THERE is no denying that in late July and early August this year, there have been attacks on Hindu community's houses and places of worship on different pretexts. Whether it was altercation in the playing field or so-called mischievous posting on the Facebook or attempts to grab property, the fact was one of blatant assault and intimidation of the Hindu community.
That the tolerance threshold and mischief-mongering of a section of people has reached an unspeakable level is borne out by the fact that clashes between two groups in Noakhali over a football match, although amicably settled initially, ultimately resulted in vandalisation of Hindu homesteads, deities, and mandirs. Enquiry reveals long-standing land disputes as the motive of attack. Similar incident had also occurred in Barisal in the recent past.
In Bauphal area of Patukhali district the communally minded predators acted as unabashed grabbers when they forcibly dislodged Nakul Chandra and his family members and took possession of their homestead. When complaint was lodged police acted promptly and restored the property to the owner, but that was no solace for the victim family that has been threatened of expulsion from the country. There have been late night attacks on Hindu property and places of worship in Fatikchari area of Chittagong district.
Under the circumstances, we in Bangladesh need to ask whether it is religion per se or the politicisation of religious identity and the mobilisation of this identity for community and state ends that have resulted in communal violence. We also need to find out whether the emphasis is on contests for power and resources. Have the recent violent outbreaks occurred with the acquiescence of the administration?
Experience indicates that quite often the outbreaks of communal violence have not been the result of spontaneous outbursts of passionately held religious beliefs; they are carefully planned and orchestrated and occur within a context of political mobilisation. Violence has been facilitated by the ability of some officials and criminals to behave and act with impunity. It has been seen that in circumstances in which the state acts resolutely violence prone situations do not erupt into large scale disturbances.
Coming to specifics, in Bangladesh, why do we witness attacks on Hindu properties? Is creation of hatred a ploy for some of the majority Muslim politicians and influential people to grab Hindu property? The torching of Hindu houses over a petty altercation quite clearly indicates the malafide intention of terrorising and dislocating the vulnerable minority. Simple common sense should tell that the ferocity of attack on Hindus is caused by the victims' weakness and the perpetrator's immunity from the process of law. Are the patrons of the mischief-makers too powerful to be dislodged?
The immediate imperative, under the circumstances, is to effectively deactivate the vultures that are on the watch to grab the lands and properties of panicked Hindus. This requires political will and stern administrative measures for ensuring continued security. However, beyond that, the minorities need to politically organise themselves in such a manner that in course of time, issues of their honourable existence become a focus of mainstream politics. Such course of action is expected to provide substantial relief.
The politicians cannot be part of a deliberate effort to realign state and cultural power in the interest of the majority because that will result in non-Muslim minorities being defined explicitly or implicitly as second class citizens of Bangladesh. It is only proper that the flowering of a nation demands proactive action from the state. Finally, let us bear in mind that the concept of 'Ummah' in the historic Medina Charter included all faiths.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.