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Fewer minorities in Bangladesh elections

ICC Note:
Only one Christian is running in Bangladesh’s upcoming elections, as “the political culture has changed…the major parties select candidates who are wealthy and have the potential to win.”

India (12/31/06) – Only 11 women and 17 members of religious minorities figure in the lists of the two main alliances contesting the Bangladesh elections, drawing widespread criticism.

Of the women, the two ‘begums’, as the Western media calls former prime ministers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, are themselves contesting five and four seats respectively.

Of Bangladesh’s 147 million people, 83 percent are Muslims and 16 percent Hindus. The other minorities, among them Christians and Buddhists, add up to one percent.

Minority rights activists and political leaders have criticised the major political alliances for not giving due representation to power and to minorities.

Maj Gen (retd) C.R. Dutta, a veteran of the 1971 liberation war and one of the three presidents of the Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, called the situation ‘disgraceful’.

‘We are aggrieved. We constitute 25 million people. The parties could have easily accommodated minority candidates in 25 percent of the constituencies,’ the New Age quoted him as saying.

‘Now we need to think in a different way as both the (Hasina-led) Awami League and BNP seem to be indifferent to our causes,’ he said.

Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, said: ‘I am not at all surprised that the political parties have nominated only a few candidates from minority communities.’

With no other option, the Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad has for the first time fielded its own candidates.

Its 17 candidates include 10 Hindus, six Buddhists and one Christian.

Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, a joint secretary general of BNP, said: ‘The political culture has changed. In most cases, the major parties select candidates who are wealthy and have the potential to win.

‘The irony is that the political parties field a minority person only when they do not find an aspirant from the majority Muslim community having a fair chance to win a seat.’… [Go To Full Story]