BANGLADESH, January 13, 2014 (Anirudh Sethi Report): They came at 9.30am on December 13, about 60 or 70 of them, to sack his family home in the village of Jagannathpur and terrorise the occupants. "When anything happens, Hindus are attacked," says Subhash Ghosh, his eyes filling with tears as he stands outside the burnt shell of his house in the Bangladeshi countryside near the Indian border. "Everything is lost." He and another 21 members of his extended family have sought refuge in a nearby town and dare not stay the night on the farm their family has owned for more than a century.
The attack by militants of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), an Islamist party allied to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was one of thousands of violent incidents in the run-up to the general election of January 5. It occurred the day after the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah, a JI leader convicted of war crimes.
Local Hindus had nothing to do with the execution. But here in the southwest near the Ganges delta, members of the Hindu minority are particular targets of JI because of their religion and because they almost all support the Awami League, the nominally secular party which has run Muslim-dominated Bangladesh for the past five years and which won the election after a BNP boycott.
Some of his Hindu neighbors have fled across the border to India, but at the age of 63 Mr Ghosh has no desire to abandon his home or his shrimp farming business, even if he does sometimes wonder about claiming asylum in the UK or Australia. "I cannot leave the country like a coward and I cannot be a rickshaw-puller in India because I have land and property here," he says. "What would I do in India?" Mr. Ghosh says 55 to 60 Hindu homes and businesses in the area have been attacked.
The latest round of violence began in the Satkhira district nearly a year ago, but worsened sharply in December, when JI took control of several villages, cutting down trees and building embankments to stop the security forces from entering. Some locals call the area "Pakistan in Bangladesh".
The police chief has restored an uneasy peace to most of Satkhira, but residents are in a sombre mood as they contemplate the polarisation of national politics between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's repressive Awami League government and the opposition BNP, supported by its increasingly violent Jamaat-e-Islami allies.