‘Minorities at receiving end in Bangladesh violence’


New Delhi : Hundreds of Hindus have been attacked, their shops and businesses burnt and women threatened by the Jamaat-e-Islami in the current spate of violence unleashed by the Islamists in neighbouring Bangladesh, said speakers at a talk here Thursday.

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“Hindus, who number more than one crore in Bangladesh, live in fear and agony… They don’t have anyone to help them,” said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay at a discussion on ‘Bangla Desh-Shahbagh Rising, Jamaat-e-Islami’s violence and the Indian response’.

The protests at Shahbag transcend religion, he said.

“They are an assertion that we are all Bengali… Bangladesh is a friendly country, and Sheikh Hasina (prime minister) is a friend (of India).. But it is horrendous and unacceptable that thousands of Hindu homes are being burnt, looted and police are unable to provide protection,” said Vijay.

“The Jamaat is acting on behalf of Pakistan and the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) and against India,” he alleged.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Chandan Mitra, who accompanied President Pranab Muherjee on his Dhaka trip, said the situation in Bangladesh “is pretty tense”.

Describing the “minor explosion” that took place Monday outside the hotel where President Mukherjee was staying, Mitra said it was a “pataka” or a firecracker. “We were standing outside when two men came on a motorcycle and threw something. There was a small blast,” he said.

Mitra said that “Hindu minorities are at the receiving end in Bangladesh” in the current clashes.

The violence against minorities is “aimed at driving out the Hindus who are concentrated in a few districts where the Jamaat is also concentrated.. The exodus of Hindus to India is continuing,” said Mitra.

The Jamaat is protesting the death sentence handed over to a leader for war crimes committed in 1971.

Mitra said India has “certain moral responsibilities as they have to be mindful of their security.. And if another exodus takes place (like during the 1971 war), we will have to provide shelter,” he said, adding that the Jamaat is like the Taliban in nature. “It has risen from strength to strength and consolidated its position.”

He said the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) would earlier maintain a distance from the Jamaat and had good relations with India. “But today, they have linked themselves to the Jamaat.”

BJP leader and former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh said the Shahbag protests “were a movement of truth and identity”.

“Bengali is the dominant culture…Bangladesh is wedded to language,” said Singh.

He said when Mohamed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, had gone to then East Pakistan in 1948 and spoke of making Urdu the national language, there “there were loud protests”.

“Language and culture is important to the people of Bangladesh.. and India shares that important linkage with Bangladesh, which needs to be nurtured and preserved,” he said.

The Shahbag protests are a manifestation of the “spirit of the Bengali youth” and transcend religion, he said.