Secularism in a muslim majority country? That too in Bangladesh! That is like trying to straighten a dog’s tail!!
Hindus comprised nearly 30% of the total population in Bangladesh in 1947 and since then the Hindu population has dwindled from 22% in 1951 census to 15 per cent in 1991 and less than 10% in 2009. About 2.5 million Hindus were slaughtered in the war in 1971. In 2009 the population of Bangladesh was estimated at 156 million. About 90% of Bangladeshis are Muslims and the remainder are mostly Hindus.
In contrast, according to the 2001 census the Muslim population has increased to over 28% of the total in West Bengal and 31% in the state of Assam. At partition, only Murshidabad district was dominated by Muslims in West Bengal. But at present, two other districts, Maldah and North Dinajpur, have been added to the list.
Thus the riot and subsequent abandonment of Durga Puja by 42 Puja Committee in Deganga is not an isolated event nor is it the last atrocity.
Dhaka, Oct 17 (IANS) Attacks by drunken mobs and even policemen on Hindu devotees and Durga Puja marquees in many parts of Bangladesh marred the festivities of the country’s minority community even as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stressed on the virtues of secularism.
Reports of violence came from across the country as the biggest religious festival of the minority Hindu community ended Sunday.
The authorities withdrew policemen and closed down a police station after cops were found attacking Puja Mandaps, the makeshift bamboo-and-cloth marquees erected for the festival at some places, bdnews24.com, a newspaper website reported.
In Narayanganj, just outside Dhaka, two people were arrested for vandalism, loot and attack on a Puja pavillion at Tanbazaar.
Witnesses said at least 10 people were injured when around 15 drunk men attacked Hindus devotees, who were dancing at a pavilion in Minabazar area of Tanbazar early Saturday.
They stabbed organising secretary of the Puja celebration committee of the area, Ankan Saha Rana, 35, and member Sumon Das, 24, when they attempted to stop the drunks.
In Sunamganj in northeastern Bangladesh, six policemen including a sub-inspector were withdrawn from a police station for attacking devotees at a temple in Tahirpur Upazila (sub-district).
A sub-inspector of Sherpur Sadar Police Station in central Bangladesh was withdrawn to the police lines for burning a festoon with the image of goddess Durga.
Acting Superintendent of Police (Sherpur) Mohammad Anisur Rahman said legal steps will be taken against Badruzzaman, the sub-inspector.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stressed on virtues of secularism and said her country was ‘non-communal’ while speaking at a function hosted by Hindus in the national capital Saturday.
Hasina said that 27,000 Durga Puja mandaps or marquees were erected across the country this year, the highest ever. Similarly, 94,000 Muslims were proceeding on Haj to Saudi Arabia, which was also the highest, denoting freedom to practice different faiths.
‘Secularism is one of the four pillars of the country’s constitution and has no meaning if people cannot practice their religions,’ she said during her visit to the Dhakeshwari Temple Saturday, which marked the Mahanabami, a high point of the Hindu festival.
But the New Age newspaper said: ‘Even as the prime minister speaks of secularism and thanks her law enforcers for ensuring a peaceful environment, there are reports of attacks, even by cops, on puja mandaps across the country.’
Dhaka: Bangladesh will shortly restore the word ‘secularism’ in its constitution. However, it will remain an Islamic state , allowing functioning of religion-based parties, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said.
The government will reprint the constitution following a Supreme Court directive to restore ‘secularism’, but no political party bearing names of religions would be banned, a cabinet meeting chaired by Hasina decided Monday.
She told a weekly cabinet meeting that the reprinted constitution would restore secularism “as a fundamental state principle”, New Age newspaper said quoting a minister who attended the meeting.
Hasina asked her ministerial colleagues to “go to people and make sure they have no confusion about constitution amendments”, the minister said.
Her government would sit with the political parties named after Islam “to make them understand that secularism was not against religious faiths”.
The official cited many countries where Christianity was state religion but had secular polity, the Daily Star newspaper said.
A large majority of Bangladesh’s 156 million people are Sunni Muslims with Hindus, Buddhists and Christians forming less than ten percent of the population.
Religion-based political activity was banned in Bangladesh that separated from Pakistan in 1971 as these parties, including the Muslim League and the Jamaat-e-Islami , had opposed the freedom movement.
They were brought back to the political mainstream after the changes triggered by the assassination of the country’s founding leader and president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975.