Daily Janakantha, Nov. 29, 2003)
On Oct. 30, 2003, Harkat-E-Islam Al-Jihad issued a letter of ultimatum to the religious minority businessmen and minority leaders of the Awami League [the relatively progressive party] of Manikgonj, threatening to wage attacks on their families and burn down their houses unless they converted to Islam within seven days of receipt of the letter (The Daily Sangbad, Nov. 3, 2003).
On August 28, 2003, "Nine indigenous women, three from one family, were gang-raped and some others assaulted during a nearly eight-hour mob attacks on at least 10 villages in Mohalchhari Upazila of Khagrachhari district. More than 400 houses in those villages, two Buddhist temples and three shops were set ablaze and an elderly indigenous man was killed during the attacks” (The Daily Star, August 31, 2003).
Mr. Chair, the following observations and media quotes might help you appreciate the terrible plight of the minorities in Bangladesh.
Congressman Joseph Crowley, the founder and Chair of Bangladesh Caucus in the U. S. House of Representative said, "Intolerance has taken hold in Bangladesh,” (The Daily Star, January 13, 2004). Please note that, he said this during his visit to Bangladesh in January 2004, while meeting with the minorities in a temple in the city of Dhaka.
Describing the plight of the minorities of Bangladesh, The Economist wrote:
"Bangladesh's religious minorities: Safe only in the departure lounge" (Nov. 29, 2003). And the Human Rights Watch had the following to say: "…Attacks against Hindus in Bangladesh escalated dramatically following the October 2001 general election that brought the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) to power in coalition with hard-line Islamic parties. Christians, Buddhists, and dissenting Muslims were targeted as well, many for their perceived support of the opposition Awami League. Hindu homes were looted, vandalized, and burned and Hindu temples and sacred sites were destroyed. Scores of Hindu women and girls were raped. In some cases, they were gang raped in front of their male relatives. Hindus were also assaulted on the streets, in their homes, and at their workplaces. Systematic attacks resulted in a mass migration of Hindus to India, and in particular to the bordering state of Tripura. The government did little to prosecute or investigate the violence" (Human Rights Watch World Report 2003).
Mr. Chair, you might be noticing the reports I just read are one or two years old and wondering what is happening today in Bangladesh? Only one thing has changed - number of rapes and abductions leading to forced marriage and conversion has risen astronomically, while such atrocities as arson and murder that leave visible evidence have decreased. Please note that this change in use of instrument of persecution has maximized their desired outcome: exodus under duress.
After including Bangladesh in its Watch List, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its recommendations to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on May 11, 2005, wrote the following about Bangaldesh:
“… in Bangladesh, the Commission is concerned that democratic institutions and constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion are threatened by religious extremism and by the country’s chronic political strife. Islamic militants have been implicated in violent attacks on politicians, members of religious minorities, particularly Ahmadiyas, Hindus, and Christians, authors who promote different interpretations of Islam, and non-governmental institutions. The perpetrators of these crimes have largely gone unpunished.”
I hope the USCIRF’s observation and my previous examples will have convinced you that the campaign of religious and ethnic cleansing in Bangladesh continues unabated. Given that the recent escalation in the campaign of religious & ethnic cleansing in Bangladesh is a direct outcome of the accelerating rise of militant Islam in the country, it can not possibly cease until the surge of militant Islam there is curbed.