Bangladesh sees continued communal violence in 2022: US report

Communal violence against religious minority communities has continued in Bangladesh throughout the year 2022, says the United States, citing local Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and human rights groups.

US state secretary Antony Blinken released the report – 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom – on Monday. It was prepared by the state department in the light of developments in 2022.

In the Bangladesh chapter, the report said the government took extra security measures to ensure peaceful celebrations during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja last year. The move was welcomed by the religious minority leaders as the festival was celebrated without major violence.

Citing minority religious groups, the report further said the government failed to adequately punish perpetrators of the October 2021 violence against Hindu communities in Cumilla. The president of Cumilla district chapter of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC) said unless justice is served, these incidents will be repeated.

In July, a Muslim crowd attacked a predominantly Hindu community in Narail over a Facebook post reportedly insulting Islam. Minority religious groups claimed that security forces failed to protect Hindu victims, noted the report.

Besides, minority rights organisations criticised the arbitrary detention of minority community members, often without bail, on what they said were false charges of blasphemy under the digital security act.

Members of religious minorities, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians, who were sometimes also members of ethnic minorities, continued to say the government was ineffective in preventing communal violence against minority religious communities. Also, it did not protect minorities from forced evictions and land seizures stemming from land disputes.

Freedom House, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO), and local religious leaders pointed out that social media had contributed to an increase in attacks on religious minorities in recent years. Misinformation frequently went viral and inflamed community tensions against religious minorities.

The state department cited a February 2022 report of Freedom House which assessed that religious minorities remained underrepresented in politics and state agencies. Men and women of ethnic and religious minority groups faced discrimination under the law, as well as harassment and violations of their rights in practice.