When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Islamists Target Hindu Minority In Bangladesh

''The goal of the fundamentalists is to force us to leave Bangladesh and go to India,” says one activist for the rights of religious minorities.

Hindu devotees Swamibagh, Bangladesh
Hindu devotees Swamibagh, Bangladesh
Frédéric Bobin

ENAYETPUR — There is a pile of burned-out metal sheets and poles, and the smell of ashes still remains in Enayetpur, a Bangladeshi hamlet situated on the Gulf of Bengal. Three houses of braided palm, where 20 people were sleeping Jan. 8, did not resist long in the fire caused by attackers who threw Molotov cocktails during the night.

Miraculously, only one person, Acharjee Mitu, was wounded. He still has some burns on his forehead, a shiny pink stain. A week later, the villagers are still in shock. They belong to the country’s Hindu minority, which represents just 9% of the population. During the last year, Muslim attacks against Hindus — and occasionally against Buddhists — have intensified. The controversial Jan. 5 elections, boycotted by an opposition that includes influential fundamentalist Muslims, have worsened the climate of violence.

Resident Sanjay Acharjee did not see the attackers. But he has no doubt about their identity: “They are activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami and of BNP — Bangladesh Nationalist Party.”

Jamaat-e-Islami is the primary Islamist party in Bangladesh. It is historically allied with the BNP. In recent weeks, the two parties orchestrated a violent campaign to protest the last elections on the grounds that it was not “transparent.” Police and paramilitary forces have responded with great brutality, polarizing the Bangladeshi political scene even further.

In this highly charged context, the Hindu minority was an easy target for the most extreme opposition activists, including those related to the Islamist movement. The Islamists wanted to make them pay for their participation in the elections.

Hindus — and other minorities (including Buddhists and Christians) — have always supported the Awami League, the ruling party since 2009 whose mandate was renewed after the Jan. 5 elections. Embodying the legacy of the struggle for Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) independence against Pakistan in 1971, the Awami League defends secular values of religious minorities as a safeguard against Islamist extremism.

“The goal of the fundamentalists is to force us to leave Bangladesh and go to India,” says Ranajit Kumur Dey, president of an organization defending the rights of Hindu, Buddhist and Christian minorities. In fact, the exodus to a large neighboring country with a Hindu majority is a history that dates back to the partition in 1947 between India and Pakistan of the former British “crown jewel.” Today only about 11 million Hindus are still living in Bangladesh.

The independence of Bangladesh in 1971, during which Hindus were victims of pro-Pakistani forces, accelerated the demographic decline. In Enayetpur, people still remember that time. A fire back then destroyed all the households. “The majority of the population of the village fled to India,” says Sanjay Acharjee.

The increasing number of attacks in recent months, motivated both by religious fanaticism and land expropriation, has revived the memory of that dark period among Hindus. A vigilante group has organized night patrols, and the lack of sleep has given them dark circles under their eyes.

“If I had the means, I would leave Bangladesh,” says Arun Acharjee. “We do not want to leave the country that is our homeland,” says Gobinda Mohajan. “But we live in permanent insecurity.”

What’s hardest for Mohajan to understand is that the secular government of the Awami League is ineffective in protecting Hindus, even though the religious minority supports the government. Mohajan is even tempted to put all the parties of the “Muslim majority” in the same basket. “They are all interconnected and share the same feelings,” he sighs.

A disillusioned statement that leaves little room for hope.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


How I Made Homeschooling Work For My Mexican Family

Educating children at home is rarely accepted in Mexico, but Global Press Journal reporter Aline Suárez del Real's family has committed to daily experiential learning.

How I Made Homeschooling Work For My Mexican Family

Cosme Damián Peña Suárez del Real and his grandmother, Beatriz Islas, make necklaces and bracelets at their home in Tecámac, Mexico.

Aline Suárez del Real

TECÁMAC, MEXICO — Fifteen years ago, before I became a mother, I first heard about someone who did not send her child to school and instead educated him herself at home. It seemed extreme. How could anyone deny their child the development that school provides and the companionship of other students? I wrote it off as absurd and thought nothing more of it.

Today, my 7-year-old son does not attend school. Since August of last year, he has received his education at home, a practice known as home-schooling.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest