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25 Hindu families from Bangladesh seeking refuge in West Bengal after poll violence: Report

A Bangladeshi national after taking refuge in India, Abinash Kumar Mandal (name changed) said, “This (pre and post-poll violence) caused such fear among the Hindus of Ujirpur that since January 7 as many as 25 families – roughly 100 persons, including children – did not waste much time to pack up and leave for the safety of West Bengal.”

Based on the harrowing account provided by a Bangladeshi refugee, a recent report from Northeast News reveals that approximately 25 Hindu families, totalling 100 individuals, have been compelled to flee Bangladesh, seeking refuge in West Bengal for their safety.

The minority Hindu community in Bangladesh has been living under constant fear for their lives, but tensions escalate around the election periods as Islamist frenzied mobs indulge in unabated pre- and post-poll violence targeting Hindu families. Since the federal elections were conducted in Bangladesh on January 7th of this year, reports of Hindus facing arson attacks and being forced to flee their homes have surfaced from India’s Eastern neighbour, despite scant media coverage by Bangladeshi media.

Earlier, OpIndia reported that communal attacks had taken place across Bangladesh including Faridpur, Sirajganj, Bagerhat, Jhenaidah, Pirojpur, Kushtia, Madaripur, Lalmonirhat, Daudkandi, Thakurgaon, Munshiganj and Gaibandha. In these violent incidences, Islamists associated with the Awami League attacked the homes of Hindus who supported candidates from other parties or Independents.  

A Bangladeshi national after taking refuge in India, Abinash Kumar Mandal (name changed) said, “This (pre and post-poll violence) caused such fear among the Hindus of Ujirpur that since January 7 as many as 25 families – roughly 100 persons, including children – did not waste much time to pack up and leave for the safety of West Bengal.”

According to the report, these 25 Hindu families from Ujirpur upazila in Barisal crossed the border to India to escape violent repression in the wake of the Bangladesh elections and Abinash is one among them. 

Violence causes ‘fresh migration’ from Bangladesh, 2000 Hindu families in the area face the brunt

On 27th February 2024, 45-year-old Abinash Kumar Mandal (name changed) left his modest house in Ujirpur in Bangladesh’s Barisal district amid intimidation and Islamist violence. Abhinash reached the Benapole immigration checkpoint on the India-Bangladesh border taking a bus route from Gopalganj to Jessore via Khulna.  

Abhinash reached the border checkpost with a Bangladeshi passport and a valid visa for India. Speaking over the phone from his place of refuge in Chakdah in West Bengal’s Nadia district, Abhinash recalled the post-poll violence that was unleashed in Ujirpur. 

He explained, “I intentionally took a circuitous route to reach Benapole. An arrest warrant, issued by the police at the behest of Ghazi Abu Hanif, the local strongman, was pending against me since the January 7 election in which musclemen and toughs working for Rashed Khan Menon, the official Awami League candidate. ” 

According to the Northeast News report, Ujirpur’s minority Hindus, who backed and worked for Awami League’s rival candidates, were especially targeted which resulted in more than 25 Hindu families fleeing from the area. 

Abinash emphatically said, “They have no intention of returning to Ujirpur.” He pointed out that most of the “fresh migrants” entered India as undocumented migrants while a few crossed the border after following due immigration formalities. 

Notably, there are two upazilas – Ujirpur and Banaripara in the Barisal-2 constituency. These two upazilas were home to around 2,000 Hindu families. Local residents and Awami League sources say that more Hindus left Banaripara than Ujirpur after the violence on January 7th.

Although instances of election-related violence were covered in a few local newspapers, the media largely neglected the exodus of Bangladesh Hindus to India, despite the recurring incidents of pre- and post-election clashes and the targeted violence against Hindus spanning several decades.

While the Indian government has pressed to soon implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, there hasn’t been much to help redress the latest flight of Hindus from Ujirpur and Banaripara to West Bengal. Notably, CAA grants Indian citizenship to members of the minority community from a few South Asian countries, including Bangladesh but it has 31st December 2014 as the sun set clause that is it is only applicable for those persecuted religious minorities that entered India on or before this date. 

According to Northeast News, Abinash who is one of the fresh Bangladeshi Hindu migrants, is not quite aware of this legislation. While he is struggling to make ends meet in Chakdah, Abinash notes that his decision to flee Bangladesh was not a spur-of-the-moment thought. Almost a year ago, his wife and two teenage children immigrated to India (Chakdah) while he waited for his time.

He said, “Most Hindus in Ujirpur and Banaripara rely on alternative plans when faced with adversity, especially violence against them.” 

Abinash pointed out that he is willing to “handle” the hardships of a “new immigrant” who does “not want to ever return to his land of birth”. The most important aim in his “life” now is to “get rid of the green (Bangladeshi) passport”, as reported by Northeast News.

According to the report, following the forced migration of Hindus from Bangladesh, local politicians and strongmen occupy their resources. 

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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