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Toxic Fanaticism Ruining 1971 Spirit


Yesterday was the 65th birth anniversary of Rudra Muhammad Shahidullah, the poet of love and rebellion. He wrote in one of his poems, “Jatir Pataka Khamche Dhorechhe Shei Purono Shokun” (The old vulture has grabbed the nation’s flag). This line came back to my mind while thinking about the recent attacks on Durga Puja venues in some districts.
Bangladesh became independent through the Liberation War of 1971 in which patriotic people of all religions participated irrespectively. Three million martyrs laid down their lives to liberate Bangladesh under the unwavering leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Bangabandhu believed in equal rights for all people of the country. He viewed everyone from an identical angle of vision. Therefore, we are under moral obligations to comply with the values Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman taught us. We should live in peace with all our fellow citizens showing respect to each and everyone’s religious practices and faith.

We all are one. We all are Bengalis. “Banglar Hindu, Banglar Christian, Banglar Buddhists, Banglar Mussalmans, amra sobai Bangali” (The Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims of Bengal are all one. We all are Bengalis)-it was the base line of unity during the Liberation War of 1971 which consolidated harmony and amity throughout Bangladesh at that crucial time. We should uphold the spirit of 1971 and bear a non-communal mindset all the way ahead. 

During the Liberation War over ten million Bangladeshi refugees took shelter in Hindu majority India.  India broadly cooperated with Bangladesh during 1971.Bangabandhu, in 1972, said in a large mass gathering at the Calcutta Brigade Ground expressing gratefulness to India, “I have nothing to give you except my unalloyed love.”
Our literature is enriched with different writers and poets most of whom are from West Bengal. We love both Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Both hail from West Bengal. Both these poets promoted unity and brotherhood in their poems. Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote in one poem, “I sing the song of equity. Nothing is greater and more sublime than humans.” Rabindranath Tagore wrote our national anthem but the extremist Islamic organizations do not pay due respect to our national anthem and national flag allegedly.
The communal violence that broke out in some districts in this year’s Durga Puja has debased our communal harmony. The desecration of Holy Quran in one puja venue was a conspiracy by radical groups to trigger communal turbulence. It was very much shocking that the idols of goddess Durga were vandalized in some places.
Tough actions should be taken against the culprits who are responsible for these misdeeds. We should not forget that Bengali culture is rooted with unity. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has meanwhile announced that exemplary punishment will be enforced on those who committed the communal crimes during the Durga Puja festival. 

Fanatical groups smashed goddess Durga’s idols in Cumilla, Chittagong, Khulna, Noakhali and some other districts. Chittagong is a hotspot of religious bigotry. Hefazat-E-Islam is headquartered in Chittagong. An ashram in the memory of Mahatma Gandhi is situated in Noakhali but it is very unfortunate that communal violence shook Noakhali too.
A Hindu priest was observing Durga Puja in front of a vandalized puja venue which deeply hurt me.Islam being the state religion of Bangladesh has caused most of the perils according to prominent citizens. Big countries like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, United States of America, United Kingdom-none of these countries have any state religion.
Socio-economic justice and equity were the main watchwords with which the glorious Liberation War was fought. Keeping this in view we should keep away from generating discrimination in our country on religious or any other basis. We do not want any isolation to take place between the believers of different religions in our country. It opposes the ideals with which the Liberation War was fought and it contradicts with the ideology of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Communal parties and fanatical groups often look for opportunities to destabilize Bangladesh taking advantage of religious misinterpretations. Religious minorities in our country have come under attacks by extremists and bigots several times. Fundamentalist organizations like Jamaat-E-Islami, Islami Chhatra Shibir, Hefazat-E-Islam and some other radical Islamic outfits hold a very antagonistic attitude towards the minorities around us. In the past people belonging to religious minorities were subjected to violence and tribulations by miscreants during electoral periods.

We remember with horror the grim assaults that religious minorities had to face following the election of 2001. Buddhist minorities were assailed and their temples and homes were vandalized by religious extremists a few years ago in Chittagong division including Cox’s Bazar. The severe clash between Hefazat activists and the law and order forces in Dhaka during May 2013 still haunts us.
The government should consider religious minorities as part of the nation’s mainstream in terms of education, healthcare, jobs and all other aspects. All the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, ethnic clans and indigenous tribes of Bangladesh are equal. Everybody deserves to be treated on equal terms. There is no space for disparities or inequity.
Lack of equal rights obstructs development and hinders the prevalence of democracy. Immortal leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King combated all their life for equal privileges for people of all religions and races.

Socio-economic discrepancies between men and women, rich and poor, believers and nonbelievers weaken a nation and blur its prospects. A nation moves forward at a faster pace when everyone is united firmly. We should take a look at the prosperous nations around the globe and take lessons from their unity, fraternity, good governance and socio-political fairness.
Communalism remains a threat to the subcontinent through ages. The troublemakers responsible for communal predicaments are still active. For this reason communal divides still prevail. Communal groups are active on social media too. Some facebook pages are run by communal political fronts to provoke antagonism against religious minorities and progressive people.
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.
The present government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina firmly believes in the principles of humanity and upholds the spirit of the Liberation War. Therefore, we can hope the government will be successful in wiping out communal entities from Bangladesh and will eliminate all other forms of vices and violence to fortify peace and stability.
Bangladesh should stand out in the world with a non-communal posture. There should be no hatred or discrimination towards religious minorities. The authorities concerned should make the best of their efforts to drive Bangladesh forward sustaining fraternity within the people of all religious beliefs.

While concluding a few lines from Rabindranath Tagore may be quoted “God resides in everyone’s mind. It is reflected through our knowledge and activities. We cannot feel the presence of God if degeneration happens in our souls. All predicaments of human life occur because of not figuring out God in proper light.”

The writer is Chairman, Editorial Board of The Asian Age.

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