Religious minorities vulnerable in Bangladesh: US

Dhaka (Bangladesh): Attacks on religious and ethnic minorities continued to be a "problem" in Bangladesh despite the country’s declared stance for freedom of religion and inter-community amity, the US has said.

"There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious belief or practice….Religious minorities were vulnerable due to their relatively limited influence with political elites," said the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2007 on Bangladesh, which was released from Washington on Friday.

The report of the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the State Department, said violence directed against religious minority communities continued to result in the loss of lives and property.

Many Hindus in the Muslim-dominated country, it said, have been unable to recover landholdings lost because of discrimination under the now-defunct Vested Property Act, a pre-independence era law that allowed the government to expropriate "enemy" lands.

The government seized approximately 2.5 million acres of land from Hindus, affecting almost all of the 10 million strong community, until Parliament in April 2001 scrapped the law stipulating that land seized under the act be returned to its original owners, provided that the original owners or their heirs remained resident citizens.

According to a recent study conducted by a Dhaka University professor, nearly 200,000 Hindu families lost approximately 40,667 acres of land since 2001, despite the annulment of the Vested Property Act.

Source: PTI

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