Shocked by the reports of yet another atrocity committed against a Hindu community by a mob of 20,000 Muslim men of neighbouring villages, with whom for generations they have shared good and bad times, I thought of a famous quote by theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil -- that takes religion.”
Just a year ago, saddened by the same puzzle after an identical attack on Hindu communities of Nasirnagar, in this very newspaper I wrote: “What happened to the country where once love, compassion, and humanity genuinely mattered, where Hindus and Muslims fought side by side, sacrificing their lives by the thousands? Is this the time to say ‘rest in peace, humanity’ in Bangladesh?”
This view for some was outrageous, arguing, that in a country of 168 million people, incidents as such could be dismissed as usual turbulence.
To that I say: It is not just about the attacks, which are happening far too often now.
Because an attack is the later part. What is really happening in Bangladesh in the last few years, to be more specific since 2013, is worrisome. It’s a systematic prolonged campaign of hate, threats of violence, and division based on religious identity, which the religious minorities (especially the Hindu communities) have to face, and endure the despicably unjust response from the state surviving such attacks.
What went so wrong with our society?
Religious liberty and equal rights since the conception of Bangladesh has been hailed as one of the fundamental values, but in recent times, we have witnessed a serious undermining of this principle -- especially by Islamist organisations, which have no other visible agenda but to mobilise people against other faiths.
An alliance of no good
If I was asked to pinpoint a culprit responsible for this sorry state of our society, I’ll point my finger at the pseudo-secular mainstream political section of the country -- those who have built alliances with fundamentalist organisations and individuals who are explicitly or implicitly preaching hate, violence, and religious identity politics.
It’s a systematic prolonged campaign of hate, threats of violence, and division based on religious identity
This alliance explains why the perpetrators, including the commanders of Nasirnagar attack, were set free to threaten the witnesses; why those who threatened Sultana Kamal in public of breaking every bone of her body were not brought to justice; and not to mention the transformation of our secular school curricula into a communal one at the beginning of this year.
This environment of impunity and fatal failure of justice is the motivational force for those who orchestrate communal hate crimes, as they know they’re beyond the reach of our justice system, and at the end they’ll emerge as victorious defenders of Islam among their fanatical supporters.
The state of Bangladesh seems to have become somewhat too selective about the kind of criminal it punishes.
A fatal failure of justice
Whenever an atrocity is committed, instead of drastic and thorough legal measures against the leaders of the fanatics, it now has become a tendency of our state to reduce this serious crisis into a law and order issue to be controlled by BGB men armed with batons to keep the mob away.
It must be understood that solidarity, emergency assistance, compensation for loss of property, all sound great -- but none of those are good enough. If not followed by actions that hold the leaders of the criminal mobs accountable, Bangladesh will never become the country which it was meant to be by the proclamation of its independence.
The continuous events of atrocities against the Hindu community in Bangladesh are nothing less than crimes against humanity. Bangladeshi-Hindus today -- due to intolerance, discrimination, and injustice -- have literally become a group of second-class citizens in their own land.
The incidents of injustice towards them are growing at an alarming rate, and it seriously questions our status as a civilised democratic state.
Nur E Emroz Alam Tonoy is a blogger.