Chapter 9


Bangladesh got its independence through the bloody holocaust of 1971, followed by military action by the Indian Army, assisted by the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) consisting of Bangladeshi irregulars. The bulk of the victims of the holocaust were Hindus. A common language, Bangla, which the Hindus and Muslims dearly loved, became the basis, the raison d'etre of the new country. The Prime Minister of the new Republic, Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman declared that one of the cornerstones of the new country would be religious tolerance, and the state would be secular.

After this one would have expected that the life of the Hindus who had so far not crossed over to India (and, of course, were still alive after the holocaust of 1971) would be peaceful, and they would be permitted to go about their business with the same freedom as the majority Muslims. Alas, it was not to be. While the life of the Hindus was certainly not as bad as it was under the Pakistani regime, it was very, very far from being a bed of roses. For the Hindus there were relatively good times, like the first five years of the republic, average times like the period of Awami League rule in the late nineties upto the writing of this book, and the brief rule, in 1991, of temporary President, Mr. Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed. There were bad times like the period of Ziaur Rahaman's, or his widow Khaleda Zia's rule, or Ershad's rule around the time when he declared Islam to be the state religion. And there were horrible, abysmal, near-Pakistani times like the period when there was a Writ Petition filed in the Calcutta High Court against the Quran, and when the disputed structure in Ayodhya, often referred to as the Babri Mosque of Ayodhya, India, was demolished by Hindus

But at all times, barring the initial years of euphoria, there was and is widespread ill-feeling against the Hindus, especially in the rural areas (which covers the entire country, barring the four sizeable towns of Dacca, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna). There are several reasons for this. First, the basic intolerance of the Muslim towards the infidel (this statement, incidentally, is not any expression of disrespect, but one of fact - see Chapter 10). The urban middle and upper classes of Bangladesh are, to a great extent, free of this prejudice, but the rural masses, mostly illiterate, are under the thumbs of the village Mollahs, and there is no reason for the Mollahs to love the Hindus. Even the urban middle class joined the fundamentalist crowd, and attacked Hindus without a qualm when there was a strong enough provocation, as there was during the post-Babri days. Second, a subject discussed in Chapter 4, the irresistible appeal that Bengali Hindu women have for the Muslim male. Many Muslim men are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to possess a Hindu woman, and that does not make Hindu men particularly dear to them. Third, the economic motive, in a religious package. Quite a few of the rural Hindus still have considerable property, and a large part of the fundamentalist rural populace see no reason why Hindus should be allowed to be so rich. Moreover, the bulk of Bengali Muslims are peasants and in them there is the hunger for land that is present in every peasant. Fourth, the popular perception that every Hindu is an Indian agent, an India sympathiser, and every Hindu is thus the obvious 'fall guy' in real or imagined Indian acts against the interests of Bangladesh, such as robbing the country of water (causing a drought) or sending too much water (causing a flood) by operation of the Farakka Barrage

On the flip side, it must be mentioned that unlike during the Pakistani era, there is no overt state sponsorship of the persecution, and in most cases very little covert sponsorship either. What is really present is animosity or indifference towards Hindus at the individual level of police officers and similarly placed public servants. There has been no mass exodus of Hindus as there was in the East Pakistan era since Bangladesh came into being. Although a large number of Hindus have left for India, they have taken their own time in doing so, and in many cases they have been able to dispose of their property (though often for a pittance, as happens with distress sales) before they have left. And finally, unlike the eerie silence and the secularist hypocrisy prevailing in India, there is substantial sympathy among the Bangladeshi Muslim intellectuals for the Hindus for the fate that they had suffered, and they are vocal with that sympathy. Two authors in particular - Salaam Azad, and the celebrated Dr. Taslima Nasrin - stand out in this regard. Of these, Taslima Nasrin's fearlessness had driven the fundamentalists in the country to declare a futwah for her killing, and drove her to exile in Europe. The reaction, or rather the lack of reaction, of the Left-Nehruvian political and intellectual establishment in India (the term has been explained in detail in Chapter 10 below) to the travails of Nasrin is very interesting, and will be discussed in this chapter and the next one.

So what really was or is the state of the Bengali Hindu in Muslim-majority, Bangla-speaking Bangladesh?

Versions differ, yet agree substantially on the proposition that there is constant subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle persecution, and pressure exerted on them to leave for India. Francois Gautier, an expatriate French journalist resident in India, correspondent of the Paris newspaper Figaro, and A.J.Kamra together with Koenraad Elst, have both drawn very grim pictures. According to Gautier
[iii] "It would be nice to say that the Hindus in Bangladesh are prospering. But it is the reverse which has happened. There were 28% Hindus in 1941, 10.5% in 1991, and less than 9 % today. Pogroms, burning of temples (specially after Ayodhya) have all ensured that the Hindus flee Bangladesh".

According to Elst, as recorded in his finishing of Kamra’s book, ‘The Prolonged Partition and its Pogroms’, Bangladesh today is a vast concentration camp for Hindus. The chief tormentors of Hindus are the Jamaat-e-Islami, a fundamentalist Islamic political party and the Islami Chhatra Shibir, a similarly motivated students' organisation. However, the Bangladesh National Party of Begum Khaleda Zia is strongly anti-Hindu and rabidly anti-Indian, and does its bit in making the Hindu's lives miserable as far as it can. Even the ruling Awami League of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, currently led by his only surviving family member Mrs. Sheikh Hasina Wajed, and supposed to be sympathetic to Hindus, shows considerable ambivalence in this regard, and is said to be more interested in the Hindus' votes rather than in their welfare or their security. The government practises open discrimination in the appointment of Hindus to high posts, and harasses them in a myriad other small and big ways. Apart from these organised groups, Hindu-bashing is practised by individuals and informal groups all the time, especially in the rural areas where the lead is often provided by the village Mollah. Kamra and Elst's account cites a large number of examples of persecution of Hindus, and the more blatant among them have been stated later in this chapter.

By far the most horrific picture of the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh has been drawn by a few daring Bangladeshi Muslim authors, notably Taslima Nasrin and Salaam Azad, the first the more famous among them. Both of them have written in Bangla, though Taslima's celebrated book Lojja was translated into English under the title 'Shame'. The best picture drawn by Taslima is in her books ‘Lojja’
[iv]and ‘Phera’ [v](both in Bangla, meaning respectively, ‘Shame’ and ‘The Return’). Lojja is otherwise memorable because it is the book which caused a fundamentalist outfit in Bangladesh called ‘Sahaba Sainik Parishad’ (with several others following suit) to demand a ban on all her writing and declare a futwah for her death. Such a futwah is roughly equivalent to putting out a contract on her, with the difference that the consideration for the contract is not money, but the satisfaction of having served one’s religion well.

Apart from these Bangladeshi Muslim authors, an organisation called Nikhil Banga Nagarik Sangha (All-Bengal Citizens' Forum) run a website called ('mayer dak' meaning, in Bangla, the call of the mother) which tries to expose and give publicity to incidents of Hindu-bashing in Bangladesh. Similarly, a group of U.S. based Hindus of Bangladeshi origin, under the banner of an organisation called Human Rights Congress for Bangladeshi Minorities, run another website called By far the most indifferent lot to the atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh are the Hindu Bengalis of India, especially those of West Bengal, including those of East Bengali origin, many of whom consider it 'communal' to even commiserate with their close cousins across the border (the reasons for this strange and inexplicable behavior are analysed in the next chapter). There are, however, exceptions. The weekly newsmagazine Swastika[vi] (Bangla) regularly reports instances of atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh.

Lojja, a short novel, describes the life of a Hindu family of Mymensingh who, through what has been shown as the stubbornness of the father of the head of the family, Dr. Sukumar Datta and his son Sudhamoy Datta, had chosen to live on in East Pakistan. It was 1952, and everyone else was leaving, all the friends in Sudhamoy’s class in Lytton Medical College, Dacca. They had warned Sudhamoy, while leaving, ‘You will regret it if you don’t go now ; this is the Muslims’ homeland, there is no security for us here. Sudhamoy's father did not budge and neither did Sudhamoy. He got his medical degree, moved back to Mymensingh, got a job in the S.K. Hospital and set up a thriving private practice in Swadeshi Bazar. He had married Kironmoyee, daughter of a lawyer from Brahmanbaria who later moved to India and kept on pressing the couple to do so. The couple, however, specifically Sudhamoy, deliberately chose not to leave his home and hearth. They had a son Suranjan and a daughter, Maya. He was all along a Bangla language enthusiast, and had actively participated in all the movements that espoused the cause of the language and opposed the imposition of the Urdu language on East Pakistanis by the Westerners. In 1971, after the Pakistani Army crackdown, he got all excited and decided to go to war with the Bangladesh Mukti Bahini, the Liberation Army, and before that to leave his family in the village home of a Muslim friend.

But he had to lock his home before leaving, and for that he needed to buy a padlock. He went out into the deserted night to buy that padlock and was accosted by three Pakistani soldiers who asked him his name. He had hesitated for a second and answered ‘Sirajuddin Hussain’. That hesitation caused the Pakistanis to disbelieve him, and make him strip. When they found that he was not circumcised (and therefore was obviously a Hindu) they broke one of his legs and three of his ribs by kicking him. They dragged him to their camp, hung him from a beam and beat him mercilessly, forced him to drink their urine when he cried for water, and constantly badgered him to recite the Kalma and become a Muslim. Sudhamoy was a well-read, cultured person. Even in that state he had recalled Alex Haley’s ancestor Kunta Kinte being beaten and told to call himself ‘Toby’, and persistently refusing to do so. Sudhamoy had decided to follow Kunta Kinte. When he did not give in after six or seven days of badgering the Pakistani soldiers chopped off his penis (they called it an act of advanced circumcision) and threw him in a gutter. There were a few other Hindus in the camp who were begging to be made Muslims in order to be allowed to live. The Pakistanis had killed them.

Sudhamoy somehow survived the ordeal, dragged himself home and collapsed. Kironmoyee managed to smuggle him and the children away to Arjunkhil village in Phulpur, across the Brahmaputra river. There Sudhamoy changed his name to Abdus Salam, Kironmoyee’s to Fatima, Suranjan’s to Sabir. When the Mukti Bahini came to Phulpur and announced the formation of independent Bangladesh, he had howled in joy, and hugged his wife, calling her Kironmoyee again, over and over. But he could never forget that he had condemned Kironmoyee to a lifetime of forced celibacy. And for a middle-class, middle-aged Bengali Hindu housewife like Kironmoyee to consider divorce, or seek sex outside wedlock was beyond her dreams.

Sudhamoy was full of hope that with the transformation of the country into Bangladesh he would be able to hold his head high, and live on in Bangladesh as a Hindu, but a patriotic Hindu. It did seem that way for a while. However, things changed with the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his entire family in 1975. The fundamentalists began to reassert themselves. General Ziaur Rahman captured power, and appointed Shah Aziz, a Razakar (one of the groups which collaborated with the Pakistanis during the liberation struggle of 1971) as his next man. Then it was the turn of General Ershad to capture power. He formed his Jatiyo Party, and in 1989 declared Islam to be the State Religion. And that made all the difference.

But Sudhamoy persisted in his wishful thinking. He still stubbornly pretended to himself that he was in no danger, that he was an equal citizen, a proud citizen of Bangladesh, despite being a Hindu. However, things began to happen in front of his very eyes that he could not ignore. He found his friends, Muslim friends, Marxist friends of the liberation struggle days, gradually turning into devout Muslims. On some days, when Sudhamoy dropped in on them, they were distinctly uncomfortable – they had a Millad at home! Suranjan and Maya, Sudhamoy’s son and daughter, were discriminated against in school in many strange ways designed to put it in their minds that this was not their country, that they were not welcome to stay on here, that they were Hindus, that they’d better go away to India. It hurt their sensitive child-minds, and Suranjan became a maladjusted child. It was becoming dangerous to proclaim oneself to be a Hindu, and Kironmoyee gave up wearing the signs of Hindu married women, the conch-shell bangle on her wrist and the vermilion 'fortune mark' in the parting of her hair.

Still Sudhamoy could not shake off his beliefs, and became a split personality. He yelled at his Hindu friends and called them unpatriotic when they talked of buying property in India with a view to go away there ; and he complained to his Muslim friends of the abject discrimination practised against him because he was a Hindu. Both groups began to avoid him. Eventually he could no longer stand the insecurity in the small town of Mymensingh, and yet could not bring himself to move to India. So he moved to Dacca and took up a job as an Assistant Professor of Medicine. Even here he was passed over for promotions in favour of his junior Muslim colleagues. Yet he persisted in his wishful thinking that Bangladesh was his country, that he was an equal citizen of Bangladesh.

His son Suranjan had grown up to be a social misfit as a result of the tumultuous life that he had gone through. He had good Muslim friends in Dacca, enlightened, irreligious friends who truly loved him, and yet he felt that all their love for him was pointless, because they were powerless against the Islamic fundamentalism that was gradually engulfing the whole country. The enormous insecurity that he suffered following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India sickened him. He watched a procession chanting a slogan ‘Ekta duita Hindu dhoro, sokal bikal nasta koro’ (catch a Hindu or two, have them for breakfast or tea) ; another one chanted 'Hindu jodi banchte chao, edesh chhere chole jao' (Hindus, if you want to live, leave this country).

Suranjan left home and wandered about aimlessly. He did it for quite a few times. All his friends told him not to stir out of home. During one of his absences his father suffered a cerebral stroke and was practically immobilised. And during another absence some Muslim goons managed to get entry into their home, ravaged it, and in the end dragged out and carried away Maya. Her mother Kironmoyee ran after her, appealed to some Muslims standing by to do something. Nobody did anything. Suranjan came home, went out with his friend Hydar, searched high and low all over Dacca. No trace of Maya. In impotent rage Suranjan goes to a young Muslim sex worker, has a bout of uncharacteristically violent and sadistic sex with her and refuses to pay her after the act, as if to teach Muslims a lesson. But he eventually relents, and pays up for the services rendered.

One of Suranjan's best friends, Belal, a Muslim, one day asks him "Why did you break our Babri Masjid down"? Suranjan wonders why and how the Babri Masjid, a shrine in India, is 'our' for Belal, a Bangladeshi Muslim, and how Suranjan, a patriotic Bangladeshi Hindu, is part of 'you', the Indian Hindu crowd who broke it! Is this what is meant by Bangla nationalism? Does it not extend beyond pan-Islamism?

Maya is not found. Somebody brings news that a corpse looking like Maya has been seen floating about below a bridge. The book ends with a scene of both Sudhamoy's and Suranjan's dreams of living in Bangladesh as Hindus getting shattered. They finally accept reality, and decide to move to India.

Phera, as a novel, is even shorter than Lojja. It describes the experiences of Kalyani, a Hindu woman who grew up in Mymensingh town, East Bengal, and moved to West Bengal like millions of others. Yet, unlike those millions she cannot forget Mymensingh, the Brahmaputra River, her huge house, memories of her father, her childhood friend Sharifa, her Bidyamoyee School. She talks about them all the time. Her loving husband tries to be nice but is really uninterested. Driven by intense nostalgia she decides to visit Mymensingh again, and takes along her son Dipon with her.

The trip turns out to be a huge disillusionment. The people are indifferent, lukewarm, sometimes downright hostile. Most of them have forgotten that a huge Hindu population used to live there (most major towns of East Bengal, including Mymensingh, had a Hindu majority in the British days). Nobody remembers her father, a retired District Magistrate, and a prominent citizen of the town. She goes to look up Sharifa, and finds her a wreck, the mother of seven children, while Kalyani is still quite youthful and attractive. Atahar, Sharifa's husband, is not particularly welcoming, but that does not stop him from looking at Kalyani with lustful eyes. He also makes a snide remark about how Muslims are ill-treated in India. Dipon tries to play with some local boys, and finds they are killing red ants, because red ants are supposedly Hindu, and sparing black ants because they are Muslim.

Kalyani finally goes looking for her own home, and finds it is not there. It had possibly been taken over by the Pakistan government under the draconian Enemy Property Laws, pulled down, parceled out into small plots, and built all over. She still goes on to what had been once their property, like a person possessed, and finds a Jam (Jamun) tree that she knew very well, the only remnant of her lost childhood. She is now completely overtaken by uncontrollable nostalgia. She hugs the Jam tree and kneels down to smell the earth, breaks down and howls in agony. A small crowd collects and discusses her. Somebody says she is Hindu, from India, and this used to be her home. Some unkind soul makes a snap judgement about Hindus wanting to have the best of both worlds. Finally a gentle old Muslim comforts her. As she is leaving the scene, someone shouts after her 'Kalyani didi' (Hindu Bengali word for 'elder sister', Muslims say 'Apa') ! Kalyani turns and finds Swapan, brother of Rukhsana, another childhood Muslim friend of hers. This is a different kind of person from what she had been seeing so long. He shares Kalyani's nostalgia, commiserates with her, and rues the Islamic fundamentalism that is gaining ground in Bangladesh. Kalyani in a conversation with him, wonders whether someday the two countries might not reunite. Swapan is not very hopeful - he says religion poses an insurmountable barrier. Kalyani eventually cuts short her holiday and comes back to Calcutta.

Though both Lojja and Phera are works of fiction, they have had a signal effect in drawing the attention of the world to the persecution of Hindus of East Bengal, something that even the victims had deliberately chose to forget. Of the two Phera is a typical Bangla sentimental family novel, heavy with nostalgia, heartbreaks, disillusionments, dashed hopes and the like. However it is more readable than Lojja for the lay reader, because of the human interest. Lojja, on the other hand, is all gloom right through, very heavy reading, and not at all attractive to a reader not particularly interested in the backdrop. Neither is anything great in terms of literary quality. Yet, these two books have done - or undone - more than any learned treatise or political speech to break the cloud so carefully created and nurtured by the Indian Left-Nehruvian intellectual establishment, and by Bangladesh, to conceal the entire gamut of anti-Hindu acts in Eastern Bengal, ranging from plain discrimination all the way to the bestialities of 1971.

The strength of Lojja lies in its background research, the statistics it quotes, its analysis of the statistics and the conclusions Taslima draws from the analysis. Consider the following : she cites as many as 145 instances of persecution of Hindus in present-day Bangladesh, taking care to mention the precise location where the act was perpetrated, in terms of Zilla, Upazilla and Gram (respectively district, sub-district and village). These are mostly instances of small-scale, localised persecution, quite apart from the type of countrywide atrocities that took place in October 1990 and again in December 1992.

Consider some of the typical cases mentioned in Lojja, covering both local and countrywide types of persecution. :

During the pogrom of October 1990 there were widespread destruction of Hindu property and temples and other religious structures in Dacca city. The famous Dhakeswari temple was burnt down, with the police idly watching. The raiders burnt the main temple, natmandir, Shiva temple, the guest house, the residence of Sridam Ghosh next to the guest house. At Gaudiya Math too, they destroyed the main temple, natmandir, and guest house. At Madhva Gaudiya Math the main temple was destroyed. The Jaykali temple was reduced to rubble. The main room and the beautifully sculpted throne of the deity in the Ram-Sita temple were destroyed. The Banagram temple, the math at Nayabazar, a room inside the Brahmo Samaj were all destroyed. Seven shops belonging to Hindus at the entry to Shankhari Bazar (the abode of the conch-shell artists), namely Shila Bitan, Soma Traders, Mita Marble, Saha cabin, a barbershop, a tyre shop and a laundry were vandalized, looted, and then burnt down

Following President Ershad's declaration of Islam as the state religion of Bangladesh in 1989, about four hundred Muslims surrounded the houses of people of the Rishi community (a backward Hindu sect) in village Sabahan, upazilla Daudkandi, zilla Comilla, and told them "from now on our state religion is Islam. If you want to live in this country you will have to embrace Islam, or else you will have to leave. When the Rishis refused to convert the Muslims looted and set fire to their houses, broke down their temple, and raped all nubile women. Many were kidnapped and never found again

Again, following Ershad's declaration of Islam as the state religion in 1989, some Muslims in village Siddhirpasha, upazilla Abhoy Nagar, zilla Jessore, had started spreading rumours that Hindus will not henceforth be allowed to sell property. This had caused a lot of Hindus to sell off their property at throwaway prices. Madhab Nandy, an influential Hindu, tried to persuade the people not to be swayed by such rumours and not to sell their property. A few days later a large Muslim mob raided Madhab Nandy's house and raped his daughter as well as his daughter-in-law, the latter seven months pregnant

The book is replete with such episodes of ghastly atrocities committed against Hindus across the length and breadth of Bangladesh. Usurping of property, kidnapping, destruction of temples and of course rape, are the recurring themes.

She also quotes profuse statistics about the decimation of the Hindu population in Bangladesh, and their abysmally low representation in the government, quite out of proportion with their numbers. Again, consider the following :

"In 1901 the percentage of Hindus in East Bengal was 33.0 (census in the South Asian subcontinent is carried out every ten years, one year after the decadal year). In 1911 this had come down to 31.5, in 1921 to 30.6, in 1931 to 29.4, in 1941 to 28. Thus, during the first four decades of the century the percentage had reduced by five. But after partition, in the first ten years, a single decade, the percentage fell by six, from 28 to 22. In 1961 the figure stood at 18.5. After the liberation of Bangladesh the reduction in the Hindu population had come down to pre-partition levels, and it could be said that Hindus were fleeing the country in smaller numbers. Thus the percentage of Hindus in 1974 was 13.5 and in 1981, 12.1. But would these figures remain where they are? Would they not accelerate after 1989, 1990, 1992 ?"
[x] (1989 was the year of President Ershad's declaration of Islam to be the state religion of Bangladesh, 1990 saw a lot of pogroms in the country, and 1992, of course, was the year of demolition of the Indian shrine called the Babri Mosque. In 1991 Hindus were determined to constitute 10.5% of the population of Bangladesh[xi].).

In respect of lack of representation of Hindus among the higher echelons of the country's bureaucracy, she points an unwavering finger at something that in today's management parlance is known as a 'glass ceiling'. There is no official bar to Hindus rising to high posts, and yet they never manage to rise. There are no Hindu Secretaries or Additional Secretaries in the Bangladesh secretariat, only three Joint Secretaries, and a handful of Deputy Secretaries
[xii]. There are only six Deputy Commissioners in the country, only one judge in the High Court, very few Superintendents of Police. Sudhamoy was quite sure that he could not rise to the chair of Associate Professor because he was Sudhamoy Datta, and not Salimullah Chaudhuri or Mohammed Ali. Among the observations she makes in Lojja, one is very interesting : "Hindus seem to have the hide of a rhinoceros[xiii]"

Salaam Azad has not earned half the fame (or notoriety, depending on the point of view), but his classic 'Hindu Sampraday Keno Deshtyag Korchhe' (Why the Hindus are fleeing this country) is an incredibly bold book, and a storehouse of information on the myriad ways and the myriad villages in which the Hindus are persecuted by the majority Muslims all over Bangladesh. More than being an incredibly bold book, it is also an incredible book in its degree of detail, containing vivid descriptions of more than five hundred cases of persecution of Hindus, some of them involving gross misuse of state power, and a large number of them exhibiting two traits that have been referred to earlier: the land-hunger of the Muslims and terrible yearning of Bengali Muslim men to possess a Hindu woman.

In his introduction to the book Azad writes : "There has never been a communal riot in Bangladesh . . . . A riot necessarily implies use of some force on either side - there has been no such thing here . . . . Here the defenceless Hindus have been mercilessly persecuted by the fundamentalists among the Muslims. In the backdrop of Bangladesh these cannot be called communal riots by any standards. The proper name for them is communal attacks or communal persecution. They are taking place every day in Bangladesh. The ones described in this book relate to the period between 1989 and 1997. Thousands of such instances will never come to the notice of the world, because they have not been recorded or the records have not been preserved. The ones described in this book are collected from journals and newspapers, and from workers of non-governmental organisations working among the victims. I have tried to visit some of the locations in order to check the correctness of the reports. Wherever I have done so, I have been struck by the enormity of the crime, I have been shaken to my roots".

Consider the following from Azad's book:

In April 1995, Tulsirani, a Hindu girl studying in the fifth class, of village Harpara, police station Srinagar, district Munshigunge, was forcibly taken away from her parents by a few Muslim men. Tulsi's parents begged the villagers to do something to get their daughter back, also adding that they did not want any action against the guilty men. But the villagers did nothing. Finally her parents had to file a complaint with the local police station, but even here they were afraid to mention the name of the guilty though they knew their names very well. The police, after a lot of string-pulling, managed to get Tulsi back. Meanwhile the guilty men are strutting about openly in the village, and threatening Tulsi's father with dire consequences unless they withdrew their case. Tulsi's family has left the village and gone into hiding. This incident has pushed the morale of the Hindus of Bangladesh to an all-time low

On February 8, 1994, armed Muslim hooligans raided the house of Rampada Rishi in village Chandanpur, police station Singair, district Manikgunge. Rampada's brother had just come back from abroad, and had a lot of goodies worth about Taka 100,000, all of which the hooligans took away. They also pulled out Rampada's wife Rani upon threat of death, and gang-raped her in a nearby field. A member of the same gang also raped Rupi, daughter of Ratneswar Rishi of the same village. Rupi became pregnant and gave birth to a son, whom she named Saddam. Rupi claimed that the father of the child was Habibur Rahman Habi, but no action was taken against Habi

Dr. Dulal Chandra Biswas is a Hindu doctor in the village of Kulipara, Babukhali union, police station Mohammedpur, district Magura. Sharif Shahjahan, the officer-in-charge of the Mohammedpur police station, and Mafizul Islam Kajal, an under-officer, one day raided the house of Dr. Biswas and mercilessly beat up Dr. Biswas's second son Dipak, and molested his wife Sabitarani, Dipak's wife Belarani and his minor daughter. Dr. Biswas was not home when this had started. When he came home he saw his son Dipak hanging from a tree while the police officers were beating him. He begged the police officers to spare his family members. The policemen then beat him up and took him and his son to the police station, and made him pay a bribe of Ten thousand Takas. Next day they released him on bail, but sent his son to court on a false charge. Sharif had repeated this act with a number of Hindus in order to extort money from them

On August 9, 1996, Minati Rani, a Hindu married woman of 22, was returning home late at night to her village of Kondolbalia, union Kalia, police station Phulpur, district Mymensingh, from her parents house in the nearby village of Naogaon. Usually Hindu women do not stir out of home so late at night, but she had heard that her husband had fallen ill, and she was very anxious to get back home. At about 11 P.M. at Phulpur bus stand she was accosted by three police constables called Inzil Mian, Rafiqul Islam and Abdus Sattar. They took her to the police station and raped her repeatedly through the night.

Shri Gouranga Mahaprabhu, a major Hindu religious preacher and reformer of Bengal, of the Vaishnavite school of Hindus of the middle ages, is venerated today, among others by the International Society of Krsna-consciousness (ISKCON, popularly known as the Hare Krishna cult) who have spread his name all over the world. His family came originally from the village of Dhaka-Dakshin in the district of greater Sylhet. The village of Bhunbirer Sasan, police station Srimangal, district Moulvi Bazar has a temple dedicated to him over debuttar property measuring 14.19 acres. Anil Chandra Pal has been serving as shebait of this property for a long time. Lately some Muslims led by one Bashir Ahmed have forcibly harvested the paddy from the property and have also threatened to kill Pal.

One of the most gruesome killings of Hindus took place at village Nidarabad, Harashpur union, police station and district Brahmanbaria. Some Muslims were after the land of one Shashanka Debnath of the Jugi community (a backward Hindu community) of the village. When they failed to persuade Shashanka to part with his land for a pittance and go way to India, Tajul Islam, Nazrul Islam, Habibur Rahman, Azizur Rahman and a few others called him out on the night of October 16, 1987, and killed him. Then this Tajul Islam claimed, on the strength of a forged deed, that he, along with one Maulvi Ibrahim, had bought the land from Shashanka. Still Shashanka's widow Birajabala refused to oblige the Muslims, and made a police complaint for the murder of Shashanka as well as for forgery of land deed. Meanwhile Maulvi Ibrahim swore an affidavit in the court that he had not purchased any land from Shashanka. Then on the night of March 5, 1988 Tajul, together with a few others broke into Birajabala's house and kidnapped her, her sons Subhas (13), Suman (7) and Sujan (3), and her daughters Minatibala (17) and Pranati (11), trussed them up, loaded them on to a boat, took them to Dhopabari canal some two kilometres away from the village, and killed all of them. The murderers then cut up the cadavers into small pieces, put the pieces in drums with a lot of lime, and buried the drums in the bed of the canal

After the destruction of the disputed structure, often called the Babri Mosque, in India on December 6, 1992, the Islamic fundamentalists had mounted a concerted attack on the Hindus of the country who had not the remotest connection with the Indian structure or its demolition. This is the subject of Taslima Nasrin's famous book Lojja, described above. There had been as many as 28,000 cases of attacks on Hindu property in Bangladesh. Of these some 9,500 dwellings or buildings have been totally demolished. 2,700 commercial establishments have been looted and destroyed. The breaking down of this one disused mosque in India has been sought to be avenged by the total or substantial destruction of as many as 3,600 Hindu temples or places of worship. The number of Hindus killed and injured stands at 12 and 2,000 respectively. 2,600 Hindu women have been raped. The total value of property destroyed is estimated at Takas 2,000,000,000 (there are approximately 60 Takas to the U.S. Dollar as in February 2001). No significant action was taken by the government for rehabilitation of the injured and the dispossessed. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who had come forward to help the Hindus were not given any assistance, and in many cases were refused permission. Thousands of Hindus had been rendered homeless, and had to spend their days and nights in the open in the biting cold. Thousands of Hindu women had been rendered speechless by the trauma of being raped, sometimes gang-raped. Businessmen have been robbed of their assets, Hindu purohits and Buddhist bhikshus (priests) have been subjected to insult and torture. The government could easily have interfered and brought down the casualties to a very significant extent. Instead, the government did nothing at all. In certain cases government functionaries directly or indirectly encouraged the assailants

On Friday October 6 2000, while the annual Durga Puja festivities were on, Muslims from Gazipur Jama Masjid, after the Juma namaz, attacked the main Puja premises of the Hindu Kali Temple. The attackers destroyed the Puja shamiana gate, loudspeakers, ornaments and idols. They also desecrated the clothes and puja prasad (offerings) and completely disrobed the images. The attackers came armed with axes, knives, swords and sticks. They also looted nearby shops owned by local Hindus. The Muslim fundamentalists who carried out the attack claimed that the Puja loudspeakers disturbed their namaz. However, questions were raised about the collection of weapons at such short notice. Hindu leaders claimed that the attack was premeditated. Eyewitnesses recollected that around 1:45 pm at the main Jama masjid, soon after the Juma prayer some Muslims shouted 'Narae Takbeer, Allahu Akbar' and attacked the Hindu Kali Temple 150 yards away. Some broke the Lakshmi, Ramakrishna and Durga idols. Stones were pelted on all devotees. In this attack Khirbala Saha, Tulu, Subhash and seven others, including the priests were injured. In panic the women and children started crying and running. Just behind the Kali Temple is the police station. In spite of the tremendous din, the police did not come to the rescue of the Hindus. After 45 minutes, around 2:30 pm, the attackers calmed down.

Some leaders of the Hindu organizations have claimed that the incident was pre-planned. The attack by Muslims with knives and axes proves that the attack was premeditated. They also stated that during the construction of the main Puja gate, some local businessmen had obstructed them. This incident has created disharmony in the community. Hindu leaders have provided names of 20 attackers including Hatem, Lalu, Badshah, Mujibur, Najrul and Mohammed Ali. In protest of this act of violence against minority Hindus, Gazipur Puja Committee requested for the cancellation all Durga Pujas in the district. Mr. Ajit Kumar Chowdhury head of the Committee said that if the idol is desecrated then the Puja cannot continue.

After the attack, Mr. Farukh Ahmad Chowdhury Police Superintendent and Mr. A.K.M. Mozammel Haque, Municipal Chairman visited the ransacked site. In a statement, Gazipur District Commissioner Mr. Samsul Haque said that he would initiate a Commission of two persons to investigate the incident

An ex-Assistant Judge of the Bangladesh Judiciary, who resigned and came away to India, and who would like his name to be withheld, narrated to this author a conversation with a Muslim judge called Abdul Matin, of Agailchhara, Gournadi, Barisal. Matin was addressing an informal gathering of Judges in which this Hindu Judge was also present. Matin said that the Law created by Christians (the basic framework of Bangladeshi Law was enacted by the British long before partition, and Bangladesh has adopted this framework, as has India) should never be allowed to come in the way of favouring a Momin (believer) over a Kafer (non-believer). He said that if one followed this principle, and did not set foot into the trap laid by those hateful Christians, one would be called straight into heaven on the day of Judgement.

From this it would have been easy to conclude that all hope for the Hindus is lost. It is however not as simple as that. The picture has another side - in fact, a bright side, and this account would be incomplete without a report on what is happening in present-day Bangladesh, as this author found out during his two trips to the country, once in 1989, and the next time in 2001.

First, a deep chasm has grown between, on the one hand, the fundamentalists, stretching from the village Mollah with his madarsah (religious school) students to the Moulanas of national standing ; and, on the other hand, the educated urban middle class (including, but not limited to, the small, very rich, Banani-Baridhara-Gulshan
[xxii] crowd). The author did not get a chance to interview any of the Mollah class (it is doubtful if any of them would have agreed to be interviewed), but spoke to a number of the urbanites. The latter now openly make fun of the former, calling them tupi-dari-wallahs (the cap-and-beard-wearers). This is unknown in India where, for the 'secular' crowd of intellectuals, Muslim fundamentalists are as sacred as the holy cow. Knowing fully well that this author is an Indian and Hindu, Shah Jalal, an intelligent young man, an ordinary employee in the thriving hospitality business of Dacca, told him that what the Mollahs were doing in the countryside was unspeakable. For example, if a boy and a girl (both Muslim) were found to be so much as seeing each other frequently against the wishes of their parents, very often the Mollah would issue a futwah (edict) that this activity was la-jayez (not permitted by Islam), and they ought to be punished. The punishment might take the form of burying both of them to their waists in the ground and horsewhipping them. The muscle power would be provided by the madarsah students, and the villagers would generally watch helplessly, even participate unwillingly in the whipping process, for fear of inviting the mollah’s wrath in the village, and divine wrath in the hereafter. A scene very close to this has been painted in a short story by Imdadul Haq Milan, a very popular contemporary writer. In the story a Muslim girl and a Hindu boy fall in love, are found out, and the village Mollah sentences both of them to heavy fines. The Hindu boy's father somehow manages to pay up, but the Muslim girl's father cannot, and the girl is subjected to the sort of punishment Shah Jalal spoke about. In the end the girl commits suicide by swallowing a bottle of pesticide[xxiii].

Lately two Judges of the High Court, the Hon'ble Mr. Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Hon'ble Mrs. Justice Najmun Ara Sultana had ruled in a public interest litigation that issuing futwahs was illegal, and the mollahs were up in arms against them. They had declared the judges (both Muslims) to be Murtad (apostate) for whom the Islamic scriptures had prescribed the mandatory penalty of death (though there was some disagreement among clerics as to the manner of meting out the death penalty). A police constable on duty, one Badshah Mian, had been dragged inside a mosque in Brahmanbaria and mercilessly beaten to death by madarsah students in the presence of two religious leaders, Moulana Fazlul Haque Amini, and Shaikhul Haadis Azizul Haque who, together with other clerics, had been making rabid speeches all day.

A successful businessman of Dacca, who shall be called Iftikhar (he would prefer not to be named), said that the current anger of the mollah community resulting in the spate of Hartals, went far deeper than the futwah judgement. One issue that was not permitting the mollahs to sleep well nights was the empowerment of women. This had begun with the famous Bangladeshi economist Mohammed Yunus’s projects of micro-credit which had become enormously successful, and had placed some money in the hands of the rural Muslim women who so far were being treated as little more than chattels. This was followed by the work of various internationally funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who were devising newer and newer methods of empowering women every day. For example, there was a project of arboriculture along the highways. An NGO had planted trees along one of the highways and had engaged rural woman to water them at an wage of Takas 200 (less than four U.S. Dollars) per month, with the further proviso that the women’s jobs would last only so long as the trees stayed alive. Even this was enough for the women to declare their independence. The NGOs often preferred to engage women rather than men, because their experience was that men, armed with the money, would either spend it on hooch, or take on yet another wife.

According to Iftikhar, this empowerment of women has completely discomfited the Mollahs and the fundamentalists who drew support from them. Their entire power structure was based on the inviolable dicta contained in the Quran and Haadis, and of the traditions of lawgivers like Abu Hanifa. These dicta included the provisions that women shall be heard but not seen, that men were entitled to take four wives, and to divorce any or all of them at will, that women were like land that men were entitled to till. The fact of rural Bangladeshi Muslim women coming by the equivalent of less than four - four - U.S.Dollars every month, all by themselves, had been perceived as the beginning of the end of this edifice. The mollahs were therefore crying foul, which in their language reads 'Islam in danger'. And when Islam is in danger you do not sit quietly if you are a momin (true believer). You try to resist the onslaught, you wage Jihad, you take on, with bared swords, the enemies of Islam like the NGOs, the Awami League government, and of course the unseen hand of Hindu India. The mollahs were trying to exhort the people to do just that. Strangely enough, in Iftikhar 's view, the people were not responding. Thus, a silent revolution was taking place throughout the country. And this was possible because the people of Bangladesh, while being God-fearing (dharmabheeru), were not blinded by religion (dharmandha). These words were not Iftikhar's alone, but were also said by M.R.Akhtar Mukul and many others, including the media.

Further, according to Iftikhar, Islam in Bangladesh was not like the Islam of Pakistan. It was a much more tolerant Islam, it was a softer, more genteel Islam, much closer to the religion as practised in Malaysia and Indonesia. According to M.R.Akhtar Mukul, this was so because the Bengalis got their Islam from the Sufis, not from the Wahabis.

Was it really as good as that? That is highly doubtful, although there is certainly some truth in what Iftikhar and M.R.Akhtar Mukul said. If it were as good as that there would have been no Noakhali, no Meghna Bridge, Madhabpasha, no Muladi, none of the things that Taslima and Salaam Azad write about. But, perhaps one could say with caution that there is hope yet for the Hindus in Bangladesh. This is primarily because the cultured, intelligent Bangladeshi gentleman of today is forever torn between whether to be a good Bengali or a good Muslim. In the former incarnation he is closer to the Bengali Hindu than any other set of people, in the latter he is a pan-Islamist. And because his attachment to the language, just like his West Bengali counterpart, is so strong as to border on the fierce, there is hope yet for the Hindu. But how do people like Iftikhar, Shah Jalal, M.R.Akhtar Mukul, intelligent, perceptive, informed people explain Noakhali, Muladi and Madhabpasha? This aspect has been explained in the next chapter.

Secondly this author found that compared to 1989, Hindus, at least in Dacca, seemed a lot more confident. 1989 was a time when President Ershad had declared Islam to be the state religion, and the morale of the Hindus was at an all-time low (barring the post-Babri days). But in the spring of 2001 the Hindus in Dacca seemed to have gained some of their buoyancy. Hindu married women were openly moving around with their 'fortune marks' of vermillion on the parting of the hair and conch-shell bangles on their wrists - not just in Dacca, but also in the distant suburb of Sabhar, the location of the national martyrs' monument . There was a sizable crowd at the Ramakrishna Mission at Tikatuli in Dacca, the reading room was full of young readers, devotional songs were being sung to the accompaniment of instruments, construction of a new building was under way. The author met Swami Gyanprakasananda (also known as Mintu Maharaj), a monk of the Ramakrishna order, and the Secretary of the Mission. Quite a few people, including some from India, had come to meet the monk. This author tried to quiz some of the Bangladeshi Hindus on how secure they felt. Whether from a genuine feeling of security, or from a natural wariness against opening up to a total stranger from India (and perhaps being overheard), they said they were 'quite all right'. Swami Gyanprakasananda was not at all forthcoming on this question.

The urban elite are quite neutral about the Hindus ­- talking to them one does not get an impression that they make any distinction between the two sets of people. This author also gathered that Muslims generally consider Hindus trustworthy in money matters and have particular faith in them as professionals, such as doctors and lawyers. However the attitude of this elite towards India is another matter. A very large number among them, including well-informed upper middle class people, consider India to be the exploiter of Bangladesh, responsible for most of its ills, from flood to drought to overpopulation.

Therefore, we get back to the question : what really was or is the state of the Bengali Hindu in Muslim-majority, Bangla-speaking Bangladesh?

Looking at the totality of the country and its thirty years of life, it is obviously somewhere between what Taslima, Salaam Azad and others have described, and what people like Iftikhar would like it to be. The Hindu is certainly not half as secure in some remote village in Bhola or Gaibandha as he is in the metros of Dacca or Chittagong. Nor was he as secure in 1992 as he was in 1972. Given the choice, the Hindu would like to stay on - it is not like the Pakistani times. Then it was not a question of whether, but of when and how, about moving to India. More often than not, especially for the urban Hindu, it could be said with caution that that choice is available in present-day Bangladesh

Another aspect ought to be mentioned. The intellectuals of Bangladesh - most of them Muslims - are far more forthright in dealing with the matter of Hindu-Muslim animosities than their West Bengali counterparts. And even among the West Bengalis whatever little has been written about the question - aside from organisations like Mayerdak and Swastika mentioned earlier - has been written by two Muslim authors, Nazrul Islam (not the famous poet) and Hossainur Rahaman, and to a lesser extent by a Muslim woman author, Nargis Sattar. Of these Nazrul Islam is a senior serving police officer of the Indian Police Service, rather exceptionally academically inclined, Hossainur Rahaman is a retired Professor of History, a person of considerable erudition, and a regular contributor to journals and Nargis Sattar is a college teacher. All have authored several books on the subject (a list is given in the bibliography). The Hindu historians, sociologists and allied intellectuals of West Bengal, barring the few mentioned above, have, on the other hand, pretended that there is nothing to write about, the two communities have always lived like brothers from time immemorial.

Of the Muslim writers, Nazrul Islam is guilty of the same wrong as Abul Mansur Ahmad, namely glossing over Muslim atrocities in Eastern Bengal. His seminal work, 'Banglay Hindu Musalman Somporko' (Hindu-Muslim Relations in Bengal), is a fairly well-researched book. In the chapter on the post-partition era he smoothly jumps from 1948 to 1952, without making any mention of the bestialities of 1950
[xxiv]. In the previous chapter he chronicles the events that preceded partition, and roundly abuses those among the Hindu leaders who had successfully opposed United Sovereign Bengal, but completely forgets about the Noakhali Carnage and mentions the Great Calcutta Killings only in passing[xxv]. In his entire treatment of the subject he chooses to be completely oblivious of the fact that Hindus could not have lived with even a minimal degree of security in Muslim majority United Sovereign Bengal, that they actually could not so live in Muslim-majority Eastern Bengal. Still it must be said that his effort is laudable, because his objective is to restore amity between the communities.

Hossainur Rahaman is a lot more dispassionate and equitable in his analysis. In his Bharat-Bangladesh 2000 he quotes a Hindu intellectual of Bangladesh (whom he prefers not to name) regretting the fundamentalism in the countryside, and expressing the apprehension that the pan-Bengali secular culture of urban Bangladesh will never be able to subdue it. He mentions that a symbiotic Hindu-Muslim culture that was in evidence even in the sixties is completely gone today
[xxvi]. Yet, even he forgets to mention the pogrom of 1950, and the exodus of eight million Hindus from the land mass that is now Bangladesh.

Nargis Sattar is basically a symbiotist, a mild feminist writer. In her collection of articles in the book titled Bhai Bhai Thain Thain (Brothers must stay apart) she criticises the prejudices that exist in Muslim society in West Bengal, and rues the fact that these prejudices are keeping them away from the majority Hindus
[xxvii]. She, just like Nazrul Islam takes no cognizance of the fact that Hindu-Muslim relations in West Bengal cannot be seen in isolation from that in Bangladesh, and that cannot be analysed without coming face to face with the Hindu exodus.

Despite the apprehensions of the Bangladeshi Hindu intellectual mentioned in Hossainur Rahaman's book, and despite all the atrocities reported, so long as there are people like Taslima Nasrin, Shahriyar Kabir and Salaam Azad in Bangladesh, there is hope yet for Hindus in Bangladesh. Yet, one headache does not go away. The Hindu stays perpetually worried if he has a nubile daughter, doubly so if the daughter is reasonably good-looking. He stops worrying only after she has moved to India and is settled there.

There is a strange corollary to this story of Hindus in present-day Bangladesh. And that is that, for the beleaguered Hindu, Bangladesh does not stop at the Radcliffe line. It extends far beyond this line, well into the eastern parts of Muslim-majority (64% Muslim) Murshidabad district, and parts of North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas districts. Consider the following :

The silent persecution of Hindus in Hindu-majority West Bengal has been carefully hidden from the rest of the state and the country by the Marxist government in saddle for the last twenty-four years (they have just got a fresh lease of life in the 2001 elections). This persecution takes place in the Muslim majority areas contiguous to Bangladesh in the District of Murshidabad, and is at its most virulent in the regions of Hariharpara, Domkal, Raninagar, Sagarpara, Sheikhpara, Beldanga, Naoda, Bhagabangola, and Jalangi - in fact all over the part of the district which lies to the east of the Bhagirathi River, with the exception of Berhampur Town. Just one feature of the insecurity from which the Hindus of this region suffer may be mentioned. Very few - practically none - of the Hindus in the region will keep their daughters or sisters at home after they have turned, say, eleven. They are all sent away to live with relatives or in a hostel, in Berhampur (the district headquarters), or somewhere to the west of the Bhagirathi River, or if their parents can afford it, to Calcutta. Blowing of conch-shells or beating of dhaks during Hindu religious rituals are severely frowned upon, and seldom practised

Side by side with this strange case of persecution of Hindus in Hindu-majority India, infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims continues unabated through the porous border which is populated on both sides by Muslims and an infiltrator looks, talks and worships no different from a native. According to Amalendra Nath Upadhyaya who was interviewed in this connection, most of the insecurity, though not all, is created by people from across the border. Actually the extent of infiltration in this area is so stupendous that after a while certain areas have come to be populated by infiltrators alone. The so-called secular politicians are so blasé about the whole business, that the late Indrajit Gupta of the Communist Party of India, a Bengali Hindu, while he was the Home Minister of India in the short-lived Central Cabinet headed by Inder Kumar Gujral, once said "Infiltration, what infiltration? Infiltration takes place only in Assam. Here both sides of the border are populated by Bengalis, people come and go all the time". This can be taken as the official stamp of approval by no less than the Home Minister of India to the illicit crossing of an International Border.

And infiltration is only one of the crimes committed in the area. The volume of smuggling - practically all from India to Bangladesh - is mind-boggling. Among the articles smuggled out are coal, kerosene, cheap wearing apparel, salt, sugar and cattle. Muslim robber gangs, mostly consisting of Bangladeshis, and known locally as 'musket-bahini (force)' because of the cheap countrymade guns that they use. Cross-border robberies, especially cattle thefts and kidnapping of young women are a routine affair here, so much so that people close to the border keep their cattle in heavily guarded camps. In fact, according to Upadhyaya these robbers go around saying 'Taka rakhbi banke, goru rakhbi campe, bou rakhbi kothay' which means "you can keep your money in a bank and your cattle in a camp, but where will you keep your wife"?

Every community in the country - from faraway Mumbai and Delhi to nearby Assam - has protested against this infiltration which has tended to change the demography of the region. The only exception to this has been West Bengal, where Marxists and anti-Marxists have been equally vociferous against any pushback of infiltrators. Mamata Banerjee, supremo of the Trinamool Congress, the main opposition party in West Bengal, had protested against the apprehending and sending back of a set of people from Mumbai whom she termed as 'Bangalis'. This is indeed curious, as the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia, had shortly before publicly declared that they were not Bangalis, they were Bangladeshis - she even said that the Bangalis live on the other side of the border, meaning that only the West Bengalis were Bangalis. A crowd, with the active cooperation of the state police, raided a train carrying Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators from Mumbai en route the Bangladesh border while it was passing through West Bengal, and set the infiltrators free. Sunil Ganguly, the popular author, and a refugee from Madaripur, termed the pushback operations as 'the height of inhumanity'.

On January 20 2001, a crowd of Urdu-speaking Muslims raided and pulled down a statue of the late Ashwini Kumar Datta, a prominent educationist and thinker of Barisal, at Park Circus, Calcutta, on the grounds that the presence of an idol in a Muslim-majority area was offending their Islamic ideals. The police quietly acquiesced in the removal of the statue. The entire press corps of the city concealed the incident, calling it nothing more than a local fracas involving the putting of a statue in the middle of a playground. The Memorial Committee which had tried to erect the statue printed a few posters and stuck them on the walls in the vicinity - but even they were scared to say that this was done by Muslims. Instead they called it a raid by a few Urdu-speaking people.

On February 10, 2001, four young men called Abhijit Sardar (26), Patitpaban Naskar (24), Anadi Naskar (20) and Sujit Naskar (17) were returning from a picnic in the village of Uttar Sonakhali under police station Basanti, district South 24-Parganas, West Bengal. They were set upon by a gang of Muslims who dragged them into the house of one Anwar Hossain, and shot them at point blank range. One of the associates of the murdered lot managed to escape and ran to the police station to inform them of the incident. However, the police found time only after five hours to reach the spot. The local Circle Inspector of Police Abul Hasem kicked at the corpses and misbehaved with the villagers who had gone to lodge their complaint.

Local Muslim goons called Hakim Mollah, Raqibul Sheikh, Lokman Mollah, Waiyed Ali Sheikh, Khizr Sheikh, Akbar Jamadar have terrorised the general populace in the area, but their special target is the Hindu community. All of them work under the patronage of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or the Revolutionary Socialist Party, both partners of the ruling Leftist coalition in West Bengal. There are some 22 cases against Hakim Mollah, including several murder cases. He is the Secretary of the Local Committee of the CPI(M) for North Gosaba. The police say they 'cannot find him'

India Today newsmagazine, June 25 2001 issue, reported a religious-educational movement afoot in Murshidabad district spearheaded by one Barua Rahamani Education Society (BRES) that demands 'purification of education' and 'true Islamic education' for Muslim children. The society was registered in 1993 and currently runs 109 Madarsas in the state, of them 35 in Murshidabad, 22 in Malda and 10 each in Birbhum, North Dinajpur and Nadia districts. The society is run by Islamic leaders with strong Saudi Arabian links, and is flush with Arab funds. The Madarsas of Dhulian and Beldanga, both in Murshidabad district, had respectively received contributions of US$ 164,000 and 176,000 - Indian Rupees 73.8 Lakhs and 79.2 Lakhs - from the Islamic Development Bank of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Leftist Government of West Bengal runs its own Madarsas, but these are apparently not 'Islamic enough ' of the society, hence this parallel system.

The contents of these parallel education programmes are pure Taliban. In the book on Bangla alphabet the letter 'dha' (hard dha) has a picture of a dhol, the percussion instrument, with the line 'dhol tabla-e khodar la'nat' (God's curse be on music). The intolerant Mughal emperor Aurangzeb is pictured as one who donated a lot of land and property to Hindu priests and Hindu soldiers. A book prescribed for Class V titled 'The Economics of Islam' written by one Moulana Mohammed Abdur Rahim and published by Khairun Prakashani of Dacca tells the students that the chief source of National Income is the divine act of expropriating the property of the vanquished enemy, something known in Muslim Bangla as Ganeemater Maal. Another textbook titled 'Mukammal Tarikh-e Islam' written by one Mufti Shaukat Ali Fahmi and published by Deen Duniya in Delhi's Jama Masjid area has an interesting interpretation of Mahmud of Ghazni's plundering of the Somnath Temple. It says "As the kings of Hindustan lost out to Mahmud the conqueror, the pandits and Brahmins of Gujarat began a conspiracy and they turned the temple of Somnath into the centre of their political activities. Mahmud came to hear of the devious plans of the king of Gujarat and the conspiracy of the pandits hatched inside the temple. He rushed to Gujarat, and by 415 Hijri he brought the temple under his grip". The commentator remarks "This version, far removed from accepted history, is taught to a group of Muslim students in a state whose rulers swear by secularism".

There is nothing wrong in one receiving religious instruction relevant to one's own religion. The problem with Islamic religious instruction of this type, however, is that it teaches inviolable dogma, prevents formation of an analytical and inquisitive mind, and, most of all, teaches the children from a tender age to hate all human beings not professing Islam. Does it also not nurture mindsets with which it will be possible for these students, when they grow up, to kill or rape Hindus without pangs of conscience as had been done in East Pakistan in 1950? Obviously it does, though the secular Communist government of West Bengal pretends that there is no such apprehension.

The reasons for such seemingly inexplicable behaviour are not far to seek : it is the love that secular politicians in India, especially West Bengal, have for the block Muslim vote. It is as if the secular politicians of West Bengal, with all the foresight of a Neville Chamberlain returning from Munich, are saying under their breath that if in the process West Bengal becomes Muslim-majority over a period of time and demands secession from India and union with Bangladesh then so be it, it's not going to happen in our time, and anyway it is in keeping with our 'secular ethos'. The secular politicians of West Bengal, many of whom are themselves refugees or children of refugees from Islamic persecution in Eastern Bengal, are avowed believers of an utterance of Lord Keynes : In the long run we are all dead.

The case of Hindus being persecuted in Hindu-majority India has been termed strange, yet maybe it is not so strange. This is a country in which more than two hundred thousand Hindus - the Pandits of the vale of Kashmir - have been driven out of that valley by the majority Muslims, are living like subhumans in makeshift camps in Jammu and Delhi for the last twelve years or so, and the rest of the country has not so far given a damn!

[i] The demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India often called the Babri Masjid (Mosque), marks a watershed in Hindu-Muslim relations in the South Asian subcontinent. The name 'Babri Masjid' is challenged by a number of Hindu organisations, who maintain that no Muslim has offered Namaz there for years, and therefore it is not a Masjid. It is said to be a structure built by Mir Banki, one of the generals of Babar, the founder of the Moghul Empire, after demolishing a temple that existed at the site marking the birthplace of Lord Rama, the legendary hero of Ramayana, and the embodiment of all that is good in public life. In early December 1992 a large number of karsevaks (People who professed to serve Lord Rama with their own hands) congregated there and on 6th December brought down the structure with their bare hands. This was followed by widespread rioting all over India, and pogroms in Bangladesh. However it is the first incident in Hindu-Muslim relationship spanning more than ten centuries that Hindus demolished a Muslim shrine, whereas the converse has been done for times without number.

[ii] The Farakka Barrage is across the River Ganga in West Bengal, a few kilometres short of where the river enters Bangladesh, and becomes the Padma, one of the principal rivers of the Bangladeshi river system (see Chapter 1). The barrage was built with the intent of preventing the siltation of Calcutta port, and preventing the salinity of water in Calcutta. It functions by diverting a part of the water (which would otherwise have flown into Bangladesh) into the Bhagirathi river which later becomes the Hooghly and flows by Calcutta. This diversion has been grist to the mill of the anti-Indian lobby, led by the Bangladesh National Party and Jamaat-e-Islami, in Bangladesh.

[iii] 'The Feringi's Column' by Francois Gautier, Indian Express, Mumbai, May 22, 2000.

[iv] Lojja (in Bangla, meaning ‘Shame’) by Taslima Nasrin, 1st enlarged Indian Ed., Ananda Publishers,
Calcutta, India, 1993

[v] Phera (in Bangla meaning ‘The Return’) by Taslima Nasrin, 1st enlarged Indian Ed., Ananda Publishers,
Calcutta, India, 1994

[vi] People unfamiliar with Indian traditions, especially westerners, are often perplexed and offended by the
use, by Hindus, of this symbol to which notoriety had been lent by the Nazis of Germany. Actually the
Swastika has been used by the Hindus as an auspicious sign from time immemorial, long before Adolf
Hitler was born. The Hindu Swastika also differs from the Nazi one in the aspect that the bars in the
former are vertical and horizontal, while those in the latter are diagonal.

[vii] Lojja, ibid. p. 11

[viii] ibid. p. 34

[ix] ibid. p. 44

[x] ibid. p. 15

[xi] Source : Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data,

[xii] In the bureaucracy created by the British in the South Asian subcontinent, a 'Secretary' always means a
'Permanent Secretary', a Civil Servant, while a 'Minister' is a political person who must necessarily be a
member of the legislature. The hierarchy runs thus : the secretariat is the top office of the executive
branch of the government in the country, and individual ministries are headed by Secretaries, below
whom there are Joint-, Deputy- and Under- (or Assistant) Secretaries. The Police Department and the
District Administration are subservient to the secretariat. In a district the District Administration is
headed by a District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner and the police by a Superintendent of Police.

[xiii] Lojja, ibid. p. 94. The rhinoceros has a very thick hide, so much so that it cannot be killed by ordinary
bullets unless hit between the eyes. A person having the hide of a rhinoceros has thus come to mean, in
many Indian languages, a very shameless, thick-skinned person.

[xiv] Hindu Sampraday Keno Deshtyag Korchhe, p. 1

[xv] ibid., p. 18

[xvi] ibid., p. 20

[xvii] ibid., p. 25

[xviii] ibid., p. 28

[xix] ibid., p 39

[xx] ibid., p. 45


[xxii] Upmarket neighbourhoods in present-day Dacca

[xxiii] Deshbhager Por (Bangla, meaning 'After the Partition'), a collection of short stories by Imdadul Haq
Milan, 1st Ed., Ananda Publishers, Calcutta, India, p. 9

[xxiv] Banglay Hindu Musalman Somporko' (Hindu-Muslim Relations in Bengal)(Bangla) by Nazrul Islam,
Mitra & Ghosh, Calcutta, 1st Ed., p. 270

[xxv] ibid., pp. 258-265

[xxvi] Bharat-Bangladesh 2000 (India and Bangladesh, 2000)(Bangla), by Hossainur Rahaman, Mitra &
Ghosh, Calcutta, 1st Ed., 2000, p. 11

[xxvii] Bhai Bhai Thain Thain (Brothers Must Stay Apart)(Bangla), by Nargis Sattar, , Mitra &
Ghosh, Calcutta, 1st Ed., 1998

[xxviii] Amalendra Nath Upadhyay, of village Pratappur, Hariharpara, Murshidabad, interviewed May 1999.

[xxix] Booklet published following the murder of Abhijit Sardar et al, by Tapan Kumar Ghosh. Also see post-
edit by Pabitra Kumar Ghosh in 'Bartaman', Bangla daily of Calcutta, February 22, 2001.