Monday, 29 November, 2021

Straight Talk

Ugly Face of Fanaticism Should Never Be Seen

Abdul Mannan

Ugly Face of Fanaticism Should Never Be Seen
Abdul Mannan

In the recent times the religious bigots by vandalizing the Goddess Durga Idol in some parts of the country have not only created a fear amongst the religious minority communities of Bangladesh but also tarnished the image of the country to the outside world. Bangladesh which was  born with the determination to keep the country secular,  suddenly found itself becoming a non-secular country immediately after the killing the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh  Mujibur Rahman on 15 August 1975.  General Zia on usurping the state power tailored the 1972 constitution of the country and out of the four fundamental principles of the state, ‘Secularism’ was scrapped from the constitution making the country a non-secular fundamentalist state. His successor General Ershad went a step further when he declared that ‘Islam shall be the state religion of Bangladesh’ making the people of other faith a second class citizen. Today the country that was born as a secular country has become the breeding ground of fanaticism in some regions of the country though the bulk of the population have shown the spirit of tolerance and brotherhood irrespective of religious beliefs. Bangladesh is a country that has been tolerant for ages as Islam in this region of the Indian subcontinent was brought by the Arab Sufi saints who whose main focus was on humanity and tolerance. Islam was never a religion of intolerance. The Muslims ruled India for six hundred years and over these six hundred years there was not a single case of religious intolerance or even forced conversion. Conversion did take place and that was voluntary and it happened primarily due to extreme caste system in Hinduism. The lower caste Hindus who were marginalized in every spheres of the society felt deprived and many converted to other religion including Islam. The trend still continues because of religious bigotry in some parts of India and extreme deprivation of the lower cast. Excepting the Calcutta, Noakhali, Bihar and UP riots in 1946 people in eastern and southern part of India lived in peace and harmony for centuries. The riots of 1946 were politically motivated just before the British left India by politically parties of India just for their petty political gains.

Since Bangladesh was in created in 1971 the people thought that the curse of religious intolerance will be buried forever in Bangladesh. Giving this a top priority the first constitution of Bangladesh was drafted in 1972 embodying the four basic principles of the state, the most important one being ‘Secularism.’ During the war of 1971 it was seen how religion was used to unleash carnage and a genocide on the people of Bangladesh by the Pakistani army and their local lackeys, the Jamaat-e-Islam, the Muslim League and the PDP. All these religion based parties were banned in the 1972 constitution but once Bangabandhu was killed General Zia, the founder of BNP revived all these parties in the name of revival of multi-party democracy. Contrarily India incorporated the concept of ‘Secularism’ only in 1976. As in Bangladesh religious intolerance also thrives in some parts of India which also includes deprivation of lower caste Hindus. Such a practice is not confined only in this sub-continent. In US blacks are discriminated by the whites, in Europe the emergence of Neo-Nazis is a matter of concern in Australia many non-white settlers complain of silent discrimination. In Malaysia the ‘Bhumiputras’ (sons of the soil) always gets priority in all government and semi-government jobs. Recently one of my friend who was a senior faculty member in a top Malaysian university had to leave the government hospital where he was being treated for Covid-19 as the hospital was overwhelmed with the Bhumipura patients. My friend had to find a place in private hospital but it was too late and soon he died. He was from Bangladesh.

Coming back to Bangladesh the recent untoward happening in Cumilla where a Holy Qur’an was allegedly found on the lap of Hanuman in a temporary Durga Puja Mandap (pandle). Before knowing the actual background of the incident the perpetrators concluded that this must be the job of some Hindus to demean the religion of Islam. But   no sane person would believe that such a heinous crime could be done in at least in Bangladesh and that to a believer of another faith. We all know that Durga Puja is one of most sacred festival of the Hindus, more specifically of Bangali Hindus, the festival has been observed in total peace and harmony in this country, special during the early years of Bangladesh though some attempts were made to disturb the festival in some parts of Chittagong in 1972 by the disguised members of banned Jamaat-e-Islami and few other banned parties. But as the government was very cautious from the very beginning the attempts to disturb the festival the perpetrators did not succeed.

The recent fanaticism involving first the happening at Cumilla Durga Puja Mandap now is unfolding gradually the actual happening is being unearthed. The Hold Qur’an which was placed in the lap of Hanuman, outside the main Puja Mandap was later revealed from the CC TV footage that this was the deed of a young Muslim man which later on speared in few other parts of the country. Incidentally during the tenures of the government of Sheikh Hasina the number of Puja Madap kept on increasing as the people of other minorities found that during her rule her government is  very helpful in giving them the opportunity of celebrating this all important and happy festival of opportunity. But perhaps the first culture of fear was injected in the minds of religious minority before, during and after the general election of 2001 when Begum Zia and her allies, namely the Jamaat and the likes joined hands with thugs in many parts of Bangladesh, specially the South and South Bengal pounced on the Awami League workers and the minority community assuming they always vote for Awami League.      Rapes, arson, intimidation, kidnapping, forceful eviction from their land and killing became a common phenomenon in these parts compelling few thousand people not only of minority community but also the Awami League workers left the country.  This was a period of mayhem and when Begum Zia formed her government after the election she did nothing to investigate into the matter and punish the perpetrators. Later in 2009 when Sheikh Hasina formed her government for the second time she immediately formed a committee with District Judge Shahabuddin who submitted his report within the stipulated time. Bu so far nothing has happened. 

This year there were at least Durga Puja festivals in 32,118 temples and temporary Mandaps, 1,908 more than the last year. The thugs attacked or attempted on in about seventy of them and even had the audacity of setting fire to a village in Pirganj which had nothing to do with Puja. They are only people of minority community who worked on small jobs. Some of the perpetrators have already been arrested but their links in most of the cases have been traced to BNP and Jamaat goons. In some areas even some members of the ruling party were also found to have been involved in these heinous crimes. When asked some senior leaders of the ruling party simply avoided the answer saying that they are hybrids or infiltrators. Now how did they become hybrids or infiltrators? Someone in the party must have let this happen for personal gains. They also need to be punished.

The recent Durga Puja stray incidents surely got bad publicity outside the country, mostly in India. One Indian politician even had the audacity to say that ‘Let’s go and occupy Bangladesh.’ Such irresponsible remarks only complicate the situation. There have been lots of protest rallies in US, Canada and Australia. Protest rallies would not be unusual. But when it happens outside Bangladesh it hurts Bangladesh’s image. There have been innumerable protest rallies in Bangladesh too and these were covered virtually by all local media. Most of the fingers were pointed towards the local administration, the leaders of the party in power and the inaction of the law enforcing agencies in different places. The Hindu Buddha Christian Oikko Parishad have also held demonstrations, called hartal and announced that in protest of the recent incident they will not hold the rituals of the Kali Puja (Diwali). That does not seem to be proper way of protesting wrong doings of some people and playing with the religious sentiments of both Muslim and Hindu community. This will simply mean that the peace loving people are vowing down before some cowards and thugs. Everyone needs to be sensible and those found guilty of such heinous must be punished at the earliest. Otherwise they will be emboldened and be ready for some other kinds of mischief in future. If not done the mischief mongers can only fuel the dangerous fire of fanaticism which the people of this country never tolerated. This is the land of Lalon Fakir, Hassan Raja, Shah Amanat, Shah Jalal, Shah Makhdum and lastly Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This country cannot and should not tolerate any kind of intolerance and fanaticism in the name of Islam or any other religion.


The writer is an analyst and a commentator