Jubo League, Chhatra League now target the minorities
Awami League leaders and activists claim themselves to be true soldiers of Bangabandhu. But this is not reflected in their words or their deeds. A few days ago, the Munshiganj pourashava mayor Faisal Biplob, who is a local Awami League leader, made some offensive remarks reeking with communal hatred, concerning the member of parliament Mrinal Kanti Biswas. A municipal mayor of party following secular ideals, made such offensive communal comments against an MP of his own party out of personal and vested interests, yet the central leaders remain silent. Had anyone of BNP or Jamaat made such comments, the Awami League leaders and workers would have stirred up a storm.
The member of parliament from Cumilla, AKM Bahauddin alias Bahar, went a step further and made derogatory remarks concerning Durga Puja. He can talk about his own religion’s rituals and beliefs, but who gave him the right to poke his nose into how the followers of another religion will perform Durga Puja. You can’t insult any religion just because you are a member of parliament.
Durga Puja is a religious festival of the Hindu faith. It is for them to decide how they will observe the occasion. An Awami League member of parliament cannot dictate them to do this or not to do that.
There are even speculations among political circles about the mayhem that broke out over Durga Puja on 2021 in his constituency. Even though he had gone to Saudi Arabia at the time to perform Umrah, his party’s leaders and activists were all in the country. I spoke to several leaders of the minority community in Cumilla after the incident. Seething in anger, they said those who consider them to be their vote bank during the election, did nothing to prevent the attacks. They asked, where no temple committee is even formed without the MP’s instructions, how would such incidents take place?
And this time there has been sharp reaction within the Hindu community all over the country concerning the words of Bahauddin Bahar MP. The central Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad (Hindi Buddhist Christian Unity Council) has protested. There have been demonstrations in different parts of the country. On Friday the Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad took out a procession at Nazrul Avenue in Cumilla city at around 11:30 am, but where chased down by Jubo League and Chhatra League. Chhatra League and Jubo League staged counter programmes at the time.
All these days we had seen Chhatra League and Jubo League taking up programmes to counter programmes of BNP. Now we seem them obstructing the programmes of the minority community as well.
The banners carried in the Chhatra League and Jubo League procession stated ‘Let puja be observed in a chaste manner’. So now are Chhatra League and Jubo League to determine the rites and rituals of the Hindu community? In 2021 when there were attacks on the homes and temples of the Hindu community in Cumilla, Awami League, Chhatra League and Jubo League men were nowhere to be seen. Now who are they guarding?
The Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad has organised the rallies and processions on Friday to protest the attacks and damages to temples before puja. They were chased by Chhatra League and Jubo League. Does that mean they support the attacks and damaging of temples?
General secretary of the Cumilla unit of Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, Taposh Bakshi, said, “The police first obstructed our peaceful programme. Then city Jubo League and Chhatra League men chased our procession. At least three persons, including a woman, were injured. We were demonstrating, as part of the central programme, because of taunting remarks made by AKM Bahauddin MP about drinking liquor during puja, and then this incident occurred.”
Eye witnesses said that at 10 am Friday morning a protest rally was held at the Rajsthali temple area of Nazrul Avenue in the city, at the initiative if the Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad. At the end of the rally, a procession was taken out at around 11:30 am, marching towards Kandipar Pubali Chattar. Over 500 Jubo League and Chhatra League men swooped down and chased the processionists, dispersing the procession. The police later brought the situation under control. The processionists then took position at Ranir Bazar and the city Jubo League and Chhatra League leaders and activists took position at Kandipar Pubali Chattar.
The party’s constitution or election manifesto may talk about protecting the minorities, but that does not prove that the party leaders and workers are minority-friendly
A meeting regarding the observation of puja was held recently at the Cumilla deputy commission’s conference room. Member of parliament AKM Bahauddin caused controversy by making a remark at the meeting about having an “alcohol-free puja”. In response, a statement was issued in protest on 8 October by the Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, signed by its office secretary Mihir Ranjan Howladar, criticizing the “communal remark” made by AKM Bahauddin MP. Leaders and activists of Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad Shahbagh in the capital in protest of the attack on the Cumilla procession and for the arrested of those involved. They held their programme in Friday in front of the Shahbagh police station.
A pre-scheduled central programme of Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad was being held in front of the Raju sculpture at Dhaka University. During the programmes, leaders of the council got news of the attack in Cumilla. They said that it was the followers of the Cumilla MP AKM Bahauddin Bahar who had carried out the attack. Later at around 12:15 pm the council leaders and activists marched in a procession to Shahbagh.
General secretary of Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, Rana Dasgupta, said that a few days ago the municipal mayor of Munshiganj, Faisal Biplob, had spewed out communal abuse concerning Awami League member of parliament Mrinal Kanti Das. On 4 October AKM Bahauddin Bahar has hurt the sentiment of thousands of members of the Hindu community. When the Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad protested, he announced that they would be resisted. Rana Dasgupta said that they sit-in would continue until at least one person was arrested in the Cumilla incident. The readers can well understand who has been indicated as this ‘one person’.
After independent the Awami League government has said that when any Naxalite was spotted, they must be shot on sight. Veteran leader Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani responded by saying that no one goes around with a Naxalite label around his neck. To borrow from his words, no one goes around with a communal sign around their necks. One can tell from their behaviour, who is minority-friendly and who is against the minority. The party’s constitution or election manifesto may talk about protecting the minorities, but that does not prove that the party leaders and workers are minority-friendly.
* This column appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir
* Sohrab Hassan is joint editor at Prothom Alo and a poet. He can be contacted at [email protected]