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Saturday, 22 December, 2001, 16:20 GMT
Bangladesh alleges 'separatist plot'
Women and children
Hindu families fled to India after the elections
The Home Minister of Bangladesh, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, says that some members of the country's minority Hindu community are engaged in a plot to promote separatism in the country.

Mr Chowdhury told the mass-circulation Bengali-language newspaper Ittefaq that a movement was being revived to create an independent country comprising several south-western districts of Bangladesh.

He was quoted as saying that the movement aimed to establish what he called "Bangabhumi" and that personnel were being recruited and camps established inside India near the border with Bangladesh.

The comments come in the wake of reported violence against Hindus in Bangladesh after the October general election, won by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Hundreds of families fled to the Indian state of West Bengal, saying they had suffered violence and rape.

Charge denied

Mr Chowdhury named two people - Kalidas Baidya and Chittaranjan Sutar - as leaders of the alleged separatist plot.

Soldier
The army took over in 1975
However, Mr Sutar has strenuously denied the allegations against him.

He told the BBC's Bengali service that he did not believe in a two-nation solution to the question of the Hindu minority in Bangladesh.

He said the allegations were part of a plot to discredit his name.

There has been no clarification from Mr Chowdhury about his comments as he is out of the capital Dhaka.

Bangabhumi, the movement for a separate Hindu homeland, was reportedly first launched after the 1975 military coup in Bangladesh, when many Hindu leaders fled to India.

Most of them belonged to the Awami League party, which was forced from power in the coup and whose leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was killed.

The BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka says that although the movement itself was much-talked about for a decade or so, there was never any concrete evidence that it existed.

See also:

22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh Hindus 'will not go back'
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Calcutta refugees protest against Dhaka
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Fears of Bangladeshi Hindus
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