Bangladesh To Revert To 1972 Secular Constitution

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SUBIR BHAUMIK |

TAKING the radical Islamist challenge head–on, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has decided to revert to its 1972 Constitution offered by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. At a media briefing on Friday, Bangladesh junior information minister Murad Hassan said an amendment will soon be tabled in Parliament and is likely to be passed without any opposition. If the move comes into effect, Islam will no longer be the state religion of the Muslim majority country.

■ Bangladesh junior information minister Murad Hassan | Archive

Two amendments during successive military regimes between 1978 and 1990 had undermined the 1972

 

Junior information minister Murad Hassan said an amendment will soon be tabled in Parliament and is likely to be passed without any opposition. If the move comes into effect, Islam will no longer be the state religion of the Muslim majority country

 

secular Constitution and instituted Islam as the state religion. Islam was made the state religion by a Constitutional amendment during the reign of General HM Ershad in the late 1980s.

The ruling Bangladesh Awami League enjoys an absolute majority in Parliament with its coalition accounting for 280 seats in the 300–member House. Therefore, the passage of a fresh amendment may not be difficult. But it is likely to provoke more Islamist radical violence similar to recent attacks that have left five Hindus and four Muslims dead.

■ Original preamble of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 1972 | somewhereinblog.net

“We will soon return to the 1972 secular Constitution that founding father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave to Bangladesh after Independence,” Murad is purportedly heard saying in a video on social media. “We don’t accept Islam as the national religion,” news agency UNB quoted Murad as saying.

 

Fifth Amendment of the Bangladesh Constitution inserted “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful” at the beginning of the Constitution and validated all laws, made by the military rulers following the 1975 coup, as passed in 1979

 

Murad also lashed out at military dictators Zia and Ershad for instituting Islam as the state religion and unleashing the politics of religion. The Fifth Amendment of the Bangladesh Constitution inserted “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful” at the beginning of the Constitution and validated all laws, made by the military rulers following the 1975 coup, as passed in 1979 under a Parliament led by President Ziaur Rahman.

The Constitution (Eighth Amendment) Act, 1988 declared, among others, that Islam shall be state religion (Article 2A) and also decentralised the judiciary by setting up six permanent benches of the High Court Division outside Dhaka (Article 100). This was passed during the reign of General Hussain Mohammed Ershad. Both these amendments undermined the secular character of the Bangladesh Constitution and led to the mushrooming of a radical Islamist ecosystem in the country, which broke off from Pakistan following a bloody civil war fought to establish a state based on secular and syncretic liberal culture on Bengali distinct linguistic traditions.

Murad’s assertions came on a day when Bangladesh was battling a spurt of Islamist radical violence against Hindu temples and Durga Puja pandals. The violence started on Wednesday morning after the mysterious and vitriolic circulation on social media of a picture showing the Holy Quran at the feet of Hindu God Hanuman at a Durga Puja pandal in Comilla town.

 

We follow the ideas of Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman. Bangladesh is a secular country. People of all religions shall live together in Bangladesh. Religion may be personal, but festival is universal

 

“But Bengali Hindus don’t worship Hanuman in Durga Puja. The pantheon consists of Durga spearing the evil Asura, and Gods Kartik and Ganesha and Goddesses Laxmi and Saraswati. The pictures were fake and were meant to incite violence against Hindus,” said Rana Dasgupta of the Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council.

 

 

Five Hindus have died and scores of temples and pandals have been vandalised in the last two days. Four Muslim rioters were also killed in police firing at Chandpur when they tried to attack the temples. The Hasina government deployed border guards and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) personnel in 22 districts to restore peace. As many as 140 rioters and troublemakers have been arrested, so far — more than 40 in Comilla where the trouble began. According to the police, six of those arrested were involved in placing the Quran on the feet of the Hindu God to take pictures which led to the violence.

 

■ Before and the after of attack on Durga Puja pandal at Comilla town in Bangladesh | Twitter

 

“One has to grant it to Hasina. What courage ? Who would dare to revert to a secular Constitution at a time when the Islamist radicals are on the offensive in an orchestrated campaign,” said Sukhoranjan Dasgupta, author of “Midnight Massacre” on the 1975 coup that led to the assassination of Mujibur Rahman along with almost his entire family.

 

Violence during Durga Puja was a well–orchestrated campaign to discredit the government, complicate relations with India and create panic amongst Hindus. “The Hindus are a soft target, but the real target is the Awami League

 

Only his daughters Hasina and Rehana had survived. Hasina has brought down military regimes by street agitations, she has survived 19 assassination attempts, including the 2004 grenade attack on her rally which killed more than 20 party leaders and activists. Assuring action against the rioters, Hasina said; “We follow the ideas of Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman. Bangladesh is a secular country. People of all religions shall live together in Bangladesh. Religion may be personal, but festival is universal. And people in Bangladesh have always celebrated such festivals together.”

■ Border Guard Bangladesh members patrolling the streets in Comilla on Thursday, October 14, 2021 | Dhaka Tribune

Party’s woman leader Aysha Zaman Shimu said the violence during Durga Puja was a well–orchestrated campaign to discredit the government, complicate relations with India and create panic amongst Hindus. “The Hindus are a soft target, but the real target is the Awami League,” she said. ■

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