Mentioning that Bangladesh Awami League (AL) never believes in religious differences, prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday urged members of the Hindu community not to undermine themselves by saying minority.
“The BNP government had made (ill) efforts to create religious differences among the people. But Awami League never believes in such differences … the party thinks that the country belongs to all,” she said.
The prime minister made the remarks while exchanging views with leaders of the Hindu community at her official Ganabhaban residence in the capital in the afternoon on the occasion of Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Sri Krishna.
“I don’t know why you call yourselves minority time and again … are you not the citizens of the country? Are you not the people of the country? Is it not your birthplace? So why will you belittle yourselves by mentioning minority?” she told the Hindu community leaders.
Sheikh Hasina went on saying: “This land is yours, this country is yours and it’s your birthplace. Why you don’t have such a belief? … I feel very bad when I hear it.”
Food minister Sadhan Chandra Mazumdar and state minister for religious affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah also spoke at the function, while principal of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Dhaka Swami Purnatmananda Maharaj was present on the dais.
President of Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad Milan Kanti Dutta, president of Janmashtami Udjapon Parishad Gourango Dey, general secretary of Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad Nirmal Kumar Chatterjee, general secretary of Janmashtami Udjapon Parishad Bimal Kanti Dey, former general secretary of Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Parishad advocate Chandan Talukdar, president of Mohanagar Sarbojonin Puja Committee Shailandranth Mazumdar, vice-chairman of Hindu Religion Welfare Trust Subrata Paul, ex-general secretary of Janmashtami Udjapon Parishad Debashish Palit also spoke.
Pointing out the prevailing communal harmony in the country, the premier said the people of all faiths have equal rights in Bangladesh.
“Everybody will get equal rights in each field -- we’ve ensured it. Religion is for individuals, but festivals and state are for all -- we’ve proved it,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the people irrespective of religion, caste and creed are celebrating every festival in the country together. “We’ve been able to ensure this,” she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh had lost all potentials after the assassination of father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“The only aim of those who carried out the massacre in 1975 was to foil the spirit of the liberation war and turn Bangladesh into a failed state,” she said.
“The goal of the killers and anti-liberation forces, who grabbed power at that time, was to ensure that Bangladesh cannot develop after being separated from Pakistan,” Sheikh Hasina added.
The prime minister said she had a pledge that anyhow the country will be taken to the path of development and dream of Bangabandhu will have to be materialised.
Hasina further said she had to move by facing many adverse situations after assuming office in 1996. “After that, I will say that we have been able to change the lot of the people … we have been able to rekindle the light of hope among the people of Bangladesh and infuse self-confidence into them.”
The prime minister said the people irrespective of religion, caste and creed fought for independence together under the leadership of Bangabandhu.
“They took part in the war to enable all to enjoy equal rights and it had been incorporated in the constitution that the father of the nation presented to us after independence,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said secularism does not mean ‘no religion’. Its meaning was that the people will follow their respective religions freely.
The prime minister also reminded all about the catastrophe that had to be endured by the people of different religions including Hindus, Christians and Buddhists due to atrocities perpetrated on them after the 2001 general elections.
Elaborating various steps of her government for the welfare of the members of the Hindu community, Sheikh Hasina said the government has already introduced temple-based child and mass education programme in every upazila under the Hindu Religion Welfare Trust.
“The ‘purohit’ and ‘sebayet’ are being imparted training for increasing their efficiency,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said that the government constituted the Hindu Religion Welfare Trust for the welfare of the Hindu community where about Tk 1 billion have been deposited.
In this connection, the prime minister requested the well-off section of the Hindu community to donate to the trust. “Through it you can raise the fund and help the poor and distressed … it is a responsibility of all to increase the amount of money of the trust,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Lord Krishna used to believe in the principle of punishing the evils and nurturing the good as well as human religion and welfare. “He appeared for the human welfare,” she said.