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US report: ‘Atrocities’ against minorities continue, but slowing down

File photo of a Hindu household vandalized by an unruly mob, over an alleged defamatory Facebook post by a HIndu youth, in Nasirnagar
on October 30, 2016
Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

There were more than 100 injuries in the clash, and police killed four persons in what they stated was self-defense, it said

“Atrocities” against minorities continued, but had slowed in 2019, the US Department of Sate has said in its report on international religious freedom, quoting Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHCUC).

“Members of religious minorities, including Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians, who were sometimes also members of ethnic minorities, stated the government remained ineffective in preventing forced evictions and land seizures stemming from land disputes,” said the report released on Wednesday.

But, it added that the government continued to place law enforcement personnel at religious sites, festivals, and events considered possible targets for violence.

The constitution designates Islam as the state religion but upholds the principle of secularism and It prohibits religious discrimination and provides for equality for all religions, said the report released by the US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo.

On November 27, a Special Tribunal convicted and sentenced to death seven of eight defendants accused in the 2016 killings of 22 mostly non-Muslim individuals at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, while the eighth was acquitted.

Defense attorneys indicated they would appeal all verdicts.

The government continued to provide guidance to imams throughout the country on the content of their sermons in its stated effort to prevent militancy and monitor mosques for “provocative” messaging, it said.

In October, protesters clashed with police and attacked a Hindu temple in response to the October 20 arrests of two Muslims in Bhola, who were accused of hacking the Facebook account of a Hindu student in an extortion scheme.

There were more than 100 injuries in the clash, and police killed four persons in what they stated was self-defense, it said.

In August, according to multiple press reports, police found the body of Buddhist monk Amrita Nanda, vice principal of Gyanaratna Buddhist Monastery, under a railway bridge in Comilla, approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Dhaka. According to media accounts, Nanda’s throat was slit. Buddhist community members said Nanda was returning to his hometown from Dhaka.

The Christian Welfare Trust and other human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported harassment, communal threats of physical violence, and social isolation for Christians who converted to Christianity from Hinduism and Islam.

In meetings with government officials and in public statements, the ambassador and other US embassy representatives spoke out against acts of violence in the name of religion, and encouraged the government to uphold the rights of minority religious groups and foster a climate of tolerance. 

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