ARTICLE 19 condemns exhuming of Ahmadiyya infant

The UK-based human rights organization ARTICLE 19 has strongly condemned the disrespectful exhuming and dumping of the corpse of an infant belonging to the Ahmadiyya community on the street in Brahmanbaria and demanded punishment to those responsible for it.

“The exhumation of the three-day-old baby’s dead body is a crude manifestation of a growing culture of intolerance and oppression towards minorities that exists in the country. 

Such crude act of exhuming a newborn child’s corpse and dumping it on the street because it belongs to a minority group by the local religious leaders is disappointing and a complete disregard for the rule of law and secular values of this country”, said  a statement issued by Faruq Faisel, Regional Director for ARTICLE 19, Bangladesh and South Asia.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the concerned authorities to identify those perpetrators involved in the removal of the dead body from the grave and bring them under the law, the statement said.

"People of the Ahmadiyya community have been the victims of attacks and social harassment in different districts of Bangladesh for the last few decades. Their places of worship and homes are being attacked only because of their creed and beliefs”, it said. 

The statement said “Article 28 of the Constitution of Bangladesh assures that the state will not discriminate against anyone based on religious identity. Article 41 of the Constitution also entitles every citizen with the right to profess, practice, or propagate any religion. If the authorities had taken appropriate action, these hate-driven religious attacks and torture would not have happened."

According to media reports, a baby-girl of the Ahmadiyya community was born on July 7, 2020, at a local hospital in Brahmanbaria. The infant died on July 9, 2020, due to various complications following its premature birth. On the same day, the infant's family buried the body at the local government cemetery in Ghatura village of Suhilpur union in Sadar Upazila. 

Soon after the burial, some ‘moulvis’ calling their followers through mikes of the local mosques initiated a gathering of some anti-Ahmadiyya youths. They later exhumed the body and threw it on the road. 

After learning of the incident, the police came to the spot but did not take any action against those involved in the incident, instead re-buried the body of the child at the designated graveyard for the Ahmadiyya community. No one has lodged a formal complaint with the concerned police station till July 11, 2020.

In this regard, the statement said, "In 2011, two resolutions were unanimously adopted by the member states in the UN Human Rights Council (16/18) and the General Assembly (66/167) on the protection of religious minorities and combating hatred, intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief. 

Bangladesh has a moral obligation to keep these international promises. Therefore, the law enforcers and the local administration cannot avoid the responsibility of taking self-motivated action in this case.” 

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the concerned authorities to take action by identifying those perpetrators involved in the exhuming of the infant and to ensure the protection of religious minorities and their right to practice their religion without hindrance, the statement said adding that such act of crime without punishment leads to lack of accountability and further perpetuates a state of lawlessness hindering an inclusive society. 

“We hope actions are taken to bring justice to the family and the wrongful are held accountable,’’ it said.