Understanding the Current Status Of Bangladesh's Hindu Minority From A Human Rights Context

Nishka Kapoor, an undergraduate student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.


Hindus have been oppressed in Bangladesh through violence, forced conversion, massacres, and the demolition of temples, among other things. There have been numerous instances of atrocities committed against Hindus in Bangladesh, and very recently in Oct 2021, there are again ongoing riots against the Hindu community.


Instances of oppression against the minority Hindu community are not new/recent in Bangladesh. There is a long history of violence and crimes against the Hindu community in Bangladesh, such as a law which is currently known as the ‘Vested Property Act Earlier it was called as ‘Enemy Property Act’ which forcibly took away almost 40% of the land owned by Hindus and in recent years the instances of vandalising Hindu temples have increased.


In 1992 after the demolition of Babri Masjid in India anti-Hindu riots were happening in Bangladesh, where several Hindus were injured and killed. In 2006 the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom published a report titled ‘Policy Focus on Bangladesh’, this report also majorly stated the atrocities and difficulties Hindus face in Bangladesh and certainly the vulnerable community there.


In 2013 The International Crimes Tribunal revealed several Jamaat members for crimes against Hindus during the 1971 Bangladesh War. The violence against the Hindu minority included burning down of their houses, rape of Hindu women, destruction of Hindu temples, and looting of their property and business. In 2017 a report was released by Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mohajote (BJHM) and it stated that in 2017 alone crime against 6474 Hindus in Bangladesh, the Hindus were forced to convert religion, women and children were raped and several were killed.


Before the Bangladesh elections scheduled in 2019, houses belonging to Hindu families in Thakurgoan were burnt and destroyed the temples of two Hindu goddesses, Lakshmi and Sarawati in Kazipara of Brahmanbaria.


Recent Atrocities Against Hindu Community 


A series of violent attacks happened against Hindu minorities in Bangladesh during the Durga Puja this year. Several mob attacks have been reported on the Hindu places of worship, shops, and devotees in several districts across the country. Nearly 80 Durga shrines have been attacked and 150 Hindus were injured and 7 of them died, a ten year was raped and injured.


The Temple complex of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON) was looted and destroyed, after this incident, widespread protests broke out in Dhaka. It has been suggested that the hatred and attacks against the Hindu community are growing after the spread of misinformation on social media, the news on social media is supposed to be of 2016.


The Ministry in Bangladesh does not want to deteriorate their relations with India and so they have deployed Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) with troops in several districts to stop the violence, moreover, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has further assured that the government will look into the matter and punish the perpetrators.


Legal Protection for Minorities 


Minority rights are based on the recognition that they are in a vulnerable situation in comparison to other groups in the society namely ‘the majority population’, the main aim of minority rights is to protect the members of that community from prosecution, hostility, or violence and discrimination. 


Minorities, therefore, require special measures so that they can benefit from society and at the same time these measures help in the promotion and protection of minorities, with the idea of protection of minorities their rights form an integral part of the International Protection of Human Rights and have a framework for signatories states with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).


The covenant is the only global treaty that specifically focuses on minority rights, Article 27 of this covenant incorporates major rights of the minorities such as their right to participate in activities with other communities, allowed to profess and practice their religion and use their language.


Alongside this, the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Minorities which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1992, requires states to protect the existence of minorities and promote their culture, religious and linguistic identity. There are 2 integral articles in the declaration which are based on the promotion and protection of these rights, Article 2(1) states that minorities shall have the right to practice their religion, enjoy their culture, and freely able to use their language in both privately and publicly without any discrimination and Article 3 guarantees people belonging to minorities the right to exercise their rights individually and in the community without any discrimination.

The fundamental principles on which these rights are based is that of equality through equity and non-discrimination and strives to protect and promote human rights everywhere in the world.


Legal Concerns: Violations of Laws 


Bangladesh’s Constitution does not recognize minorities and therefore there is no provision of protection and promotion of the minority community. The reason it states for not recognizing the rights of minorities is that everyone in the state gets equal treatment of law, and so minority communities often face violence and persecution in Bangladesh.


However, Bangladesh has an obligation towards the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as the country/state rectified this treaty in 2000 and so it has to follow every regulation mentioned in the treaty, but most of the time this is not the case as it mainly violets the major laws that are Article 27  in the treaty such as that of religious freedom and right to use their language and maintain beliefs according to their culture. 


In addition to violating ICCPR laws the country has also violated laws stated in the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Minorities, these are some of the laws that try to bring equality for everyone and strive to make the world a better place but the countries won’t adhere to this it will lead to more discrimination and create differences among the people. 


Conclusion


It is truly stated by Ayn Rand “The smallest minority on the earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”  Being a signatory of different declarations or organizations does not automatically make a state the defender of minorities, it needs to work in that direction to bring peace and prosperity to the country. 


Every individual whether belonging to a minority community or majority community has basic individual rights and those are some rights that cannot be taken away by anyone unless a lawful procedure is followed. All the declarations and covenants related to minorities are adopted to provide them with the freedom and rights they deserve, these are some of the special measures which are adopted to provide them with the same rights and benefits which the ‘minority community ‘gets in society and every nation should try to uphold them.


For a state to recognize minorities is important because it is important to sever these vulnerable groups through affirmative actions and bring all the members of society to an equal level. Making special provisions for minorities would make a balance in the society and everyone would be able to enjoy their human rights without any hindrance, enactment of this special provision is based on the concept of equity, which means making special provisions for the “vulnerable” group of the society to bring them to an equal level with the rest of the society. The state can protect the rights of minorities in many ways but primarily by making a constitutional provision for them to safeguard their basic rights and ensure that they are not being discriminated against in the society and are protected against persecution.


Views expressed are the author’s own, 

Law Daily neither endorses nor is responsible for them.

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