Given Bangladesh’s strategic location and importance as a trade partner, its internal security and stability are essential to US national interests in South Asia. Once celebrated for its religious tolerance, Bangladesh has now become a battleground of ideas between an increasingly vocal and powerful collection of Islamist groups and the vast majority of Bangladeshi citizens who still cherish the ideals of secularism, pluralism, and democracy. While numerically smaller, the Islamists, who espouse a narrow sectarian agenda and seek to create a theocratic state with limited rights for minorities and women, are rapidly gaining ground.  

Accordingly, the plight of religious minorities and atheists has become increasingly precarious as there has been a marked increase in religiously motivated violence coinciding with the rise of domestic and international Islamist groups. 

While Islamists have been responsible for the majority of the violence, the ruling Awami League (AL) has also contributed to deteriorating human rights conditions in the country by suppressing dissent and basic civil rights, pursuing policies that appease and empower Islamists, maintaining and enforcing a legal framework that discriminates against minorities, and directly participating in or failing to stop acts of violence against minorities.

Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Shiite Muslims, and Ahmadiyya Muslims frequently “face harassment and violence, including mob violence against their houses of worship,” (Freedom House, 2020) with little or no consequences. Religious minorities are further socially marginalized and underrepresented in government positions, while the legal system continues to favor Muslims and Islam as the state religion. 

Islamist groups in Bangladesh, most notably Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), wield tremendous power through extensive grassroots networks and exert disproportionate influence over the country’s political, social, legal, and religious affairs. JeI, along with its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), strive to create an Islamic state in Bangladesh, as explicitly laid out in its charter. JeI and ICS, in conjunction with the West Pakistani military, were responsible for committing genocide against the country’s Hindu population in the 1971 War of Independence. Since then, they have consistently utilized violent tactics to achieve their religio-political goals, including bombings, political assassinations and targeted killings, attacks on security personnel, and mass violence against minorities and atheists. (SATP, 2017)

And with the rise of social media over the past decade, outspoken bloggers critical of growing extremism came into the limelight and drew the ire of Islamist groups, such as JeI and

Hefazat-e-Islam, who accuse them of blasphemy and threaten to kill them. Countless bloggers have gone into hiding, fearing for their lives and curtailing their rights to freely express their views against religious extremism. Social media has amplified the once localized instances of hate crimes and targeted violence, leading to easily fabricated events and the replication of one instance of violence across an entire country. 

As a result of the widespread violence and growing intolerance in the country, many Hindus and Buddhists have fled and sought refuge in India. Although many Bangladeshi Hindu refugees have been living in India without formal legal status, the Indian government took some positive steps by passing the Citizenship Amendment Act in 2019 to expedite citizenship for religiously persecuted refugees from Bangladesh (along with Pakistan and Afghanistan) living in India prior to 2015. The provisions of the CAA, however, have not yet been implemented. 

At the same time, the Bangladeshi government has refused to repatriate approximately 550 Hindu Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar that are living in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district. Bangladeshi officials showed disregard for their plight, despite the refugees’ desire to return to Myanmar and the Myanmar government willing to take them back. The Hindu refugees originally came to Bangladesh in 2017 after Muslim Rohingya militants with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked two Hindu villages in Rakhine state, killing nearly 100 men, women, and children and abducting several residents. (BenarNews, 2021)

History / Background

Independence and the 1971 War

Bangladesh’s (formerly East Pakistan) independence from Pakistan in 1971 was the culmination of several long standing factors, including linguistic and cultural repression, economic marginalization, political disenfranchisement, and a quest for greater provincial autonomy. The West Pakistani military and civilian elite sought to create a cohesive polity unified by Islam and the Urdu language. In the process, they suppressed the Bengali culture and language, which was viewed as closely linked to Hinduism and, therefore, a threat to their conception of an Islamic nation. 

According to noted scholar Professor Shelley Feldman: 

“[I]ntroducing Urdu as the lingua franca was a response to the perceived threat of Bengali nationalism in the East, where Bengali language and culture were infused with Hindu religious and linguistic idioms, and a significant proportion of the population was Hindu. This language initiative can thus be understood as an effort to mark Hindus as a community distinct from East Bengal’s Muslim majority.” (Feldman, 2016)

The Bangladeshi independence movement in 1971 was met with a brutal genocidal campaign of violence by the Pakistani army and local Islamist militias. (Lintner, 2003) The conflict resulted in the massacre of an estimated two to three million East Pakistani citizens (primarily Hindus), the ethnic cleansing of 10 million ethnic Bengalis many who fled to India, and the rape of 200,000 women (some estimates put the number of rape victims at closer to 400,000). (Bass, 2013; Hossain, 2013)  

American Consul-General and the senior U.S. diplomat in Dhaka at the time, Archer Blood, repeatedly warned government officials in Washington about the violence and the selective targeting of Hindus: 

‘Genocide’ applies fully to naked, calculated and widespread selection of Hindus for special treatment…From outset various members of American community have witnessed either burning down of Hindu villages, Hindu enclaves in Dacca and shooting of Hindus attempting [to] escape carnage, or have witnessed after-effects which [are] visible throughout Dacca today… (Bass, 2013)

Blood further noted that the Pakistani military was engaged in the “mass killing of unarmed civilians, the systematic elimination of the intelligentsia and the annihilation of the Hindu population.” (Bass, 2013) Despite this assessment, the Nixon Administration continued to support the Pakistani regime. (Bass, 2013)

Subsequent to the war, a report from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) found that the Pakistani army massacred civilians and attempted to exterminate or drive out the Hindu population. The ICJ indicated that there was “a strong prima facie case that criminal offences were committed in international law, namely war crimes and crimes against humanity under the law relating to armed conflict, breaches of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions 1949, and acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention 1949 [1948].”  (Akram, 2007) Similarly, senior Pakistani military officers admitted to selectively targeting Hindus during a Pakistani postwar judicial inquiry. (Bass, 2013) 

The War, along with other factors following partition, including discriminatory laws and anti-Hindu violence and extremism, have led to a precipitous decline in the Hindu population in what is now Bangladesh. Specifically, the Hindu population has steadily declined from nearly 28% in 1940, to 13.5% in 1974, to less than 9% today. (Gumaste, 2020)

Dr. Abul Barkat of Dhaka University projects that Hindus will be nonexistent in Bangladesh in three decades if their population continues to decline and leave the country at the current rate. According to Dr. Barkat, 11.3 million Hindus fled Bangladesh on account of religious persecution between 1964 and 2013. This amounted to an estimated 230,612 Hindus leaving the country every year, according to Dr. Barkat. (Hasan, 2016)

Alongside the drastic decline in the Hindu population, there has been a concurrent loss of Hindu-owned land, including agricultural lands, businesses, homes, and temple properties. Historically sanctioned by discriminatory property laws, the mass appropriation of Hindu-owned land began in the former East Pakistan prior to the country’s independence in 1971.  

Specifically, the Enemy Property Act (EPA), which was initially instituted by the Government of Pakistan in 1965, encompassed a series of discriminatory property laws that designated Hindus as “enemies” and was used to confiscate Hindu-owned land in the eastern portion of the country (Bangladesh). (Chandrakantan & Kalra, 2011) The precedent for the EPA was set in 1948 with The East Bengal (Emergency) Requisition of Property Act (XIII of 1948) passed by Muhammaed Ali Jinnah, which further designated Hindus as second-class citizens in Pakistan. (Feldman, 2016)

Subsequently, after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the EPA remained in effect and was simply renamed in 1974 as the Vested Property Act (VPA). (Chandrakantan & Kalra, 2011) The EPA and VPA resulted in 60% of the Hindu population becoming landless. (Hasan, 2016) Collectively, these property laws “have been built upon the premise that “Hindus are the other, thereby legitimizing the appropriation of their lands.” (Feldman, 2016)

Despite the abolishment of the VPA in 2001 and the subsequent promulgation of legislation to return seized Hindu-owned properties in 2011 and 2012, the illegal appropriation of land continues unabated with the assistance of local officials from all political parties. Moreover, previously confiscated properties have not been returned to their rightful Hindu owners by the government. (Feldman, 2016)

The International Crimes Tribunal

In 2010, the Government of Bangladesh established the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) (and the ICT-2 in 2012) to investigate war crimes committed during the 1971 War. Since large numbers of Pakistani military officials were granted amnesties after the war, the trials have focused on the prosecution of Bangladeshi Islamist collaborators that played leading roles in paramilitary militias. (Ramachandran, 2013) The main militias, the Razakars, Al-Badr, and Al-Shams brigades, were comprised primarily of Islamists affiliated with JeI or ICS (then known as the Islami Chhatra Sangha), who opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan and the creation of a secular state. (Ramachandran, 2013)

Thus far, there have been 125 indictments (50 have been JeI leaders) and 95 convictions, 69 of which were death sentences and 26 life sentences. And six of those individuals sentenced to death have been executed. (SATP, 2020) 

At least two indicted war criminals fled Bangladesh decades ago and are now living in the United States, Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Abdul Jabbar. Khan went on to found the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), an organization with reported ties to JeI. (Khan, 2013; IPT News, 2013)

Although the Tribunals contain procedural flaws, the flaws are similar to those of the International Criminal Court and other international bodies. Furthermore, the Tribunals have been widely popular amongst secular Bangladeshis of all religious backgrounds, who view them as long overdue and necessary for their nation to move forward and heal the wounds of the past. (Ramachandran, 2013) 

Status of Human Rights, 2021

Discriminatory Provisions in the Legal System

Despite initially adopting a secular constitution following independence, Bangladesh removed secularism as a state principle in 1977, added the Islamic prayer ‘Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim’ before the Preamble of the Constitution in 1979, and officially declared Islam as the state religion in 1988. Islam became further entrenched through a series of government policies in the post-independence period. (Feldman, 2016)

The preeminence given to Islam in the Constitution conflicts with and weaken other provisions protecting religious freedom and equal protection in Articles 28, 31, and 41 (Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, n.d.) and render them ineffective in guaranteeing the rights of minorities. It has also institutionalized second-class citizen status of non-Muslims and empowered radical groups to violate the rights of minorities with impunity. 

The legal criminalization of criticism or defamation of Islam, the Prophet Muhammed, and the Koran, real or perceived, has further marginalized minorities and has frequently been used as a justification to attack minorities and atheists. Sections 295A and 298 of the Penal Code, for example, criminalize hurting the religious feelings of any community with imprisonment (Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh, n.d.). 

In an effort to further enforce these provisions, the Ministry of Information “created a program to monitor the media, including blogs, which it blamed for encouraging religious conflict” in 2017. (Bandow, 2018)

The Digital Security Act of 2018 also expands provisions against blasphemous content. Article 28, for instance, criminalizes the publication or broadcast of “anything by means of any website or any electronic format which hurts religious sentiment or values.” (Amnesty International, 2018) The Act has also been used to silence criticism of the government, with over 1,200 people charged under this law between 2013 and 2018. (Hardig, 2020) Activists have criticized the unequal application of the Digital Security Act to disproportionately arrest and prosecute minorities for hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims. (Saha, 2020)  

In addition to legal implications, social media has been frequently used to falsely accuse Hindus and other minorities of blasphemy and then target them physically. (Freedom House, 2020)

Islamist Extremism

Islamist groups, such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), have historically posed the biggest threat to the rights, safety, and security of minorities in Bangladesh, and continue to do so today. 

Following the 2001 elections, for example, JeI and its student wing, Islami Chatra Shibir (ICS), in conjunction with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) unleashed a large-scale systematic campaign of violence targeting the Hindu community that lasted several days and involved 18,000 incidents of major crimes, such as rape, arson, looting, and murder. (Rahman, 2011) An estimated 26,352 people were involved in the violence, including at least 25 government officials from the former BNP-JeI coalition government. (Rahman, 2011) The violence led thousands of Hindus to seek refuge in India. (Ethirajan, 2011)

In one gruesome instance, a Hindu school girl, Purnima Rana Shil, was forcibly taken to an abandoned location and gang-raped by 11 BNP activists. She was one of the close to 200 Hindu girls who have been gang-raped by BNP-JeI activists. (Rahman, 2011) 

JeI-ICS also instigated large bouts of violence in response to convictions by the International Crimes Tribunal starting in 2013. Hindus, for example, were systematically attacked by mobs of JeI supporters, resulting in the destruction of nearly 50 temples and hundreds of homes and shops. (Amnesty International, 2013) Similarly, according to the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, between November 2013 and January 2014, JeI and ICS activists attacked, damaged, or destroyed 495 Hindu homes, 585 shops, and 169 temples in election-related violence. (BHBCUC, 2015)

HeI, which also has a large grassroots network and controls a number of madrassas, reportedly has close ties to and has collaborated with the BNP, JeI, and ICS. Hefazat shot to prominence in 2013, when it called for the prosecution and execution of “atheist bloggers” as part of its 13-point Islamist agenda. The agenda included, in part, instituting harsher blasphemy laws, declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims and stopping “…foreign cultural intrusions including free-mixing of men and women and candlelit vigils…” (SATP, 2013)

Such violence was in the headlines again recently when its new leader demanded that all statutes be torn down in the country, as they were against Islam. He also demanded that all activities by ISKCON (a Hindu religious group) in the country be stopped and that Ahmadiyya Muslims officially be declared “non-Muslims.” (IANS, 2020) 

On March 17, 2021, thousands of supporters of the radical group, Hefazat-e-Islam, wielding homemade weapons and sticks attacked the village of Noagaon in Bangladesh. Over 70-80 Hindu homes were vandalized and looted, including many family temples. This violence was in response to an alleged Facebook post by a Hindu man from the village criticizing a Hefazat-e-Islam leader. Police officials have arrested at least 22 suspects, and reports have been filed against the perpetrators, including one against 1,500 “unidentified” people.

Hefazat and JeI are ideologically aligned with domestic and transnational terror groups in Bangladesh. JeI and ICS have further served as a recruiting base for domestic Bangladeshi terrorist groups, including Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), a State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), (U.S. Department of State, n.d.) and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), (SATP, 2017) outlawed by several countries, including the United Kingdom. (Government of the United Kingdom, n.d.)

JeI has been involved in laundering money for a group associated with al-Qaeda and the International Islamic Front and has funneled funds to other Islamist militant groups through its control of Islami Bank Bangladesh. (Blackburn, 2006) JeI and ICS have further facilitated terrorist activities within and outside of Bangladesh, through the provision of logistical and material support, such as weapons and infrastructure. (SATP, 2017; Roy, 2014)

Moreover, domestic Islamist terror groups, such as JMB and Ansarullah Bangla Team, have reported affiliations with ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS). (Calamur, 2016; Stark, 2016)   

Ansarullah Bangla Team, which renamed itself Ansarul Islam, is pro theocracy and anti secular democracy. (Crisis Group, 2018) It has focused on “silencing or eradicating any critics of extremist religious doctrines, organized Islam, or the intolerance of Islamist radicals.” (Wolf, 2016) JMB and Ansarul Islam have created hit lists targeting secular, liberal, and Hindu bloggers. (International Crisis Group, 2018)

While the Awami League government has taken steps to arrest several members of Islamist extremist and terror groups, (SATP, 2020) it has simultaneously allowed Islamism to grow by appeasing and empowering radical groups through the enforcement of blasphemy laws, restrictions on free speech, and the Islamicization of school textbooks and society at large. (Bandow, 2018) It has allowed HeI to grow in prominence and strength by caving to their demands. (Ramachandran, 2021) 

The Awami League government’s refusal to acknowledge the existence and activities of ISIS and AQIS within Bangladesh, as well as their connections to domestic terror groups, has further exacerbated the problem. (Iyengar, 2016) ISIS has claimed responsibility for a number of terror attacks and targeted killings, most notably including the 2016 Holy Artisan Bakery attack as well as bomb attacks on law enforcement in 2019. (Freedom House, 2020) Furthermore, an estimated 50 Bangladeshi nationals have joined ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. (SATP, 2020)

Religiously Motivated Violence & Extremism

The right to worship free from physical violence or interference is a core component of religious freedom, and protected by Bangladesh’s Constitution and international conventions. Despite these protections, there have been large-scale attacks on Hindu villages and temples, abductions, forced conversions, sexual violence against Hindu women, and targeted killings of Hindus and atheist bloggers. 

The government and law enforcement have failed to protect members of minority communities, bloggers, and atheists from mass violence and targeted attacks. Instead, in many instances, the government enabled extremist violence against Hindus and other minorities.

According to a report by a Hindu human rights group, Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mahajote, there has been a significant increase in anti-Hindu attacks/incidents in recent years. In 2020, for instance, 40,703 Hindus were affected in violent attacks, attacks on temples and properties, rapes, forced conversions, and other incidents. This includes at least 149 killed and 7,036 injured, 163 temples attacked, 94 abductions, 2,623 forced conversions, and the forced displacement of 2,125. (New Age Bangladesh, December 31, 2020) 

Human rights activists, such as Kajol Debnath of the Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist, Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC) and Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad, assert that most anti-minority incidents are not filed or prosecuted (only 25-30% of cases are filed), and even fewer (five to six percent) result in justice for the victims. (Saha, 2020) 

The following are a few examples of recent violence targeting religious minorities in 2020-2021: 

May 2020

A large group of Muslim worshippers attacked a Hindu man’s fish store in Chowmohoni and clashed with police in Bhola over the man’s alleged social media posts that hurt Muslim religious sentiments. (BDNews24, 2020)

October 2020 

Rabindra Ghosh (age 70), a human rights attorney, was beaten inside of a police station when he tried to pursue justice for his Hindu client who was, unsurprisingly, a victim of religious violence. (Benkin, 2020)

November 2020

A Muslim mob of approximately 3,000 people targeted Hindu villages and destroyed over a hundred homes and at least 15 temples. These Hindu homes and houses of worship were looted, vandalized, and set on fire in Comilla and Brahmanbaria district, in some instances with people still inside. The mob reportedly tried to block and prevent fire trucks from helping to put out the fires. The homes of a local Hindu government official, Bona Kumer Shib (East Dhaur Union Chairman), and his brother were also attacked The violence was instigated after a Facebook post welcoming French President Macron’s stand against extremism was circulated. Two Hindus, including a kindergarten school principal who allegedly put up the post, were arrested by police under the Digital Security Act for hurting the sentiments of the Muslim community. (BDNews24, 2020; PTI, 2020)

March 2021 

Thousands of supporters of the radical group, Hefazat-e-Islam, wielding homemade weapons and sticks attacked the village of Noagaon in Bangladesh. (Chaudhury, 2021) Over 70-80 Hindu homes were vandalized and looted, including many family temples. This violence was in response to an alleged Facebook post by a Hindu man from the village criticizing a Hefazat-e-Islam leader. Police officials have arrested at least 22 suspects, and reports have been filed against the perpetrators, including one against 1,500 “unidentified” people. (Press Trust of India, 2021)

Hefazat’s new leader demanded that all statues in the country be torn down, all activities by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness be stopped, and that Ahmadiyya Muslims are officially declared “non-Muslims,” amongst other extremist demands

October 2021 

In a Facebook post, a picture showed a murti (sacred image) of the Hindu deity Hanuman sitting with the Quran in his lap. News reports later showed that it was placed there by a Muslim man, Iqbal Hossain. Fundamentalist Muslims who saw the Facebook post began desecrating and destroying mandirs (Hindu temples), mandaps (worship altars), and murtis in the city of Comilla, where the incident took place. Mob violence then spread across the country as shops and homes owned by Hindus were looted and vandalized. (Times of India, 2021)

Hindu businesses and homes were attacked and Hindus were killed, injured, and raped. In total, at least 343 temples were looted, vandalized, and desecrated; approximately 1,650 homes were looted and then vandalized, while many were burnt to the ground. At least 14 Hindus are confirmed dead — 17 are currently missing. We cannot confirm the approximate number of women raped at this time, but we know of several individual stories, including a confirmed incident where a 10-year-old girl, her aunt, and grandmother were gang raped. The young girl died from injuries sustained during the rapes. (World Hindu Federation, 2021)

Despite the stark reality of the October 2021 violence, the government of Bangladesh chose to hide the facts of the violence as they enabled it, through inaction and denial. For example, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen made a statement in which he downplayed the violence and claimed that only 2 Hindus died during that violence “one of whom had normal death and another when he jumped in a pond.” Furthermore, he stated that, “None was raped and not a single Mandir was destroyed.” (Momen, 2021) This callous attempt to create misinformation speaks to the Bangladesh government’s internal tolerance and acceptance of this violence.

Hindu Prisoners of Conscience

While the numerous perpetrators of the October 2021 violence have yet to be brought to justice, numerous Hindu individuals have been arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion for attempting to share information about the violence in Bangladesh on social media. These arrests were made under the false pretense of the claim that these individuals were “destroying communal harmony” according to Bangladesh’s Digital Security Act. We have confirmed the cases of the following individuals: 

  1. Ashish Mallik, 30 years old (Banani City)
  2. Shuvon Kumar Das, 26 years old (Jessore City)
  3. Poritosh Sarkar, 19 years old (Pirgonj Upazila)
  4. Kaushik Roy Tanu, 17 years ​​(Doarabazar Upazila)
  5. Mritunjoy Majumdar Joy, 25 years (Ramgonj Upazila) 
  6. Asit Baran Das, 19 years (Daudpur village)

The government of Bangladesh has chosen to hide the facts of the violence as they enable it, through inaction and denial, and now arrests. (World Hindu Federation, 2021)

Conclusion & Recommendations

2021 was once again marked by repeated attacks on Hindus and other religious minorities, institutionalized discrimination and legal restrictions, and the expanding influence of Islamist groups, such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefaazat-e-Islam. Although radical Islamist groups have played a major role in the violence and growing intolerance in the country, the Awami League government has also contributed to worsening human rights conditions by failing to protect religious minorities, subverting democratic processes, suppressing civil liberties, and maintaining and enforcing discriminatory laws and policies. Consequently, immediate steps are required by both Bangladesh and the US to improve conditions on the ground and alter the country’s current religious freedom and human rights trajectory. 

Recommendations for the Government of Bangladesh

The GoB must implement the following recommendations to better protect religious minorities:

  1. The GoB must release the Hindu prisoner’s of conscience that have been unjustly arrested for sharing information about violence against their community on social media.
  2. Ensure that cases of anti-minority violence are properly registered and investigated by law enforcement, and prosecuted in the courts. In addition, establish witness protection laws to allow witnesses to safely testify in cases of anti-minority violence. (Saha, 2020) 
  3. Increase the police presence in minority areas to prevent violent mobs from targeting Hindu homes, businesses, and temples.
  4. Strengthen the National Human Rights Commission to support constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and equal protection and to ensure human rights violations are adequately addressed.
  5. Create a separate Minority Rights Commission consistent with the demands of minority rights groups and the promises of the Awami League. (Saha, 2020) 
  6. Undertake legal and constitutional reforms by removing provisions privileging Islam from the Constitution, blasphemy laws, and institute greater safeguards for religious freedom.  
  7. Stop appeasing and empowering Islamist groups such as Hefazat-e-Islam, while acknowledging and confronting the growing presence and activities of foreign Islamist terror groups, such as ISIS and al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent.
  8. Take immediate steps to return previously confiscated properties under discriminatory property laws to their rightful Hindu owners, under the provisions of the Vested Property Return Bill of 2011.
  9. Continue to conduct war crimes trials as long as necessary to achieve justice and accountability for events that occurred during the 1971 War of Independence.

Recommendations for the International Community

The US should work constructively with the GoB to ensure that attacks on Hindus and other minorities cease, past victims of violence are fully rehabilitated, and those responsible for attacks are brought to swift justice. US officials should be unequivocal in their condemnation of violence in all public statements. In addition, human rights and civil society activists should be supported. Finally, the US should take the following special measures:

  1. Designate Bangladesh as a “Special Watch List” country for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act.
  2. JeI and ICS should be designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) by the U.S. State Department under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224.
  3. Under section 212(a)(2)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the U.S. should deny entry to any officials from JeI, ICS, and HeI that have engaged in particularly severe violations of religious freedom under section 3 of the International Religious Freedom Act.
  4. Despite the absence of an extradition treaty, the US should repatriate Ashrafuzzaman Khan and Abdul Jabbar to Bangladesh to face justice for war crimes committed in 1971.
  5. The U.S. should support the GoB’s efforts to achieve justice for the victims of the 1971 genocide, whether through the tribunals or other mechanisms.


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Sanatan Moitree Sangha – Bangladesh Correspondence (2021, October 15-31). 

SATP. (2013, April 6). 13-Point Demand. South Asia Terrorism Portal.

SATP. (2017). Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) Terrorist Group, Bangladesh. South Asia Terrorism Portal.

SATP. (2017). Islami Chhatra Shibhir (ICS). South Asia Terrorism Portal.

SATP. (2017). Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). South Asia Terrorism Portal.

SATP. (2020). Bangladesh: Assessment-2021. South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Stark, A. (2016, July 22). Dhaka Attack Part of a Larger Pattern of Terrorism in Bangladesh. The Diplomat.

Swarajya. (2021, October 18). Ruling Awami League Members Involved In Attacks On Hindus In Bangladesh, Say Minority Leaders And Civil Society Members 

Times of India, The. (2021, October 23). Second key suspect behind violence against Hindus arrested by Bangladesh 

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World Hindu Federation, Bangladesh Chapter (2021, October 24) Report: Brutal Attack on Hindus in Bangladesh (13-24 October 2021)

World Hindu Federation, Bangladesh Chapter (2021, October 19) Report: Hindu Boys are Arrested under Digital Security Act in Bangladesh

People's Republic of Bangladesh

148,460 sq km (57,320.7 square miles) 

164,098,818 (July 2021 est.)

Religion Demography
Sunni Islam 89.1%, Hinduism 10% (many current estimates suggest less than 9%), other 0.9% (includes Buddhism and Christianity) (2013 est)

Ethnic groups

Bengali, at least 98%, other ethnic groups 1.1%; Bangladesh’s government recognizes 27 ethnic groups under the 2010 Cultural Institution for Small Anthropological Groups Act; other sources estimate there are about 75 ethnic groups; critics of the 2011 census claim that it underestimates the size of Bangladesh’s ethnic population (2011 est.)

Bangla 98.8% (official, also known as Bengali);
Other 1.2% (2011 est.)

Southern Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and India (CIA World Factbook, 2021)

Learn about the 1971 Bengali Hindu Genocide