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Op-Ed: The repression of Bangladesh’s indigenous culture

Op-Ed: The repression of Bangladesh’s indigenous cultureOp-Ed: The repression of Bangladesh’s indigenous culture

Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, calls for the end of the repression of Hindu and other minority cultures within Bangladesh.  

The Bengal region, which is located in a certain region of India and Bangladesh today, used to be entirely part of India until the area was divided politically by the British.   Under the British, Muslim East Bengal and the Assam Province (present-Day Bangladesh) were divided from the Hindu-majority area of Bengal Pradesh, which is located in today’s India.   Following the colonial partition of the country into India, East and West Pakistan, the Hindus became a minority community in East and West Pakistan, where they faced intense oppression from the Muslim majority. 

The partition of India in 1947 was a very bloody conflict for both the Muslims and the Hindus. Several hundred thousand people were killed, at least 75,000 women were raped, 83,000 women were abducted, many non-Muslims were forcefully converted to Islam and 12 million people became refugees.  While the Muslims also suffered during the partition of India, at least today, the Muslims who live in India enjoy democratic rights. Sadly, this is not the case for the Hindus of the Bengal region, who are still living in the shadow of the Noakhali Riots of 1946 and the Great Calcutta Killings, as the persecution of the Hindu community did not end with the partition of India.

 Later on, during the Liberation War of 1971, Pakistani soldiers massacred Hindu men and raped their women en masse.   Many people in Bangladesh consider what the Pakistani Army did to the Hindus and other non-Pakistani peoples of the Bengal region to be genocide.  However, while many across the globe believe that the oppression ended with the Pakistani occupation, this is not the case.  Following Bangladeshi independence, numerous Hindus continue to flee to India from Bangladesh due to the murder, rape and forceful conversions of their people that never came to an end, despite the end of Pakistani rule over the region.  In fact, according to Shipan Kumer Basu, the President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, within the past year, 107 Hindus were murdered, 25 Hindus women were raped and 235 Hindu temples were vandalized in Bangladesh.  

To this day, Basu claims that the Islamists in Bangladesh view Bengali culture to be equivalent to Hindu culture and based on this inherent belief, they have begun a process of replacing Bengali words with Arabic and Urdu words in order to “purify the language” of its non-Muslim heritage.  In addition, he added that Islamist groups such as Jamaat e-Islam, Hefajat e-Islam, Olamama and the Islami Movement are now demanding the elimination of Hindu writers from the school system and their replacement with Muslim writers.  He claims that both BNP leader Khaleda Zia and Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina are trying to transform the country into an Islamic state and are cooperating with these Islamist groups in their quest to purge Hindu culture from the country.   

Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, has condemned the oppression of the indigenous Bengali culture in Bangladesh and stressed that the State of Israel always stands beside the Hindu people in their hour of need.    Furthermore, Bangladeshi human rights activist Aslam Chowdhury added that it is critical for all Muslims to stand in solidarity with the oppressed Hindu minority of Bangladesh and to work in order to preserve the indigenous Bengali heritage, even if it is not Muslim. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King once stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”   For this reason, respecting minority cultures is of utmost importance to the historic preservation of nations throughout the world.   Just as America would not be the same without having a respect for Hispanic, Native American, African American, Asian American, Jewish American and Muslim American culture, the preservation of Bangladesh also requires respecting the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and indigenous heritage of the nation.  In the name of preserving Hindu and other minority cultures in Bangladesh, Basu calls upon the international community to pressure his government to end the repression of Hindu culture within Bangladesh.   



Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel's Communication, Cyber and Satellite Minister. For close to a decade, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iran, and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.