The population size of Bangladesh is currently 165,158,616, according to the latest census. The recent census mentioned that the Muslim population has increased from 90.39% to 91.04%. The report said that the Hindu population decreased from 8.54% to 7.95%, the Buddhist population from 0.62% to 0.61%, the Christian population from 0.31% to 0.30% and the population of other religions decreased to 0.14% from 0.12%. This raised the question of why the minority religions, especially the Hindus, are declining in the country. Many commented that, after 30 years, there will be no Hindus left in the country. But that is a wrong perspective.
Hinduism is the second largest religious affiliation in People’s Republic of Bangladesh, as according to the 2022 Census of Bangladesh, approximately 13.1 million people responded that they were Hindus, constituting 7.95% out of the total 161.5 million population. In terms of population, Bangladesh is the third largest Hindu populated country of the world, just after India and Nepal. In 2001, 9.6% of the population was the Hindus and it was 8.54% in 2011. The decline in percentage continued in 2022 also.
From another perspective, there were 11,822,581 Hindu people in 2001, 12,730,651 in 2011 and 13,130,109 in 2022. That is, the Hindu population has actually increased in number but they increased at a lower rated compared to the Muslims. Hence, there will be no Hindus after 30 years is totally wrong as there are several reasons for the Muslims to increase at a higher rate.
Not only in Bangladesh, but also at every corner of the world, the Muslims are increasing in number and percentage. For example; in India, the Muslims are the second largest religious group just like the Hindus in Bangladesh. The Muslims are increasing in numbers in India too for the same reason stated above. The same trend is also visible in Bangladesh.
Every year thousands of people from Bangladesh migrate to different countries. The people from minority religion are also following that trend and that is also declining their numbers in Bangladesh. Not only the minority groups but also the Muslims are migrating frequently for better opportunities in developed countries. This trend is also having a great impact in our population analysis.
Many Hindu families in Bangladesh have lots of relatives in our neighboring country India, which is the largest Hindu majority country. It is evident that, many of those Hindu families slowly migrate to India to live with their ancestors or other family members. It is majorly evident in the low-income Hindu families of our country. This is also a major reason behind the declining growth of the Hindus in Bangladesh in the recent census.
In the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) 2011 population and housing census report, the Hindu couples have relatively less children. No data or statistics on religion-based reproductive rates is available at BBS or any other government organization. However, a team of researchers of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases, Bangladesh (icddr,b) and two other organizations carried out a demographic study of a small area in the country and said that other than outward migration and low reproductive rates, there is a comparatively higher rate of neonatal mortality among the Hindu community.
Several experts have blamed attacks on Hindu community on several occasions in Bangladesh during the last few years for the decline in growth of minority population. Most of these attacks were staged after someone from the Hindu community was blamed to hurt the sentiments of the Muslims, especially on social media. The Buddhist community was similarly attacked few years back. These incidents were very shameful and Islam, being the religion of peace, cannot tolerate such acts. On several occasions, there were political instigations behind those attacks. But these incidents are not really pushing the number of minority people of the country down. If anyone checks, then they will find that, even almost all of those victims are still living in Bangladesh.
Whenever, a minority community member is attacked in Bangladesh, the government, especially the current ruling party, takes that incident very seriously. But unfortunately, the accused remains unpunished for a long time. Though it is a failure of our system, an unfortunate thing is none really comes forward to become a witness of those incidents. Hence, the justice remains at queue. We are hopeful that the government will ensure justice for those heinous crimes for the sake of ensuring communal harmony in Bangladesh.
A country of communal harmony like Bangladesh is rare in the world. Despite being a Muslim majority country, for thousands of years other religions have been living together in a very peaceful and harmonious environment. In the 50 years of independence, there were no communal riots like some other South Asian countries. In Bangladesh, there were no incidents of killing, oppression or torture of people of different religions. Even if there are some isolated incidents, some anti-Bangladeshi people are behind it. But the common people of the country are fully respectful to other religions.
Unlike two bordering states of Bangladesh, Myanmar and India, the former denying Muslim Rohingya minority of citizenship since 1982 out of pathological hatred and the latter rendering Muslims stateless through anti-Muslim laws, Bangladesh has never, particularly since 1991, intended to promote any discriminatory policy, be it in practice or by laws. Commendable and quick action taken by the Government of Bangladesh against the menace of recent Durga Puja incident is a obvious example of that.
Minority is such a phenomenon which every country must possess, be it ethnic or linguistic or religious. But state sanctioned discriminatory policy, inherent ethnic or religious tension or historical division mobilized by political score usually contribute to violence against minorities. This is completely absent in Bangladesh. Few small incidents, triggered by political intentions, could not daunt the communal harmony in Bangladesh. Communal harmony is something Bangladesh can take pride of. But those who are saying that after 30 years, there will be no Hindus in Bangladesh are not only illiterate but also enemy of the country as well as of all minority communities.
Bangladesh, being a Muslim majority country, is very careful about the rights of the minority groups – be it religious or ethnic. We now have a great number of representatives from minority groups at public services, private services and every other area. Many Hindus, Buddhists or Christians are holding important positions. This is completely based on their merits and hard work and there is no discrimination to any community in the country. Hence, it will be disgraceful to question the whole country’s integrity based on few incidents.
Bangladesh is third in terms of Hindu population in the world. India is also third in terms of Muslim population. Both the country are much alike in terms of culture and customs. But there are different foreign and insider forces who try to create political turmoil using the minority groups or religion for their own interests. If the politicians do not use religion for their own benefits, then the communal harmony will persist in both the countries and that is very important for the development and progress of South Asian region as we will then be able to reach new heights.
Bangladeshi common people treat everyone as brothers and it is the greatest trait of the country which differentiated us for decades from many other countries of the world. The government should remain careful about any conspirator and facilitate punishment of any criminal for communal violence. We believe communal harmony will always prevail in Bangladesh.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron,BangabandhuShishu