Bangladesh: Religious minorities (Hindu, Christian, Buddhist) must be counted in census if elections are to be fair
SHAREE is a non-Government organization established in the year 1992 by a group of women. It is managed by women and committed to promote and protect the rights of Religious Minorities & marginalized Dalit communities in Bangladesh.
Religious minority people have been declining in Bangladesh over the course of time. But there is another issue of debate - undercounting minorities in the population census.
According to figures from the National report (Provisional), Bangladesh Population Census 2001, page 65, the proportion of Muslim population in 1901 was 66.1 percent, which has risen to 89.7 percent in 2001 and this has increased by 23.6 percent points during the last ten decades. Comparatively rapid increases in Muslim population are noticed from the census year 1961. The percent variations of the composition of Muslim population between the census years 1941 to 1951 and 1961 to 1974 calculate to 6.6 and 5.0 percent points respectively.
It is observed from the table that the population of Hindu population has been declining from 33.0 percent in 1901 to 9.2 percent in 2001.The aggregate reduction was about 23.8 percent points .
The Buddhists and the Christians are the minor religious communities in Bangladesh. There is virtually no change in the composition of these two communities since 1974. The combined proportion of these two groups to the total population of the country is only 1.0 percent. In terms of percentages the size of Christian population to the total population remained constant at 0.3 percent while Buddhist population at 0.7 percent in 2001.
Mostly the enemy property law & continuous violence against the minority is promoting the declining situation. However the backdrop to the huge decline in the numbers of religious minorities, particularly the Hindus, is that the minority population is not only declining, they are also undercounted in the population census. Social scientists argue that those in power in Bangladesh assume that the minority vote may threaten the next election and by under-representing them in the population census, then technically they cannot vote.
SHAREE requests that all individuals, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race, ethnicity, occupational groups, “backward sections of citizens” etc, should be enumerated and mainstreamed as per the law.
Photo: Dalit community in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit: Livia Saccardi/MRG.