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Bangladesh’s Education Minister orders Reinstatement of Hindu Schoolmaster

“The managing committee’s suspension order is not valid because it was not taken according to the rules. The meeting that suspended him had no agenda. The committee removed him through an unfair way; so the decision was illegal”

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MP Selim Osman addresses a news conference in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, May 19, 2016
MP Selim Osman addresses a news conference in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, May 19, 2016

The Hindu Schoolmaster who was attacked by a Muslim crowd and was suspended by school’s governing body over the allegations of defaming Islam should be reinstalled back to his post, commanded Nurul Islam Nahid, Bangladesh’s Education Minister, on Thursday.

Education Minister announced that an investigation by his ministry found that Shymal Kanti Bhakta, the headmaster at Piyar Sattar Latif High School in central Narayanganj district, had not insulted Bangladesh’s state religion.

Nahid also announced that he dissolved the school’s managing committee, which had suspended Bhakta on Tuesday over allegations of insulting Islam, being corrupt and not showing up to work.

“We have not found anything that may hurt religious sentiment,” Nahid told reporters on Thursday at the International Mother Language Institute in Dhaka.

He called a press conference to publicize the findings of his ministry’s investigation.

“The managing committee’s suspension order is not valid because it was not taken according to the rules. The meeting that suspended him had no agenda. The committee removed him through an unfair way; so the decision was illegal,” Nahid said.

Related Article: Born as a secular state: Why Bangladesh is degenerating into an Islamic country

The case involving the educator from Bangladesh’s small Hindu minority had dominated local headlines in recent days and it centered on an MP from the district, Selim Osman, subjecting the schoolmaster to a public act of humiliation. Osman allegedly forced Bhakta to squat and hold his ears after a crowd had attacked him for allegedly defaming Islam.

The scene was filmed on a witness’s mobile phone and the video of the incident went viral after it was uploaded to social media sites.

Supreme Court of Bangladesh
Supreme Court of Bangladesh in Dhaka, Wikimedia Commons

Nahid’s announcement came a day after Bangladesh’s High Court, amid growing outrage over the incident and solidarity with the Hindu educator, ordered the relevant authorities to explain why they had taken no action against the lawmaker and others who took part in the controversial incident on May 13. Thousands of people of all faiths joined a countrywide protest against the teacher’s humiliation and demanded punishment of the MP and the school committee members.

Unapologetic

On Thursday, however, the MP Osman defended his actions and refused to apologize to Bhakta for what had happened to him on Friday.

“I am a Muslim. I will not tolerate it if anyone insults Islam. I have punished a person who insulted Islam, not a teacher,” Osman told a news conference in Narayanganj, according to local media reports, adding that he would not offer a public apology as demanded by professional groups and social media activists.

He said a mob had telephoned him “to settle the matter” after beating Bhakta and confining the educator to a room .

“There were thousands of people waiting outside. They told me to leave him to the mob. But I rescued him,” Osman said.

“As I asked whether he insulted Islam, he said he could have done so. He then willingly came out and squatted, holding his ears,” the MP added.

Bhakta, for his part, maintained that he had not criticized Islam. He accused Osman of slapping him four times and forcing him to hold his ears – which is considered an act humiliation in Bangladesh.

“I have not insulted the religion. If he [Osman] said this, he could have done so to save himself,” Bhakta told reporters on Thursday, local media reported. (Benarnews)

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  Cloak And Dagger: Indo-Bangla Ties

Irrespective of who wins at the ballot, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority is persecuted by the losing side, as if it was their fault.

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed

 By:  Tania Bhattacharya           

 

Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

Twenty-first of February is an important annual date for the peoples of both, Bangladesh, and West Bengal. On that day in nineteen fifty two, students of East Pakistan’s institutions of knowledge like Dhaka Medical College, had been mercilessly struck down, after they were fired upon by the soldiers of West Pakistan. Their crime? Bangla, the indigenous mother-tongue of all Bengalis, irrespective of religion and location, had been the prime focus of East Pakistan’s ‘Language Movement’. The seat of power, despite the East’s relatively larger demographic, had been, for all means and purposes, firmly lodged in the West, separated from the Eastern wing, by thousands of miles of territory belonging to the state of independent India. West Pakistan wielded absolute power over Pakistan’s army, its internal security, administration and the judicial system. Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Saraiki, and Sindhi, were the most recognized and respected lingua franca. Bengali was deemed by the West, to be a ‘Pagan’ language, the tongue of millions of ‘kaffirs’ that worshipped a plenitude of deities.

 

 

indo-bangla
Ansal-al-Islam supporters demand the death of Atheist bloggers.

The Bengalis, a people deeply protective of their cultural heritage, cutting across religious lines, took offense, and thus commenced the movement for the restoration of Bangla, as the legitimate representative of the East Bengalis. What followed, is well known, to South Asian History, enthusiasts. Exploiting the opportunity that had presented itself, and asphyxiated by more than ten million Bengali refugees who had migrated to eastern India in wake of ‘Operation Searchlight’ imposed by West Pakistan on its eastern wing, India had invaded the latter in the early December of 1971. The shortest war of modern history, had ended a fortnight later, with the emergence of an independent homeland, for all Bengali speaking peoples: Bangladesh.

Assam
An Indian publication reporting the Nellie Massacre of Assam.

Bangladesh turns forty-seven on the twenty sixth of March this year. Over the last nearly five decades, much water has flown under the bridge. Significantly, it has taken along with it, a bulk of the initial bonhomie and camaraderie, that Bangladesh and India shared with one another. From trustworthy allies, the two neighbours, have now entered a phase of grudging respect, but that too is often found in suspended animation, once anti-Indian regimes come to power in the other country. There are a number of reasons why India and Bangladesh have experienced a souring of relations over time, and much to the ordinary Indian’s chagrin, not all of the blame can be laid at our eastern neighbour’s door.

Pakistan
The 1971 surrender of West Pakistan.

BANGLADESHI CONCERNS

 

  1. A) WHAT’S IN A PICTURE? EVERYTHING!

Any patriotic Indian, often ruminates fondly over a well circulated photo that emerged in the December of 1971. It was taken during the capitulation of the West Pakistan army to India. The photo is held up by Indian nationalists, like a trophy and proudly referred to as the ultimate symbol of India’s crushing of Pakistan. This historic photo in question, has a sombre Lt. Gen. J.S. Arora, looking on, as a visibly demoralized Gen. A.A.K. Niazi of Pakistan signs the document of surrender. A sea of khaki and army green dot the backdrop of the image. Smiling soldiers of the Indian Defence Forces, can be seen interspersed between high ranking members of the Pakistan Army. However, remarkably, missing from the image, is the presence of the very people, who had had to sacrifice their life, their limb, and their precious dignity, to make their own independence happen.

Indira Gandhi
Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujib with Indira Gandhi. The two shared a close friendship.

As time has passed, millions of Bangladeshis have taken stock of the historic footage that seemed to signal their freedom day, and yet, they have asked: “Where are our people?” Yes, indeed. It is a photograph that, once the euphoria had died down, was bound to reveal its troubling nature. It may have been the defining moment for our own military men, but for the patriots within our newly born neighbour, this image is one of being slighted; of being overlooked, and insulted. Indians should have realized awhile back, that parading the said photo, was not a wise thing to do. The newly liberated nation, did not and to this day, cannot claim the image as their own, due to the complete absence of any East Bengali presence.

 

  1. B) WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE, BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK!
protests
Bangladeshi atheists and freethinkers protest the murder of their own.

In 1996, Bangladesh and India had signed a treaty over the sharing of river waters. The agreement – known as the Ganges Treaty – had promised to equally divide the volume of river waters shared by the two nations. Waters of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-basin, constitute the globe’s second largest hydraulic region, with a high population density inhabiting its banks. Simply put, the so-called division of water, is neither fair, and nor useful, to Bangladeshis. Through the Farakka Barrage, India, with its advanced systems of harvesting trans-boundary water, virtually controls the upstream flow of currents, which it then utilises without a care for the consequences being experienced by the people that live around the downstream currents of the barrage. As a result, Bangladesh has become a victim of environmental degradation which is a direct consequence of India’s water harvesting policy and techniques. Flora and Fauna, especially a variety of edible fish, important to our eastern neighbour, have either drastically lessened, or come close to extinction, due to callous and selfish, Indian interests over river-water sharing.

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A troublesome photo.

INDIAN CONCERNS

 

  1. A) THREE IS A CROWD!
assam

Illegal immigration into Assam from Bangladesh has created Distrust and concern among the locals.

A fundamental problem that posited itself even before the Liberation War in East Pakistan was over, and should have been a dark indicator of what was to come, was the deluge of refugees that had escaped the porous Indo-Pak border at its eastern end, and come to stay in India, as hopeful citizens. Even though Bangladesh is itself a witness to a refugee apocalypse in the form of the Rohingyas, they do not seem to be able to join the dots between their own problem, and that of India’s, for which their homegrown, poverty-stricken population is responsible. The Indian state which has borne the brunt of our refugee crisis, has been the north-easterly one of Assam. Bordering Bangladesh, this volatile Indian region has had to absorb the vast majority of illegals that continually transgress into our territories, by paying a small bribe to the jawans of the BSF (Border Security Forces), and obtaining false ration and identity cards. Bangladesh has chosen to delude itself by claiming time and again, that the alleged social scenario is an impossibility, accusing India instead, of tainting Indo-Bangla ties with our calumnies against them. In a heart-breaking tragedy that unfolded in the Nellie town of Assam in 1983, thousands of Muslims were slain by the local Assamese, over fear of the former’s illegal alien status.

water
Bangladesh and India’s West Bengal do not see eye to eye over river water issues.

It must be acknowledged, that though a sizeable proportion of the deaths were of Indian Muslims who were unfortunately caught in the crosshairs; the remaining victims were indeed of Bangladeshi descent. The crisis could have been averted, if a national population census board had been specifically set up for the beleaguered Assam state, decades previously. But illegals from Bangladesh have been known to wade deeper into Indian territory, in hopes of a better life, and confirmed sources have located many such uprooted families living in the shanty dwellings of even megalopolises like Mumbai, which lie on the far-off western shores of India. If left unchecked, the Bangladeshi Illegal Aliens crisis, may snowball into a far greater threat than it is today. Given the pull of money, such individuals and indeed, families, may be willing to join insurgency operations that are threatening the fabric of unity that holds this country together.

 

SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY!

India
India’s friendship with Bangladesh goes a long way and begins decisively in 1971 with the end of the East Pakistan Crisis.

India’s pliant and contiguous ‘ally’, on her East, may have begun by solemnly swearing to secularism, but with the passage of time, she has metamorphosed into a caricature of her own founding principles of equality. Her one-time bete noir, Pakistan, is now edging closer to her and she seems to be egging it on. When elections approach, her largest minority, the Hindu one, pass their days in fear, wary of the poll results. Irrespective of who wins at the ballot, Bangladesh’s Hindu minority is persecuted by the losing side, as if it was their fault. During the Bangladesh Liberation War, a certain section of East Pakistan, described as being the Razakars – once active in the erstwhile Indian royal kingdom of Hyderabad under the auspices of its cruel Nizam – had backed the We