EC asked to ensure safety of minority communities
Daily Star, December 6, 2008
The Election Commission (EC) should arrange special security measures in the upcoming national polls in the constituencies where minority communities were subjected to repression during and after the 2001 elections, human rights activists and academics said yesterday.
Memories of rape and barring from casting votes in many constituencies in 2001 polls still haunt the minds of the Hindus, the speakers said at a discussion on a survey report on the state of minority communities in Bangladesh organised by Sampriti Mancha at the Asiatic Society auditorium in the capital.
Such incidents have increased the sense of insecurity among minority communities before the polls, said the speakers.
"We should write to the Election Commission asking it to mark the constituencies where minorities were repressed during and after the 2001polls as 'red areas'," said Bangladesh Mahila Parishad General Secretary Ayesha Khanam.
Presenting the survey report, journalist Ajoy Dasgupta said properties of the Hindus were grabbed by influential people in some areas after the election violence in 2001 increasing the sense of insecurity among the community members.
"The authorities concerned must take steps to ensure that the violent incidents occurred during 2001 polls do not take place again in the upcoming election," he said, adding that a huge number of Hindus were deprived of their voting rights in the last election.
According to the survey, 64.76 percent of 1,388 respondents said they were subjected to repression in the 2001 polls, while 38.2 percent of 1,403 respondents said they feel insecure for being members of Hindu community.
At least 36 percent of 1,426 respondents said they and their relatives think of leaving the country for the same reason, said the survey report conducted on 1,552 Hindus recently.
Only 28.1 percent of 1,388 respondents said the police took actions when they complained to police of violence on them while 42.21 percent said police on a few occasions took actions when they lodged such complaint with them.
Ajoy Dasgupta said 59.5 percent of 1,440 respondents said they feel that their properties are under threat because of the Vested Properties Act.
Terming the findings about the Hindu community 'sad', Regulatory Reforms Commission Chairman and former adviser to a caretaker government Dr Akbar Ali Khan said the whole society gets affected when a state makes discrimination against any section of its population.
Bangladesh was born with a dream of establishing equality of all regardless of gender, religion and ethnicity. But it is unfortunate that disparity exists in all spheres of life, he said.
"We must root out the vested groups that patronise fanatics," he added.
Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of International Relations department of Dhaka University (DU) said the Muslims of Bengal are basically tolerant.
But intolerance among some of them is growing gradually because of the influence of petrodollar from the Middle East where a large number of Bangladeshis are living now.
He stressed the need for increasing democratic practices, strengthening internal democracy of political parties, development-oriented policy and structural reforms to deal with it.
Justice Golam Rabbani, DU professors Ajay Roy, AK Azad Chowdhury, Dr Neem Chandra Bhowmik, journalist Shahriar Kabir and Denis Dilip Datta of National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh spoke at the discussion moderated by DU Associate Professor Robayet Ferdous.