Bangladesh government committed to safety and security of religious minorities

Bangladesh’s Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said on Saturday that the government of Sheikh Hasina is committed to the safety of Hindus and other religious minorities and that the country’s recent peaceful celebrations of Durga Puja are a testament to this.

Mahamud, who is in town to inaugurate the Bangladesh Film Festival, spoke about Indo-Bangla relations but said it is not dependent on the Teesta water-sharing agreement between the two countries.

“The government of Sheikh Hasina is committed to protecting the rights of Hindus and other religious minorities in Bangladesh. The recent peaceful celebration of Durga Puja in our country is a testimony,” he told a media conference at the Press Club here.

“This year, the number of Durga Pujas held in our country was much higher than last year. There were a total of 33,000 puja tents, 700 more than in 2021, he said.

“Why were so many Durga Pujas being held in Bangladesh? The answer is that it is safe there. There were specific instructions from the top of the Awami League to the local leaders to keep an eye on all puja pandals so that no unwanted incidents take place,” he said.

The Bangladesh government had been “extra careful” to avoid any untoward incident, given the community violence during Durga Puja last year.

Violence had erupted in parts of Bangladesh in 2021 over an alleged blasphemy incident at a Durga Puja pavilion in Cumilla, about 100 km from Dhaka, after which paramilitary forces were deployed in many affected areas.

“Those who tried to create trouble during Durga Puja are being exposed. We have taken special measures to ensure that no untoward incident occurs,” Mahamud said.

Addressing the opposition in his country – the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the minister said: “BNP’s politics revolve around hatred towards religious minorities and India. People associated with BNP were involved in a (violent) incident that took place ( after Durga Puja in Bangladesh) last year,”

Speaking about relations between Indo and Bangla, he said more than relations between governments, it is the people-to-people associations that have helped to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“Our bilateral relations do not depend only on the agreement with Teesta (water distribution). Whenever I come to India, I am asked this question. Progress has been made in this matter. Our relationship is diverse,” he said.

India and Bangladesh had planned to strike a water-sharing deal with Teesta during then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 2011 visit to Dhaka, but West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had refused to approve it. , citing the scarcity of water in her state.

Mahamud declined to comment when asked to comment on newspaper reports that Bangladesh Prime Minister Banerjee had planned to meet during her visit to New Delhi last month.

“I don’t want to comment on newspaper reports. If Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had wanted to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the meeting would have taken place,” he said.

Banerjee had criticized the Center for not inviting her to participate in Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India. The Center said the prime ministers have not been invited to attend the events of a visiting head of government from another country.

On Bangladesh’s general election scheduled for 2023, Mahmud said both the government and the ruling party – Awami League expect the opposition to participate in the polls.

“We (Awami League) expect all political parties to participate in the elections. It is not only the task of the ruling party to strengthen democracy, but also of the opposition parties. We want all political parties, including BNP, to participate in Any political party that believes in people’s power cannot boycott the election,” he added.

(Only the headline and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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