Hindu teachers in Muslim-majority Bangladesh are being targeted in the name of religion for other issues, such as disputes with influential people, educators say, and prominent citizens.
In one of the latest incidents, Swapan Kumar Biswas, acting principal of Mirzapur United College in Narail, was forced to wear a shoe garland last week for what a crowd of Muslim students and locals have called of “insult to Islam”, the same reason cited in similar incidents in the past.
Another Hindu teacher, Utpal Kumar Sarker, was beaten to death in an attack by a class 10 student at Haji Yunus Ali School and College in Savar earlier this week, an incident that sparked outrage shock in the communities of teachers and others.
Although the motive for the murder is unclear, family and police suspect he was targeted for correcting the student for sexually harassing female students.
Many believe that their religion has made them easy targets, especially in the case of Swapan.
In 2016, the incident of Narayanganj school teacher Shyamal Kanti Bhakta being forced to do sit-ups while holding his ears in public by Jatiya party MP Salim Osman for allegedly insulting Islam led to a condemnation widespread.
Despite unprecedented protests across the country, no one has been tried for this incident. On the contrary, it was Shyamal who landed in prison in a corruption case, which has not yet been decided.
Speaking to bdnews24.com, Shyamal, now retired, called the continuation of such incidents “very regrettable”. He blamed the abuse of power by school management committees and local politicians for this.
“Management committees mainly play dirty politics. Managers who follow ethics instead of taking money from them suffer the most. This is undesirable. Teachers are the backbone of a nation, the builders of humanity. Such inhuman acts against them are very regrettable.
Reminiscing about his days at his school after the 2016 incident, Shyamal said, “I had to be careful teaching classes. The classrooms reminded me of humiliation.
“How is a teacher who has been forced to wear a shoe garland going to teach normally? They will hesitate to do anything for fear of being insulted at every step.”
“CULTURE OF FEAR”
Science teacher Hriday Chandra Mondal was arrested in Munshiganj in April for offending students’ religious feelings during a class discussion as a group of angry students and locals launched violent protests. He was released following numerous counter-protests across the country.
In the same month, Amodini Paul, deputy principal of Daul Barbakpur High School in Mohadevpur of Naogaon, corrected some students for not wearing uniforms. She faced anger from locals following rumors that she punished female Muslim students for wearing the hijab.
Many teachers in the minority Hindu community fear that such incidents will happen to them, a thought that prevents them from teaching normally.
Shimul Chandra Das, Deputy Principal of Shahid Joynal Abedin Model High School in Noakhali Subarnachar, said: “These [incidents] are sad and shameful. We now remain cautious when speaking in classrooms. We teach with fear. Teaching has these limits now.”
Ashish Sarkar, Deputy Head of Tetla PGS Secondary School in Banaripara of Barishal, said: “We have never been rude to our teachers. But it’s happening now [students attacking teachers].”
“We cannot correct our students for fear of losing their jobs.”
However, Subrata Pal, the headmaster of Barat Girls High School in Rajbari, said they were not very alarmed by the incidents. “The people of Rajbari live in communal harmony. Such incidents generally do not occur in our region.
WHY HINDU TEACHERS ARE TARGET
Fazle Hossain Badshah, a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Ministry of Education, said: “We have seen for some time now that there is an attempt to create a community situation by targeting minority teachers in schools. education across the country. ”
He cited the Narail incident in the presence of the police as an example of “administrative indifference” and in some cases, he said, local administrations are “biased towards communal forces”.
Professor Neem Chandra Bhowmik, a member of the Presidium of the Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council of Bangladesh, believes that religious fanatics, extremists and community groups in society try to create such tensions whenever they see fit. have the opportunity, targeting minorities and torturing them.
“They start with a simple [Facebook] status. They can inform the administration. But they can’t do horrible things like hold their ears up or put a garland of shoes around their neck.
According to Neem, a kind of division is thus created between the students. He called for swift administrative measures as well as socio-cultural resistance to deal with the situation.
Father Tapan Camillus De Rozario, associate professor in the Department of World Religions and Cultures at the University of Dhaka, said: “These incidents are happening in the minority community probably because of past animosity, not faith. in religion”.
“If we analyze the findings of the investigations, we will see that some of the reasons behind the incidents were different [from religious ones]. Overall, there is hatred and intimidation.
He called for proper investigations into whether the incidents were linked to local politics or were orchestrated to destroy community harmony. “If we could bring out the people behind it all, we might have found the root of it.”
“Nothing is happening all of a sudden. I think these are planned events. We don’t want to see this kind of politics, bigotry. We have to stop a repeat of attacks capitalizing on religion,” said Sadeka Halim , professor of sociology at the University of Dhaka.
Demanding that local MPs be held accountable for these incidents, Sadeka said: “Politics becomes different at the local level. The deputies belong to the school’s management committee and the steering committee. Don’t they know that their constituency is changing, that the forces of evil are getting stronger?
“We are also becoming silent, we are not protesting. The teachers in Narail could have protested at the time of the incident, but they did not.”
[Writing in English by Arshi Fatiha Quazi; editing by Osham-ul-Sufian Talukder]