The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council has accused the ruling party of Bangladesh of neglecting religious minorities in the country. This allegation was raised during a press conference titled “Disparity in Budget by Religious Affairs Ministry,” held at the National Press Club on 20 June.
In his prepared speech, Rana Dasgupta, the organizing secretary of the council, highlighted that the proposed budget for fiscal 2023–24 only allocated 6.4 per cent for the development of religious minorities, which showed a continuous decline in allocation. Dasgupta emphasized that religious minorities in Bangladesh had faced discrimination for the past five decades. He pointed out that a significant percentage of employees in the Hindu Kalyan Trust, which holds government funds for religious purposes, were Muslims, and that a substantial portion of the funds were used for Muslims.
“The government earlier compromised its integrity by bowing to demands made by Hefazat-e Islam [an influential Islamic pressure group in Bangladesh] and allowed printing matters related to sectarianism in children’s textbooks. On the other hand, now [the government] is letting the [Jamaat-e-Islami] organize a rally in the capital city,” Dasgupta said. “[The government] are saying it is a strategy to secure and maintain their position in the corridors of power. We’d like to say that strategy is fine, but what [the government] are doing is a ploy, which should never be a part of politics.” (BD News 24)
Dasgupta expressed concern that if the party that led the liberation war neglected minorities and aligned itself with Hefazat and Jamaat—Bangladesh’s largest Islamist political party—it would lead the country toward potential turmoil. He stated that communalism existed not only in the ruling party but also in the administration, politics, and society as a whole. According to Dasgupta, communalism has deeply penetrated the constitution.
During the press conference, the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council presented several demands, including the transformation of kalyan trusts of Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian religions into foundations controlled by the leaders of those religions, the enactment of a religious minorities safety law, the establishment of a ministry for minorities and a national religious minority commission, the construction of model temples/pagodas/churches at the district and local levels, and the allocation of 50 billion takas (US$460 million) in the budget for the development and welfare of religious minorities.
The event was chaired by the organization’s president, Neem Chandra Bhowmik, and attended by presidium member Milan Kanti Datta and Bhikkhu Sunandapriya, among others.
Earlier this month, religious minorities in Bangladesh raised concerns that the government was not properly working to prevent violence ahead of next year’s elections. This was a response to the failed implementation of promises after the country’s 2018 elections.
Hemanta Corraya, secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, said, “The government’s reluctance toward helping minorities in past years has given rise to our fear.” He also said that promises to members of minority religions “have not been implemented these past four years.” (UCA News)
About 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people are Muslims. Some 8 per cent are Hindus, while Buddhists make up 0.6 per cent and Christianity accounts for 0.3 per cent of the population. The majority of Buddhists in Bangladesh live in Chittagong (also called Chattogram), an area in southeast Bangladesh, bordering the Bay of Bengal and close to neighboring Myanmar.
Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council slams budget allocation to religious minorities (Dhaka Tribune)
‘Ruling party neglecting religious minorities’ (The Daily Prothom Alo)
Bangladesh minority leader accuses Hasina government of ‘rehabilitating’ Jamaat-e-Islami (BD News 24)
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