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The indefensible is being defended vigorously, without much of conviction. The manner in which some ministers have sprung to the defence of the move to remove the Lady Justice sculpture from in front of the Supreme Court is not convincing, for all the right reasons. The deed has been done and the ministers, as also other diehard supporters of the move, would have done well to maintain silence on the issue. Silence is often the better part of discretion, particularly where emotions have been ruffled by institutional moves that militate against the national spirit in relation to national history.

Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader has noted that no statues built in the spirit of the War of Liberation will be dismantled. Indeed, he reassures the country, more such symbols of the Bengali struggle for freedom will be built across the land. That is music to the ears. But he has not explained what the government plans to do about the fanatics who now have demanded that all statues be removed from every spot in this country. The Hefazat and its adherents have already had their way, in the school textbooks and in the matter of the Lady Justice statue. What guarantees, therefore, are there that Moulana Shafi will not have more achievements falling into his lap, in the manner of cherries ripened in the mellow breeze of spring, now that he has won two major victories, now that he has compelled a supposedly secular Awami League to eat humble pie?

And then comes the pronouncement of the law minister. Anisul Huq has enlightened the nation with his view that the statue that has just been removed from sight was not a true representation of Themis. Are we then to suppose that if sculptor Mrinal Haq had not chosen to have Lady Justice clad in a saree, had indeed placed Themis in her actuality at the premises of the Supreme Court, none of this controversy, nothing of this debate would have happened? The minister knows as much as the rest of us that the removal of the symbol of justice was in consequence of the demands of hardline Islamists, a position the prime minister did not challenge but went along with. If the problem was a misrepresentation of the image of Themis, as Minister Anisul Huq would have us know, should we then reach the rational conclusion that if Themis, in all her originality had been there, the bigots would have said nothing, that all this uproar in the country would not be there?

The law minister does not think that the removal of the statue has dented Bangladesh’s image. He is perfectly entitled to his point of view, as a significant cog in the wheel of government. But we do not have to agree with him. Bangladesh’s image as a secular State has indeed been damaged, badly, by this appeasement of the religious extremists. The impression of the country, both among its people and among people abroad, is patent. It is this — that the forces of regression are having a field day in Bangladesh, that a government desirous of gaining the electoral support of the religious Right, has been going out on a limb to acquiesce to its demands.

Minister Anisul Huq has told us the symbol of justice, as Mrinal Haq caused it to be shaped, was a distortion. The objective, obviously of the government, is to move away from distortion. Ironically, however, the removal of the Lady Justice sculpture from its place and relocating it before the annexe of the Supreme Court, away from sight, has only added to the litany of historical distortions this nation has been subjected to since the violent coup d’etat that brought down Bangabandhu’s government forty two years ago.

So distortion is in the air, all around us. The young students who protest the removal of the symbol of justice are water-cannoned into submission and hauled away to prison. But nothing happens to the zealots who have asked for Chief Justice S.K. Sinha to be removed, who have threatened to have all other statues in the country pulled down.

This is not the country that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, M. Mansoor Ali and AHM Quamruzzaman built, brick by patient brick, through the tumultuous 1960s to the decisive early 1970s.

Syed Badrul Ahsanis a bdnews24.com columnist.

5 Responses to “Defending the indefensible”

  1. Dr A Rahman

    I am in full agreement with the sentiment expressed by Mr Syed Badrul Ahsan . The removal of the statue is an indication of subservience of Bengali national spirit to the defunct Islamic spirit, which Pakistan wanted to impose on us and failed. Now the disguised agents of Pakistan are trying to do the same. We need to wakeup to thwart such clandestine objectives of the mullahs and Pakistani agents to maintain our national identity as a secular state.
    Another point I would like to mention which Mr Badrul Ahsan also mentioned. There must be limits to what we can chase to get electoral support. One cannot and must not abrogate items such as national identity and spirit, and the constitutional principle such as secularism. Imbeciles may come and say that secularism means anti-religion, which is blatantly wrong and non-sensical. Secularism means a separation of State and Religion (all religions) and we must adopt it wholeheartedly.

  2. Akhteruzzaman Chowdhury

    The statue is a symbol of secularism, non-communalism or whatever; the main issue is that all the political parties are moving towards ‘Islamic votes’. There is a risk of moving towards an Islamic Republic or even a Sharia State. This may be good for majority Muslims, but there is a risk of instability as seen in many Muslim countries. Keeping politics and religion separated may be a safer alternative.

  3. golam arshad

    Dear Syed Badrul Ahsan: The ongoing debate on Secular and religious Bangladesh, has its own limitation. In a Muslim majority country like Bangladesh, it is sideline catalyst, nothing but progressive outlook. You and I as a Muslim, vowing in Kalima… “La ILa ha Illal lah…there is None But Allah SWT”… Outrightly negates to be “secular”. The dictionary meaning of being “Secular” is NOT to believe in Religion. Therefore, if one is a Muslim and a Believer in ONE AND ONLY ONE ALLAH, he or she cannot be a “Secular”. If he or she violates the Five Cardinal Principle of being a Muslim, he or she cannot be Secular. Then one is free to renounce of being a Muslim, and change his or her entity or identity to anything he or she deems fit.
    I must give my full support to the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to retain ISLAM as the State Religion. Because she is a practicing Muslim. She is NON-COMMUNAL and by that token she deserves our full support. Bangladesh is NOT a Secular Country, it is NON-COMMUNAL Muslim Majority Country. That is the core point and open for discussion. Being NON-COMMUNAL, it does NOT tarnish the Glorious spirit of our Liberation War. Henceforth, the Awami League historically a NON-COMMUNAL Party. And never would be a SECULAR Party. In recent days it has been crystal clear that Sheikh Hasina, will make Awami League, a Non-Communal Party, highlighting the glittering spirit of our Liberation War, and a progressive Party, contouring on moderation in Islam.
    Islam is a Religion of Moderation, negating extremism period. Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jains are welcome. Her recent steps in moderation will majority Muslims to support her Non-Communal stance. In a way, she has negated Secularism. Modernism can only bloom in the canvas of moderation. The Statue of Themis has only been relocated, a recognition to religious sentiment, and more so a manifestation of moderation in its relocation. We do applaud the Hon. Prime Minister, for her statesmanship and political maturity i.e. acumen.

  4. Aminul Islam

    Majority of our compatriots are behind your ideas and conclusions wholeheartedly. This is not what we fought for at the cost of so many lives and modesty of lakhs of our mothers, sisters and daughters. The party that has been voted to power, time and again by this nation, appears to have been sold out to the people who opposed the liberation war and the party in power now! May God help us!


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