A minority group leader has expressed apprehensions about security of religious minorities immediate before and after the national elections on 30 December.
Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council's general secretary Rana Dasgupta said the election campaign may be a festivity for many "but not for the minority communities".
"The election is matter of fear and concern and it brings a feeling of helplessness for us as the minority communities come under attack before and after the elections,” he told Prothom Alo in an interview.
The minority people, he mentioned, are attacked during the reign of both the Bangladesh Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
The incidents of attacks were not investigated properly, nor have the perpetrators been brought to book, Rana Dasgupta argued.
He alleged that the population of the minority communities decreased after each of the national elections.
Religious minorities constituted 19-20 per cent of the population during the the erstwhile Pakistan in 1970, according to him. The ratio, he pointed out, decreased to 9.7 per cent in 2011.
Rana Dasgupta said, "We are concerned as we are the sufferers. We have got news that 20 families have fled the country. They have left fearing backlash during the elections. After the publication of the election results, they would decide should they return or not."
Dwelling on the 11th parliamentary elections, he said this election is not like the one-sided elections held on 5 January 2014.
"We see it as progress in the country's democratic process. Improvement that has taken place in the election environment is due to the will of prime minister Sheikh Hasina. We thank her," said Rana Dasgupta.
He added, Jatiya Oikya Front leader Kamal Hossain has also played an important role in creating the environment. He insisted that all political parties should maintain it.
The minority community leader maintained that the election commission has to act properly to keep the environment congenial so that the voters can cast their votes peacefully.
He said democracy and the rule of law will be strengthened further if the election is held in a credible manner.
Asked about placing any demand to the government and the election commission for ensuring security of the minority people, Rana Dasgupta said, "We have demanded empowerment of the minority communities in the manifestoes of the political parties."
"We have sought security to the election commission. It assured us that there will be no repetition of the incidents like that of the past,” he said.
Rana Dasgupta said the election commission has asked the home ministry to tighten security for the minority people before and after the election.
Referring to meeting between the law enforcement authorities and leaders of the minority communities. he said, "We didn't notice such steps in the past. The steps have to be implemented practically.”
* This piece, originally published as interview text in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English news story format by Rabiul Islam.