Is Bangladesh heading towards Islamist takeover? What does vandalisation of Mujibar Rahman statue and anti-sculpture movement mean for the country?


As Bangladesh dangerously oscillates between democracy and fear of total Islamist takeover, with a series of incidents indicating a deep crisis that arose out of the fearsome and unprecedented rise of most radical Wahabi brand of Islam.

   “Is Bangladesh returning to the pre-Liberation era?”, a Bangladesh-based journalist asked.

He is one among few bloggers, who have seen the days when writers were allowed to express their views.

“There was a time when many of my blogger friends used to write on social mediums freely but then came a time when my friend Abhijit and many others were brutally killed. Many of my Muktomona(free thinking writers) friends had to flee. Now, time has come to such a pass that I’m forced to speak to you on the condition of anonymity,” a blogger, who was forced to escape from his hometown and stay at a rented house in an undisclosed place in Bangladesh, said.

Several other Bangladeshi intellectuals based in Germany and some other European countries, where they are based now due to fear of being murdered for expressing their opposition towards radicalisation in Bangladesh society, also echoed the same sentiment.

All of them blamed radicals and their overtures, which was mainly spearheaded by Hefajat-e-Islam chief Junaid Babunagari, who threatened to pull down all statues soon after becoming the ameer of the extremist organisation.

“The worst part is that radicals vandalised the statue of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujubur Rahman in a sign of pre-Liberation era bloody days. Is Bangladesh a gone case?” a blogger said.

Bangladesh authorities on Sunday lodged a case under Special Powers Act, 1974 in connection with Saturday’s vandalising of an under-construction sculpture of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and arrested four accused. 

Sukhoranjan Dasgupta, author of ‘Midnight Massacre’, an account of the 1975 coup that killed Mujib with much of his family, said Awami League governemnt’s approach to radical Islamists has emboldened them to dare challenge even the installation of the Mujib statue at Dholaipar.

Some Awami League leaders like Deputy Education Minister Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury of Chittagong have warned the Islamists to desist from ‘creating chaos in the country or bargain for broken necks’.

But the ruling party is yet to formally come out with its stand on the Mujib statue issue.

Kushtia district additional superintendent of police Mustafizur Rahman said four people – two students and two teachers of Ibne Mas-Ud Qawmi Madrassah in Kushtia were arrested on Saturday night in connection with the crime.

According to Mohiuddin, the two students said that their teachers – Al-Amin, 27, son of Abdur Rahman of Dhupail village under Mirpur upazila in Kushtia and Yusuf Ali, 29, son of Azizul Islam of Bamundi village in Pabna district instigated them and helped them flee the madrassah at night.

The two teachers were also arrested from a house in Kushtia on the same night, he said. Police claimed that the two madrassah students directly took part in damaging the sculpture being instigated by their teachers.

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