Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hindus and minorities discriminated against in Pak, Bangladesh: US

The US on Monday expressed concern over continued religious discrimination against religious minorities in particular the Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh, citing instances of violence against them.

While Hindus in Pakistan continue to face the threat of abduction and forced conversion, the members of this minority religious community and Christians in Bangladesh are experiencing discrimination and sometimes violence from the Muslim majority population, a report on international religious freedom released by the State Department said.

In Pakistan less than five per cent of the total population are religious minorities including Hindus.

"Religious minorities claimed that government actions addressing forced and coerced conversions of religious minorities to Islam by societal actors were inadequate," the report said.

"According to the HRCP (Human Rights Council of Pakistan) and the Pakistan Hindu Council, as many as 20 to 25 women and girls from the Hindu community were abducted every month and forced to convert to Islam," it added.

The State Department said on November 9, four Hindu doctors were shot and killed in Chak town of Shikarpur District, Sindh. According to reports the attack was in reaction to an alleged relationship between a Hindu man and a Muslim woman.

The investigation was pending at year's end, it said.

Minorities in Bangladesh have also been discriminated against, according to the report.

"Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist minorities experienced discrimination and sometimes violence from the Muslim majority population," the report said, but quickly noted that abuses declined in comparison to the previous year in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, the report said many Hindus have been unable to recover landholdings lost because of discrimination under the defunct Vested Property Act.

Although an Awami League government repealed the act in 2001, the succeeding government did not take any concrete action to reverse the property seizures that occurred under the act.

The Vested Property Act was an East Pakistan-era law that allowed the government to expropriate "enemy" (in practice, Hindu) lands.

"Under the law the government seized approximately 2.6 million acres of land, affecting almost all Hindus in the country," the report said.

"According to a study conducted by a Dhaka University professor, nearly 200,000 Hindu families lost approximately 40,667 acres of land since 2001, despite the annulment of the act the same year," the report added.

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