The number of minority people in Bangladesh is declining fast and as per the census in 2011, the number of Hindus has decreased by 24%. Officials of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics stated (on condition of anonymity), the number of Hindus may decline more in the next census. If facts of census are analyzed, in 1901 Hindus comprised 33% of the entire population in the territory shaping contemporary Bangladesh. The first census of independent Bangladesh in 1971 revealed that Hindus represented 13% of the entire populace and by 2001 it came down to 9.3%. However, at the same time, there has not been significant reduction of Buddhists, Christians and other religious minority groups. On the other hand, the number of Muslims has increased exponentially.
Studies of BBS officials bring some more precarious factors to light. Since the rate of birth among Hindus is less while their rate of immigration is quite high, Hindu population in Bangladesh is shrinking. However, a few officials of NIPORT or National Institute of Population Research and Training have doubted the authenticity of the theory – a community is on the wane due to its less rate of birth. They do confirm that Hindu population in Bangladesh is decreasing because of the high rate of immigration among them. This factor is influenced by a handful factors including economic and social disparity and potential to have better social life abroad. Apart from this, inconceivable anti-Hindu violence in 2001 following election compelled Hindus in their thousands to immigrate. Officials feel all these factors will affect the next census in 2011
BBS states, districts in Bangladesh enjoying strong presence of Hindus include Gopalgunj, Maulavibazar, Thakurgaon, Khulna, Dinajpur and Bagerthat. Now save for Narail, all districts are witnessing sharp decline. While in 1991 Hindu population at Narail was 25.5%, it increased to 31.49 percent in 2001. According to new researches of BBS, minority households are smaller compared with Muslim households. Census of 1991 brings forth a heartrending account – membership of any minority family is 4.9 while it is 5.6 in a Muslim family. In 1901, Muslims comprised 66.1% of the population in the territory shaping present-day Bangladesh. While in the formative years of Bangladesh it was 85%, it increased to 89.6% as stated by the census of 2001. There was high flow of Muslims into East Pakistan owing to partition during 1941-47 and rock-steady facts do state that the rate of birth has always been higher among Muslims. Buddhists, among other minority groups, formed 6% of the entire population till 1974 and it remained same during the census of 2001. Christians also formed 3% and this remains unchanged yet.
While talking of this to MKM Narunnabi, Chairman of Population Science Department in Dhaka, he said to Prothom Alo, there has only been a handful of research regarding changes in population of different religious communities in Bangladesh. Nevertheless, less rate of birth diminishes population of the same community. But this is not the end as Ahmed Al Sabir, Director of NIPORT and also well-known researcher, disagrees to this standpoint. On the word of him, without a shred of doubt, rate of birth among Hindus is less and they are witnessed to participate in family planning programs more. But all these do not mean that the number of minority people will continue to diminish. If one family comprises 8 members, 1 child to each of them will multiply 16 people. Lack of rate of birth does not mean that the population will diminish in Bangladesh – known for its excessive population already.
Putting forward that there has never been any religion-based investigation, he said, reduction in population due to higher rate of immigration appears to be more suitable. There is no definite fact of the number of Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh after its independence and of also why they left. A few researchers work on this in private measures; Abul Barkat, noted economist, happens to be one of them. As per his statement, Hindus owned 45% lands during the independence of Bangladesh. Lots of these landed properties have been appropriated through Vested Property Act leading to the rise in immigration of Hindus.
Mohammed Rafi, researcher of department of researches and assessment of BRUNK – private development organization, said to Prothom Alo that as per his researches, escalating persecutions have made Hindus leave Bangladesh. Besides, rising concerns of the future of students between Class VIII to XII have compelled Hindu families to migrate. This migration, at the moment, is not limited to India only but other countries like United States also. Muslims from Bangladesh are also moving to these countries seeking employment opportunities. But the government has not adopted any measure to halt the immigration of Hindus.
Rafi has shown in one of his research documents that between October, 2001 (month of election) and February, 2002, Hindus were prevented to abide by their religious beliefs in no less than 120 sub-districts. They became victims of extortion in 190 sub-districts; they were forced to migrate from Bangladesh in 137 sub-districts. While in 128 sub-districts Hindus’ properties were plundered, properties were destroyed in 162 sub-districts and Hindus became to physical assaults in 202 sub-districts. Since Hindus migrate without lodging protests, they become easy preys to Islamists and are also threatened by radical Muslims of seizure of their properties. The government instead of adopting sufficient measures to stop this harassment maintains reluctance.
Asim Kumar Dey, chief of census department of BBS, states, even if population of Hindus is decreasing by percentage, it remains intact with regard to numbers. The difference between members of Hindu and Muslim families is widening and reasons of migration are recognized officially. Nevertheless, no research of how many people are deserting Bangladesh is yet to take place. This will be done in future.
(Hindu victim woman shedding tears helplessly in Noakhali)
(Severed Holy Hindu deities in Bangladesh)
(Islamists dominating Bangladesh)