From the Editor-in-Chief: The shame perpetrated in Nasirnagar

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, November 3rd, 2016
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In all these years since the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent state, we have proudly projected ourselves as a secular nation and our country as a place of absolute communal harmony. We have tried presenting such an image of ourselves despite the many assaults under which people of minority religious persuasions have come under. We have always been vocal that no attack on any religious group or community will be tolerated. And yet when those attacks have come, we have either failed to act or have responded in inadequate manner.

 

In the recent past, Ahmadiyyas and Shias have come under attack. Buddhists in Ramu and other places have borne the brunt of attacks by Islamist fanatics. Schools run by Christian missionaries have been threatened by bigots. And, of course, many have been the occasions when Hindus have come under assault. This was not the way it was supposed to be back in 1971 when we waged war for a secular Bengali republic. We triumphed in that war. We established a state based on secular principles underpinned by Bengali nationalism.

 

But only three and a half years into freedom, we watched helplessly as the forces of reaction and darkness pulled the country back into the past we had so firmly rejected. Today, we go on suffering the ignominy of seeing the followers of religious minority groups being humiliated by fanatics. What happened in Nasirnagar of Brahmanbaria last Sunday has put us to absolute shame. Fanatics are always on the look-out for excuses to commit vile deeds. On Sunday, rumours of Facebook blasphemy let loose hundreds of these fanatics into descending on Hindu temples and homes in Nasirnagar. Eighteen temples were ruined and a hundred homes of Hindu families were vandalized.

 

Who is responsible for such outrage? The bigots are to blame, surely. But how did they have the audacity to do what they did in a state which loudly proclaims every now and then its secular principles? The fanatics went on with their villainy for hours. One can imagine the sheer terror which kept the members of the Hindu community — men, women and children — in its grip as the bigots went on smashing their religious idols and homes. In 1971, it was the occupation Pakistan army which indulged in such gross behaviour. Today it is our own people who do it, conveying the ugly message that Hindus or for that matter religious minorities have no place in Bangladesh.

 

Where were the police, RAB and other security forces? Did they not know what was going on? Here was a bunch of hate-mongers destroying everything in all their ferocity, with no force of the state rushing in to stop them.

 

We need answers. We simply cannot stand by and allow the agents of hate attack and humiliate our fellow citizens only because they believe in faiths that are different from the faith of the majority of the population. Let the authorities act — and act pitilessly and firmly.

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