The Priya Saha allegation is the fabricated and cooked-up way of delivering fallacies against Bangladesh’s treatment of its minorities to US President Donald Trump. The allegation that she brought wreaked communal havoc in the country exacerbating a greater disharmony among the communities. Her intention and stance against the nation but for the minorities have been subject to intellectual and political scrutiny in the aftermath.
A biblical proverb says, “A man that bears false witness against his neighbour is an assault, and a sword, and a sharp arrow”. Buddha said, “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill”. Mark Twain said, “Loyalty to the country always, and loyalty to the government when it deserves”.
The mentioned quotations serve the purpose of writing this solitary thought piece regarding the recent controversies and mixed-reactions centring a Bangladeshi woman who represented the religious minorities in the USA in a meeting with President Donald Trump. The meeting was arranged by the Trump administration in a view to listen to the people who have been persecuted because of their religious belief.
The Priya Saha allegation
The Bangladeshi representative of minorities Priya Biswas Saha was seen complaining to President Trump about the ‘disappearance’ of 37 million minority people from Bangladesh. In faulty English, she complained that they need protection for the existing 18 million Bangladeshi minority people as 37 million has already disappeared mysteriously.
Along with her inaccurate and doctored statics, she said she is a victim of the atrocity of Muslim fundamentalists, her house had been burned down and the land property is taken forcibly and did not get justice because perpetrators are protected from prosecution and given political shelter.
Equally important to mention that few incidences of atrocity perpetrated by the then fundamentalist cannot be overruled and be taken lightly in the locality in which she lived. The violence and atrocities that erupted during the government backed by a theocratic political party were merely the outcome of political supremacy, instead of religious bigotry. But as they are no longer in political shelter thanks to the change of regime. Accordingly, the stray incidences, some are often politically motivated, cannot be taken as standard in order to judge a nation as a whole.
Of the representatives, some managed to speak English very well while many struggled to express their heart but their religious predicaments were pretty comprehensible in their resentment. What every representative revealed is the unavoidable hard reality that they have to endure in his or her country for which intervention by of the International Community sought regarding religious freedom. Nothing of the sort of religious repression and persecution they pour out about, which I once had the privilege of listening to in person, can be brushed aside.
But throughout the video, of all Priya Saha’s remarks about minority persecution in Bangladesh were full of misinformation, inconsistency and seemed motivated. Almost all of the representatives came to represent their individual country’s subjugation of religious freedom where the state of a democratic polity is worse than that of Bangladesh. Having said that Priya Shaha’s complaint which bears strongly a negative message to the public sentiment is untimely, at least this time around when a pro-minority government with a liberal democratic view is in power.
Why am I so partial to the current regime while I myself hold independent and liberal political and religious views? Because a mere refuge is better than having none at all. And because I love my country and expect no clashes among religious ideologies and faiths. Because I dream of my county of a time when it will reach the pinnacle of public civility is not too far. I believe we will no longer have to borrow civility and democratic polity from the West and Europe and that we will be able to get rid of the cultural hegemony of foreign cultural ghosts.
He who is not contented with his footing and does not sustain an optimistic view regarding his or her current state or country no positive changes about or for him to be expected out of him. ‘Be the change that you expect to see’, said Mahatma Gandhi. To Buddha, “We are made of what we think”. Austrian philosopher Robert Mosil said, “One does what one is; one becomes what one does”. Therefore, leaving aside political and religious parochial perception to promote self-interest is inevitable for elevating humanity and locating morality. Discontentment, grudges and vengefulness help breeds cynicism.
During the Indian National Lokha Sabha Election this year Bangladesh’s Muslim majority, India’s minorities and liberals expected the non-communal Indian National Congress to win the election. But backed by nationalists, protectionists and right-wing conservatives, and supported by the corporate section BJP won the election with a landslide victory without needing a coalition. The hope and aspiration of religious freedom of the minorities nosedived in the country.
The reason why I am in favour of the current regime is that, if the Congress of India is a party that determines the religious freedom of minorities, then the oldest political party in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Awamileague, is perfectly fitting for delivering the hope and aspiration of Bangladeshi minorities as a whole.
And there is none to be equated with Bangladesh Awamileague in minority questions because the rest of the political parties hold, more or less, conservative and fundamental views regarding religion and its freedom. There is no scope of disagreeing with the fact that the Bangladesh Awamileague is better among the worse for the minorities.
Although, the current government of Bangladesh has failed in fully implementing the parliamentary democracy, its stance for religious freedom, broader views towards liberalists, women empowerment, controlling terrorism and expansion of Western education are comparatively greater. In a predominantly Muslim country, where the majority of the population ‘Secularism’ means ‘being against religion’ tolerance and inclusivity cannot be instilled in peoples’ psyche overnight. Practicing tolerance may not take precedence where still 2.5 million people are underfed.
Let us agree with the fact that the prevailing deterioration of law and order situation and impunity is one of the contributing factors for minority religious persecution or attack on minorities with an ulterior motive by the majority group, to be precise. The faulty information delivered by Priya Saha to President Trump seeking American intervention sustain potential content of making any individual with patriotic fervour contemplative. Because of an individual loyal to a country would not cause any action that harms its image is equally important as he or he would not stand any derogatory remarks by a fellow citizen, what I exactly feel.
In spite of capitalising on Priya Saha’s religious standing merely because of her minority religious identity as a Hindu, and pouring out religious sentimentality, and regardless of how timely and significant, we must turn our focus toward infallibility and accuracy of her remark. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said—“there are two ways to be fooled. One to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true”. Priya Saha believed what is not true about Bangladesh, rather refused to believe what is true for Bangladesh.
Minority oppression is real
The meeting with the survivors of religious persecution in a different parts of the world especially where religious freedom of minority, or even majority in some cases at stake or next to non-existent, was arranged by the United States Advance Religious Freedom held at the US Department of State in Washington, DC on July 16-18 for the second time. Of the invited thousands to represent their religions from 106 countries across the world, only 27 from 16 nations were chosen to meet with President Trump. These were the people who survived religious persecution in many forms.
Among 27 was Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman and the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018 from Iraq. She remained captive in ISIS camps as one of the sex-slaves and managed to escape later, talked about her fellow people and relatives who are displaced to be rescued and sought justice for ISIS atrocities.
A New Zealand mosque gun-shooting survivor, Bangladeshi by origin, thanks to President Trump for working on the religious freedom of Muslims. A Rohingya survivor and Rohingya leader, Muhib Ullah. represented the Rohingya community sought American intervention on their repatriation. Muhib Ullah was killed by fellow Rohingya men in late September 2021.
However, pastors and representatives from Iraq, Iran, Nepal, Cuba, North Korea, Eretria, Pakistan and Nigeria talked about how they have been subjected to religious persecution in their countries.
According to the United States’ Annual International Religious Freedom Report 2018, repression, persecution, punishment, humiliation on the minority by the majority because of peoples’ convicted faith is almost everywhere in the world.
No one knows whether it can be eradicated from the world or no, as long as The Winner Takes all or First past-the-post’ system of decision-making remains in effect. As wining over some tribe or groups has been a fact of antiquity, the majority plays a vital role in winning. The winning psychology puts survival at forefront of priority.
The winners have always been in the better prospect of survival either in the economic or political arena. In a savage and brute form of the ‘majority rules’ system winners’ lives and survival take considered values and precedence over others.
Therefore, there is always a constant race of winning over the certain tribe, religions, political and economic groups in order to press winning supremacy upon the losing party. I think we will have to go back to the same old boring supposition of Darwin- the survival of the fittest’.
Annual International Religious Freedom Report 2018 reveals a gory picture of majority supremacy over minority where it poses possible threats to the majority’s power, ideologies, world-view and a societal position that secures their prolonged and relaxed survival.
In Pakistan the people of the Ahmadia sect, Shia sect, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists,s and Sikhs are subjected to religious discrimination; Muslims, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists in China; Muslims, Christians in Myanmar; Muslims and Christians in Central Africa have been subjected to mistreatment and severe persecution.
In Eritrea only four, including Islam, religious groups have been recognised by the state while others to have to get their religions registered to provide their history. Iran, a country of 82 million population and of 99 per cent Muslims with 95 per cent Shia, Muslims from Sunni sect, along with Bahai and Christians, face harsh persecution. Along with killing 20,000 Christians and burning down numerous churches and homes Nigeria witnesses the cruellest atrocity committed by the Islamic militant group, Boku Haram. In North Korea, it is Christians.
In Russia Christians incur punishment on themselves by the state in expressing their religious conviction. Nearly 90 per cent of Sunni Muslims out of 29 million population of Saudi Arabia, Shia sect of Muslims faces discrimination against while the followers of other religions cannot profess their faith in public. Sudan has state back persecution of Christians. Salafites and Christians sustain mistreatment and discrimination in Sudan.
In India, the conditions for religious minorities have deteriorated over the last decade due to a multifaceted campaign by Hindu-nationalist groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus. The victims of this campaign include Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, as well as Dalit Hindus, who belong to the lowest rung in the Hindu caste system. These groups face challenges ranging from acts of violence or intimidation to the loss of political power, to increasing feelings of disenfranchisement and “otherness”.
These pictures certainly do not represent people’s inalienable natural rights to ‘life, liberty and property of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson’s, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”.
While humiliation, repression, and persecution of Muslims by Hindus, Hindus by Muslims, Muslims by Christians and Christians by Muslims are undeniably true, so is true for the minority sects of majority religions. But why the Annual International Religious Freedom Report 2018 has dropped Bangladesh from the “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs category has made us ponder on the fact of the matter. Probably it’s because of Bangladeshis’ religious co-existence or communal camaraderie and tolerance scenario which is way better than any countries in the subcontinent and among the Middle Eastern countries.
That does not mean that a liberal individual cannot possess his own social, moral, philosophical values, political choices, independent views, unconventional perceptions regarding everything. The difference is the beauty of a vibrant state. Differences breed ideals, and ideals civility. Learnt people often develop a cerebral world around themselves as they expand their literate circumference.
That too, just because of our corporate involvement, does not leave us any scope of focusing on lesser interest and undermine the greater good for the greater section of people. English philosopher Jeremy Bentham says, “Seeking happiness and wellbeing of the greater number of people” should be our social responsibility.
Priya Saha allegation: the minorities and a demographic reasoning
What Priya Saha complained about has suddenly become a political issue instead of a moral and ethical one. Instead of serving the religious and ethnic purpose, it has rather been served as political hot cake to a vested quarter, especially the leftists and so-called liberals who have been under political asylum in the West and Europe. They have been successful cowards who have succeeded in capitalising on the country’s volatile political climate, and for whom it’s the worst possible country where nothing positive can even happen at all.
It’s a country not worth living in and to be optimistic about unless Western or European values are fully represented in civic life and law and order. They are dreaming of Bangladesh to be transformed to the Western or European facsimile without contributing their efforts for a positive change. To them everything about Bangladesh is unacceptable.
Going by the statistic revealed on AGE-SEX COMPOSITION OF BANGLADESH POPULATION Monograph volume 9 of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic the trend of Bangladeshi Muslim pollution has been upward. From 1974 to 2011 the Muslim majority has reached 90.4 per cent in 2011 from 85.4 per cent in 1974. But the percentage of the Hindu population suffered a drastic decline in the meantime as the Hindu population plummeted to 8.5 per cent in 2011 from 13.5 per cent in 1974.
On the other hand, the percentage of Buddhists and the Christian population remains unchanged at 0.6 and 0.3 per cent respectively, over the period of 45 years. To cite Priya Saha, we are in the position to observe that from 1974 to 2011, 37 million minority people have disappeared or been disappeared because of majority persecution. That is to say that 822,222 people from minority groups disappeared from Bangladesh on average every year, which is an absolute absurdity to entertain. Therefore, the fact ‘disappearance’ is a self-evident proven lie.
Not only did she spoke of the 37 million’s disappearance, she as well sought US intervention in protecting the existing 18 million which otherwise might also disappear.
Has such a political or religious situation been ever emerged in Bangladesh that is responsible for the disappearance of 800,000 people every year as of now? Why nobody has any knowledge about such a fatal situation? Has the entire nation been suffering from dementia? Why the International Community has not made Bangladesh responsible and faces justice for such an inhuman atrocity? The 9 million Hindu population now has grown up to cross 13 million in 45 years of time.
The constant declining trend of the Hindu population is primarily responsible for lower fertility rate, out of country migration, effective family planning, and conversion to other religions, while the upward trends of growing Muslim populations are responsible for higher fertility rate, unplanned family and polygamy (having more than one wives).
People like Priya Saha who consider some stray incidences by parochial criminal minds take Bangladesh a secondary state to live in, and all too ready to divorce it upon the arrival of favourable time. Does anyone civilised really live here!
The persecution that follows someone, sometimes, because of leaving the majority religion on one’s will or being converted to other religions is a nightmare and hellishly real. Otherwise, the minorities are always been part of the inclusive majority. The cases of a political minority, sexual minority, and intellectual minority are indeed different ones.
Except being persecuted for conversion, according to the International Religious Freedom Acts being persecuted on account of personal faith means, “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom as “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom, including violations such as—(a) torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; (b) prolonged detention without charges; (c) causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction or clandestine detention of those persons; or (d) other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.” None of the above happens to the religious minorities just because of their faith in Bangladesh.
Priya Saha allegation: a logical conclusion to an illogical allegation
The number that she claimed may not be vital here, what really baffles the nation is her intention. No matter if American aggression will take root or not in the near future, what keeps us occupied is the tarnished image of the country. It is something that cannot be replaced once broken. No ‘If’ or ‘but’ is able to return our uncorrupted past while the past itself has already become part of history, an unanticipated one of course.
Let us finish by quoting American author and journalist Mignon McLaughlin, who says that “When pain is great, we will let anyone be a doctor”. Perhaps it is because Bangladesh’s current lack of justice for the victims and deterioration of law and order situation has given rise to a Priya Saha, who might be looking for a remedy to the pain our blind justice system has caused. She might have found a doctor but not the remedy, for sure.
Every human being possesses the right to life, expression of ideas and the right to practice personal conviction of faith in search of peace of mind without harming others’. This is our land. The land of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, atheists, agnostics, political and non-political alike. Let us not distort our communal tolerance by any ulterior motive of fanatic ideals of deceitful individuals.