Early steps towards a theocracy: Changes in the Constitution of Bangladesh
Preamble – Pledging that the high ideals of nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism, which inspired our heroic people to dedicate themselves to, and our brave martyrs to sacrifice their lives in, the national liberation struggle, shall be the fundamental principles of the Constitution-
Article 8. Part II (1) The principles of nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism, together with the principles derived from those as set out in this Part, shall constitute the fundamental principles of state policy.
Article 12 of Part -II. The principle of secularism shall be realised by the elimination of –
Communalism in all forms; the granting by the state of political status in favour of any religion; the abuse of religion for political purposes; any discrimination against, or persecution of, persons practicing a particular religion.
[ বিস্মিল্লাহির-রহ্মানির রহিম
(দয়াময়, পরম দয়ালু, আল্লাহের নামে) পরম করুণাময় সৃষ্টিকর্তার নামে।]
আমরা অঙ্গীকার করিতেছি যে, যে সকল মহান আদর্শ আমাদের
বীর জনগণকে জাতীয় মুক্তি সংগ্রামে আত্মনিয়োগ ও বীর শহীদদিগকে প্রাণোৎসর্গ করিতে উদ্বুদ্ধ করিয়াছিল -জাতীয়তাবাদ,
সমাজতন্ত্র, গণতন্ত্র ও ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতার সেই সকল আদর্শ এই সংবিধানের মূলনীতি হইবে;
রাষ্ট্রধর্ম: ২ক৷ প্রজাতন্ত্রের রাষ্ট্রধর্ম ইসলাম, তবে অন্যান্য ধর্মও প্রজাতন্ত্রে শান্তিতে পালন করা যাইবে৷
৮৷ (১) সর্বশক্তিমান আল্লাহের উপর পূর্ণ আস্থা ও বিশ্বাস, জাতীয়তাবাদ, গণতন্ত্র এবং সমাজতন্ত্র অর্থাৎ অর্থনৈতিক ও সামাজিক সুবিচার-এই নীতিসমূহ এবং তৎসহ এই নীতিসমূহ হইতে উদ্ভূত এই ভাগে বর্ণিত অন্য সকল নীতি রাষ্ট্র পরিচালনার মূলনীতি বলিয়া পরিগণিত হইবে৷
(১ক) সর্বশক্তিমান আল্লাহের উপর পূর্ণ আস্থা ও বিশ্বাসই হইবে যাবতীয় কার্যাবলীর ভিত্তি৷
১২। ধর্ম নিরপেক্ষতা নীতি বাস্তবায়নের জন্য
(ক) সর্ব প্রকার সাম্প্রদায়িকতা,
(খ) রাষ্ট্র কর্তৃক কোন ধর্মকে রাজনৈতিক মর্যাদা দান,
(গ) রাজনৈতিক উদ্দেশ্যে ধর্মীয় অপব্যবহার,
(ঘ) কোন বিশেষ ধর্ম পালনকারী ব্যক্তির প্রতি বৈষম্য বা তাহার উপর নিপীড়ন, বিলোপ করা হইবে।
One of the saddest tragedy of our time is how quickly Bangladesh fell victim to the medievalism that most of the civilized world left behind a long time ago, and how this has crept into politics and policy in the country. Th slow descent into obscurantism that started with the assassination of the Father of the Nation, debasement of his spirit, and of rendering futile the sacrifice of millions who have died believing in him and in themselves, of those who were raped, made destitute and unwanted in their ancestral homeland, can be observed in the desecration of the constitution which is the result of the betrayals by every regime that has ruled the country since his death. This has become the basis of intolerance and violence for which the regime in power blames the victims; intimidates the press curbing freedom of speech; intolerance of political opposition, and, justifying enforcing measures for autocratic rule. Conversion of a secular constitution into a narrow-minded backward faced parochial one has given the fundamentalists license to spread fascistic religious ideology of hatred, and use of religious sentiments for gaining political power. The regimes in power since 1975, have in effect allowed those who opposed the creation of Bangladesh, acted as agents of the Pakistani military to identify and eliminate patriotic Bangladeshis the hutzpah to enter into the political life of the society to setup institutions called madrassas where millions of children are indoctrinated into becoming foot soldiers of fanatic ideology of religious intolerance, in opposition to democracy. Above all, in a semiotic sense, these regressive steps encapsulate the battle over the soul of this country and its people in which rationality, humanity, hope – stand humiliated. The changes have squarely placed Bangladesh on the wrong side of history.
Those who changed the constitution and those who are trying to ensure its permanence have in effect accepted every excuse the Pakistani rulers used to deny democracy, freedom of speech, of faith & no faith. The perversion that now passes as the constitution has been introduced to legitimize religious fundamentalism and associated violence against the miniscule secular forces; for virtual elimination of the already diminished minority communities, virulent intolerance of opinion not approved by the ruling-religious clique, and every damn excuse for denying democracy and science. And it has given current leaders of Sheikh Mujib’s political party the ‘legitimacy’ to enter into ‘mutually beneficial’ arrangements with the vilest of religious fanatics in desperate attempt to hold on to power.
Today’s Awami League seems to have forgotten that Sheikh Mujib spent the last ~30 years of his life trying to detoxify national politics from the poison of communal & religious bigotry and of ignorance that accompanied creation of oxymoron called Pakistan. He sacrificed his entire life preparing this country and its people to fearlessly embrace the modern world by embracing secular democracy. He was fully aware of the tragic consequences of inter-religious animus, opportunistic politicians using communalism to gain power and steal meager possessions of the rapidly diminishing minorities. He himself changed as he experienced the destructive nature of religious politics. He had his shortcomings, but he learned what a leader is supposed to do: lead the people and not follow them in their backwardness, their prejudices and ignorance. The purpose of the constitution he had crafted was to change the people and the country and the society, and not make excuses. He did not buy the rationalization for allowing intrusion of religion in political life of the country because ‘people are religious’.
The intellectual limitations and morbidity of present generation of politicians unable to see beyond their noses and recognize the consequences of tolerating, even encouraging dangerously regressive religious politics and not taking on the task of challenging and mobilizing the population against these forces, may very well come to haunt us.
It is remarkable that a small minority political group which has shown insignificant electoral presence in the country, is able to induce some much fear in the leadership of the current regime that it can force the administration to impose its policy that is simply evil. Or is it that the political leaders fear displeasing their sponsors in the Middle East? What a humiliating state of affairs the political establishment has created for itself, and more importantly for the country!
The barbarism of the agents of ISIS in Bangladesh, their ability to intimidate the government into removing sculptures today has already emboldened them to demand in essence that all the idols must be destroyed as well, that is to say the Hindu citizens must convert or leave the country! Can the likelihood of a Taliban state in the deltaic Bengal, however horrifying a nightmare, be ignored, given the designs of ISIS for Bangladesh and appeasement of the political establishment in the country?