providing shelter to a shipload of Al- Qaeda warriors after the fall of Kandahar, Afghanistan (TIME-Asia Oct. 14, 2002). These Al-Qaeda members are now training jihadists in many of the country’s 69,000 plus madrassahs or Islamic seminaries and exporting them overseas (see, e.g., The Far Eastern Economic Review, April 2, 2002; The Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2002; The Al Ahram , 11-17 Sept. '03; AP, Sept. 3, '03, and The New York Times, May 28. '04). And, after assuming power with an absolute majority in the October parliamentary election, which they achieved by rigging and disenfranchising the minorities, the currently ruling parties let loose a reign of terror on the minorities of the country. In fact, the atrocities have been so grisly and relentless in the past four years that the campaign ought to be called one of religious and ethnic cleansing if not a variant of genocide.
Human rights of Bangladesh’s minorities have been violated both at the governmental and societal levels. They have included routine humiliation by addressing them as ‘infidels’, blatant discrimination in access to higher education, job & business opportunities, disenfranchisement, extortion of an “infidel tax”, incarceration by implication in fictitious cases, desecration & destruction of deities, temples, churches and missionary schools, forced conversion, abduction, rape, forced marriage with the rapist, gang rape (often the mother in front of children, sister in front of brother and father, wife in front of her husband and parents-in-law, with ages ranging from 8 to 70), mass rape, torture, arson, forced eviction, looting, maiming, and grisly murder. In fact, the minorities of Bangladesh, particularly those who live in rural areas (a vast majority of minorities do live in rural areas) live there as caged animals having to pay a regular "infidel tax" and making their women available to the cadres of the ruling "Islamic hardliners” as and when demanded (U. S. congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. in his May 17, 2004 speech before the Congress about the plight of Bangladesh’s minorities likened their plight to that of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany).
Unable to bear the brunt of this vicious state-sponsored campaign of blatant discrimination, relentless persecution, and atrocities, minorities have had to flee to India, often in their pajamas, to live there as illegal aliens. This exodus has been continuous. Given that the family size of the minorities is similar to that of the Muslims, without the exodus the minority population in Bangladesh today is estimated to have been 62 million. But, in fact, only 20 million1 remain. This loss of nearly 42 million people is more than the combined total population of a dozen countries such as Albania, Bahrain, Iceland, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Namibia, Oman, Panama, Costa Rica or Malta. And, if Pakistan is any indication, the remaining 20 million will be totally eliminated unless the community of civilized nations intervenes to reverse the dangerous course—the process of Talibanization—Bangladesh has taken.
Mr. Chair, in the very limited time that I have, I will try to present before you a few cases of discrimination, persecution, and atrocities. I hope highly sensitive people such as yourselves, who have adopted human rights as a mission in your lives, would be able to gauge the gravity of the problem even from the third person narrative I am providing.
First I will describe how this campaign is state sponsored:
Through the passage of the 5th and 8th amendments of the constitution, the government paved the way for Talibanization of Bangladesh and licensed atrocities against the country’s minorities. In the aftermath of the passage of the 8th amendment, a reign of terror was let loose by the Islamists against the country’s minorities, which never actually ceased. Through the 5th and 8th Amendments of the constitution, the BNP and JP governments virtually transformed the once secular Bangladesh into an Islamic state, an ominous declaration that has resulted in the following:
“...on February 8, 1989, about 400 Muslims from the neighboring villages waged an attack on the Hindu community of the village of Sobahan, in Daudkandi, Comilla. The [Muslim] terrorists reminded them that, “the government has declared Islam to be the state religion, and therefore you have to either convert to Islam or leave the country.” They set ablaze every Hindu household after looting, razed the temples, and then gang-raped women. (See Baishammer Shikar Bangladesher Hindu Sampradaya 'The Hindus of Bangladesh: Victim of Discrimination' , Matiur Rahman & Azizul Huq eds. 1990).
( . A significantly lower number is shown on the census reports so the issue of extremely disproportionate minority representation in the government and legislature would not appear to be much of an issue.