Anguished over the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh, renowned writer Taslima Nasreen has said the country has now become "Jihadistan" where madrasas are a breeding ground for fundamentalism and accused the Sheikh Hasina government of using religion for political gains. Hindus and Buddhists in Bangladesh have become "third class citizens" and the growing anti-Hindu mindset is alarming, the writer said.
Bangladesh has been witnessing attacks on the Hindu minority community, vandalisation of temples and Durga puja marquees. Communal tension has been brewing over an alleged incident of blasphemy at a Durga Puja venue in Comilla last week that triggered clashes in many districts.
Slamming the attacks, the writer told PTI in an interview that, "I actually don't like to call it Bangladesh anymore. It has become 'jihadistan' now. All the subsequent governments including the present one used religion for political motives. They made Islam the state religion so Hindus and Buddhists have become third class citizens and subject to persecution like this."
Nasreen, who had to leave Bangladesh in 1994 in the wake of death threats by fundamentalist outfits for her alleged anti-Islamic views, said the anti-Hindu sentiment is not new in Bangladesh and it was strange that no protection was given to Hindus during Durga puja festival.
"Sheikh Hasina is very well aware that every year during Durga puja time, there is a chance of' jihadi' attack on Hindus. So why no protection was given to the Hindu minorities," the 'Lajja' fame author said.
Fearing that many Hindus will leave the country now, she said if the government wanted to protect them, it could have done so.
"This growing anti-Hindu mindset is very alarming. There were 30 percent Hindus living there during the time of partition but now it is reduced to nine percent," said the 59-year-old Bangladeshi-Swedish writer.
The author, whose book 'Lajja' is banned in Bangladesh, said, "I wrote my novel Lajja' in 1993 in which a Hindu family is attacked by Muslim fanatics and decides to leave the country but it is not that such incidents happened only in 1993, it is continuously going on."
"Hindus are tortured, persecuted and threatened by Muslims. It has been going on for years as Muslims want Hindus to leave the country so that they can grab their land," the author alleged.
Lajja is considered the author's response to anti-Hindu riots that erupted in parts of Bangladesh soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India in 1992. Known for her writings on women, human rights and secularism, the firebrand author claimed that madrasas and mosques are being used to brainwash the younger generation in Bangladesh which is becoming another Afghanistan that is controlled Taliban.
"Numerous mosques and madrasas are built in Bangladesh unnecessarily which are used to brainwash the younger generation. In remote villages, preachers speak whatever they want to in the name of Islam. They are misleading young people who are illiterate and do not understand Arabic. So whenever any rumour is spread these kinds of violent incidents happen," she said
"What do you want to make your country with this extremism? Another Afghanistan where Taliban is in control?" she asked.
Nasreen said she has been a victim of this extremism throughout her life as her writing are related to women and humanitarian issues.
"It has been 28 years since I was thrown out of the country and still no government has allowed me to enter the country. I defended the minority community in 'Lajja' 28 years ago and still write whenever this kind of issue arises whether it in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afganistan, Syria or anywhere in the world," she said.
Nasreen feels that economic growth is meaningless if religious tolerance is not there.
Madrasas, she said, should be controlled by the government and there should be a strict vigil on what they are teaching. Children should be encouraged to go to a "secular school and they must have a scientific temper," she said.
"Secularism should be promoted and there should be a strict separation between state and religion. You cannot just blame the people who have destroyed Hindu shops, houses or temples. Governments have created all the reasons for them to do this over the years for their vote bank politics which should be stopped," said the writer.
Taking note of a protest rally against the attack on Hindus in Bangladesh, she said, "I am very glad that hundreds of people have participated in a protest rally in Chattogram against these incidents in which progressive Muslims also took part". Social media has played a major part in this as there is a media blackout in Bangladesh, she added.