|"Proceedings against accused war criminals in Bangladesh have caused civil unrest and violence." (AFP/Getty Images)|
By Saif Khalid
AlJazeera.com, March 24, 2013
"A few weeks ago, after Friday prayers, a mob of more than 3,000 people attacked the house of Sadhanchandra Mandal, a Hindu, in southwestern Bangladesh. 'They attacked our houses shouting slogans such as ... "We are the Taliban, this Bengal will be Afghan", and looted everything," said 60-year-old Mandal, who said the attackers used petrol and weapons in the assault against his home. 'I don't understand how we will survive here -- anytime I will be killed, as they are threatening me.' Mandal said the police and a paramilitary battalion did nothing to stop the crowd from attacking houses in the remote villages of the Satkhira district where he lives. 'My wife and daughter-in-law with her two kids saved their lives by swimming across a pond,' Mandal told Al Jazeera. 'We are still not safe.' The South Asian nation has been caught up in turmoil ever since two war crimes tribunals sentenced several public figures for atrocities committed during the country's liberation war from Pakistan in 1971, and it is members of the minority community like Mandal who have borne the brunt of the violence. Among those sentenced are leaders of the country's largest Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, whose supporters are blamed for much of the violence. Supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have also hit the streets, as some of their own leaders are also facing war crimes charges. With tensions running high, minorities have come to be seen as soft targets to vent frustration.
According to an Amnesty International report published on March 6, more than 40 temples have been destroyed, idols of Hindu deities defiled, and hundreds made homeless after their houses were burned down. About 100 people have been killed so far, mostly opposition activists, since Jamaat vice president Delwar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death on February 28 for mass killings, rapes and other atrocities in 1971. Rights groups have criticised the government's handling of the post-verdict violence. Odhikar, a human rights organisation based in Dhaka, issued a report blaming the police for 'indiscriminately' shooting at protesters, including political activists, women, children and ordinary citizens. The minorities have also been complaining of government ineptidue in ensuring their safety. Besides Hindus, Buddhists are reported to have come under attack from marauding mobs. With more war crimes verdicts expected over the coming months, they are continuing to live in fear. [...]"