The minority, by definition, is a group in a society distinguished from, and less dominant than, the more numerous majority. Bangladesh, like many other countries of the world, have ethnic minority or indigenous people who do not enjoy the political rights, economic freedom, and legal protection at the same rate as the majority population. These people live a peripheral life compared to the mainstream majority.
The minority are minority for religious, linguistic and ethnic reasons, and because they are discriminated on these accounts. These people are born and raised in the same country but are often denied the fullest extents of benefits that come with their birthright. One of the most glaring examples of the minority population are the American Indians, who have been pushed to the fringe by the white Europeans, who conquered and settled in their country.
In fact, the minority-majority issue pervades all walks of life and all layers of society. There are minority members in a family or company, who do not share the thoughts and beliefs of a larger number of members, and, hence, subjected to resistance and defeat. Likewise, there are communities in a country who practice different religion, speak different language or even have different looks that separate them from the majority section of the population leading to certain prejudicial treatments.
In many cases, the minority do not have the right to vote and thus integrate their voice in the political process of their motherland. They are discriminated in jobs and education, budget allocation, political representation, business opportunities, and property ownership. The minority thus lives in the fear of the majority in their day-to-day existence their future largely captive to the whims of the majority.
In that sense, Bangladesh is no exception. The minority for the larger part of the country’s history has suffered many setbacks. The tribal people in the Hill Tracts felt threatened when the majority Muslims started pouring in and settling on their land in the early 1970s. The largest minority group, the Hindus, have always complained about being neglected and persecuted. Their number in Bangladesh has declined from 33 percent of the total population in 1901 to a meager 9.3 percent in 2001. While some of that decline can be attributed to discrimination and persecution, a significant part of it must have been driven by the political realities of the Partition in 1947
But it cannot be denied that the minority in Bangladesh do not get the short end of the stick. Although certain improvements have been made and these people are gradually finding their way into the melting pot, the biggest difficulty faced by them is the fear of uncertainty. The slightest political instability or religious discontent can upset the balance. The slightest spark of selfish interest or prejudice can lead to vandalism and bloodshed at the expense of the minority.
That uncertainly has been aggravated lately by the unending political instability and the growing scare of religious fundamentalism in the country. It undermines the prospect of creating a homogenous society anytime soon as it appears that a great of rage is seething under the surface. Never before has the situation looked so volatile that makes the hope for doing away discrimination of the minority population even more elusive.
All said and done, the leaders of this country need to bear in mind that the minority people are also part of the dream that motivates this country. It must be remembered that these people are also human beings, the same red blood running in their veins animating the same ambitions and desires that make the rest of us click. The minority exists until the majority insists.