In an unforeseen regional political fallout, it has taken a statement made by Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, of all things, to bring together the worst of enemies in Bangladesh to defend their country’s national pride and secular credentials. Dhaka-based media has reported in detail the firm but restrained criticism of India by both Foreign Minister, Abdul Momen and Mirza Fakhrul Islam, leader of the pro-Islamist BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party). Both strongly countered Shah’s assertion in the Rajya Sabha debate, alleging that the Hindu exodus from Bangladesh had occurred because of systemic persecution.
In the process, it became the first instance in recent years of a senior Awami League minister to speak critically of India on record. The leaders held separate pressers to defend Bangladesh’s record in maintaining communal harmony. Awami League’s minister, Momen, pointed out that all minorities including the Hindus were safe and secure in Bangladesh. He expected minority leaders living in Bangladesh would speak separately on the issue, without reference to official statements.
Momen said that it was singularly unfortunate for Indian leaders to say that Bangladesh discriminated against and oppressed its minorities. Regarding the Hindus, he said that there were even instances where Hindus had emigrated abroad with an intent to settle outside Bangladesh, but in recent years, many had returned, as perfect communal harmony prevailed in the country.