Interview: Rana Dasgupta: ‘Politicians have betrayed the minorities’

Prothom Alo

How do you view the attacks on puja mandaps all over following the Cumilla incident?

The attacks on temples, puja mandaps and Hindu homes during Durga Puja are no isolated incident. The level of attacks was the same in 1990 to 2006. After Awami League came to power, there have been intermittent attacks from 2011 on the minorities. There are communal forces behind this as well as malevolent forces lurking within the ruling party.

The Awami League which led the War of Liberation in 1971, today no longer carries the ideals of the Liberation War. I would say the same about the leftist parties. Their non-communal politics is just eyewash.

Don’t you think it was possible for the government to have prevented these untoward incidents if they wanted?

Yes, I do think that if the government wanted, they could have prevented these attacks. They could not do so because there are forces of the Mushtaq ilk within the Awami League government, the presence of the Pakistani spectre within the administration. Therein lies the crux of the problem. There was malicious intent behind the incidents of Durga Puja.

On 4 November 1972, the national assembly passed the constitution. A few days before that, puja mandaps were attacked in Chattogram and Mymensingh. Even the puja mandap in the home of former minister and ambassador Monoranjan Dhar came under attack. The motive at the time was to obstruct the democratic and secular constitution. This time the target is the forthcoming election. The communal forces want to destroy whatever little role the minorities still play. They ultimate goal is to drive Hindus out from the country.

The ruling Awami League and opposition BNP are blaming each other from the attacks on the temples and the business establishments of the minority community. How do you see this?

This is unfortunate. This is being done simply to obfuscate the facts. All those who speak about democratic politics, not just Awami League and BNP, must leave such blame games and establish a national consensus to protect the rights of the minorities and to ensure punishment of the criminals. This must be done for the sake of democracy.

Has the political leadership come forward this time as they did in the past when attacks were launched on the minorities?

We do not see anyone now adopting the stance of Bangabandhu during the 1964 riots in Pakistan times, standing up against the rioters along with all opposition political parties and the civil society. But the political leadership must keep in mind that if the communal forces are not thwarted, the existence of Bangladesh, earned by means of the Liberation War, will be endangered. In the sixties, a cultural movement was built up alongside the political movement. And this movement wasn’t restricted to the big cities like Dhaka and Chattogram. It spread down to the villages. Such a cultural uprising is required now against the communal forces.

The government has absolute control on politics. Even so, why couldn’t the attacks on the minority community be prevented?

This is very unfortunate. Many are viewing this as a problem of the minorities, but no one is realising this is a national crisis. The government was simply relying in the law enforcement, but it requires the masses to get together to thwart the evil forces. Astute persons need to be united. They have overlooked this completely. If the people who resist the attacks outnumber the attackers, the law enforcement would not have been able to remain so silent. Guns are not enough to tackle the dark forces. A consolidation of people’s power is necessary too.

How do you view of the present inaction of the majority community?

The actions or reactions of the majority community have not been that visible. That is why the minority community has had to take to the streets with various programmes. We want to hope that the pious and progressive quarters of the majority community will stand by our side and take up various programmes. We must keep in mind that this is not a minority problem, but a national crisis. Everyone must join hands against the communal forces.

We have taken up various programmes. On 23 October, there will be a mass hunger strike and sit-in from 6:00am to 12:00pm. Our demands are to resist the communal forces and to bring to book all those who had attacked the temples and homes of the minority community. The political leadership must do this.

Have the accused in past attacks in Ramu, Cox’s Bazar and Nasirnagar, Brahmanbaria, been punished?

Unfortunately there has been no justice in any of the incidents. We have asked the government policymakers and Awami League leaders why there has been no justice. We have raised this question several times. The government has said they are trying, but the accused are slipping through the loopholes of the law. That is why we have demanded a minority protection law and a law against discrimination. We have also demanded a national minority commission. Before the 2018 election, the government had said they would meet these demands. Two and a half years have passed since then, but their promise has not been fulfilled.

Thank you

Thank you too

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