Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bangladesh forgives Jamaat

Delwar Hossain Sayedee is the Nayeb-e-Ameer (Vice President) of Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh and has been accused of war crimes (mostly against Hindu civilians) in 1971. He was awarded the death penalty which has now been down-graded to life in prison.
This, in our opinion, is a good (but not fair) ruling. Bangladesh urgently needs a working compromise between people who swear by Partition-I (freedom from Bengali Hindu oppression) and those who are loyal to Partition-II (freedom from Punjabi Muslim oppression). People (Bengali Muslims) need to forgive and forget the past, else more people are dead and broken in the present (total death count from last year's riots was in excess of 100).
What about the (Bengali Hindu) minorities? To our infinite regret we have to agree here with Professor Sharmila Bose (Oxford University). These people are so irrational that they are still clinging on to their bhitey-mati (home and land). However time is not on their side- legal and extra-legal means have been used to grab an estimated 2 million acres as of date (45% of all Hindu owned land). As Professor Abul Barkat (Dhaka University) observes "when it comes to land there is no secularism."

The recorded change in Hindu-Bangladeshi population: 22% (1951), 18.5% (1961), 13.5% (1974), 12.1% (1981), 10.5% (1991), 9.2% (2001) and 8.5% (2011), see below for more details and links. We have faith in history as a (persistent) teacher, the Hindus will eventually get the message and clear out. 
......over 9 lakh Bangladeshi Hindus have vanished from the country during the past decade. This has been reported officially by the Bangladesh Statistical Bureau (BSB) and the National Population Research and Training Institute (NPRTI).

Currently, Hindus account for 8.5 per cent of the total population of the country. However, in the 2001 census, the Hindu population of Bangladesh was 9.2 per cent. The Muslim population was 89.7 per cent in 2001, but increased to 90.4 per cent.

The two census reports identified 15 districts in the country where the Hindu population has decreased alarmingly. The institutions were quoted by the speakers as having claimed that the ‘missing population have not shifted anywhere in the country’.....

Professor Abul Barkat of Dhaka University's Department of Economics, in his survey on the status of Hindus since independence, found that the Vested Property Act was the single largest cause of migration of Hindus from Bangladesh. The law, which allowed the government to possess property abandoned by those who fled during Partition, soon metamorphosed into something abused by both citizens and the state.

The study found that 2.01 million acres, comprising 45 per cent of the land owned by Hindus, was lost due to this Act. Though there were attempts to amend the law, little has changed. Sustained campaigning on the issue led to the Awami League government passing the Vested Property Return Act 2001. 

But this law to return appropriated land is caught in bureaucratic and legal tangles. "When it comes to land, there is no secularism. All parties have been involved in land grabbing and no one is keen on implementing this law," Hossain said. 


While fingers will point many different ways in order to diffuse (or deny) the blame for the ongoing ethnic cleansing, we prefer to characterize this process as a tribute to the two nation theory. At least the Hindus have an escape route north, west and east, across the border, do spare a thought about the Urdu speaking "Bihari" Muslim minorities rotting away in Dhaka slums, neither the Islamic Republic of Pakistan nor the secular republic with Islam as state religion Bangladesh have time or space for them.

An important side-effect of TNT may be observed in the recent by-polls in India (held after the Lok Sabha elections in May).  In most cases the BJP lost miserably all across India - Bihar, Uttar Pradlesh, Uttarkhand, Rajasthan and Karnataka. Even in Gujarat BJP has under-performed. But there is a bright spot: victories in Basirhat Dakshin in West Bengal and Silchar in south Asom. Both are regions bordering Bangladesh and the rise of the BJP shows that the migrant Hindus have abandoned the "secular" formulations (Trinamool Congress and the Communists) and voted in favor of the Hindu-Hindi party. In its own way (and in not a good way) this is a sign for the times to come.
Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence of Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a top Islamist preacher whose sentencing last year triggered the deadliest political violence in the country's history, , to life term.

In a surprise ruling, the court said Sayedee should spend "the rest of his natural life" in jail, attorney general Mahbubey Alam said. "We had expected that the court would uphold his death sentence," Alam told reporters.

Lawyers for Sayedee said they were not satisfied with the court's ruling on the 74-year-old, who was convicted last year on eight counts including murder, rape and persecution of the country's minority Hindu community. "He should have been acquitted of all charges as the case was tainted by a number controversies," Khandaker Mahbub Hossain told reporters.

Last February's judgement by a war crimes court triggered weeks of bloody protests left more than 100 people dead and plunged the impoverished nation into a major crisis.

Security was tightened nationwide ahead of Wednesday's ruling, with thousands of police, the elite security force, Rapid Action Battalion, and the paramilitary border guards being deployed in major cities and towns.

Sayedee, vice-president of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was one the country's most popular Islamic preachers with millions of followers. In his heyday he would draw hundreds of thousands to his preaching sessions, and CDs of his speeches were top sellers.

He has said the original judgement was influenced by "atheists" and pro-government protesters who wanted to see him executed.


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