Separate ministry for minority affairs in Bangladesh if elected: BNP leader in Kolkata

A former MP of the ruling Awami League said that the party is working towards the long term goal of reintroducing the word secular in the Bangladesh Constitution that was deleted in 1977.

Updated: Sep 17, 2018 18:24:34

By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

A section of the panelists in Kolkata on Sunday. (HT Photo)

If they win the elections in Bangladesh later this year, they would set up a separate ministry for minority affairs, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders promised in a seminar in Kolkata on Sunday.

BNP central committee member Kazi Mazharul Islam Dolon said they would also announce quota for minorities in the parliament and constitute an independent commission to inquire into the atrocities on minorities since 1971.

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The country is supposed to go to the polls in December.

“The minority affairs ministry that we will introduce will be headed by members from the minority communities. The independent commission for inquiry into the atrocities on minorities since the birth of the country will also be headed by members from minority communities,” said Dolon.

Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Forum, a platform for minority organisations in the country, has demanded a separate ministry for minority affairs.

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In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Hindus are the largest minority group, while there also are Buddhist and Christians in smaller numbers. All these groups have alleged ethnic persecution, which led to reduction of minority population from about 20% in 1971 to about 9% in 2011.

Over the past six years, however, minority population increased to about 11% (as on 2017).

Leaders of different political parties, social organisation and well as intellectuals from Bangladesh were in Kolkata to participate in a discussion session, titled “Indo-Bangladesh Dialogues: The Protection of Minorities and Democracy”, organised by Indo-Bangladesh Cultural Centre, a Kolkata-based organisation.

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The plight of minorities in Bangladesh has also become an issue in India, with ruling Bharatiya Janata Party saying that they will ensure persecuted minorities from Bangladesh find a safe home in India.

Former Bangladesh MP Joynal Abedin of ruling party Awami League, on the other hand, said the party is in the process of reintroducing the word ‘secular’ in the Constitution. In 1977 the word ‘secularism’ was removed from the Bangladesh Constitution during the Presidency of Ziaur Rehman, the late husband of BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia.

“We are in the process of reintroducing the word ‘secular’ in the Constitution. This may take some time but we will do it. We have always believed in secularism,” Abedin remarked.

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League’s Abedin and the party’s organising secretary cum MP Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said that Awami League has always been the protector of minorities and will remain committed.

“There have been atrocities and our government has not taken it lightly. We are ensuring justice is dispensed in every instance. Sometimes the process is taking time but that it because we do not want mistakes by trying to expedite,” Abedin said.

“It’s a myth that minorities in Bangladesh are safer under the League’s rule,” said Dolon, adding that atrocities on minorities have increased in the country over the past couple of years.

Bangladesh’s Hindu leader Gobinda Pramanik, however, alleged that both the League and the BNP gave ditched Hindus.

First Published: Sep 17, 2018 18:24:34


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