Non-Muslims persecuted in Bangladesh: Human Rights activist

Accusing Bangladesh of persecuting the minorities, a prominent Human Rights activist has said attacks on non-Muslims have increased since October 2001, when the Bangladesh National Party came to power in a coalition with hardline Islamic parties.

Director of Hotline Bangladesh, Rosaline Costa, a former nun, now visiting US, told The Washington Times that Bangladesh is now a land of terror for many of its Hindu, Buddhist and Christian citizens.

She told the paper that in the Bhola islands on the southern coast of the country, 98 per cent of Hindu women interviewed "had been raped by Muslim thugs."

Costa pointed out that before partition non-Muslims had made up 33 per cent of the population. They now number only 9.9 per cent. Thousands of people have fled to India, Japan and other countries, especially Britain.

The Washington Times points out that Amnesty International and the State Department too have condemned the abuses in Bangladesh though the State Department says that the Government "generally respected" religious freedom.

Costa, contradicting the State Department's stand, said that local police do little or nothing to investigate the attacks.

Sitangshu Guha, a Hindu-American accompanying her in her tour, said Bangladesh has become a breeding ground for militant Islam.

Friday afternoons, said Costa, who lives near one of the largest mosques in Bangladesh, are the worst.

She alleged that angry Muslims, inflamed by mullahs at Friday services, pour out of the mosque, looking for any available Christian, Hindu or Buddhist on whom to vent their fury.

The situation, she said, was worse in the rural areas. There, Muslim mobs have "ethnically cleansed" many areas of their non-Muslim inhabitants. Hindus are the most affected, she said, because they traditionally have owned the most land.

"Rape," said Costa, "is a most useful tool to evict a family. Rape makes it impossible for a family to stay in the area," she said, explaining that the female victims were frequently blamed for disgracing their families