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December 16, 2008 The Honorable Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed Chief Advisor to the Caretaker Government of The Peoples Republic of Bangladesh Dhaka, Bangladesh. Re: Save the minorities from pre & post election atrocities Esteemed Chief Adviser: The long awaited election in Bangladesh is finally on the horizon. There is a festive mood from one end of the country to the other due to the election campaign and the intense politicking it entails. Every election cycle is embraced by the majority of the Banglades's population with high hopes and enthusiasm for a change that never came. Yet people draw inspiration and courage every time an election is called hoping this time it might be bring the kind of change we need. However, every election time brings entirely different set of realities in the heart of Bangladesh's ethnic and religious minorities estimated to be 20% of the country's total population. Although the minorities share the common philosophy of choosing a party or a team that can best serve the people and put forth a program that put the country on a course of peace and prosperity �still minorities are dogged by extreme fear of their lives, properties and their overall prospects as citizens. Bangladesh's electoral history has not been kind at all for the minorities. We need to look no further than the election cycle of 2001 to amply demonstrate how perilous the process is for the minorities of Bangladesh. Violence against minorities during the 2001 general elections was well documented. Prior to voting-- names of the minority voters were purged from the voter list; they were harassed and threatened against voting for a certain political party and were obstructed from casting their votes. In the months following the October 2001 general elections the minorities faced backlash in the form of unprecedented violence perpetrated by the BNP-Jamat Islamist alliance. Just in a week, at least 30 people had been killed and more than 1,000 others injured. Their houses were torched, ransacked and in many cases seized, women were raped, and temples were desecrated. The Hindu-dominated areas in Barisal , Bhola, Pirojpur, Satkhira, Jessore, Khulna , Kushtia, Jhenidah, Bagerhat, Feni, Tangail, Noakhali, Natore, Bogra, Sirajganj, Munshiganj, Narayanganj, Narsingdi, Brahmanbaria, Gazipur and Chittagong were the worst hit. Many Hindu families had reportedly fled their homes and sought refuge in areas considered safe. According to a November 16, 2001 article in the Bangladesh paper the Daily Star:In one night, nearly two hundred women were raped in Char fashion of Bhola, and amongst them were an eight-year-old girl, a middle-aged amputee and a seventy-year old woman. They were raped in the paddy field, in the bush, on the riverbank, in the house, and in the open field by gangs of men, who had come to spare nothing in the village. This is just typical of any election related violence anywhere in Bangladesh, the target of which is mostly the minorities. There was worldwide condemnation against the BNP-Jamat coalition for their of their cowardice acts of violence. But the violence continued unabated till 1/11/2006, the last day of the Khaleda-Nizami's tenure in the government. As the Caretaker government was installed on 1/11/2006, countless victims and affected minorities sought justice and recourse from the government hoping that the neutral caretaker government would see the light to right the wrongs of the past and adequately deal with the heinous crimes perpetrated against a sizeable, peaceful, and law abiding portion of the population by a group of extremists driven by a dogma of cleansing the country of people who do not subscribe to their brand of faith. We hoped that if not for justice, the caretaker government would at least address the post election crimes of 2001 just to send a strong message that the laws in the book must be followed and the violators would be severely dealt with. Sadly, the inaction of the present government basically sends a message of condoning the past illegal violent acts against minorities. Against these backdrops we as minorities have ample reasons to be apprehensive and fearful about the upcoming elections in Bangladesh. Although there were not deliberated omissions of minorities from the voter list this time, nothing much has happened to assuage minorities to participate in the election process without fear of their lives and properties. The usual suspects are still roaming freely in every corner of the country, the criminal/terrorist wings of political parties that perpetrated heinous crimes against minorities in the past several election cycles are still functioning with impunity, the state apparatus charged with the law and order situation are stacked with sympathizers of fundamentalists and view minority persecution as no big deal thus rendering them morally incapable of stopping such carnage that took place in 2001. The government has stressed that the election would be free and fair this time that any kind of violence would be harshly dealt with etc, etc. In the absence of some very measurable actions those assurances do not put our fear to rest. We are bewildered about what might come after the election is over, the military camp is folded, and the jubilant crowds go home with victories or in defeat. Therefore, we request the government to immediately take appropriate measure to protect the minorities against any atrocities pre & post election. We also urge to setup hate-crime tribunals to deter criminals to specifically target minorities. Sincerely, Members of Global Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council Bangladesh Minority Alliance



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