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Home  Worldwide  Bangladesh  September, 2004  Gujral, Asma Jahangir slate fanaticism in Bangladesh
Gujral, Asma Jahangir slate fanaticism in Bangladesh

The Daily Star
Vol. 5 Num 110Sun. September 12, 2004

Front Page

Gujral, Asma Jahangir slate fanaticism in Bangladesh

Staff Correspondent

A regional human rights watchdog expressed deep concern over religious fanatics taking law into their own hands in Bangladesh while the government remains a helpless spectator on the sidelines.

“There are strong indications that religious extremist groups are out of control of the apparatus of State [Bangladesh] and apprehensions are being expressed that many of them may also be receiving patronage,” said South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) in a recent statement.

The statement signed by SAHR Chair Inder K Gujral, former prime minister of India, and Co-chair Asma Jahangir termed the “recent violent acts by religious extremists in Bangladesh” as a “serious threat to the political and economic stability of the country.”

In fact, the entire region is reeling under conflicts and lack of democracy or poor governance, observed Gujral and Jahangir after a review meeting on the region’s emerging human rights situation in New Delhi.

They also noted that “religious intolerance in all countries of the region continues to be a challenge.”

Referring to the August 21 grenade attack on an opposition rally on Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka they said, “[it] was a clear attempt at derailing democracy and putting an end to all liberal and secular discourse.”

The SAHR chairs condemned the religious bigots for stifling the freedom of expression and continuously persecuting religious minorities as well as leaders of public opinion. The Ahmadiyya community has been targeted time and again despite a clear ruling of the High Court, which rejected a plea to declare them non-Muslims, they noted.

SAHR also is alarmed, it said, at the political deadlock in Nepal, and called upon the government of the country to immediately hold a comprehensive dialogue with all parties concerned and restore the democratic process.

Criticising the Maldives government for clamping down on its people’s keen desire for democratic reforms, the SAHR leaders urged it to put in place political reforms so that a sustainable democratic process can be initiated.

As another extreme human rights infringement that needs immediate attention, the statement reported, “Pakistan continues to ignore the rule of law and there are increasing reports of arbitrary arrests of people on the justification of a counter-terrorist sweep.”

“All democratic norms are being denied to the people and the country is sliding towards lawlessness,” maintained SAHR about Pakistan and “warns that deviation from the due process and the rule of law will give rise to more terrorism rather than curb it.”

The forum expressed concern over a draft bill banning all forms of religion conversion being presented in Sri Lankan parliament that it claimed would restrict the freedom of religion of all minority groups.

SAHR also blasted a recent incident in Indian state of Manipur where security forces allegedly raped and killed a woman, which it said is a cruel reminder to the South Asian society that lives of women have remained vulnerable and their integrity has been violated time and again with impunity.

Gujral and Jahangir said they were “seriously disturbed at the declining human rights situation in the region” and called upon the governments and civil society to find creative means for marginalising intolerant forces and strengthening democratic norms in South Asia.

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