir activists. We have perused the date of birth of the victim as 30.10.1988. We have been given to understand by the guardian that if they claim their son by way of any deceitful means they would be killed. The legal guardian of victim also passing their days with utmost insecurity and threat. The mother – Chinu Rani Das grieves for her son every moment because her son begging/collecting money from door to door for Islamic Revolution as instructed by Shibbir.

The guardians are very poor and they cannot afford to apply to High Court for justice. As per law the minor cannot embrace any religion other than his own where the legal guardian is alive.

9)A minority Hindu was hanged to death :

Manindra Das – a Hindu Minority was hanged to death at Zia International Airport Customs House. The employee of International Airport Customs House are involved in this murder. HRCBM-Dhaka investigated the matter in full and submitted investigative report.

Specifically, we demand intervention to Government to immediately: —

1)     Stop discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities and indigenous people of Bangladesh in all levels of government and non-government jobs, including the armed forces and police department.

2)     Ensure fair share of positions for the ethno-religious minorities in the military, foreign service , paramilitary, police and civil services.

3)     Guarantee security of life and property of the minority communities in Bangladesh.

4)     Uphold basic human rights of all citizens enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

5)     Stop land grabbing and forced eviction of Minorities of Bangladesh.

6)     Ensure faire justice to the Minorities from the Judiciary and Administrative Authority.

7)     Completely Repeal the Vested(Enemy) Property Act and implement it immediately.

8)     Implement the Peace Treaty between Bangladesh and the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

9)     Restore Secularism in the Bangladesh Constitution and the laws of the lands. Ensure that the laws of the land and those of a free democratic society are enforced.

10)Provide reparation to the minority victims including women and children        of all violence, including those of 2001 and rehabilitate them fairly and equitably.

11)Rebuild all damaged temples and places of worship that were subject of violence and hatred, and stop any future attacks on places of worships irrespective of faith and religion.

12) Stop declaring Non-Muslims to the Ahmedia Muslims Group and stop ban on publication of Islamic Books in Bangladesh.

13) Take appropriate action preventing government officials from defamatory remarks against HRCBM and direct national daily “Inquilab” to apologise the defamatory news against the organisations.

14) Allow NGO and rights advocacy organisations to work freely in the courts.

We would like to assert here that HRCBM would continue to work for the freedom, justice and human rights in Bangladesh until the country proves to be a place of respect for all its religious and ethnic communities. We would also like to seek help from our Muslim brothers and sisters for our survival in our ancestral home and hearth. For now, we do have campaign of making the world aware of the plight of the minorities in Bangladesh, and of seeking help from all conscientious people. We are sure that with help from the good Muslims and law-abiding citizen of Bangladesh, we could avoid seeking help from outside the country.

Finally we urge that Bangladesh, a member of the United Nations, must uphold rule of law and endow human rights and justice guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN for all her citizen.

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