Who are community riots for?

Instead of dividing the country, recent community attacks on Hindus have brought the entire people together to protest the heinous acts of violence. This photo was taken during a protest in Dhaka on October 24, 2021. Photo: Prabir Das

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Instead of dividing the country, recent community attacks on Hindus have brought the entire people together to protest the heinous acts of violence. This photo was taken during a protest in Dhaka on October 24, 2021. Photo: Prabir Das

Remnants of the wave of community attacks that rocked the country almost four weeks ago are still present. From discussions and critiques to analyzes of the events as well as the events behind these events, everything takes place in different spheres. However, it is safe to say that Bangladesh has managed to resist the surge in community violence this time around. The vultures who worked behind the scenes wanted a bloodshed between Muslims and Hindus in the country, ready to happily feast on the bloody remains, but due to the vigilance of the government and the people, their hopes remained unfulfilled, at least in to a certain extent.

Almost 90 percent of the country’s population are Muslims. Besides, most of the people are Hindus. Hindus and Muslims in this country, who are staunch to their respective faiths, have coexisted peacefully for ages, save for occasional tensions and unrest. One of the exceptions was 1971, during the liberation war, when large numbers of Hindus were forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in the neighboring country. But it was mainly the doing of the Pakistani aggressors.

On October 13, the tally of opportunist thugs was clear. Place a copy of the Quran at the feet of the idol of a Hindu deity at a mandap Puja. Then provoke Muslims by going live on Facebook. Their expected reaction was riots everywhere. However, their calculation turned out to be wrong due to the traditional non-communal character of the population of this country. Although there was some tension in the districts surrounding Cumilla, where the incident occurred, and a few other incidents of attacks on Hindus followed in other districts, such as Rangpur, no one – nor the neither the government nor the opposition, right or left, or even well-known religious groups – supported these heinous attacks. In addition, various organizations gathered in different places to support community harmony and sent a clear message: Bigotry has no place in Bangladesh. The attacks in Rangpur, far from the Cumilla scene, were somewhat intriguing. Many believe that because the administration has strict security lines in place in Cumilla and the surrounding neighborhoods, and the malicious group did not take advantage of the situation, they chose this remote neighborhood to achieve their goals.

However, some questions remain unanswered. While the commander of the nearest police station in Cumilla was busy collecting the copy of the Quran there, someone nearby was streaming it live on Facebook. Was the CO aware? Wouldn’t it have been wise to anticipate the kind of reaction such an incident would cause if the video was released on Facebook? It was necessary to immediately stop the man who was broadcasting live. Could the local administration have stepped up security a little faster to neutralize the situation in the area and in the surrounding neighborhoods? Was there an opportunity to avoid losses at the hands of law enforcement in Chandpur? Could political and social organizations in the region have been faster in trying to effectively ease tensions? Could a statement have been issued by people in positions of responsibility in an emergency, in order to maintain peace and order in the face of provocations on Facebook?

There are more frustrating aspects of this situation. Although the country’s political and social organizations – be it the government or the political opposition – expressed strong support for community harmony, they were also busy blaming each other. There is no doubt that the primary responsibility for maintaining peace and order rests with the government. The political opposition must also play a constructive role here. It is very clear from the nature of the incident in question that it was a well-planned plot by an anti-state force, which chose the largest religious holiday for the Hindu community in the country. to create community conflict. It is no exaggeration to assume that there has been the involvement of some outside forces against the interests of Bangladesh. Should we not, in such a situation, forget the political conflicts and speak with one voice?

Another cause for concern is that while everyone in Bangladesh tries to restore community harmony, extremist forces in the neighboring country are using the incidents in Bangladesh to create chaos there. This was pretty evident in the border states, especially Tripura. Subramanian Swamy, one of the top leaders of India’s ruling party, called on the Indian government to invade Bangladesh following recent community violence (The Week, October 18, 2021). Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a right-wing Hindu organization and close ally of the ruling BJP, wrote to the United Nations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union, urging them to establish a international commission of inquiry in Bangladesh to investigate violence against Hindus, send fact-finding mission and pressure the government of Bangladesh to ensure safety, justice and compensation for victims of violence ( India Today, October 23, 2021).

Obviously, these are not auspicious signs at all. It is perhaps worth mentioning here that the current government of India has for several years been trying to push a large part of the Muslim inhabitants of India’s border states into Bangladesh by identifying them as illegal immigrants under various pretexts. In this context, even if the Indian government has not directly blamed the Bangladesh government for the recent community tensions, would it be unreasonable to think that the attempts to incite unrest in border states are part of a broader plan by some to push the Bengali Muslim population into Bangladesh as refugees? This question may arise in particular because those who attempt to create community conflict there are primarily affiliated with the ruling BJP or its allies. Bangladesh is already overwhelmed by the burden of more than one million Rohingya refugees who have been forcibly displaced as a result of state violence in Myanmar. Is the country able to open another refugee front on the Indian border?

It is clear that community conflicts – in Bangladesh or India – will not bring any benefit to this country. Despite many changes at different times in the axis of power, Bangladesh has never departed from the principle of “friendship to all, malice to none” in its foreign policy, introduced by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Keep in mind, however, that this principle only makes sense for a country if it is self-reliant on solid foundations. Only the unity of all citizens, regardless of race and religion, can give such a solid foundation to a country. It is only when a nation is united that it can dare to look the outside world in the eye. In 1971, this nation was able to defeat the well-equipped Pakistani army due to the unwavering unity of people from all walks of life under the leadership of Bangabandhu. The strength of the nation also depends on this same unity today. Community conflicts can only be desired by those who do not want to see this country in a position of strength. Patriotic forces must always keep their eyes and ears open in this regard.

Dr Mohammad Didare Alam Muhsin is the Chairman of the Department of Pharmacy at Jahangirnagar University.

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About Bernice D. Brewer

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