A group of 192 prominent citizens of the United States of Bangladeshi origin has responded to a joint statement made by six US Congressmen regarding the human rights situation in Bangladesh. These individuals have refuted the Congressmen’s claims, stating that minority communities in Bangladesh have not been subjected to intimidation under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.
In their statement, the Bangladeshi Americans, including leaders from minority communities, academics, and anti-war crimes campaigners, have urged the Congressmen to retract the false information presented in their letter. They argue that the inclusion of inaccurate details not only undermines the credibility of the Congressmen’s position on minority rights in Bangladesh but also puts the security and safety of the undersigned Bangladeshi Americans at risk.
Earlier this month, in a letter published on the official website of Congressman Bob Good, six US congressmen from the Republican Party, namely Bob Good, Scott Perry, Barry Moore, Tim Burchett, Warren Davidson, and Keith Self, alleged human rights violations by the current government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh. The letter called on President Joe Biden to take immediate action to ensure the opportunity for free and fair parliamentary elections in Bangladesh, scheduled for the upcoming fall.
The congressmen expressed their concern regarding the situation in Bangladesh, stating that since Sheikh Hasina assumed power, the Hindu population has reportedly been reduced by half. They mentioned instances of looting, burning of homes, destruction of temples and religious idols, as well as incidents of murder, rape, and forced religious conversion, which they claimed were leading to the exodus of Hindus from Bangladesh. The congressmen also accused Sheikh Hasina’s government of persecuting the Christian minority in Bangladesh, including burning and looting places of worship, arresting pastors, and separating families during religious conversions.
Denouncing misleading claims
The statement emphasises that the dissemination of false statements by the US Congressmen would further worsen the challenges faced by minority communities in Bangladesh. This response from the 192 individuals of Bangladeshi origin residing in the United States follows similar objections raised by leaders and representatives of Bangladeshi Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist communities, who labelled the Congressmen’s letter to President Joe Biden as “false and misleading.”
These Congressmen, namely Bob Good, Scott Perry, Barry Moore, Tim Burchett, Warren Davidson, and Keith Self, had called for sanctions against the Bangladesh government based on their claims that the Hindu population has drastically declined under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership. They also accused Sheikh Hasina’s government of persecuting the Christian minority, including burning and looting places of worship, arresting pastors, and tearing apart families during religious conversions.
This group of US Congressmen, who are members of the House of Representatives, have called for immediate action to address human rights abuses in Bangladesh and ensure that the upcoming parliamentary elections in the fall are free and fair. However, the Bangladeshi Americans who responded to the Congressmen’s statement highlighted certain important omissions and inaccuracies.
The Bangladeshi Americans pointed out that the Congressmen’s statement failed to acknowledge the post-election violence that occurred in October 2001, targeting Hindus and perpetrated by the winning coalition of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). They argued that this omission undermined the credibility of the Congressmen’s claims.
Furthermore, the Bangladeshi Americans asserted that the Congressmen’s statement contained fabricated information regarding the persecution of the Christian population under the current government. Leaders such as Rana Dasgupta, President of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, rejected the Congressmen’s assertion that the Hindu population had been halved during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s rule, calling it a distortion of the truth. Dasgupta expressed concerns that certain groups responsible for minority persecution might be attempting to manipulate US lawmakers with false information in order to influence the 2024 Bangladesh elections.
Minority leaders and Bangladeshi Americans unite to challenge Congressmen’s inaccurate statements
Prominent leaders from the Christian community, including Cardinal Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario and Nirmal Rozario, President of the Bangladesh Christian Association, also rejected the Congressmen’s claims. They emphasized that the incumbent government had consistently supported and stood with the Christian community, fostering harmony and providing assistance through various development initiatives.
Similarly, the Bangladesh Buddhist Federation stated that although the Congressmen’s statement did not specifically mention the country’s Buddhist community, they found no basis for the allegations mentioned in the letter. They dismissed the claims as imaginary and fabricated.
The Bangladeshi Americans acknowledged the occurrence of persecution against religious minority communities in Bangladesh following the 2001 elections, which resulted in the BNP-led four-party alliance coming to power, with Jamaat-e-Islami being a crucial partner. They emphasized that the same groups responsible for violence against Hindus and other minorities were also involved in the killing of foreigners, bloggers, and activists, and carrying out bombing campaigns in various countries.
The statement issued by the Bangladeshi Diaspora group in the United States highlighted that these groups were spreading misinformation aimed at engineering the elections to bring violators of human rights to political power. In light of these concerns, they demanded the retraction of the “false and misleading information” contained in the Congressmen’s letter.
They emphasized that such misinformation not only jeopardized the security, safety, and well-being of minority communities in Bangladesh but also posed a threat to their own security as they have actively fought for minority rights in Bangladesh for decades.
By calling for the withdrawal of the false information and stressing the importance of minority rights and safety, the Bangladeshi Americans underscored their commitment to advocating for the well-being and rights of minority communities in Bangladesh and their own security as members of the diaspora community in the United States.
Who are the signators?
The signatories of the statement included – Milborne City Mayor Mahbubul Alam Taiyab, Councilmen- Dr Nuran Nabi (MJ), Nurul Hasan (NH), State Representative- Abul Khan (NH), Professors- ABM Nasir (NC), Dr Ziauddin Ahmed (PA), Nabendu Dutta (NY), Scientists- Dr Sufian A Khandakar, Dr Zeena Nabi (NJ), Director of International Sustainable Development- Iqbal Yusuf, CEO of Huge Network- Nizamuddin Ahmed (VA), Engineers- Rana Hasan Mahmud (CA), Ahad Ahmed (MI), Pranobondhu Chakrabarty (NY), Writers- Dr Jyoti Prakash Dutta (FL), Dr Purobi Bosu (FL), Activists- Safeda Basu (MA), Sabita Das (NY), Community Leaders- Gopal Sannal (NY), Dr Khondoker Mansur (NY), Shyamal Chakrabarty (NY), Parimal Karmakar (NY), Cultural Personality- Jamal Uddin Hossain (AL), Artists- Rathindra Nath Roy (NY), Gaurav Golpo (VA), Journalists- Dastagir Jahangir (VA), Sitangshu Guha (NY), Teacher- Dr Dilip Nath (NY),Phd Student Toujiat Ahmed (NY), Businessmen- Faruqe Ahmed (NY), Syed Rashid Ahmed Karmani (NY) and others.