In 2017, around 30 Hindu homes were burned to ashes by enraged Muslim crowds, again due to the similar allegations of "insulting Islam”, just to be proved groundless later. On 20 October in Bhola, Hindu homes and temples were again attacked which was again pointed out to be political propaganda. While the entire Muslim ummah was enraged by the French cartoon insulting Islam, a 'Hindu' man who currently resides in France, reportedly made a Facebook post supporting the idea which ended up enraging the religious sentiment of the crowds, resulting in demolishing 10 Hindu homes along with Union Parishad chairman Naba Kumar’s residence on 1 November 2020. According to Naba Kumar, that entire incident was a religious issue, resulting in an attack, carried out while making it look like a political one. This year in March, 70 Hindu homes along with family temples were again demolished mercilessly, over the insult of a religious leader on a Facebook post.

The past few days have been proven as no less than a nightmare for the Hindu community in Bangladesh. Even in 2001, the Hindu community were attacked by alleged supporters of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, but the attackers were not punished immediately, rather got nominated in UP election.

If the matter is observed carefully, one might notice that all of these separate attacks are no different in nature. Rather every time religious sentiments were held as the sole cause behind the outrage. More than that, since digital media is being used, the lack of digital literacy could also be held as a strong reason. But above everything else, there were crowds, deliberately, or unknowingly, playing political puppets.

The World Justice Project (WJP) in its latest report showed that Bangladesh ranked 124 out of 139 countries on the Rule of Law Index 2021, up one position from last year. Bangladesh's score is 0.31 (out of 1) in fundamental rights, 0.32 in criminal justice and 0.63 in order and security. That pretty much explains our commitment towards social justice.

To say something regarding religious sentiment is extremely sensitive in our country, because here, religion sells. We lack basic civic sense, or the basic degree of tolerance. It just takes a blink of the eye to enrage a mob, without any valid grounds even. One just has to somehow relate something with religion and the crowd is good to go for destroying everything they find in front of them without even double-checking what actually happened. What are the potential causes behind this long practiced rage?

A wide part of the crowd still calls the 'Hindu' insulting names which can seemingly sow a seed inside minds that would later result in disproportionate hatred, on a larger scale, since we tend to imitate what we see.

Our overall civic sense as a whole is extremely questionable. Civic responsibilities do not end just by enjoying the privileges, rather we certainly owe strong responsible behaviour towards the state as well as the fellow citizens.

Communal attacks are not the only reasons which put our national conscience to the test, rather in several other scenarios, we have successfully proved our failure. The amount of "ha ha" reactions the grieving social media posts get, be it a news of rape, murder or suicide, calling it devastating would be an understatement. Even if one sees the amount of filth we spread on the roads, the way we misuse public property, it seems like we have lost the capacity to feel for others. Infrastructural development surely matters, but is insufficient to fill the void in our conscience. And some occasional acknowledgement here and there is not going to help. Indeed it falls under the state responsibility to ensure minority rights, but minorities surely do not deserve a life full of fear from the majority, that too during their holiest time of the year.

It’s not possible to stop a long practiced culture of ethnic cleansing just by writing a column, but perhaps now is the time to take a break from all of this and think, is it truly for the love of God? Or just to feed frustration? Is it really for the love of religion? How much of this violence helps you to make your religion admirable to others, and how much of it is actually just you playing the puppet? By this time, ensuring serious work on our civic sense is imperative.

The dilemma with state religion must not result in communal violence. Let's just not fail ourselves any longer.

*Munirah Jahan is an independent researcher and can be reached at [email protected]

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