Recent incidents of violence against Hindus in Bangladesh have shown that India needs to prepare for political transition in Bangladesh—a turbulent phase where CAA will provide succour to millions of people belonging to minority religions in the nation.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was passed by India’s Parliament in 2019, is primarily aimed at providing Indian citizenship to minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh facing religious persecution.
However, recent incidents of violence against Hindus in Bangladesh have shown that India needs to prepare for political transition in Bangladesh—a turbulent phase where CAA will provide succour to millions of people belonging to minority religions in the nation. For the uninitiated, Hindus comprise 8.5% of the population in Bangladesh, totalling around 1.6 crore; a vast majority being Dalits. Buddhists and Christians are the other minorities in the country.
Two issues that will soon bring to India’s borders a torrent of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh need to be underscored. First, conventional wisdom dictates that at age 74, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will soon have to hand over the reins of power to her successor that will most certainly bring about another phase of miseries for Hindus in the country. Second, in its present form, CAA has 2014 as a cut-off date, which may soon need a rethink given the way the situation is spinning out of control at alarmingly frequent intervals in Bangladesh. Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s perspicacious decision to usher in CAA is one that foresees beyond the boundaries of time. However, it may still be a first step to preparing for a political transition in Bangladesh.
The utility of CAA for minorities in Bangladesh can be viewed using a historical prism going back to 1947. Political upheaval in what was East Pakistan and then Bangladesh has resulted in religious atrocities causing a deluge of Hindu refugees entering India at different points of time, most during military rule in the country. The flight of millions of Hindus has resulted in a drop in Hindu percentage in Bangladesh from 28%in 1947 to a mere 8.5% in 2011.
Coming to more recent times, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), a human rights organisation in Bangladesh, has documented more than 3,600 instances of attacks on Hindus alone in Bangladesh since 2013. The organisation also chronicled another 1,670 attacks on Hindu places of worship and desecration of Hindu idols since 2013. Attacks on Hindu minorities also regularly involve rape of Hindu women in rural Bangladesh, where the police look askance.
While hatred against Hindus among Islamists in Bangladesh is a rallying cry to bring jihadis of different hues under one umbrella, there is also an economic component to the mayhem. Before 1947 and in the years since, Hindus in Bangladesh have been owners of vast tracts of land that has resulted in envy among the fundamentalists in the country.
Prof Barakat’s research at Dhaka University found that 60% of Hindus in Bangladesh became landless because of two laws—Enemy Property Act and Vested Property Act—that aimed at grabbing Hindu-owned land in Bangladesh. His research further found that by 2046 there will not be any Hindu left in Bangladesh. More than 11 million Hindus have fled Bangladesh between 1964 and 2013 due to atrocities unleashed on them by successive regimes, especially military ones in the country. To put things in perspective, the research found that 632 Hindus fled Bangladesh daily since 1964. However, the biggest challenge a landed Hindu family planning to leave Bangladesh faces is to find someone to buy his land because once whispers spread that a Hindu family is leaving the country, no one is willing to buy his property in the hope that soon the Hindu-owned property will be theirs without having to pay a penny.
While CAA has given a glimmer of hope to millions of oppressed minorities in Bangladesh, the Modi government needs to go a few steps further. The cut-off date for CAA has to be current and not 2014. India needs to bring to bear political pressure on the Bangladesh government to buy land at market value from Hindus wanting to leave Bangladesh. India also needs to provide protection to Hindus living in rural Bangladesh using all the means at their disposal. Most importantly, India’s security mandarins need to draw up a plan of action to prepare for changes that will come about with political succession in Bangladesh in the near future.
Abhijit Mazumdar is an assistant professor of journalism at Park University in the US.