IT is shocking that while the whole nation is grappling with a pandemic, there has been a consistent trend of human rights abuses. Sixteen noted citizens have demanded justice for the incidents of attacks on minority communities, violence against women, land grabbing, harassment of common people and torture of journalists, which happened during the coronavirus pandemic in the country. In particular, they have highlighted the incidents of violence, harassment and human rights deprivation of minority communities.
Referring to media reports and different social organisations, the group found at least 30 incidents of violence against members of minority communities, which took place in April and May amid the shutdown. Homes of minority and ethnic communities have been attacked leaving persons injured; in some cases, land has been grabbed or there have been attempts to do so. Temples have also been vandalised after false rumours of demeaning religion.
On May 15, houses of 10 Hindu families were vandalised and a Hindu youth was arrested on allegations of demeaning religion in Bhola's Monpura. Two days later, miscreants torched the homestead of Baul Ronesh Thakur, a prominent disciple of Baul Shah Abdul Karim, in Sunamganj's Derai.
These acts cannot go unpunished and legal action must be taken against the perpetrators. These incidents highlight the audacity of individuals in carrying out such crimes even during a nationwide lockdown that had significantly curtailed the movement of most people. It seems these groups of perpetrators enjoy a certain immunity and were not at all concerned about breaking the law. We have seen how these incidents have played out in previous occasions, with law enforcement and local administration being ineffectual, and at times indifferent, about preventing such attacks. As a rule, minority communities and ethnic groups have been targeted, taking advantage of their vulnerable status. During the lockdown, this vulnerability was intensified. It is therefore up to the respective thanas where these incidents have occurred to carry out thorough investigations, file cases against the perpetrators and make sure they are punished under law. So far, even in normal circumstances, we have seen very few of these attackers being identified, arrested and punished. This lack of due diligence cannot go on.
Communal harmony is one of our most valued assets as a nation. The government must send a strong message to the public in general that such attacks on these communities will not be tolerated and will not go unpunished. All citizens of this country must be protected by the state and its law enforcement machinery. Police, local administrators as well as the community at large must all work hand in hand to make sure that minority and ethnic communities are protected and feel safe. The message must come from the top leadership.