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There would be no Hindus in Islamic Bangladesh in 30 years.

The disappearing Hindus in Islamic Bangladesh…

‘In 30 years, there would be no Hindus in Bangladesh’ as ‘Hindus- are leaving’ under ‘vandalism and killing almost every day’ with an anticipation ‘mullahs will grab the state power’: Dr Abul Barkat.

(An interview of Prof Abul Barkat of Dhaka University with Pinaki Chakraborty of TOI).

Abul Barkat is a professor of economics at Dhaka University. He has written books on migration and economic development of Bangladesh. Taking out time from his busy schedule ahed of the budget, Barkat talks about the current situation of minorities, the economy and the growing Islamisation of his country.  Pinaki Chakraborty took the interview of Prof Barkat for Times of India which was published on June 6, 2022 at first.

Abul BarkatQ: What is the percentage of minorities in Bangladesh?

A: Ninety per cent of the population are Muslims, according to 2011 census. Hindus are 8.9% and 1% are Buddhists, Christians and others.

 In 1941, there were almost 31.9% Hindus, which dropped to 18.4% in 1961. In 1965 there was the India-Pakistan war and the Enemy Property Act was brought in. [This law allowed the authorities to take over land and buildings of Hindus who migrated to India.]

There were three factors that led to this [falling population of Hindus]. First communal riots, second India-Pakistan war in 1965 and last the Enemy Property Act and then the continuation of same act by another name, the vested Property Act, which came into being after 1971.

When the act was enforced in 1965, the question that was meant to be asked was: “Who was the enemy?”

According to the original act, the enemy was mentioned as Hindustan; so Hindus residing anywhere, according to that act, were regarded as enemy. The act was applicable to both West and East Pakistan [before liberation in 1971, Bangladesh was part of Pakistan and was called East Pakistan].

Q: Why were the Hindus mentioned as enemies in the act?

A: After 1947, Pakistan tried to push through the discourse that Bengalis meant Bengali Muslims. Those who were Hindus were not Bengalis but Hindustanis. The Pakistani government wanted to do whatever it could drive the Bengali Hindus out of East Pakistan and bring Muslims to East Pakistan. In the process, the government brought Biharis from Dhanbad and other areas like Kolkata and Asansol.

Q: When was this?

A:  Just after 1947. Communal riots were on. Hindus were leaving, not the prominent ones. When they were leaving, a few landgrabber – Muslims were taking over their properties.

The Enemy Property Act allows the state takes over a property, it does not become its owner but its custodian.

So, whenever you come back, the state will have to back the property. But, it didn’t work. And since it didn’t work for years, the property changed hands. Now it has become complicated.

From what I understand, in 2001, the present government wanted to promulgate the Vested Property Repeal Act, giving back the property. But that too didn’t work.

Pic 2

Q: Reports quote you as saying that there would be no minorities (Hindus) in Bangladesh in the next 30 years

A: Yes, I have said that

Q: Where are all these minorities migrating to?

A: A majority of Hindu migrants go to India.

Between 1971 and 1981, 621 people migrated per day. Betwwen 1981 and 1991, 438 Hindus moved out and between 1991 and 2011, the number was 767.

The per day number has not increased after that.

Q: Have the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Sunil Ganguly been removed from curriculum?

A: Yes. After the 1971 war when we gained independence, we said we would be secular and a socialist economy. However, secularism was never displayed in public by any of the parties that came to power.

In 1975, Sheikh Mujibar Rahaman [Banglades’s founding father, president and later prime minister] was killed. The military took the power. The autocratic regime leaded by General Ziaur Rahaman put “Bismillah-ar-Rahaman-ar-Rahim” [an Islamic phrase meaning In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful] in the preamble of the Constitution. The process of Islamisation continued. In 1988. General Ershad declared Islam as the state religion, which was engraved in to the Constitution.

The roots of Islam in Bangladesh lies in Sufism. If you look at Islam in Bengal and that in Middle East, it is completely different.

Bangladeshi Muslims are religious, but they are not fanatics. However, the gap between religiosity and fanaticism is not much. If inequality rises- like income inequality, wealth inequality, health inequality, education inequality- the radicalisation would increase and it would be a blunder which we would not be able to set right in the next 200 years.

Q: What are the steps governments in Bangladesh have taken to protect minority rights?

A: In essence –nothing. There is vandalism and killing almost every day. Recently, a teacher Jiten Ghosh was killed in Cox’s Bazaar as he stood for his principles.

There is a book called The Political Economy of Madrassa Education in Bangladesh. It was published after five years of research. It says that every third student is a madrasa student in the country. The figure was one in 10 in 1972-74.

Pic 3

Q: Why?

A: The state has been unable to provide basic education free of cost, which Article 17 of the Constitution promised. The non-state actor came in once the state failed.

There are two types of madrasas in Bangladesh – the aliyah [government-rum madrasas] and qaumi [private-run madrasas].Out of 100 students in madrasas, 67 are qaumis and many are a breeding ground of religious fundamentalism.

There is also the political economy of fundamentalism. We have a mainstream economy and within it there is an economy of religious fundamentalism. In India for example, there is an RSS economy within the main economy.

In Bangladesh, if you talk about political party having hard ideology, there is just one political party and that is Jamaat-e-Islam. Others are just platforms like Amazon.

During the war of liberation we talked about secularism. Today if there is no picture of a skull-cap-wearing Muslim on a political poster. It is highly probable that the candidate will not be elected.

Q: Is migration a major problem for Bangladesh?

A: It is a problem and also not a problem. If you look at remittances and earnings, it is not. There is three type of migration: one is from rural to urban which is urbanization, and is equated to modernization, which then again is equated with development. I don’t believe in this.

Bangladesh has seen reverse migration thrice in 400 years from urban to rural areas. First was way back during the industrial revolution. second once in 1971 and third during Covid in 2020 where 10 million people went to their villages.

The third type is religious migration. In Bangladesh it is the majority from the minority – i.e. Hindus- are leaving.

Migration is good when it happens naturally. If it is forced, it does not matter. The educated labour migration is normally permanent while the migration of low skill labour force is transitory. It is form rural Bangladesh to the Middle East.

The Social impact of migration is ignored by economists. Imagine a migrant labour who is married, who has a kid and is not able to see for 4-5 years. What is the cost of this?

Q: What perception does it create for Bangladesh with minorities moving out?

A: The West’s perception of Bangladesh started getting positive after August 15, 1975 when Mujib was killed. The reason is simple. All successive governments adopted neoliberal ideology and economic prescriptions, which was basically to privatise everything liberalise everything. Minimize government’s intervention [make government a mere night watchman]. The thought being free market is the panacea, whereas free market is never free and not poor friendly.

We adopted policies that are fully contradictory to our Constitution. Article 13 clearly states that means production, ownership of the means of production in terms of priority will be as follows 1) state ownership 2) cooperative ownership and 3) private ownership with caps.

Third became the first. If privatization solves everything, why don’t you privatise the ministry, the military?

Q: Everyone is talking about the Bangladesh Economy. They are talking about different models. What about the model of Islamic fundamentalism? What about Islamisation of knowledge?

A: In the past five years, the Gini coefficient [a measure that represents inequality] has risen from 0.48 to 0.65. It is one of the highest in the world.

The Palma ratio [another measure to show inequality-income of top 10% as times of bottom 40%] officially it was 2.49, if it crosses 2.5 it is considered a danger level. It is 7.83 in Bangladesh.

The main problem is Bangladesh is inequality, multidimensional poverty… If Bangladesh stays like this for next 5-10 years, the mullahs will grab the state power.

That is because they are most organised force and they have their own economic enterprise with a vision.

Their formula is to capture state power backed by economics of fundamentalism using religion as pretext. They already have an economy within the mainstream economy., government within the government, and state within the state. Moreover. The rate of growth of economics of fundamentalism is higher than the mainstream economy.

Q: Bangladesh economy is doing well….

A: Around 20-25 years back when politicians or the developmental economists wanted to understand social-development indicators , we used to talk about two economics. One is Kerala and other is Sri Lanka in terms of social indicators such as education, health and other measures.

So, if you take these indicators to eulogise  Bangladeshi economy, then you are wrong.

The GDP has increased 300 times in real terms compared to 1972. Our current-account balance is negative, we import more than we export…

Today we have 12 mega projects in the country. The only one of which from our own money is a bridge over the Padma. Others are all loans.

In 2024, we will start repaying the interest for the first project.  By 2027, we will have to start repaying loans and interests for the five other projects at a time.

In 2032, the interests for all the loans will mature. So don’t be happy with Bangladesh. It is not THE model economy.

So every year we have a $5bn fiscal deficit, after five years, it will be $25 billion. How will we repay that debt with foreign currency? Isn’t, in essence, possible Sri Lankanisation of Bangladesh economy?

Pic 4

Q: Where are all these minorities migrating to?

A: A majority of Hindu migrants go to India.

Q: How are you drawing this conclusion?

A: I am drawing the conclusion based on extrapolation of population census data. I wanted to see what would have been the size of the Hindu population had there been no out migration.

In 1961 the census reported the total Hindu population as 18.4 million. If there had been no migration, there would be 22.8 million Hindus today. So 11.4 million is missing population of Hindus or those who migrated.

Between 1964 and 2001, the estimated number of missing Hindus who migrated was 8.1 million which means 218,919 people per year. Divided that by 365 it would be 600 people per day. So I tried to figure out the Hindus who migrated from 1964-1971. It worked out 600 per day.

Between 1971 and 1981, 621 people migrated per day. Between 1981 and 1991, 438 Hindus moved out and between 1991 and 2011, the number was 767.

The per day number has not increased after that.

The interview was first published in TOI on June 6, 2022.

Courtesy: Source of TOI and others.

 

2 comments on “There would be no Hindus in Islamic Bangladesh in 30 years.

  1. Pingback: There could be no Hindus in Islamic Bangladesh in 30 years.

  2. Arindam
    July 4, 2022

    ‘The main problem is Bangladesh is inequality, multidimensional poverty… If Bangladesh stays like this for next 5-10 years, the mullahs will grab the state power.’

    We need to dismantle Pakistan before this happens – otherwise we will be back to the pre-1971 situation geopolitically.

    Like

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