The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad (BHBCOP) held a press conference in Dhaka on 20 November, during which the interfaith organization called for the national election to be held on 7 January to be fair, unbiased, and violence-free.
BHBCOP general secretary Rana Dasgupta said that minority communities in Bangladesh were fearful in the run-up to the election, and urged no violence during the polls.
The BHBCOP also urged that regions of Bangladesh which were home to minorities be identified as at risk of violence so that additional security measures can be provided—particularly in the two days before the election—and for 15 days after the poll.
Dasgupta urged voters not to vote for anyone who had been accused of anti-communal or anti-minority-interest actions. He also said that the BHBCOP had organized a monitoring unit to observe the situation ahead of the election.
On 12 October, seven members of the BHBCOP met with the chairman of Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and handed over a memorandum urging the commission to take action to protect the rights of ethnic and religious minorities during the impending election.
In response, the NHRC stated that it was concerned about the safety of religious and ethnic minority populations. The NHRC emphasized that it would be vocal in ensuring that human rights abuses did not occur before, during, or after the election, and that people of all religions would be able to vote freely and fairly.
On the same day, members of the BHBCOP also met with chief election commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal in Dhaka.
“I would say, with sadness, [that] although I am optimistic about the elections being conducted in a free, fair, and impartial environment with the participation of all, it was not at all pleasant for the two-and-a-half crore [25 million] religious and ethnic minorities of this country in the past,” Dasgupta noted. (New Age Bangladesh)
The BHBCOP organized a rally in front of the National Press Club on 6 October, calling on the Awami League-led national government to implement the National Minority Commission—one of the electoral promises stated in the party’s manifesto for the 2018 general election. The Awami League’s election manifesto included a section titled “Ethnic Groups, Religious Minorities and Backward Communities,” which covered various commitments for Bangladesh’s minorities.
A mass gathering of the BHBCOP was also planned for 17 November to call on the Awami League fulfill its election campaign promises. However, the rally did not take place. Dasgupta said that this was because of security concerns, noting that numerous political parties had held strike-blockades and violent protests across Bangladesh demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed, and the transfer of power to a caretaker government to oversee the general election.
Bangladesh minorities demand special security measures during polls (DD News)
Awami League hasn’t kept their commitment, claims minority leaders (Prothom Alo)
Declaring minority-inhabitated areas risky during polls demanded (New Age Bangladesh)
বাংলাদেশ হিন্দু বৌদ্ধ খ্রিস্টান ঐক্য পরিষদের ৭ সদস্যের প্রতিনিধি জাতীয় মানবাধিকার কমিশনের মাননীয় চেয়ারম্যানের সাথে সৌজন্য সাক্ষাত করেছেন (জাতীয় মানবাধিকার কমিশন)
Related news reports from BDG
Minorities in Bangladesh Protest against Oppression across the Country
Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Seeks Greater Representation in Bangladesh
Korean Buddhists Join Fellow Religious Leaders to Call for Ban on Discrimination Against Minorities
International Network of Engaged Buddhists Issues Statement Urging Compassion and an End to Violence in Myanmar
Related features from BDG
The Practice of Nonviolence
The Plight of Buddhist Minorities in Bangladesh
What is Violence? Self-immolation in Japanese Buddhism
Vanishing Virtues: The Spirituality of China’s Ethnic Minorities
In the Wake of Cyclone Mocha: Burmese-Bangladeshi Cooperation and Friendship
Peace, Planet, Pandemic, and Engaged Buddhism: From a Divided Myanmar to a Divided World