Published:  03:37 AM, 15 September 2019

Why the percentage of religious minorities is declining over the decades

Why the percentage of religious minorities is declining over the decades

Fresh Hindu emigration from Bangladesh started after the parliamentary election in 1979, while communal attacks were carried out on them at various places of the country including Bhola.

The destruction of Babri Masque in India instigated Bangladeshi communal groups to attack, torture & persecute Hindus here in early nineties of the last century. As a result, a significant number of religious minorities emigrated at that time.

Then, from June 1996 to the end of next five years, there was no such deportation of the minorities. However, activists of the four-party alliance led by BNP-Jamaat alliance, who won in the election held on 01 October 2001, conducted a series of all out atrocities, torture and oppression on the minorities. No action was taken to stop these hellish events.

As a result, activists of the then four-party coalition continued to persecute and harass the religious minorities for five years. The level of torture on minorities decreased somewhat while the state of emergency was imposed on 11 January 2007.

When the Awami League-led coalition government was formed through the election on 28 December 2008, the persecution on minorities was temporarily stopped, but it did not last long. Within a short period of time, religious fundamentalists and communal forces started attacking minorities in various excuses and tactics.

Despite the government was led by the political party leading the War of Liberation, the minorities did not get escaped from the attacks. They became victims more or less in all parts of the country. Various attacks on Hindus were carried out in different localities, including Chittagong, Dinajpur, Bagerhat and Satkhiraat different times in 2011 and 2012.

In September 2012, the Buddhist temples of Cox's Bazar and Chittagong were attacked, vandalized and set on fire. Christians were also not escaped from the attacks. The country-wide largest simultaneous attack on minorities took place on 28 February 2013, following the verdict of hang on death of one of the war criminals and the notorious Razakar Delwar Hossain Saidi.

At that time, almost every day, they were attacked in some parts of the country. The militant and terrorist activists of agitating BNP-Jamaat-led coalition at their various programs in demand of caretaker government attacked the minorities. Few attacks were carried out by the ruling party supporters at Pabna's Santhia and elsewhere in the country.

The intensity of attacks on minorities increased by the militant activists of BNP-led 18-party alliance in line of their level of agitation increased after the announcement of the 10thparliamentary election on 25 November 2013.

On December 12 in the same year, the execution of the notorious Quader Mollah, a butcher of the war criminals at Mirpur, further intensified the attacks. Despite the joint forces raiding in various parts of the country and the army being on the field as a striking force during the elections, attacks on religious minorities could not be stopped during and after the election on 05 January 2014.

The common targets of all parties were the minorities. The fears that had been raised before the elections turned out to be true with widespread attacks on religious minorities across the country including Dinajpur and Jessore.

Then on 30 October 2016, a scale of large attacks, vandalism and arson were carried out on the Hindu temples and houses at Nasir Nagar, Brahmanbaria. Moreover, many of the minority communities are often subjected to the conspiratorial falsehoods and fabrications of communal groups on social media.

On the other hand, reports are found published in newspapers and the Internet that occupation of minority lands and various forms of torture including vandalism and arson at various times take place on them at different parts of the country.

However, under the overall supervision of the present government, especially Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the situation of the communal situation in the country is more favorable than in the past.

The analysis of the past shows that religious minorities have been persecuted in various parts of the country since the British rule, their homes, businesses and religious institutions are being burnt, and women are being raped and forcibly converted and married. In many cases they are being discriminated too. As a result, many of them have been forced to leave the country.

Therefore, the percentage of religious minorities in the total population of the region in which Bangladesh is currently formed, has come down to 11.6, which was 33.9% in 1901 and 29.6% in 1947 at the time of division of India.

The population data is given in the table below in reference of the documents published by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.In the table, census data has been used from 1901 to 2011 and that of statistical yearbooks 2015 & 2019 published by the Bureau of Statistics.

Since there was no census in 1947, the population of the census conducted in just immediately preceding census-year of 1941 could be considered as the standard population at the time of partition of India. In that case, it shows that the number of minorities in Bangladesh at present is around 6.8 million higher than that was in 1947, but their population percentage has been declined by around one-third.

As such, the main thing in particular is noteworthy that the percentage of the minority population has been decreased drastically as compare to their increase in number. Another important point here is that there might be confusion with population size and percentage in the changing geographical, political and social circumstances over the time, if there is no clear understanding of census, demography, numerology and statistics.

Especially if it is said -"If the population rate remained unchanged since 1947 till today, the number of minorities in Bangladesh would be twice or three times greater than or equal to a certain number", then this would be 'hypothetical'. Therefore, mentioning a certain number of minority reduction somewhere in the context of estimation means creating confusion.

The 'real' situation is that, if the percentage of minority population decreases in this geographical area since August 1947, then the 'variation' in increasing their number in total population also gradually decreases.

So, it is important to keep in mind that 'estimates' and 'realities' are not same matters, and that the percentage of population and number of population are different, especially where the rate of minority population has not decreased or their growth has not changed in normal terms, rather those happened mainly because of political decisions.

The main reason for the decline in the percentage of religious minorities in Bangladesh is their emigration, which has not happened in one day, but has been happening for the last 72 years.

Despite this, the government statistics shows that the number of religious minorities in the country is currently more than 19.2 million, which cannot be undermined at all. Because, the United Nations Population Database shows that the number of minorities in Bangladesh is higher than the population of each of the 133 countries out of 195 countries in the world.

It cannot be denied that the political upheaval of the subcontinent has caused many problems to the religious minorities of Bangladesh, both historically and in succession.

Therefore, people of all classes, including government, political parties and civil society, have to come forward to address the problems of the minorities in a realistic manner.(Concluded)The writer is a Freedom Fighter and ICT Professional. Email: bn.adhikary@gmail.com


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