Liberation War fighters, constitutional experts and representatives of the minority groups have demanded that the government of Bangladesh should go back to the constitution of 1972 which did not specify any state religion.
Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council organised the discussion at the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday to mark the 50th Constitution Day where president of the organisation Neem Chandra Bhowmik chaired.
One of the people involved in the making of the 1972 constitution, former Minister Dr. Abu Sayeed said that the 1971 liberation war was fought to establish a democracy against militarism and dictatorship without any place for religious identity.
But Bangladesh’s current constitution lost that feature as the military rulers changed it to suit their ideology. He pointed out that till Bangabandhu’s time, all state functions started with the reading from the four scriptures.
The killers of Bangabandhu added the invocation from the majority religion on top of the constitution, said Dr. Abu Sayeed.
Former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University Prof. A.M.S. Arefin Siddique said that a state should not have any religion so the issue of keeping state religion in the constitution should be resolved.
“The 1972 constitution embodies the spirit and dreams of the liberation war. Democracy, rule of law, equality, equality can’t be established without bringing back this constitutions to Bangladesh,” he added.
Prominent journalist and liberation war fighter Shahriar Kabir said that the fanatical forces of the country are trying to strangle democracy and freedom in the country by taking advantage of the ‘state religion’ clause of the current constitution of Bangladesh.
Calling the concept of secularism espoused by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib as unique, Shahriar Kabir called for bringing back the constitution of 1972.
General Secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad advocate Rana Dasgupta said said that it could not be possible to keep Islam as state religion and secularism side by side in the constitution.
The idea of ‘state religion’ has divided the country and the religious-ethnic minorities have become the state minorities. It is necessary to remove the clause of state religion from the constitution if the spirit of the liberation war is to be established in the country, said Advocate Rana Dasgupta.
He demanded restoration of the constitution of 1972, keeping its four fundamental principles and giving recognition of national minorities as indigenous people.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad president Fauzia Moslem said that when Islam as state religion was introduced in the constitution then rights of others religious minorities were ignored.