Religious minorities may flee Bangladesh if attacks on them continue, the spokesman of a minority coalition group warned Friday.
Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council, applauded a statement from India’s foreign minister earlier this week that Dhaka must punish the perpetrators of such attacks.
“My organization welcomes the call of Sushma Swaraj. She rightly pointed out the plight of the minorities in Bangladesh. The attacks on the minorities must stop,” Dasgupta told BenarNews.
India has reason to be worried about the attacks on minorities in its neighbor, Muslim-majority but constitutionally-secular Bangladesh, Dasgupta said.
“If the attacks continue, the minorities will leave the country and take shelter in India. The government must take measures so that the minorities do not leave the country,” he said.
Nirmal Rozario, general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, also welcomed the diplomatic pressure from Bangladesh’s giant neighbor.
“Sushma Swaraj’s call will expedite the government move to protect the minorities who have become the common targets of the radicals. In the age of globalization, every country is impacted by the events in its neighboring states,” Rozario told BenarNews.
‘Secular, progressive and liberal’
India’s minister of external affairs (EAM) brought up the matter during a meeting with Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali of Bangladesh in New Delhi on Wednesday.
“Referring to recent incidents of attacks on minorities in Bangladesh, EAM sought swift action against the perpetrators of the crimes by the Bangladesh authorities,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday about the discussion.
“FM Ali assured that [the] Government of Bangladesh was conscious of the importance of checking the activities of radical forces in the country and expressed the commitment of his Government to safeguarding Bangladesh's secular, progressive and liberal character,” the statement said.
On Feb. 21, a priest was slain and two devotees were wounded in an attack on a Hindu temple in Panchagarh district, in northern Bangladesh.
It was the first killing of a member of the country’s small Hindu community since militants issued threats against religious minorities last year. Two Hindu temples were bombed in Dinajpur district of northern Bangladesh in December
Hindus currently make up about 10 percent of Bangladesh’s 168.9 million people.
On Jan. 7, attackers stabbed to death an 85-year-old Christian convert and doctor in the southwestern district of Jhenaidah. Two Christian priests have been attacked, and at least 30 other members of the tiny Christian minority have been threatened, since mid-2015, church leaders say.
On Dec. 25, a suicide bomber targeted an Ahmadiyya mosque in northwestern Rajshahi district.
On Nov. 26, militants sprayed bullets inside a mosque of the minority Shia Muslim community in the northern district of Bogra, killing a muezzin who was in his 70s. In October, militants bombed a procession of Shiites in Dhaka, killing two.
‘No space in Bangladesh’
Following the killing of the Christian doctor in January, the country’s home minister vowed to go after people who attack religious minorities.
“The people of Bangladesh are pious but they are not radicals. So, the militants will get no space in Bangladesh,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.
The Middle East-based Islamic State group claimed responsibility for many of the attacks, but the government has denied its presence in Bangladesh, saying local militants are using the IS brand to “add value to their names.”
Militant attacks this year have targeted intellectuals and foreigners as well as members of religious minorities.
In late September, Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella was gunned down in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone. Less than a week later, Japanese agriculture expert Kunio Hoshi was shot dead in the northern city of Rangpur.
Four secular bloggers and a publisher were brutally murdered in 2015 in machete attacks by suspected militants. Four other people were injured in those attacks.
Maulana Farid Uddin Masud, a top Islamic cleric, stressed that such violence is contrary to the tenets of Islam.
“Islam has not allowed anyone to carry out attack on the minorities. Islam strongly promotes peaceful coexistence of all faiths,” he told BenarNews.
“So, the government must protect all minorities from the attacks on the militants who have been misinterpreting the peaceful religion Islam.”