Published:  02:28 AM, 07 September 2023

Democracy Cannot Prevail Without Communal Harmony

Democracy Cannot Prevail Without Communal Harmony
Before independence Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan while the governing authority was in the hands of rulers located in West Pakistan. The history of deprivations, injustice, discrimination and torment that Bangladesh had to go through at the hands of West Pakistan is still glaringly found in history. For this reason, fighting for independence was the only choice for Bangladesh. Under those crucial circumstances India proved its brotherly bonds with us by standing beside Bangladesh on diplomatic, military and humanitarian fronts. Over ten million refugees from Bangladesh took shelter on Indian soil. Most of the freedom fighters of Bangladesh were trained up in India who moved back into Bangladesh to fight for the country's liberation. In this way the relationship between Bangladesh and India is written in golden letters.

Bengal was captured by the British colonial rulers back in 1757 through the Battle of Plassey. Later on the British colonial regime governed the Indian subcontinent for around two hundred years. The end of the British rule in India came in 1947 which led to the partition of India. Two countries-Pakistan and India-emerged in 1947 on the basis of the two-nation theory. Many politicians at that time opposed the partition of India. East Pakistan became independent in 1971 leading to the birth of Bangladesh through the glorious Liberation War.

Communalism remains a threat to the subcontinent through ages. The troublemakers responsible for communal predicaments are still active. For this reason communal divides still exist. Democracy cannot prevail without communal harmony.

India is one of the closest allies to Bangladesh. India is Bangladesh's one of the most vital development partners too. India widely cooperated with Bangladesh during the Liberation War of 1971. Nearly twenty million Bangladeshi refugees took shelter in India during 1971. So, the alliance between Bangladesh and India stands on tested and proven grounds. Nevertheless, it is true that an anti-Indian sentiment is strongly present in Bangladesh. Most of the parties that oppose India are against progressive thoughts and secular principles. Anti-Indian flocks do not support the spirit of the Liberation War either. For this reason Bangladesh government should stay on high alert regarding the anti-India quarters.

India deserves to be honored for the benevolent role it played for Bangladesh's independence.

Interreligious harmony in Bangladesh is at times disrupted by communal mayhem. Religious bigots demolished Buddhist monasteries and temples in Cox's Bazar several years ago. The households and temples of Hindus came under attacks in 2016 and 2021. In the same year tribal clans in Gaibandha were assailed by vicious communal groups.

A fake letter with a forged signature of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was publicized in Bangladesh in November 2019 to spark communal unrest in the country. It should be noted that anti-Indian assemblages have a soft leaning towards China. History shows that China opposed the Liberation War of 1971 while many Indian soldiers got killed while fighting for Bangladesh's independence. China is Pakistan's most intimate ally. China recognized Bangladesh after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The Rohingya people of Myanmar's Rakhine province also fell victims to a communal crackdown. Bangladesh has sheltered over one million Rohingyas who moved away from Myanmar to escape ethnic cleansing.

A number of American Congressmen expressed worries in 2019 about the rise of communal outfits in South Asia including Bangladesh. Jamaat and Hefazat-E-Islam are two most radical Islamist groups in Bangladesh. Hefazat-E-Islam leaders were found categorically speaking against women rights on different occasions. Hefazat leaders denounce Pahela Baishakh too and thus they oppose the cultural heritage of Bangladesh.

Hefazat-E-Islam vandalized Bangabandhu's sculptures and burned government offices in some parts of Bangladesh while demonstrating against the visit of Indian Premier Narendra Modi to Bangladesh to celebrate Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's birth centenary and Bangladesh's independence golden jubilee.

A lot of temples and houses belonging to Hindus were burnt and smashed during the Durga Puja of 2021 by radical groups.

Hefazat-E-Islam demonstrated against the statue of Lady Justice which was located in front of Supreme Court. Hefazat leaders and activists spoke against the sculptures of Lalon, Oporajeyo Bangla and some other statues in different areas of Bangladesh including Dhaka city. Hefazat leaders spoke against women empowerment too comparing women with tamarind.

Bangladesh government should make the best of their efforts to sustain communal harmony. Strong actions should be taken against the instigators of communal turmoil.Young generation has a big role to play in preserving communal harmony. The value of retaining alliance between the believers of different religions should be included in academic curriculum.

Communal antagonism downgrades the image of Bangladesh. No religion supports communal discrepancies. The authorities concerned should crack down hard on the culprits who are responsible for communal vices.

Attacks on minorities should be thoroughly investigated and the offenders who propagate false things to cause communal hazards should be immediately identified and tough measures should be implemented. A Minority Protection Act should be formulated and a minority commission needs to be established to resist assaults on religious minorities.

The government should exercise strong initiatives to retain and strengthen interreligious brotherhood. Those who spread false messages to trigger communal violence should be arrested and prosecuted.

Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman followed the path of secular and non-communal politics all his life. He hated communalism. He deplored the misuse of religion in state mechanism. He witnessed in Pakistan's politics how religion was used for tormenting people. Bangabandhu wrote in his Unfinished Memoirs "Don't worry. I view people as human beings. In my political ideology I equally honor Muslims, Hindus, Christians and other religious believers. All are human beings in my judgement."

The killers of Bangabandhu wanted to run Bangladesh on the pathway of Pakistan after his assassination. Bangabandhu was assassinated to kill Bangladesh ideologically. Mostaq, Zia, Ershad and their associates wanted to turn Bangladesh into a communal state. Such evil stratagems are still going on. Financial plundering began after Bangabandhu was killed. Dirty money and muscle power began to run the state. Bangabandhu was against all these inauspicious phenomena.

Erina Haque is a columnist and
human rights activist.

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