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How Hindu extremists are destroying Muslim identity of Bangladesh

Professor Dr. Aalia Sohail Khan, former Vice Chancellor Rawalpindi University, reflects on the politics of religion deployed by the Hindu extremists to destroy the Muslim identity of Bangladesh.

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Every religious place is sacrosanct and each human life is sacred; any sacrilege is reprehensible and loss of human life is condemnable. Violation, sacrilege, desecration of religious sacred places has been, since immemorial times, considered crime against sanctity of human life and its dignity that derives from his/her multi-layered relationship with the Absolute Reality, the Absolute Truth, the Divine.

Whatever be the origin or form of religion, but as the etymology of the word suggests, it is like the ligament that connects; it connects human beings with the Divine as well as with fellow human beings. Its purpose is to create concord not discord. Hence desecration of Holy places like Synagogues, Temples, Churches and Mosques is a crime against the ethos that ensures respect for the cosmic laws descending from the Supreme Truth.

In Greek mythology, the Greeks’ desecration of the Trojan temples was abhorred and punished by their gods, though they had won the 10 years-long war against Troy. Despite being the victor, when the Caliph Omar captured Jerusalem, he observed the sanctity of church by offering his prayers outside the church.

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The recent incident of sacrilege of the Muslim scriptures in Bangladesh is not only a grave and grim instance of intolerance, disrespect for diversity of religious beliefs, it is also alarming and menacing as it has generated a chain of violent reactions in the name of religion. Of the different reactive responses, the most aggressive and seething with hatred reaction was evinced by more than 10,000 Hindu extremists, who gathered in Assam to protest the follow-on occurrences in Bangladesh since a Quran was desecrated in a Hindu temple at Cumilla.

The Hindu extremists not only burnt the flag of Bangladesh in several places, they also attempted to cross the Bangladesh-India international border. They were stopped by Border Security Forces from doing so as that would have resulted in an armed response from Bangladesh. The protest was called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

It was participated by Bharat Sevasram Sangha, Sankar Math, Gauriya Math, Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) women’s wing. Hindu extremists once again reminded about 1971, said they gave Bangladeshis ‘identity’ and said if Indian forces wanted ‘the entire country would have been part of India at that time’.

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They threatened India can invade Bangladesh today if required. It is a reminder of the Indian plans to turn Bangladesh into a vassal state. So intense was the reaction that some protesters jumped into the Kushiyara river trying to cross the international border.

Ironically this sacrilege was manipulated to find scapegoats, to justify punitive measures. This is not something new. The blame has been foisted on three members of Jamait-e-Islami for conspiring to place the Quran at the feet of the Hindu Goddess Durga.

It is a sad fact that after the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, many members of Jamait-e-Islami were tortured, lynched and executed for their ‘’crime’’ of supporting the unity of Pakistan. In the creation of Bangladesh, the shift of identity from Bengali Muslim hood to Bengali nationalism was corrosive as it was the cause of indiscriminate killing of innocent people.

Nevertheless, this concept of ethnic nationalism is corroding. Though Indian influence and intervention in Bangladesh is pervasive, yet the deep reverence for the source of Islamic teachings remains alive. Even after 50 years, the hunt continues to target pro-Islamic Bengalis. This cruel act of persecuting innocent people is reminiscent of witch hunting in Europe and MaCarthyism in America.

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Innocent people were persecuted for alleged crimes against them. Many accusations were concocted against them to justify the horrific, brutal punishments. Likewise, the extremist Indian protests against Bengali Muslims in Bangladesh demonstrate a partisan mindset, obscurantism, revenge, prejudice, masquerading as prompt action to execute justice.

This seems to be a conspiracy to find a pretext to penalise innocent people. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, most vociferous in fabricating false accusations has perhaps forgotten the Agartala conspiracy hatched and fostered by the Indians in 1952 to establish a pro-Indian government in erstwhile East Pakistan.

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That Indian propaganda is spearheaded by the desire to enfeeble Bangladesh is corroborated by Major General (R)M.A Halim, former Director-General of Bangladeshi Intelligence, who in one of his interviews published in the book titled, RAW in Bangladesh – portrait of an aggressive Intelligence by Abu Rushd published in Dhaka in 2005 (PP311-313) wrote, “Though Bangladesh had very important help [from India] during the liberation war of Bangladesh, but RAW [foreign intelligence agency of Indian: Research and Analysis Wing] wanted Bangladesh to be entirely dependent on Indians in all respects and the people of Bangladesh would be craving for the love of India. Besides the main target of RAW is to identify the pro-Islamic people of Bangladesh as the anti-liberation forces and alienate Bangladesh from influence of other Muslim countries of the world…. RAW did not extend its helping hand to our war of liberation spontaneously and without fixing its own target of interest, India had been more attentive and operative to dividing its very enemy Pakistan into two than liberating Bangladesh.”

Prof Dr. Aalia Sohail Khan, former Vice-Chancellor Rawalpindi University Pakistan. 33 years of experience in teaching English literature and language at postgraduate level. 7 years of administrative experienceThe views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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