Why the delay in legislation, formation of commission for minorities

People naturally want to see a reflection of the commitments made by any political party before winning the election. The commitments made by the ruling Awami League to the minority communities in 2018 can be analysed from this point of view.

The leaders of minority communities have recently expressed concerns seeing no implementation of the commitments that the Awami League made to them before the last general elections.

Awami League’s election manifesto for the 11th general polls titled “Road to Prosperity” had a section with the title – “Ethnic groups, religious minorities and backward communities”. This section included various commitments for the minority communities, including reinstating the property rights of the rightful owners through the amendment of the Vested Property Act, formation of an independent commission for the minority community and legislation of a special law to protect people of the minority community.

Besides, the manifesto also promised the complete implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tract Peace Accord and continuation of the Land Commission's activities for the ethnic people living in the plains.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad (unity council) general secretary Rana Dasgupta said, “The government kept assuring us without implementing the commitments they made. The promises are not being implemented due to a mind-set of neglecting the minorities and not counting them as citizens.”

Recently, they have staged a hunger strike and mass sit-in at the Central Shaheed Minar premises for two days. It is unfortunate that the minority communities had to wage a movement even during the last days of the incumbent government to fulfill the promises made by the ruling party.

The question naturally arises as to what the government has done to protect the rights of the minority community. More than four-fifths of the MPs of the current parliament are members of the ruling party. Therefore it was not impossible for the government to pass a law had they wanted it. The question is whether they want to fulfil their promises or not?

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Awami League’s election steering committee’s chief coordinator Kabir Bin Anwar said, "Work is underway to fulfill every promise made by the Awami League. For example, the process of enacting laws is in progress; some are in the parliament, some are with the law ministry, some have been presented in the form of bills, and some are awaiting action in the religion ministry. It cannot be said that we did nothing.” 

The minority communities won’t be assured by the word – “works are underway to fulfil the commitments” – especially at the last days of the current government. It shouldn't take five years to pass a law or form a commission. For instance, several new laws, including the Cyber Security Act, were passed in the shortest possible time.

The same goes for the ethnic minorities. The Chittagong Hill Tract Peace Accord was signed 25 years ago. But the problem related to land disputes is yet to be settled. The Land Commission cannot even hold a meeting due to the objections from the quarter against the peace accord. There is no alternative to settle the land dispute to establish peace in the hill tracts.

Another reason behind the concerns raised by the minority community is no trial over the communal violence occurred during the term of the current government. Rather, several youths of the minority communities were subjected to torture and imprisonment in cases filed on allegation of 'hurting religious sentiment'. There has been no trial over the incident of vandalising temples in Cumilla and other places during the Durga Puja in 2021.

So it's natural the minority communities will feel insecure. Another session of the current parliament is scheduled to be held before the election. We expect the government to at least form a commission for the minority community to reflect their sincerity. At the same time, the government should be on high alert to ensure that any vested quarter cannot deteriorate law and order situation during the coming Durga Puja celebrations.