SAVE BUDDHISTS AND OTHER RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN BANGLADESH
A statement on the brutal arson attacks on Buddhist minority villages in Ramu, Cox’s bazaar, Bangladesh
5th October 2012
Dear Prime Minister David Cameron
The Bangladesh Buddhist Association, UK is deeply concerned about the physical security and well-being of Buddhists and other minorities living in Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh isknown to the world as a Muslim-majority country, for centuries there have beenmany diverse ethnic minorities and religions co-existingin the country and recognisingeach other’s values, cultures and customs.
However, the beauty of such a peaceful coexistencebased uponhuman rights and dignityis increasingly being damaged and undermined by certainradical Muslim groups whose attitudes are not appreciated by the majority and, indeed, pose a threattothe diversity of social and religious belief in the country. Someattacks on minority interests are being eported by the local and national media,while many other outlets haveremained silent due to fear of retribution.There
was an arson attack on Buddhist villages, religious buildings and
monasteries in the middle of the night on 29th October 2012 in Ramu, Cox
Bazaar District, Chittagong, Bangladesh. This shocking atrocity is one of many that have beencarried
out against Buddhists and other minorities in Bangladesh. According to
our local account, a rumour spread across the region theday before the attack suggesting that a group of radical Muslims were planning to actagainst Buddhist and other minorityinterests there. The rumour became realityas peoplestarted to rally at the junction of Ramu on 29thOctober 2012 at around 10pm. Eye witnesses have reported that many cars, buses and trucks transported a large number of people to the Ramu junction and thatthe crowdquickly amountedto many thousands. As
soon as Buddhist villagers received the news of possible attack by this
angry rally, they called both the police and security forces to protect
them. However, the security forces arrived at the scene five hours
later, when their houses and monasteries were already burnt to the ground.
Government secret service agency or government intelligent branch knew about this intentional plan days before the attacks. Our question is: why did the security forces and police deliberately ignore the request? Why could they not have prevented the attacks,given thatthe distance between the Border Guards Bangladesh (security camp) and the Buddhist villages in question isonly a 15- minutedrive? The violence could have been prevented if the security forces had responded immediately to the phone calls. As a result of this intentional attack, more than 50 houses werecompletelyreducedto ashes, including 22 Buddhist monasteries and 2 Hindu temples in different locations. Four monasteries lost buildings that were over 300 years old, along with more than a thousand ancient Buddhist manuscripts and artifacts. About 450 Buddhist families deserted their homes during or before the midnight attacks. Their houses are damaged, andall valuable items inside them were looted.
These attacks suggest that some radical Muslim groups in the country have become sophisticated and capable of premeditated inflammatory action, more effectively than waspreviously thought. Increasing numbers of ordinary Muslims are now becoming radicalised. These organised attacks on innocent Buddhists, Hindus and Christians seem to be related tothis increasingproportion of radicalised hardliners in the country.
The motivationforthis atrocity is blamed ona Buddhist boy who, according to these radical Muslim groups, posted an insultingitem on his Facebook page. However, this whole atrocity took place as a result of premeditated action against nnocent Buddhist villagers. According to the local and national media reports, including eye-witness accounts, it was not in fact Uttamkumar Barua, the above-mentioned boy, who posted the insulting comments on Facebook: they wereintentionally and deliberately tagged on his Facebook page by those who intendedto carry out this immoral and criminal act. The Facebook story was merely a tool to agitate the local Muslim majority and seek tojustify thiscriminal action. If we look at the scale of organisation behind the act, the timingof the event and the security conditions, it becomes clear that this attack must have been sponsored by some highly-trained and sophisticated group.
There are no reports of Buddhists or other minorities retaliating in response tothis brutal attack, and furtherattacks on Buddhist minorities are reported to have subsequently taken placein different locations across the Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts. All minorities in Bangladesh, including Buddhists, have been living under immense tension, anxiety and fear. Theongoing attackson Buddhists, Hindu and other minorities arecompletely unacceptable, unjustifiable and, indeed, intolerable. Our peaceful coexistence in the country is now under threat. As a result, mistrust between the communities will increase, which in turn could lead toyet more violence in the region-even in the entire country.
We, all members of the Bangladesh Buddhist Association, UK and our supporters, strongly condemn these arson attacks carried out inthe name of religion. We all, with one voice, would like to request that you, the Prime Minister of the UK, and all other EU countries’leaders, putimmediate and appropriate pressure on the Bangladeshi government to prevent future attacks.
We also request that the Bangladesh Governmenttakethe following actions:Conduct a neutral and thorough investigation ofthe incident and put thoseresponsible on trial Providefull compensation for the physical, mental and property damage of the villagers as a result of the brutal arson attack, including rebuilding houses and monasteriesEnsure guaranteed protection against future attacks on Buddhists and other minorities in the countryProvide a transparent and public account of thepersons or groups that were the master minds behind this atrocityPromote religious tolerance in Bangladeshi society and includestrategies for developing mutual respect in the country’s education systemFund and carry out systematic research for the reestablishment of mutual trust amongthe communities
Copy to:Prime Minister Sheik HasinaForeign office UKBangladesh embassy, UKAmnesty international, UKForeign Offices, EUHuman Right Watch, UKJapanese Embassy, UKChinese Embassy, UKAmerican Embassy, UK
Some Reference news websites:
Reference to Amnesty
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