Those who speak in the public domain tend to blame the government for whatever happens around us. People often contradict themselves when they place blame on the government’s shoulders. For example, many people blamed the government for granting permission to Hefazat-e-Islam to go through with their grand congregation, while others criticised the government for creating impediments in Hefazat’s procession and gathering. While the government does shoulder some blame, we need to account for the pressure they face, and our own points of view.
In a democracy, elected political parties assume the power. The ideologies, values and policies of the parties are reflected in their activities, but they have to remain objective in their governance. Recently, Hefazat-e-Islam added another perspective to the political landscape. The secular segment of civil society was in favor of impeding the gathering and blamed the government for permitting Hefazat to gather, while the other, Islamist segment who called for this congregation also had their own complaints.
The Awami League-led government was put in a position where it had to strike a balance between the two opposing factions.
The government was right to give permission to Hefazat to go forth with their plans.
As long as Hefazat sought permission within the current legal framework, the government was obliged to allow them to gather.
The government was able to carry out their obligation to one faction and the result was that the public became aware of Hefazat’s point of view, as inferred from their 13-point charter. The government also made the right decision in complying with Hefazat’s primary demand, which was to take legal action against those who offended religious sentiments.
If the government had ignored Hefazat, they may have pushed the group towards Jamaat, which would have made the war crime trials more difficult to implement. Separating religion from politics in Bangladesh will take some time, because these “anti-liberation” forces were allowed to reintegrated after 1975 and able to set down their roots. This was the only feasible solution at the time.
It is important for us to be patient and gradually tackle our problems.
A false step now may put us in greater danger. We want to see our country embrace the spirit of 1971, secular and modern, but our present situation demands caution in achieving our final goal.
Mohammed A.Arafat is organiser of the Shuchinta Foundation