Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bangladesh witnessing ethnic cleansing: Shahriar Kabir

photo: Shahriar Kabir taken by police when he was charged under sedition in 2002

Monday January 30, 01:50 PM
By By Sujoy Dhar, Indo-Asian News Service

http://in.news.yahoo.com/060130/43/629kl.html

Kolkata, Jan 30 (IANS) Under the vice-like grip of fundamentalists, Muslim majority Bangladesh is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing to rid the country of Hindus, says human rights activist and writer Shahriar Kabir.

'What has been going on in Bangladesh since October 2001 is a kind of ethnic cleansing though the government is constantly denying it and accusing us of unleashing a disinformation campaign,' Kabir, who is under surveillance in his country, told IANS in an interview at the Kolkata Book Fair ground here.

'What happened in Gujarat in India was for a period. But in Bangladesh, atrocities on the minority have been continuing since 2001 in the same intensity,' says the 55-year-old general secretary of the South Asian People's Union Against Fundamentalism and Communalism.

'Actually when they (the present government) came to power in 2001, the Talibanisation of Bangladesh had begun. Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), one of the alliance partners of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government, gave the slogan 'Amra Sabai Taliban, Bangla hobe Afghan' (We are all Talibans, Bangladesh would be Afghanistan) even before they won elections,' says Kabir.

The partners in the Bangladesh government are BNP, IOJ, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jatiya Party (JP).

'These fundamentalist organisations are supported by at least 10 NGOs of the Middle East, including the Saudi Arabia-based Rabeta Al Islam,' says Kabir, who is also a reputed freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.

Slapped with sedition charges and put behind bars twice in 2001 and 2002, Kabir has compiled a three-volume publication titled 'Bangladesh-e Sankhyalaghu Nirjataner Ponerosho Diner Swetpatra' (White Paper on 1,500 Days of Torture on Minorities in Bangladesh) to counter the government's denial of atrocities on minority.

'We want an end to these multi-dimensional atrocities and minority-bashing which is unprecedented anywhere in the world. We have not documented a single incident of political violence in this compilation, which has over 300 pictorial descriptions and account of about 2,750 cases of atrocities,' says Kabir, whose compilation was released here recently.

'The government in Bangladesh is neither banning the book nor allowing us to sell it there though in places like New York and London the publication has been launched and organisations like Amnesty International praised us for such a well-documented treatise on human rights violations,' says Kabir.

'We have listed the presence of at least 84 fundamentalist militant organisations in Bangladesh. The country has left even Pakistan way behind in their number,' he says.

'The (corrective) actions taken so far by the government are only under pressure of the West and to show its seriousness to the world about curbing fundamentalism. The arrested fundamentalists are not even interrogated fiercely or chargesheeted properly because even the policemen are afraid of them.

'The government, which itself is run by the fundamentalists, would have to admit first about the atrocities which they are constantly denying,' says Kabir who was once blindfolded and interrogated by police and is made to report to court twice a month.

'I met with an accident some time back and cannot walk without a support. But I am made to climb three storeys of the court building to appear before the judge,' says Kabir.

'I was offered asylum in the West along with my family by Amnesty International. But can they offer asylum to the millions of Hindus in Bangladesh?' he asks.

'In Bangladesh, the secular parties are not united and so far the protest against fundamentalism and minority bashing has come only from civil society and media.'

'The people of Bangladesh in general are not fundamentalists. It was proved in 1971 when Pakistan was defeated but later systematically the country was introduced to Islamic nationalism from a secular democracy following the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.'

Kabir does not think that the elections in Bangladesh early next year would be free and fair.

'If the elections are free and fair the secular democratic forces would return to power. But all arrangements have been made to rig the polls. The opposition for once is united on this issue as they have refused to fight elections under the present election commissioner who favours the government.' #