Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 15:15 GMT

State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Bangladesh

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Bangladesh, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a7eae264.html [accessed 31 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

What should have been an election year in Bangladesh was marred by violence and a clampdown on political opponents. During the course of the year, Bangladesh's care-taker government took stringent action against opposition leaders. Two former prime ministers and some 45 political leaders are amongst those detained on various charges, chief amongst them corruption.

Human rights violations have shown a rise in Bangladesh through the year. The European Union (EU) and the US have both shown concern about the situation in the country. Though the violence had no particular minority dimension, minorities were amongst those affected in the rising wave of human rights violations. In May, Amnesty International expressed grave concern over reports of alleged torture and death in custody following the imposition of emergency in early 2007. In March 2007, a leader of the Garo indigenous community, Richil, reportedly died in custody following torture carried out by military personnel, Amnesty said. The Garo community live in Modhupur and, since 2003, have been opposing the construction of a national park in their traditional homeland. The Garo community is also predominantly Christian.

Violence and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities continued through 2007 a US government report on religious freedom said. The report, released in September, said Hindu, Christian and Buddhist minorities experienced discrimination and on occasion violence. It also said that members of the Ahmaddiya Islamic sect faced harassment, and protesters demanded that they be declared non-Muslims.

Compared to most other countries in the region, the impact of natural disasters in 2007 was of added significance to Bangladesh because the country has been identified as under threat from climate change. According to environment experts 11 per cent of low-lying land, home to some 140 million people, may be permanently under water in the future due to rising sea levels. In Bangladesh too, minority and indigenous groups often face the biggest impact of natural disasters while aid and assistance to these groups is often too limited.

In late 2007, southern Bangladesh was ripped by cyclone Sidr, which impacted millions of people. Two weeks after the cyclone hit, while international and local aid agencies were struggling to get relief to those most in need, information on affected minorities and tribal groups was scarce. According to Bangladesh's Disaster Management Information Centre, two indigenous communities, the Munda and Mahato, in Sundarban area and the Rakhain community in Patuakhali were affected by the cyclone. The centre said that livelihoods had been badly damaged. Despite the Bangladeshi government, and local and international NGOs working in the area, two weeks into the disaster there was no proper assessment of how badly the minority and indigenous communities were affected and whether aid was reaching them properly. The Khulna and Barisal districts affected by Sidr are also areas that have a high concentration of minority Hindus.

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