Government, media, opposition – Bangladesh can teach India how to deal with hate crimes

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted by his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina at Dhaka airport on March 26, 2021 | Twitter / @ PMOIndia

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The way Bangladesh has responded to religious violence against Hindu minorities has set a model for all liberal democracies around the world. This was not the case for a split-screen debate on the two siderisms. The condemnation was unequivocal and universal.

Bangladesh experienced one of the worst waves of anti-Hindu violence in recent years last week. This coincided with Durga Puja and resulted in widespread attacks on Hindu religious places and residential neighborhoods. These incidents were allegedly triggered by an incident of “desecration” of a Koran at a Durga Puja rally in Cumilla. According to one of Bangladesh’s leading newspapers, The Daily Star, a total of “101 religious sites including Hindu temples, puja mandaps and 181 stores / houses have been attacked in the six days since the Cumilla incident ”.

United Bengal – Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal – is historically known for the worst events of communal violence in world history. But this time, the Bangladesh government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, political parties, journalists and opinion makers have all spoken out in unison against the attacks on Hindus. Opposition to communal violence was so united that it is not easy to find even marginal voices supporting anti-Hindu violence. The Bangladeshi public sphere spoke with one voice.

This is not the case in today’s India, where politics and public discourse are so flawed that even when an eight-year-old girl was raped and killed in Kathua, Jammu, a group of people went out in Support of the accused, who have now been found guilty by the court. During the infamous Delhi riots of 2020, a section of the media supported the rioters and did not resist the violence. TV channels even tried to connect riots with the Islamic State and other foreign agencies, but these allegations were never substantiated.

Even during a calamity like Covid-19, part of the opinion makers and the media have tried to communitize pandemic and blamed a Tablighi Jamaat congregation, and this too at a time when many more important events have taken place in India. In all these events and many more, India has never spoken with one voice. The worst thing is that even the ruling power, the ruling party and its infrastructure have not refrained from stoking community hatred.

Bangladesh has shown us how to act in such volatile situations.

Read also : India must take a firm stand against attacks on Hindus, but not with an ‘anti-Bangladesh’ mindset

Bangladesh speaks with one voice

The government of Bangladesh has made it clear that it will not approve any acts of violence and that the law will be enforced. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said: “Hindus have the right to worship without fear as much as Muslims and other religious groups. They fought alongside their Muslim brothers during the Liberation War in 1971 and have equal rights in Bangladesh.

This gave a clear message to all the troublemakers that the government will not side with them. Hasina instructed the Minister of the Interior take severe action against all those who commit violence against Hindus. In accordance with these instructions, the police filed up to 71 complaints against the alleged perpetrators and stopped more than 450 disbelievers in five days. More than 43 people, including the man who posted the Facebook video that allegedly sparked the violence, were stopped in Cumilla.

As the ruling party, the Awami League spoke out in favor of community harmony and invented a slogan which has become very popular now – “Everyone in their religion, the holidays are for everyone.” The party also organized rallies for harmony and organized marches for peace. Awami League secretary general Obaidul Quader says party members will step up resistance against communal forces

All major Bangladesh media outlets have acted very responsibly and made efforts to suppress hatred and violence. The Daily Star reported prominent that according to the police, it was in fact a Muslim who desecrated the Koran in Cumilla.

Even civil society has played its part in the government’s peace initiative. Peace marches and community harmony meetings were held across the country, in which thousands of Muslims participated. Such gatherings were also organized in universities and colleges. Journalists’ associations also participated in these gatherings. Former Bangladesh cricket captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza condemned the attacks on Hindus and said it was “not the red and green that we wanted to see”. He was referring to the colors of the national flag of Bangladesh. Film actors, actresses and artists have also taken a stand against the community. violence.

There is also a political blame game in Bangladesh. The Awami League and the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), accuse each other and attribute motives. However, like the Awami League, the BNP has also condemned community violence. Its leader Mirza Abbas noted that there must be strong resistance against community violence as this can tarnish the overall image of Bangladesh. He added that “if we cannot resist it, our independence and sovereignty will be at stake.” Strong words indeed.

Read also : “3,600 attacks since 2013” – violence against Hindu minority not first in Bangladesh

India has a lot to learn

Meanwhile, India has taken note of the violence in Bangladesh and condemned it. The Foreign Ministry spokesman said Indian authorities were in contact with the government of Bangladesh. Not only that, the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka actually met a delegation Hindus and assured them that the high commission was monitoring the situation closely. In many cases, such outreach by a foreign country can have diplomatic and political repercussions. But Bangladesh responded cautiously and said authorities were in contact with the Indian embassy in Dhaka.

As we can clearly see, in Bangladesh all institutions – political, executive, academia, media and civil society – have opposed anti-minority violence and communal conflicts. In fact, no notable person or group in Bangladesh came to support or justify the violent incidents.

Read also : BJP leads Bangladesh, Kashmir, Taliban in Bengal polls, TMC says communitarization won’t work

Indian society, however, has become so fragmented and disjointed at this point that when it comes to communal violence or controversy, such perfectly united acts of all political and social forces are difficult to achieve. In recent years, we have seen how the political class – the opposition and the government – and civil society have spoken and reacted differently and in contradictory ways on the issue of Article 370, CAA-NRC, the mob lynching. , Ram Mandir, ‘Love Jihad’, cow politics, violence against minorities and so on.

Bangladesh is of course not free from sectarianism and communalism. The municipal forces are quite active there. But there is almost a national consensus that at this point the nation cannot afford community conflicts as this will lead to a breach of law and order and could lead to economic hardship. Bangladesh is working hard to improve its human development indicators, and the International Monetary Fund has predicted that it can overtake India in terms of nominal GDP per capita. At this point, community violence is the last thing Bangladesh will want.

The author is the former editor of India Today Hindi magazine and has written books on media and sociology. He tweets @Profdilipmandal. Opinions are personal.

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