The recent violence in Bangladesh against the single-largest minority community—the Hindus, 10% of the population now—is worrisome. The killings, arson and rioting have their own history specific to that country, emerging since 2013, if you overlook the obvious mirror image.
The patterns are identical: A social media post alleging insult to the majority faith goes viral, and that brings the entire minority population, already perpetually vulnerable, in the direct line of fire. On that side of the border, it’s the desecration of the Quran that matters (we have a wider choice of flavours). Sheikh Hasina’s regime, despite its avowal of secularism, has obviously not been able to bottle the genie of fundamentalism. Indeed, it suits the narrative of organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami to see the India-friendly Hasina government faltering on this front, never mind the economic robustness it has achieved.
The subcontinent has seen this time and again—the economy becomes the first and biggest casualty during communal strife. We have all seen how social media becomes a tool in the hands of evil.
In Bangladesh’s case, strife is being fanned by pro-Pakistan forces, drawing new inspiration from the re-emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Civil and human rights voices—naturally including Hindu groups—have held protests in Dhaka, but India has been calibrated in its response.
Outside of India’s own politics, we see the Hasina government as an ally—and indeed, it has cracked down on the arsonists, with about 400 arrests. But to stop the pot from boiling, the cases need to be brought to their logical conclusion. The pattern, as we said, is depressingly identical. Communal forces target not just the minorities, but also artists, writers, bloggers and political opponents (here it’s the Awami League and the Left). Dhaka must walk the talk if it has to stay on the path of progress and development, and be true to the secular linguistic idea on which it was formed. So must Delhi.