Bangladesh’s Persecution Of Hindus Is Nothing New. However, This Time, We Will Discuss It Firmly

There are 1.3 crore Hindus, together with a small number of Buddhists and Christians, living in Bangladesh today, representing about 8% of the total population; before the partition, they constituted more than 30% of the population. Most of them live in the countryside and work in traditional professions.

Communal Violence Is Chronic To Bangladesh

Bengali Hindus celebrate Durga Puja as their most significant festival. Across Bangladesh, Durga Puja pandals have been vandalized throughout this year’s festival. We want to know why. What can we do?

A little bit like dysentery, communal violence is common in South Asia. Both acute and chronic cases exist. A classic example of acute communal violence could be seen in Punjab between 1946 and 1948 when the Indian Punjab was erased from existence and replaced by the Pakistani Punjab, resulting in widespread murder and mayhem on both sides.

Bangladesh's Persecution Of Hindus Is Nothing New. However, This Time, We Will Discuss It Firmly

Almost all of Punjab’s Muslims have migrated to Pakistan, whereas Hindus and Sikhs have migrated to Indian Punjab. Due to this, there have not been any communal tensions between Muslims and Hindus in Punjab or Haryana since then. Even before Independence in Bengal, serious communal tension erupted in Noakhali, a little-known district in the province. Muslims led by Golam Sarwar attacked Hindu minorities here in October 1946, killings, rapes, cattle slaughter, forced feeding of beef to Hindus, and forcible conversions spread fear in the area so severe that most Hindus fled.

Bangladesh has been plagued by communal violence ever since 1947, after the events of that year. There was a sense of recognition surrounding Gandhi’s presence in Calcutta, in particular by Lord Mountbatten who referred to him as “one-man boundary force”. One of the main achievements of that force was that it prevented an exchange of population between the two Bengals. This led to the chronic communal problem in erstwhile East Pakistan and current-day Bangladesh.

Series Of Events In 1947

There were no disturbances in Calcutta on August 15, 1947, primarily due to Gandhi’s presence. Rosewater was sprinkled on one another by the members of both communities. However, East Pakistan was a bit different. The majority of professions, such as doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, and other callings, like clerks, small shopkeepers, and so forth, were dominated by Hindus. There was no knowledge of East Bengal among West Pakistan’s elites.

Bangladesh's Persecution Of Hindus Is Nothing New. However, This Time, We Will Discuss It Firmly

The Hindu culture was occupying the intellectual space of the province, which they felt needed to be removed urgently. The first step was to transform Bengali into Arabic or Urdu by writing it in Arabic script. Hindu and Muslim intellectuals opposed it, both small groups in Bengal at the time. During this same period, East Pakistan’s demand for Bengali to become Pakistan’s national language began to grow, despite Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s clarion call for Urdu as its official language, and without any doubt about the matter.

The West Pakistani rulers suspected that Hindus were behind the demand for Bengali as the nation’s language. It was Dhirendra Nath Datta, an advocate, and politician from Comilla, who was one of the first to call for this. In 1971, when Bangladesh sought independence, Dhirendra Nath Datta was horrifically tortured and murdered by the Pakistani Army in the Mainamati Cantonment at Comilla. This isn’t the point of this story. However, the hands of Hindus needed to be cared for. Most people do not know much about Hindu expulsion in East Bengal, East Pakistan, and Bangladesh, which were all parts of the same landmass.

Most Hindus who were able to read the writing on the wall left for West Bengal right then and exchanged property with West Bengali Muslims, though mostly they received unfair deals. After 1950, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan’s Liaquat Ali Khan had signed two Inter-Dominion Agreements that guaranteed the maintenance of their minorities. As India dealt with the guilt of Gandhi’s assassination with sincerity, Pakistan reacted with total hypocrisy, which further accelerated the exodus.

In 1949, both the British and East Pakistani rulers realized that this was insufficient to drive out the Hindus. A pogrom against Hindus was therefore planned to result in a mass exodus from India. When India adopted its Constitution and formed the Republic of India on January 30, 1950, the process began. There was severe persecution of Hindus in East Pakistan, and they began fleeing.

Between the stations of Ashugonj and Bhairab Bazar in East Pakistan, there is a railway bridge about a kilometer long, known as the Anderson Bridge. All trains crossed the bridge on February 12, 1950, and the Hindus were knifed and thrown overboard into the river after being either dead or half-dead. Pakistani officials planned and orchestrated the whole incident in advance. One of the areas worst affected were Barisal. It is a district in which there were not even a few yards of railways, so all transportation was done by river craft. Steamer wharves were full of murder and mayhem, where people were subjected to murder and mayhem. 

By the mid-1950s the Hindu intellectual class had either left East Pakistan completely or decided to leave very soon after this incident occurred. In East Pakistan, the Hindu population was reduced to a very small amount of the middle class and a large number of manual laborers, artisans, fishermen, and peasants. The people stayed in West Bengal because they did not possess any skills to support themselves. Jawaharlal Nehru’s first cabinet of independent India had Syama Prasad Mookerjee as a cabinet minister.

Bangladesh's Persecution Of Hindus Is Nothing New. However, This Time, We Will Discuss It Firmly

According to him, Nehru should organize an exchange of population as had happened in Punjab or obtain land from East Pakistan to rehabilitate Hindus who had already fled or were sure to leave East Pakistan soon. It was a flat refusal from Nehru to do either. Nehru was unsure what he hoped to accomplish with the exodus. In the meantime, a pogrom against Muslims in West Bengal had retaliated, which moved Nehru deeply. A contract was also offered by Liaquat Ali Khan to Nehru.

As a result, Nehru signed the Delhi Pact on April 8, 1950. Each nation is obligated to care for its minorities under this pact. It makes no sense for Nehru to sign this pact since he could not have been unaware that the pogroms that have so far taken place were the work of the Pakistan government itself. He had also failed to sign two interdominion agreements. Nehru may have thought something similar. His life consisted of living in a fantasy world, and he refused to see reality.

Nandana Valsan

Nandana Valsan is a Journalist/Writer by profession and an 'India Book of Records holder from Kochi, Kerala. She is pursuing MBA and specializes in Journalism and Mass Communication. She’s best known for News Writings for both small and large Web News Media, Online Publications, Freelance writing, and so on. ‘True Love: A Fantasy Bond’ is her first published write-up as a co-author and 'Paradesi Synagogue: History, Tradition & Antiquity' is her second successful write-up in a book as a co-author in the National Record Anthology. She has won Millenia 15 Most Deserving Youth Award 2022 in the category of Writer. A lot of milestones are waiting for her to achieve. Being a Writer, her passion for helping readers in all aspects of today's digital era flows through in the expert industry coverage she provides.

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