Religious and Ethnic Violence in Bangladesh and Burma - Professor Shapan Adnan


Fri, 14/12/2012 - 17:00
Wolfson College Buttery Room, Oxford University

South Asia Research Cluster– Extraordinary Meeting – Everyone Welcome

Distinguished professor of agrarian sociology and associate of Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme in the university’s School of Area Studies will speak and lead a discussion about the interactions between religious and ethnic communalism on both sides of the Bangladesh-Burma border zone, including the destruction of the Ramu Buddhist temples in Bangladesh and the influence of violence on Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

Destruction of Buddhist temples and homesteads by Bengali Muslims at the end of September 2012 in Ramu of south-eastern Bangladesh appears to have been partly linked to the ongoing violence on Muslim Rohingyas across the border in  Burma by Rakhaine Buddhists and Burmese security forces. These attacks in Ramu also reflect extension of pre-existing communal violence on non-Muslim (Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and animist) ethnic minorities in the adjoining Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh by Bengali Muslims and security forces, which have been going on for more than three decades.

Ethnic and religious conflicts in the CHT are increasingly interacting with events and processes in Burma as well as the Cox's Bazar district lying in the intervening zone up to the Burmese border. At the same time, the Ramu violence marks a reconfiguration of communalism in the domestic politics of Bangladesh in an unprecedented hybrid form, combining religious and ethnic elements with the complicity of all the major political forces of the country.

The presentation is based on a brief field visit to the sites of violence and destruction in Ramu and adjoining areas in October-November 2012 and discussion with Buddhists and Muslim respondents. Videos and still photographs of these events, collected during fieldwork, will be shown. The talk should be regarded as work-in-progress specifying what actually happened during the eruption of violence and attempting to explain how and why these might have taken place, subsuming political contentions, population displacements and prospective land grabs.

Implications for the interactive nature of the religious-ethnic communal conflicts affecting Buddhists in Bangladesh and Muslim Rohingyas in Burma are tentatively drawn out.


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