Kishor Kumar Das’s decision to step down as chairman of Bidyanondo Foundation was taken two years ago. In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune's Nawaz Farhin Antara, Kishor said attacks from a small quarter of religious groups were not the only reasons for his decision.
You declared on Tuesday about your resignation as chairman, but what made you take that decision?
I don't think a person requires a designation to continue their work. I have been in charge of Bidyanondo since 2013. Living abroad, I basically issue directives from there and volunteers do the rest.
My decision to step down from the post was taken two years ago, and there were three reasons behind it.
Firstly, with this, I wanted the volunteers to focus more on their work rather than designations. Also, I was looking for a new leadership for the foundation.
Secondly, I have been mentally and physically exhausted for a long from serving in this capacity.
Thirdly, I was receiving some personal attacks that were hurting me. For the last four days, there has been negative hype from few Facebook pages that highlighted the fact that Bidyanondo’s chairman was a Hindu, which worried me.
I have faced such criticism for last two years and my donors have also been receiving texts on why they are funding an organisation led by a Hindu.
So, I have announced to let go of the post, not Bidyanondo.
What obstacles have you been facing in the last 2 years?
We have been facing communal criticism because of distribution of food as Iftar during Ramadan.
In 2017, we filed a case after the name of our foundations was being spread on social media through a fake ID where they said we have been feeding people food mixed with cow dung as I am a Hindu.
Only recently, the attacks have decreased.
How strong was the communal issue behind your decision?
My resignation was not a surprise for the staff who have been aware of it for the last two months ago. They understood my point and agreed.
But, we highlighted the communal criticism, but not with any purpose or intention to hurt any community.
I was constantly confronting personal attacks from few Muslims groups because of my religion, but the attacks were on a small scale.
Because of the sake of the organisation, I highlighted the issue of my decision publicly to send a message to those communal groups.
We wanted them to know that the foundation’s chairman was no more a Hindu person and that they will never get a chance to make any more negative comments regarding the foundation.
Why did you backtrack from your decision in just four hours into the resignation?
Until Tuesday, I thought Bidyanondo was a small organization. I did not realise the decision will turn into a huge matter.
My aim was to pass the message across a small group of people.
As I said, it was a planned decision that I will resign, but I changed my mind after realising that this has become a huge issue.
Don't you think these communal attacks were highlighted to be bigger manner than they actually were?
There are many more foundations in Bangladesh, but they do not get criticised. We were being criticised because I belong to a religious minority group.
No matter how big or small the attacks were, the negative comments made by these four to ten people regarding me, my religion and family in several ways was a matter to highlight.
We receive criticism everyday from many people regarding our work and other relevant issues, but negative comments on religion and family cannot be accepted.
But, when I realized that many people were hurt by my decision because it attracted a lot of media coverage, I had to change my mind.
But after next audit is done, I will start work as an organizational secretary instead of chairman. I think a change in leadership is needed and I want new faces to come.
How has your decision affected the donors or funding issues?
I am the founder of Bidyanondo, I started it with my own funds. And even if I don't have a donor, I will continue to do my best.
No person will go to bed with a hungry stomach and that is what I dream.
It is true that many support our initiatives, but Bidyanondo is not a donor based organisation, it is a charity.
We are grateful to our 5,000 donors from all over the world, including Bangladesh. The organization has a separate foreign donation wing. Although the number of donors is higher in Bangladesh, a big portion of donations come from abroad.