Is this the Bangladesh we wanted? Analyzing the Hindu Population Gap (2001-2011)

Is this the Bangladesh we wanted?
Analyzing the Hindu Population Gap (2001-2011)

In October 2012, Prothom Alo published a frightening report that stated, in plain words, that over the last decade (which spans BNP,  AL, and Military “CTG” government), the Hindu population of Bangladesh has dropped dramatically and continuously. We are committed to a secular Bangladesh. At the same time, we are mindful that “secularism” has become a politically inert, and semantically complex, category. Since the publication of the PA report, we have been having a series of discussions on what these numbers mean for the future of Bangladesh. We believe secularism cannot be enforced by force, certainly not through the barrel of a gun. A process of domination, subjugation, and political nullification of oppositions in order to “defend” secularism is dangerous. Instead of producing secularism as a normative, naturalized, and lasting category, it reinforces the perception (internally and externally) that secularism can only be defended by force. This, in the long term, weakens secularism.

Prothom Alo Chart 1951-2011

Neither of the two main political parties have made secularism a priority, using it mainly at the polls as a strategy. A common perception that minorities were safer under an AL government, prevailed for a while, benefiting AL in a number of past elections. Riots instigated during the twilight of Ershad era, or the anti-Hindu backlash carried out after 2001 election victory of BNP-JI alliance, or the more recent anti-Hindu violence in 2013, are highlighted to support this view. However, events of the last four decades prove that minorities have fared poorly under every government.

There is also the concern, in 2013, that our national politics has been degraded to such a degree that some attacks against Hindu community may even be deployed as “false flag” operation, giving a cover to target the opposition parties as the presumed protagonists of these attacks. It is difficult to believe such a scenario, but it is difficult to entirely ignore the troubling evidence. In 2014, we find a complex situation where minority communities are surrounded by both hostile forces and “friends” who use them as chess pieces. In his introduction to the investigative book, Ramu: Shamprodayik Shohingshota Shongkolon, Barrister Barua shares how communalism is a cross-party, indeed pan-Bangladesh, phenomenon:

“In my professional life I often have to face a different kind of communalism. Instead of feeling pride in my achievements often I am made to feel embarrassed by trivial things. In 2001 when on the occasion of being inducted into the Dhaka Barristers’ Association I went to a courtesy meeting with committee, the …Chairman, on examining my educational qualifications, commented, “I see that all your degrees are from India, so why didn’t you stay back there?”

Does the Chairman not know how many of young men from the majority religion go to India every year to obtain their degrees and how many of them choose to stay there? After almost nine years of studying in England when I returned home in 2011 and was interviewing for the post of the lawyer for Dhaka City Corporation, North and was asked exactly the same question by a teacher from Dhaka University, I realized that the country hadn’t moved ahead much from 2001, at least in terms of communal thinking.

Beside these, among the communal words that we hear or use often but pretend to not to notice are: the use of the word “Babu” to address to someone, to call someone “malaun” or “nere” (shaved head) despite deep friendship whenever we lose an argument with them. In recent times the Awami League leader Suranjit Sen has been a major victim of this sort of things. The roots of these ugly words go so deep that it is not easy to uproot them. On top, we have gotten so used to hearing these words that we are no longer shocked by them. But, in the words of Tagore, whether this acceptance is true acceptance is rather doubtful.

In my opinion the fact that there is no law regarding this is a contributing factor as to why we aren’t able to come out of this. The time has come for us to think about introducing an anti-communalism/anti-racism law in our country. In many countries of the world there are effective laws regarding this and these laws are implemented. If we had a similar law in our country that would help in increasing communal harmony. At least it would somewhat alleviate the everyday harassment that minorities have to face in the country.”


In this situation, where will those outside of majoritarian, Bengali, Muslim, domination-subjugation identification go for political support? They are homeless in Bangladesh. We should also point out that, in academic discourse, “secularism” is now a debated term. What it means in 2013 is not what it meant in 2001. There is a sprawling body of work and debate on this, but without delving into that, we define “secularism” as a safeguarding and guaranteeing of all non-majority communities’ political, economic, and cultural rights.

Secularism, in our view would be an embedding set of national policies which would ensure full, deep, and representative presence of such communities in all national spaces. It would foster the implementation of “affirmative action” policies that would ensure representation of these communities to counterbalance decades of under-representation and marginalization. At the same time, we caution that such policy cannot take the forms of current cynical political practice, where representation of minority communities in economic and political life is simply used as a political tool to ensure visible “loyalty”– those are policies that benefit, as with many things in our politics, party not people.

Let us take a longer view. Analysis of the Enemy Property Act (later the Vested Property Act) shows that both AL and BNP, when in power, have used this to grab minorities land. Abuse of state power to grab land from minorities, in fact, appears to be the only constant–on this issue, both major parties are on the same wavelength when it comes to grabbing minorities properties and land. Every government has used the minorities for political gain, yet nobody has truly been on their side. In the end, no political party truly defends the rights of minorities, perhaps with the exception of small left parties who are sincere at the grassroots, but weak at national electoral level.

We share Afsan Chowdhury’s shame and feel it’s appropriate to quote, again, his cuttings words: “After all the words are spent, what remains behind is the shame. We have allowed this to happen again and againWe didn’t need a new version of old Pakistan. Bangladesh was to be the exact opposite but thanks to inefficiency, corruption, bigotry and religious excess, we have failed to build a state we could be proud of. For us there is only disgust. On behalf of all who accept what we have said, our sincerest and humblest apology to the people who have suffered in particular and to all minorities in general.”

Hindu population %
1974: 13.5
1981: 12.1
1991: 10.5
2001: 9.2
2011: 8.5

Afsan Chowdhury: When shame is not enough

“According to a recent report published by a local daily, the Hindu population in the country has reduced by 900,000 between 2001-2011. (4)  Wonder why? The religious and ethnic minorities of Bangladesh – constituting less than 10 percent of the total population (5) – have been facing continuous attacks by a small group of Bengali Muslims, who most often are granted impunity on political or other grounds. The reality is that the minorities of democratic secular Bangladesh do not feel safe. At least not anymore. They have developed mistrust on the system of governance from experiencing decades of injustice”
Trimita Chakma: Secular democracy in Bangladesh, a failure or a sham?

And of course we must nod toward the late Humayun Azad, who passed away from complications six months after he was brutally attached outside the Book Fair. He coined the phrase “Is this the Bangladesh we wanted?”

Over six months in 2013, a group of independent researchers have been looking at the data cited by Prothom Alo, from Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). They have shared it for wider dissemination. In a web exclusive we publish those research results in excel data form (see below for link, if quoting these results anywhere, please cite “”).


DOWNLOAD: bangladesh-hindu-gap-census-2001-2011 (Excel)

Research Summary:

1. In the 2001 census, the total Hindu population was 11,608,268. The annual population growth rate was 1.37%. According to the published research in the Prothom Alo, by 2011 the number of the Hindu population should be 13,200,000. But in BBS` 2011 census report the actual Hindu population is 12,299,940. The gap amounts to 900,060. This is the missing Hindu population.

2. The study of the Prothom Alo had one limitation. BBS adjusted its census and its 2011-data of the Hindu population in 2012 including data of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) that were assigned for the post-enumeration check and that found 3.97 percent people were left out in the first count. Now, the actual number of the Hindu population in 2011 is 12,789,113. Considering the total Hindu population in 2001 and the annual growth rate of 1.37% the predicted number in 2011 should actually be 13,337,065 people. This means that the decrease of Hindu population would change to 547,953 (instead of 900,060). The adjusted figures data from the IRC data sheet on the population change characteristics of Bangladesh between 2001 and 2011 have certain important features.

3. To discover that the decline in Hindu population is 0.5 million, instead of 0.9 million is of little comfort. This is still a very large number and confirms the worrying trend of continuous decline.

4. Even on the adjusted numbers, there is a shortfall of 0.5 million Hindus from what would be predicted using the rate of growth of population in the decade. Unless there has been some drastic and unexplainable change in Hindu fecundity rates or large-scale conversion to other faiths (both of which we consider unlikely as explanations), the reason for this shortfall has to be explored. Prima facie, this represents the net Hindu emigration out of Bangladesh in that period. The real population growth of Hindus of Bangladesh between 2001 and 2011 was 1,148,769 (using the adjusted figures). The gap between predicted growth and actual growth is 547,953.

5. Assuming that the 1.37% annual growth in Hindu population did happen (dismissing drastic fecundity /death rate/life expectancy/conversion explanations), something around 547,953 Hindu individuals of Bangladesh origin exist, somewhere in the world. To make sense of these numbers in some other way, we can state that in the 2001-2011 decade, for 1696721 new individuals added to the Hindu population, 547,953 have left the country. That is about 1 person leaving the country for every 3 persons newly added. This is a shocking statistic.

6. Family planning depends on the long-term plans of the family – which also includes the stability of their present state, including stability of homestead and source of income. While we think that low birth-rates cannot explain a deficit as large as 547,953, it is well known that a sense of security and long-term stability affects birth-rates in a community. For example, the birth-rates of Kashmiri Pandits, after their displacement from the Kashmir valley, have taken a drastic hit. Numerous studies document this. ( ). It is not improbable that a small proportion of the ‘missing Hindus’ were not actually born.

7. What is the geographical distribution of the deficit and does that tell us anything? Some districts have actually registered a net decrease in Hindu population in the 2001 to 2011 period. There are 9 such districts. Most of these 9 districts form a near-contiguous belt – Bhola, Barisal, Jhalokathi, Pirojpur, Bagerhat, Narail, Gopalganj and then Rajbari and Manikganj. What does this strong geographical concentration of the districts actually registering a net Hindu population decrement in 10 years tell us. Some of these districts (Bhola being the most infamous example) have been sites for serious anti-Hindu attacks. It may also be useful to note that in 2001 the BNP-Jamaat won all seats in Manikganj, Bhola, Pirojpur, Jhalokathi, Barisal and Rajbari. But Gopalganj, the ultra-identified borough of Awami League is also in the list. Hence this precludes any clear explanation in terms of local party domination, though one cannot rule it out as one of the out-migration factors.

8. Studies  which also look at the volume of ‘enemy property’ in different districts in terms of number of affected families, percentage of Hindu families affected and correlating that with the percentage of Hindu population change would be useful to trying to find out the reasons behind the ‘missing Hindus’ of Bangladesh. For example, see this 2009 summary of Abul Barakat’s research. Here are some key statistics from Barakat’s research:

a) Households: 43% of all Hindu households (1.2 million) have been affected by EPA/VPA. 57% of households that lost land lost an average of 100 decimals. Survey data shows 33% of affluent Hindu families lost land due to EPA/VPA. 50% of affluent households had at least one close relative who lost land

b) Total Land: Total area of land lost is 2.01 million acres, which is 5.5% of Bangladesh’s total land mass but 45% of land owned by the Hindu community. The research shows two numbers: one is the impact on Hindu community as measured by the official land records, the second is the impact as measured by survey data. The survey data shows 22% more land loss (2.6 million acres) than official records. The type of land lost is typically agricultural, homestead, pond area, orchard, fallow land, etc.

d) Value: Assuming average market price of land as seen in the year 2007, total value of land lost is Tk. 2,416,273 million (Tk. 3,106,636 million from survey data).

e) Sale Value: Even if land is being lawfully sold, the price of Hindu-owned land is reported as Tk. 900,000 per acre, as compared to Tk. 1,500,000 for similar Muslim-owned land

f) Methods of dispossession: Influential parties grab land in connivance with Tahsil and Thana Revenue Office, Tahsil and Thana Revnue Office itself grabs land. Death and/or out-migration of one member of a Hindu family is used as excuse to enlist the whole property. Influential parties grab the land by using violence, local thugs, and forged documents. Influentials allure sharecroppers to occupy land, and then become eventual owners, etc.

g) Accompanying harassment: Harassment that accompanies land-grabbing includes obstruction in casting vote in elections, obstruction in harvesting crops, workplace intimidation, property destruction, eve-teasing, looting, robbery, obstruction in shopping, extortion, etc.

h) Political affiliation: Barakat’s research also shows that grabbers try to change their political affiliation with each change in government. We can conclude that either party affiliation is switching after change of government, or ownership is switching from one party affiliate to another.

9. For those looking to one party or another for a solution, note that this drop has happened in both AL and BNP period. Unless there is an united political push to protect minorities and to give them full rights of a citizen, neither of the two parties will be able to reverse this trend. Where would this trend lead to? This statistical analysis has some shocking pointers. As Dipen Bhattacharya wrote in an earlier op-ed:

“Until a few years ago, I believed that even though the Hindu percentage was declining, the absolute number of the Hindu population was increasing and would continue to increase. However, the truth is bitter and it’s statistical. It seems the trend is for negative growth numbers. For the next forty years or so, we might expect to see the Hindu population drop from a high of 13 million (in 2011) to 10 million. Whether the population will plummet drastically after 2051 is a matter of speculation. But for all practical purposes, the Hindu community will stop being a major participating community in Bangladesh. If the country stabilizes its population at 250 million, then an estimate for the Hindu number for the year 2101 could be as low as 3.75 million.

Among several explanations of  the low growth rate are (i) mass exodus to India, (ii) the disruption of the family structure and (iii) the willful underestimation by the the Census Bureau. Some say the migration to India is for better economic opportunities. Even when the existing religious bonding favors the power structure, some explanations comprise “land-shortage” and “land-grabbing” as if those words could take away the inherent religious bigotry that is present. They fail to see how – without any access to the existing power system of the current Bangladesh society – vulnerable the Hindu population is. Soft and hard intimidation, extortion, threat to family structures, illegal occupation of property, and looting and burning of households and temples are sufficient to have this population scurry across the border. The Hindus migrate to India because their lives are made unbearable through various means in Bangladesh.

Bhattacharya: The Statistical Future of Bangladeshi Hindus

Meanwhile Ali Riaz came to this conclusion in 2012:

“Take for example the issue of the dwindling Hindu population in the country. An examination of the census data of the composition of religious minorities since 1901, led me to conclude in 2004 that there is a massive out-migration of the Hindu population: about 5.3 million in the preceding 25 years (God Willing: The Politics of Islamism in Bangladesh, 2004)… The Hindu community in Bangladesh has been weak owing to its lack of access to resources and hence has never been able to mount resistance to the institutional persecutions faced. This has left Hindus with no choice but to relocate. In 2001, for example, a large number of Hindus from three districts (Barisal, Pirojpur and Bagerhat) initially moved to the neighbouring Gopalganj district in search of a safe haven. In the absence of a potential haven nearby the persecuted Hindus decided to cross the border. The porous border between Bangladesh and West Bengal, not to mention the cultural and historical ties between these two parts of Bengal, helped the intended migrants to move to the Indian state. Some returned later, but some didn’t…

The census reports of the past 60 years show a steady decline of the Hindu population. This decline is not consistent with the population growth rate of the country. For example, the population growth rate was 3.13 percent for 1961-1974, 3.08 percent for 1974-1981; 2.20 percent for 1981-1991; 1.58 percent for 1991-2001; and roughly 1.34 percent for 2001-2011. It cannot be ascribed to low Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of the adherents of Hindu religion. Even if one takes into account that the TFR among Hindu women is estimated at 13% less (estimate is based on recent contraceptive use rates) until 1991 and 15% after 1991, the average annual growth rates of the Hindu population would have been 2.72 during 1961-1974, 2.68% during 1974-1981; 1.92% during 1981-1991; 1.34% during 1991-2001, and 1.14% during 2001-2011.

If we factor in these assumptions and reconsider the government statistics, the numbers change drastically. By 1991 the Hindu population should have reached 16.5 million as opposed to 11.16 million recorded in census data. The rate of the missing population has increased in the past two decades. The current Hindu population, 13.47 million, is far short of the number one should expect based on population growth rates. The decline of the religious minority community is matched by the increased use of Islamic icons and symbols in political rhetoric, not to mention deletion of secularism as state principle and official designation of Islam as the state religion.”

Riaz: How did we arrive here?

Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics
Comparison Census 2001 and 2011 – Population growth in total figures
Source: Sheet 1 & 2
District Muslim(unadjusted 2011) Muslim(adjusted 2011) Hindu(unadjusted 2011) Hindu(adjusted 2011) Christian(unadjusted 2011) Christian(adjusted 2011) Buddhist(unadjusted 2011) Buddhist(adjusted 2011) Others(unadjusted 2011) Others(adjusted 2011)
Barisal -14,666 66,469 -14,936 -4,130 -990 -46 -306 -297 759 792
Bhola 85,037 153,263 -11,113 -8,681 -28 -25 -33 -32 185 194
Jhalokati -6,835 17,574 -4,755 -2,028 -39 -35 104 112 37 40
Pirojpur 21,943 58,766 -19,603 -12,171 21 30 50 58 127 135
Barguna 45,282 77,999 -768 1,963 -19 -8 -207 -163 61 66
Patuakhali 77,633 134,449 -2,397 1,799 -46 -32 17 71 734 765
Bandarban 50,025 57,863 2,341 2,863 10,787 12,351 19,055 23,949 -8,007 -7,700
Brahmanbaria 432,227 536,736 10,056 18,483 202 217 28 33 269 291
Chandpur 144,849 235,098 548 6,337 -116 -99 4 8 496 543
Chittagong 957,261 1,220,487 43,749 78,011 -475 -177 2,734 7,553 -943 -680
Comilla 775,183 978,943 16,363 26,628 40 58 757 953 612 652
Cox’s Bazar 503,747 589,331 10,525 14,408 -219 -159 2,085 3,589 -143 -107
Feni 193,492 247,296 3,230 6,562 122 129 173 189 30 37
Khagrachhari 45,505 56,412 16,844 20,948 325 487 24,836 34,035 -743 -729
Lakshmipur 237,625 304,021 1,735 4,098 30 34 37 42 140 148
Noakhali 526,617 644,574 4,401 9,990 -126 -89 215 237 268 283
Rangamati 22,333 30,663 3,300 4,503 -118 227 62,132 75,934 -150 -133
Dhaka 3,379,724 3,833,110 125,155 147,680 20,669 23,137 6,702 7,230 -499 -432
Faridpur 154,420 223,268 2,012 9,185 -143 -106 -7 -5 -217 -206
Gazipur 1,327,440 1,454,720 38,904 45,927 3,719 4,667 466 494 -1,492 -1,456
Gopalganj 25,153 57,173 -17,835 -3,764 -450 65 63 66 -211 -201
Jamalpur 184,496 274,066 1,383 2,927 137 176 -51 -50 500 546
Kishoreganj 319,343 428,791 -1,954 4,351 13 24 8 9 457 518
Madaripur 22,386 63,099 -1,996 3,615 -638 -595 -3 -2 146 153
Manikganj 278,383 328,582 -10,243 -5,069 108 126 -335 -335 5,887 6,125
Munshiganj 147,826 200,674 3,851 8,411 117 198 -32 -29 74 79
Mymensingh 605,478 800,164 14,891 22,170 447 1,578 -214 -209 56 194
Narayanganj 745,169 856,628 28,954 34,685 268 306 -7 8 115 128
Narsingdi 317,012 400,483 12,869 17,871 2 8 -17 -14 906 947
Netrakona 239,198 318,808 3,101 11,351 -705 19 -110 -108 30 120
Rajbari 116,939 154,424 -17,916 -13,662 -611 -603 -36 -36 504 527
Shariatpur 72,717 117,033 839 2,483 54 59 -5 -4 81 86
Sherpur 78,685 130,924 832 2,222 -628 -283 -5 -4 101 150
Tangail 299,659 432,595 12,149 21,942 1,305 1,867 -10 -6 -1,284 -1,255
Bagerhat -39,269 8,399 -33,553 -22,780 -146 97 -11 -9 -38 -21
Chuadanga 120,718 164,478 1,014 2,068 -108 -45 -29 -28 -290 -279
Jessore 275,189 372,474 16,343 28,679 445 666 33 37 -983 -921
Jhenaidah 185,707 249,383 5,072 11,749 140 179 -133 -132 -1,028 -1,016
Khulna -44,370 26,292 -14,966 5,942 14,950 15,556 -15,721 -15,717 337 379
Kushtia 206,590 281,706 -449 1,810 158 167 -242 -239 -626 -611
Magura 88,262 118,217 5,893 12,438 51 67 -15 -15 83 96
Meherpur 63,789 89,272 1,091 1,404 -762 -498 -7 -6 155 166
Narail 36,886 60,215 -13,745 -8,392 72 82 -15 -15 -23 -15
Satkhira 130,563 195,221 -9,172 4,809 -181 65 -211 -210 -256 -170
Bogra 373,296 500,272 13,805 21,971 197 231 -182 -177 -702 -657
Chapai Nawabganj 214,627 277,112 5,793 8,442 1,232 1,460 -91 -91 -638 -503
Joypurhat 60,911 93,492 4,663 7,872 107 299 -56 -51 -1,447 -1,151
Naogaon 187,811 277,311 31,323 42,774 4,277 5,016 -234 -230 14,375 16,662
Natore 181,285 244,556 2,197 6,323 -228 92 -27 -27 -2,110 -2,037
Pabna 346,542 443,808 -352 2,571 51 173 -35 -33 -703 -696
Rajshahi 293,492 390,142 9,751 14,619 5,065 6,172 -465 -460 -480 83
Sirajganj 396,797 514,060 6,108 11,975 9 24 -46 -45 -807 -797
Dinajpur 276,223 369,017 61,388 84,587 9,492 10,983 -620 -601 -795 589
Gaibandha 227,761 315,476 14,283 20,960 711 827 -254 -252 1,427 1,597
Kurigram 265,899 342,766 11,857 17,245 -61 -57 -116 -114 379 428
Lalmonirhat 139,326 182,298 7,838 14,780 -39 -14 -53 -53 316 345
Nilphamari 227,002 288,205 35,750 47,418 231 275 -102 -100 340 384
Panchagarh 129,736 162,373 21,054 27,553 319 419 -21 -20 -360 -331
Rangpur 307,473 411,045 28,721 39,009 813 1,075 -197 -123 -1,835 -1,523
Thakurgaon 141,922 184,324 30,720 43,026 741 1,055 132 142 -2,151 -1,987
Habiganj 299,282 368,131 31,330 45,345 381 475 -5 5 -348 -250
Maulvibazar 255,732 312,436 45,123 63,894 1,634 2,244 48 57 -4,151 -4,088
Sunamganj 429,502 514,791 24,611 37,313 2 115 -65 -62 -180 -142
Sylhet 815,038 941,538 61,589 71,458 616 713 295 321 -1,084 -1,041
Total Growth2001 – 2011/ 2011 19,005,008 24,183,300 659,596 1,148,769 73,184 90,962 99,643 135,028 4,737 12,777


Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics
Comparison Census 2001 and 2011: Analysis on Hindu Popluation
Source: Sheet 1, 2 & 4
Predicted Growth of Hindu Population between 2001 and 2011(using 1,37% annual growth as calculated by BBS after 2011 Census)
Year Hindu Population
2001 11,640,344
2002 11,799,817
2003 11,961,474
2004 12,125,346
2005 12,291,464
2006 12,459,857
2007 12,630,557
2008 12,803,595
2009 12,979,005
2010 13,156,817
2011 13,337,065
PredictedGrowth 1,696,721
Calculated Real Growth between 2001 and 2011 (see “Comparision 2001 & 2011”; using adjusted figure from 2011)
RealGrowth 1,148,769 Unadjustedfigure in 2011 659,596
Difference Predicted Growth / Real Growth
P. Growth 1,696,721 1,696,721
R. Growth 1,148,769 659,596
Gap -547,953 -1,037,125

Here are some links to reports about the 2013 violence, which present the possibility for other narratives, within narratives.

1. “Rana Dash Gupto, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu-Buddha-Christian Oikyo Parishad, told the Dhaka Tribune that police not only played a mysterious role in protecting the minority people, but were also found to be instigators behind the attacks.”

2. “Post Poll Politics and Attacks on Minorities – A compilation of reports, editorials, commentary and statements:

3. Editorial: Who is playing the Hindu card?

4. Book on the Ramu attacks in Chittagong

DOWNLOAD: Ramu intro (Bangla)


Ramu: Shamprodayik Shohingshota Shongkolon: Buy the book

9 thoughts on “Is this the Bangladesh we wanted? Analyzing the Hindu Population Gap (2001-2011)

  1. This is a good, balanced and eye opening article. I hope we can find a way out of this terrible trend and situations and help make the Bangladeshi Hindus feel that the land belongs them as much as to Muslims and anyone else who have ancestry or gained citizenship. Forced to leave one’s motherland out of fear and discrimination can be extremely sad and making one feel that they have less rights to the land of their ancestors because of religion and politics is both inhuman and immoral.

    No Hindus in Bangladesh should have to leave the country because of discrimination and fear. I have lived in London since 1973, first six years in the East End, and experienced horrendous racism during the 1970s. Every day was a very anxious experience for me and I was scared of going out of my house or going home from schools. The outside felt so dangerous because the streets were unsafe and so many of us were subject to daily beatings by white racist thugs. As it was an everyday affair we became used to it and thought it was normal, although we did not like it and fought against our attackers, by forming or joining young people’s gangs. Although a few people died every year from racist attacks the law was firmly in favour of equality and there were many white people and mainstream institutions that always came to our support. If it was not for thousands of dedicated white anti-racists (who came from all walks of life) our life in the UK would have been unbearable.

    They organised and fought against fascists, even engaging in street battles with them, and joined hands with the ethnic minority communities to campaign for bringing in more stronger laws to help eliminate discrimination and prosecute violent racists. Things have moved on and now we are in a much better condition in the UK although there are still pockets of semi no-go areas as racist attacks are quiet frequent in some places within the UK. The reason for sharing my experience is that being a minority in an environment where there is hostility from a section of the majority it can be a very fearful experience indeed, which no human being should have to go through. The kind of large-scale communal attacks that take place in the Indian sub-continent against minorities, including in Bangladesh, where people get killed, their properties destroyed and places of worship desecrated the fear must be many times greater than what I experienced as a child in London. The fact that not only can victims rely on the authorities for protection and redress but sometimes the law enforcers and state machinery even join in the attacks against minorities must multiply significantly the fear and insecurity experienced.

    Why should the Hindus in Bangladesh feel unwelcomed and want to leave the golden country? As a result of discrimination, violence and lack of protection some of them feel that the only way out is migration to India or in western countries. Bangladesh is their country too and they have every right to this beautiful land as anyone else. We all love the fishes, fruits, rivers, vegetables, seasons, colours, etc. of our Beautiful Bangladesh, irrespective of religious or ethnic backgrounds. Just because of past political failures of our leaders and institutions and outside divide and rule policies, one partition and one liberation, we find ourselves in a country called Bangladesh, where some people are more equal than others. The world belongs to everyone and all human beings have the equal prior rights to their birth place before that of any modern nation states and no majority can take that away. However, unfortunately not everyone sees things this way. Political, economic, religious and other factors play a role to create fear and dislocation within minority communities.

    There is no reason why there should be tension and conflict between Hindus and Muslims of Bangladesh. Also there is no reason why there can only be harmony between the two communities if Bengali Muslims become Bengali nationalists and secularists. Most people, Hindus and Muslims, of Bangladesh are religious people and ways should be explored to promote good neighbourliness and create strong protection (legal, cultural, institutions, public opinion, the valuing of diversity, etc.) for minorities irrespective of individual’s levels of religiosity and ethnic backgrounds. I am a very proud Bangladeshi Muslim and I always try to make good friendship with Hindus and keep good communication going. I have many very close Hindu friends from Bali Island in Indonesia, Gujarat, West Bengal and from the Fiji Indian community. Some of us have been meeting once a month since mid 1980s to have a meal together, semi-formally, although we have regular informal communication. I know it is difficult to deal with the current, historically arrived at, poisoned atmosphere of communal disharmony in Bangladesh but protecting minorities are the most important and supreme task of the majority. If you belong to a majority community please put yourself in the foot of a minority living in a hostile environment, I am sure you will want to escape as quickly as you can.

  2. I believe there are many reasons why Hindus have been migrating out of Bangladesh and why there have been a continuous reduction of the Hindu population in the country, both in proportion and in absolute numbers. These include (in addition to fear, discrimination and persecution) economic migration, poor census counts and perhaps also conversion into Islam. However, if you place yourself in the shoes of the Hindus in Bangladesh then you will see how hostile and discriminatory the environment are for them. Just listen to their experiences from their own mouths and then you will know how what we do as the majority community affects them negatively. Just because there are some prominent Hindus occupying high positions in politics, education and entertainment sectors in Bangladesh it does not mean that everything is ok for them. Militant and aggressive Bengali Nationalism and Secularism are not the answer, nor is the false idea of Bengali culture (which excludes 800 years of Islam and its influence on our culture and way of life in Bengal), partly designed to promote harmony between Hindus and Muslims of Bengal. We need to see and understand how what we do discriminate Hindus in Bangladesh and generate fear among them, which causes some to leave the country. We have to take steps to change our ways and make a beautiful country for all, where everyone enjoys legal equality and equal opportunities. Narrow cultural identity, Nationalism and secularism, tried and tested in the Bangladesh context, have not delivered the goods but perhaps have caused the situation in question to only get worse. Pluralism and equality are there answers.



    This video of a seminar by Dr Joya Chatterji has useful statistics, analyses and discussion on Hindu and Muslim migration during partition and after.

    Although quality of the video could have been better but the seminar was very useful

  4. I just don’t understand why we have to constantly beat ourselves up over this issue. And if some people choose to leave, isn’t it the mark of a free country that we let them leave? We are not after all Communist China or Soviet Russia that imposes exit restrictions (eg those who wanted to go to Israel from Russia and did in droves after 1991).

    It is a fact, though it is politically correct not to say so, that we are both surrounded by a country (so easy and proximate) and one with which one section of our population has a lot of links (family, friends, business), so it is easy for them to migrate. Do any of you pay attention in your ivory towers in the West, but there is a huge number of people desperate to leave our country any way they can. I assime not many Hindus go to Middle East because it is harder for them. Similarly, it is easier for Hindus for whatever reason to go to India and many people have done so where opportunities are so much greater.

    But as a result, we should not constantly have this discussion where what is the outcome you people want I just don’t know – that we stand with our heads buried in shame so others can keep pushing us down? I can guarantee they don’t have the same self-hatred exercise in Pakistan or India.

    And incidentally, we have a much better communal track record than India, where there are riots all the time, and thousands (hundreds of thousands if you include Kashmir) have died since 1947 in communal issues.

    1. And if some people choose to leave, isn’t it the mark of a free country that we let them leave? Does this freedom to leave include freedom to leave Islam to another religion? Will such a convert be safe in Bangladesh?

  5. Is this the Bangladesh we wanted? 100’s of 1000’s of Bangalis are trafficked annually to India for abusive activities, millions of Bangalis are drugged with Yaba etc in Bangladesh with narcotics smuggled into the country, half the population are poisoned with Formalin and Indian toxic chemicals – and this fraudulent govt of “Mujib’s dream” have no clue how to run a country, except rig elections and celebrate the farce of ‘democracy’. Is this the Bangladesh we wanted?

    Hindus migrating to India for their own economic upgrade is NOT a weakness of Bangladesh. That’s an economic fact that has happened throughout history in all nations in the world. The whole purpose of ‘Partition’ in 1947 was for Muslims to separate from the abuse and injustice of Hindu majority on them. That legacy, culture and history of Indian hegemony persists in the society of all South Asia today, and amendment of that disease was NOT the goal of 1971.

    The REAL failure of Bangladesh is their incapacity to develop the country’s Rule of Law, independence & separation of Judiciary, economic reform, eradication of Black money & corruption, setup of true democracy – all of which were the REASONS for separation from Pakistan in 1971, and none of which have been addressed by past 20 years of Awami mal-politics.

    Is this the Bangladesh we wanted?

  6. //Is this the Bangladesh we wanted? 100’s of 1000’s of Bangalis are trafficked annually to India for abusive activities, millions of Bangalis are drugged with Yaba etc in Bangladesh with narcotics smuggled into the country, half the population are poisoned with Formalin and Indian toxic chemicals // Nice conspiracy theories. Do you have any data to back up this assertion that the Indians are conspiring to poison you? Don’t be in denial – It is not a characteristic of a healthy mind and a honest intellect.

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