DHAKA, Sept 4, 2022 (BSS) –
Seeking to assure the predominantly Hindu community in Bangladesh and the global community at large, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government strongly supports secularism and any attempts to disturb communal harmony are immediately dealt with.
In an interview with South Asia’s leading multimedia news agency ANI ahead of her visit to India, she, however, contended that extremism was not limited to her country as many countries, including India, were witnessing it.
The premier said one of the reasons for the rising extremism was social media, which had become “very very bad nowadays”.
“As long as we are in power, we always give importance to that and I always tell them (the minority) that you are our citizens. You should own our country. But some incidents sometimes take place but immediately we take action. It is sometimes, it happened, it’s very unwanted situation but you know very well it is not only Bangladesh, even in India also sometimes minorities suffered,” she said.
There have been reports about attacks and hostility against the minority Hindu population in Bangladesh. Some reports have mentioned attacks on Durga Puja pandals or places of worship.
Sheikh Hasina, however, said that it was important that countries show magnanimity, when asked about incidents of attacks on the Hindu minority population.
“I think that both the country should show their magnanimity and our part, you know Bangladesh is a secular country and we have many religions here. And the religion harmony is here, very much. So one or two incident when it takes place immediately… especially my party… my party people, they are very much, conscious about it and also my government. We immediately take action,” she said.
Asked to comment on the role of the radical community of bloggers and others on social media, Sheikh Hasina said that it is not desirable that people write things to hurt each other and added that her government tried to curb any such activity.
“Look extremism is everywhere. Even in India or other countries if you see in the world, there are many countries you can find it out. So because of social media it has become very… very bad nowadays. Some people sometimes write something. Even sometimes it’s not the bloggers but even other religion or so… Sometimes they write and then immediately people they come, but we have been trying our best to control it. We never support that. Each and every religion, they have their right to perform their religion properly, and one should not say such a thing that will hurt the other religion,” she said.
Last month, responding to incidents of violence in some parts of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, while addressing the minority Hindus, had said that they had the same rights as her. She made the comments on the occasion of Janmashtami.
Earlier, there were reports from southwestern Bangladesh that temples, shops, and houses of Hindus were vandalised.
Sheikh Hasina told the news agency, that while some incidents occurred, Bangladesh has a tradition where people of all religions take part in all celebrations.
“We all, together we celebrate… As a cultural event, even you can see in Bangladesh, during Durga Puja. So many places, we have Durga Puja and people celebrate all together. So the religion harmony is there but now some… here and there some incidents happen but our government immediately takes action against it,” the premier said.
Asked about the prevalence of cattle-smuggling from India into Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina said the issue was under discussion and the magnitude of the problem had also been reduced a lot.
“But still sometimes some incident takes place. So we discuss with India that they should show some patience and this cattle trafficking. Already you know nowadays in our country, now we don’t depend on Indian cow much. We are growing our own, you know, cattle here because we need it. But some border smuggling takes place. So the two sides, the border forces, they are sitting together. Any incident happen, they hold the flag meetings, they discuss. So yes, we’ll say the assurance that it will reduce so it should not take place,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina is set to visit India on a key bilateral visit on Monday.
Her four-day India visit is being seen in both countries as an opportunity to further enhance the time-tested cooperation between the two fastest growing South Asian economies.
It is expected that the Prime Minister would also discuss defence cooperation and regional stability with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
DHAKA, Sept 4, 2022 (BSS) –
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina revealed on the eve of her four-day visit to India that she had previously lived with her children on Delhi’s upscale Pandara Road under an assumed identity trying to avoid the notice of those who assassinated her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
In an emotional televised interview with South Asia’s leading multimedia news agency ANI nearly five decades later, the premier recounted the severe traumas that troubled her for years.
Sheikh Hasina described the frantic events of 1975, when she left Bangladesh to go to her nuclear scientist husband in Germany, with wet eyes.
It was July 30 in 1975 and her family members had come to the airport to see off Sheikh Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana. It was a happy farewell and Sheikh Hasina had no inkling that it would turn out to be her last meeting with her parents.
Nearly a fortnight after her emotional farewell to her family, on the morning of August 15, Sheikh Hasina received news that her father, founding father of the Bangalee nation and the legendary statesman Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had been killed.
The horrors continued as she further compounded when she received news of the summary execution of more members of her family.
“It was really unbelievable. Unbelievable, that any Bengali could do it. And still, we didn’t know how what really happened. Only there was a coup, and then we heard that my father was assassinated. But we didn’t know that all the family members were, you know, they were assassinated,” Sheikh Hasina said, fighting back tears.
As many as 18 members of her family members and relatives were killed in the massacre, which included her 10-year-old brother Sheikh Russell.
According to the premier, India was one of the first nations to provide assistance to her.
She said, “Mrs Indira Gandhi immediately sent information that she wanted to give us, I mean, security and shelter. So we received, especially from Marshal Tito from Yugoslavia, and Mrs Gandhi. We decided to come back here (Delhi) because we had in our mind that if we go to Delhi, from Delhi we’ll be able to go back to our country. And then we’ll be able to know how many members of the family are still alive.”
Even after 50 years, Sheikh Hasina’s voice still carries the pain. “It’s very difficult time,” she said.
The first individual to provide a description of her father’s assassination was Humayun Rashid Chaudhury, who was Bangladesh Ambassador to Germany at that period.
“For a few moments I didn’t know where I was. But I thought about my sister, actually she’s 10 years younger than me. So, I thought how she will take it. It is so difficult for her. Then when we returned to Delhi, at first they put us in a house with all security, because they were also worried about us,” recounted Sheikh Hasina.
Sheikh Hasina and her family were allotted a secret house on Pandara Road with top-level security, and a job for her husband to make ends meet. “On one hand we lost everybody, and on another hand I cannot ask for justice. Justice was denied,” she said.
Asked if she felt that she too was a possible target, Sheikh Hasina said the miscreants who had attacked her father had also carried out attacks at the houses of other relatives and killed some of her kin.
“Almost 18 members and some, mostly my relatives and then some maid servants and their children and then some guests, my uncle,” were among those killed, she said. The conspirators had a clear aim that nobody from Bangabandhu’s family could ever come back to power.
“My younger brother was only 10 years old, but they did not spare him too. So when we returned to Delhi, it was perhaps August 24, then I met Prime Minister Mrs Gandhi. She called us and we… Hethere we came to know that nobody is alive. Then she made all the arrangements for us, a job for my husband and this Pandara Road house. We stayed there. So first 2-3 years actually it was so difficult to accept this, my children, my son was only 4-year-old. My daughter, she’s younger, both of them used to cry. Come (let’s) go to my mother, my father and they still remember my younger brother mostly,” she recounted.
So much had been lost, yet, Sheikh Hasina also realised somewhere that she had to think ahead. “So… but then gradually, we have and well… as because I have children. My sister is there, so this sorrow, pain, just very difficult but still we have, well … We have to think what to do…We should do something…we should, we cannot live like this,” she said.
The pain, however, would not go away. “This crime, they not only killed my father, also they changed the ideology of our liberation war. Everything just, just one night, everything just changed. And those killers…they were actually still haunting us. That they’re trying to find out where we are, so when we lived in Pandara road; even we did… we couldn’t, our name was changed,” said the Awami League President.
Having lost her parents, Sheikh Hasina was forced to hide her identity.
“Different name. And it is so painful that you cannot use your own name, own identity… Because of the security purpose they didn’t allow us,” said Sheikh Hasina as she tried to muster the strength to recount the harrowing time.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and members of his family were killed in cold blood on August 15, 1975 by a group of disgruntled army officers, which plunged Bangladesh into political chaos and resulted in a military regime running the country for a number of years, thereby suspending the democratic process.
For the next six years, till 1981, Sheikh Hasina lived in Delhi under a different name, under an assumed identity.
However, many people back in Bangladesh wanted her to lead the Awami League party just like her father did.
“Definitely I wanted to come back to my country. But taking responsibility of such a big party, I never thought about it,” she said.
However, Hasina travelled to different countries during this time and even addressed a public meeting in London’s York Hall on 16th August 1980 demanding punishment for her father’s killers.
“To bring them to justice or bring them to book, the trial should take place, because there was immunity granted to them. There was an ordinance, they shoot, so you cannot demand or file any case against the killers. Killers got all types of facilities and immunity, this is very unlawful. The killer… and they killed… and it is in open and they claimed that yes, they committed this crime and they were very vocal. Because they thought they are very powerful,” said Sheikh Hasina.
She continued with the campaign roping in many eminent people. “On one hand we lost everybody, and other hand I cannot seek justice. Justice was denied. So that was the situation that time. Then again I returned to Delhi, end of 80 or 81,” she said.
However, by this time there was another important development in Bangladesh.
“Awami League had a conference, at that time and in my absence, they declared me as the president of the party,” said Sheikh Hasina, who eventually moved to Bangladesh and again reached the top position in the country’s political arena.
“They tried to kill me, several times, yeah, but I survived. Even though in the broad daylight there was a grenade attack. I don’t know how I survived. Our party leaders, workers they just covered me, made human shields so they received all the splinters but I… I was totally safe. Then there was open fire in my meeting, I survived. They placed a huge bomb in my meeting place. Somehow it was discovered by just a simple man. So, I survived. I don’t know its… you can ask God, Allah. Allah is helping me perhaps, maybe Allah has given me some job to do,” she said.
Bangladesh Beyond is an online version of Fortnightly Apon Bichitra
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