।। Amirul Islam Kanak ।।
Have the memories of breaking and removing the Baul sculpture under construction at the airport in the dark of 2008 faded from our minds? In 2017, the Justice Sculpture was removed from the Supreme Court and placed in front of the Annexe building.
The issue of the response of some religious groups, extremists and the government’s silence on the recent construction of the Bangabandhu sculpture is being discussed on social media and online media as much as it is being discussed in the government and mainstream media.
Many people think that the incarnation of such a statement regarding the construction of Bangabandhu sculpture and such silence of the government is touching and sad. It may be that the kind of response that was needed from the highest levels of government on the issue was not observed. Although some of the ministers of the government and one or two of the leaders of the Awami League have given a mild response, it is not clear whether it reflects the views of the ruling party or personal views of those concerned. Whatever the name of the sculpture or statue, in the present context it is enough to tarnish the image of the country.
By introducing the context of construction of Bangabandhu sculpture and directly involving religion, there are different arguments for proving the opinions, arguments, counter-arguments and arguments of one and the same. It is not uncommon for religious arguments to attack each other with examples from the Qur’an and Hadith. The explanations given by some with the Qur’an, Hadith, Sirat, Tarikh al-Tarari and other documentary arguments are being proved and refuted in one way or the other. Various sculptures and museums of Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries are showing with examples of sculpture in all those ‘muslim’ countries, why not in Bangladesh? In some discussions, it has come up that due to the limitations of the concept, the Imams are merging the idols and the sculptures. Never being directly opposed to idols. The government is also trying to say that you should not unite sculpture and idol. The various features of the sculpture and the idol are also explained. While implicitly acknowledging that the construction of sculpture is not seemingly harmful to Islam, the construction of idols is harmful to religion. It should be kept in mind that there are not only Muslims but also people of other religions live in this country. Where ignorance of the daily religion of the neighboring Hindu community is unimaginable without idols, the attempt to prove that idol-versus-sculpture or sculpture-making is less harmful than idol-making is an expression of our ignorance and communal attitude. It is said that there is no difficulty in speaking against idols, but whether standing against sculpture is against the Qur’an and the Prophet (peace be upon him); The rationality of his analysis is also being judged.
After the demolition of the Baul sculpture at the airport in the dark of night in 2008, the people of this country did not understand, even after the removal of Justice, the government’s tone did not change. After the removal of the sculpture, many of us said that their demand would not be limited to this. Recently, a section of people known as Qaumi or Deobandi have demanded the re-demolition of sculpture in Bangladesh. They did not specifically say whether they were against all the sculptures or their objections only to the sculptures of Bangabandhu. Maulana Mamunul Haq published a fatwa on social media based on two articles published on the monthly Al Kawsar and Jamaat-e-Islami’s website, saying “sculptures and idols are one and the same, as well as the flames in built graves and the Shikha Anirvan of cantonment are anti-Islamic.” The reaction that the idol should be dismantled will spread religious and ethnic hatred in the country as well as increase political instability. Many of us said the same thing after the High Court demanded the removal of the Justice Sculpture. Therefore, it can be said without any doubt that if it succeeds again or gets a pass, then all the sculptures, tombs and graves will be demanded to be demolished later.
Which way is Bangladesh going? Are the extremists getting such an opportunity at the behest of the government? The sculpture of justice in the Supreme Court was a symbol of justice in the country’s highest court, regardless of race or religion. Attempts were made to attack our Supreme Court by demanding the removal of the sculpture of the Supreme Court, creating hatred and animosity. The government also compromised by transferring Justice to the Annexe building. Leaders of some religious political parties have threatened to demolish the sculpture of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and throw it into the Buriganga. Call on the Supreme Court, including law enforcement, to take immediate legal action against those who make threats. The meaning and consequences of the threat of ‘being thrown into the Buriganga’ or ‘(you) will watch the sun rise but not able to see the sun set’ are easily conceivable.
Mentioning sculpture as an idol, stopping construction or breaking it in the dark of night and removing is nothing new in Bangladesh. Some of the sculptures were removed by force, some by threatening the government. They smashed the Lalon sculpture in the dark of night. The ‘Justice’ sculpture in front of the Supreme Court has been removed through propaganda, threats and pressure on the government. In 2016, when religious groups, including Hefazat-e-Islam, threatened a movement to remove Justice, the Prime Minister herself opposed the sculpture and ordered its removal. At that time Awami League and religion based parties were seen joining in a row.
Just three years after the removal of the Justice Sculpture, they are not only opposing the construction of Bangabandhu’s sculpture, they are also threatening to throw Bangabandhu’s sculpture in Buriganga and if the sculpture is built, they are threatening to ‘see Sheikh Hasina’! Many people think that Bangabandhu has not been dishonored in such rough way ever before. But even then the silence of the government, the Awami League is disappointing everyone. But how long? The time is fast passing that the day is not far away when the whole country, including the Awami League, will have to suffer a terrible result of giving shelter to various religious organizations including Hefazat-e-Islam.
Dr. Amirul Islam Kanak is a social activist teaching in the Department of Folklore at Rajshahi University.