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Hindu Rights Activist Seeks Israeli Support for Bangladeshi minorities

Shipan Kumer Basu, head of the Hindu Struggle Committee, meets with President of India Ram Nath Khovind

The minorities in Bangladesh are in a dire and tragic predicament. According to Shipan Kumer Basu, head of the Hindu Struggle Committee, “The constitution of Bangladesh gives certain rights to the minorities of the country,” Basu says.

“Everyone in the state is supposed to grant equal treatment under the law to all minority communities to enjoy their own culture, practice their own religion and use their own language.

Sheikh Hasina (who has served as prime minister since 2009) has done nothing to develop these principles or give security to the minorities. On the contrary, she has made the minorities live in fear and insecurity. The reason for this is prejudice and bigotry against the minority communities in Bangladesh.”

It is for this reason that Basu is appealing to Israel as a member of the international community to help his people.

“Different forms of violence are reported against the minority communities in Bangladesh in several national newspapers,” he said. For example, it was reported recently that Soma Biswas, a 25-year-old Hindu woman, was gang- raped and burned alive because of her Hindu heritage.

Unfortunately, she is one of many such cases. The plight of Sukhiya is another. After her husband was murdered, the women and girls of her family were raped and abused regularly until she herself was murdered, thus leaving the rest of her family even more vulnerable. “Reportedly, this has all been part of an attempt by some affluent and influential local people to displace Sukhiya and her family so that they can take over the land.” According to the Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council, “Rape and violence against women is one of the biggest social challenges facing Bangladesh.”

At least in the case of Sukhiya and Biswas, everything is documented and there is a campaign to obtain justice for Sukhiya’s family. “It is important to stress that many more incidents occur that go unreported, especially in the rural areas,” says Basu. “Additionally, violence against women is generally not made public due to cultural and social taboos. Sheikh Hasina is the spearhead and brainchild in giving a strong foothold to ISIS in Bangladesh. They have terrorized the minorities. She has given them moral, administrative and political support to carry out their dreadful activities. A peaceful country has become a killing field for the minorities.”

Sheikh Hasina, Basu says, has placed her people in all government offices and this adversely affects the minority communities: “The higher officials in the police are all her people. They don’t even take the minorities into account. When brutality happens, they turn a blind eye to it and even threaten the minorities”.

“The government has put a few ISIS people behind bars so that they evade the eyes of the world, but their malicious and terrorist activities within the jails continues,” he noted. “Very minor charges are levied against them and they are protected by government functionaries themselves. Leaked reports from inside the jails say that these people belong to an ISIS group trained in Syria and other ISIS strongholds outside Bangladesh.”

He continues: “There are hundreds of examples. Where will all of the minorities go? We are denied peace and tranquility in our own place of birth. We have the right to live, breathe fresh air and to live freely as others do. If we leave our own country and go to India, we are given refugee status. Other countries will also do so to save us.”

According to Basu, however, Bangladeshi Hindus don’t want to leave behind the land of their ancestors, so he wants a solution from inside Bangladesh: “To stop this systematic suppression, killing, murder, rape, land grabbing and terrorizing, I appeal to the whole world to take note of the grave situation that the minorities are facing in their own land and to save the minorities.”

Given the history of the Jewish people being persecuted for thousands of years, Basu believes Israelis are in a unique position to provide support: “Israel has a history of helping people who are in distress throughout the world. Israel is a country full of talent and has vast expertise. Extending their strong helping arms will strengthen our country and the minorities both intellectually and financially.”

This wouldn’t be the first time Israel would be aiding the Bangladeshi people.

“In the 1971 Bangladeshi War for Liberation, then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appealed to Israel for help,” Basu notes. “Israel readily helped with arms and ammunition and thus Bangladesh was born. Israel was the first country to recognize Bangladesh officially. But it did not establish any relations with Israel.”

Some Bangladeshi Muslims are now greatly opposed to this reality. As Kaji Aujijul Haq says: “Why can’t we keep ties with Israel when most of the Arab world is opening up to Israel? Our prophet instructed us to keep ties with the Jews. Have we become more powerful than the prophet himself?”

Basu, who has already asked the Israeli Druze diplomat Mendi Safadi, head of the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy and Public Policy, to help bring the issue to international forums, believes there are many ways Israel can help.

“The voting rights of the minorities have been systematically diminished and, therefore, they don’t have a say in the government. Unless the minorities are empowered, the torture and subduing of minority groups won’t stop,” he says. “If Israel campaigned that the next general election be held with the supervision of a UN peace-keeping force, it would be a wonderful thing loved by the absolute majority of the Bangladeshi population, including the Hindus.”

Basu argues that if the Awami League comes to power again through a showcase vote, it will be a disaster. “All of the minorities will lose the power to vote and then the party will start snatching land, killing people and forcing the Hindus to leave Bangladesh. So, a very neutral election is needed at this time so that both the Hindus and Muslims along with the other minorities can live in peace.”

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is based in Israel and publishes in a variety of media outlets throughout the world. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media." Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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