Debates over statue on Supreme Court premises get momentum after Prime Minister’s speech
Pulack Ghatack: The debates over the statue of Lady Justice set up on the premises of Bangladesh Supreme Court have got momentum after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reported disliking and intention to remove it.
Hardliner Islamist groups, which had been demanding of the authorities to remove the statue from the SC premises, have welcomed the Prime Minister’s speech drawing strong revulsion from the secularist quarters.
Hardliners say the statue, a variation of Themis in a sari, goes against Islam. According to them, the statue amounts to idolatry. But the secularists are terming it a symbol of justice and seeing the move as a threat to the country’s non-communal tradition, democracy and pluralism.
Debates also surfaced in the ruling party and the coalition with unequivocal statement of some ministers vowing to resist Hefazat-e-Islam, uphold secularism and protect the statue.
Awami League leader and Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Nur became vocal on Wednesday to protect the statue terming it an international symbol of justice.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) President and Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu has also strongly protested the move to remove the statue.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia alleged that her arch rival and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has started doing politics with religion to exploit the country’ majority people’s sentiment.
“Before her India tour, Sheikh Hasina had arranged a conference of Alem-Ulema to exploit the religious sentiment of Muslims, the country’s majority people. Returning home, she Tuesday held another meeting with Alem-Ulema of the Hefajat-e-Islam-supported Qawmi madrasas,” Khaleda said.
The social site, facebook has been flooded with furious criticisms from the secular section of the society and also slammed remarks of the orthodox population. Islamist groups including Hefazat-e-Islam termed the premier’s statement a victory.
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The Prime Minister on Tuesday agreed with Islamic clerics that the statue of the Greek goddess Themis on the Supreme Court premises should be removed. She personally thinks the statue should not be there.
“To speak the truth, I don’t like it myself. It’s a Greek statue, but how will a Greek statue get here? Moreover, the Greek statue has been adorned with a sari. That too is ridiculous,” the premier said at a meeting with the leaders of the Qawmi Madrasas at her official residence Ganabhaban.
The premier also told the leaders present at the meeting that she would be taking necessary steps to remove the statue from the court premises.
“I’ll sit for talks with the Chief Justice over this soon. So I’ll ask you to be patient and not agitate. We’ll do everything here possible,” she said.
Hefajat-e-Islam Ameer Shah Ahmad Shafi was present at the meet as the chief representative of the madrasa leaders.
Different organisations have protested the Prime Minister’s statement. Bangladesh Students Union held a press conference protesting the idea of removal of the statue.
“The idea is against the spirit of the Liberation war,” they said in their written statement and vowed to launch movement if the government takes steps favouring the Hefajat.
Udichi Shilpi Gosthi has declared countrywide protest programmes including at Shahbagh in the city on Thursday.
JSD President Hasanul Huq Inu and General Secretary Shirin Akter in a statement said, “Hefazat-e-Islam is the local version of Taliban, Al-Quaeda and Islamic State and any compromise with this hardliner group will only encourage them to launch war against Bangladesh and its Constitution.”
They urged the people to get united to thwart any attempts against these groups.
Minister Asaduzzaman Nur at a function in Chittagong said that Hefazat is trying to remove the statue of Lady Justice from the Supreme Court premises. He urged the people to launch united movements against such move.
If the Prime Minister decides to remove the sculpture from HC premises the youths will go for movement against it,” eminent citizen Prof Ajoy Roy said at a programme on Wednesday.
“This is not an ordinary statue; this is the symbol of Justice. The statute should be here. The High Court will take decision about it, not Hefajat,” he added.
“The government and Awami League’s kowtowing to this type of demand will be suicidal for Bangladesh,” said Shahriar Kabir, leader of Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee.
Leading feminist activist Khushi Kabir said, “There are many sculptures in our country which carry the significance of our identity, history and tradition. If the statue at Supreme Court is demolished, the fundamentalist will demand removal of all sculptures including “Oporajeyo Bangla,” “Raju Bhashkorjo,” and “Amar Ekushey.”
“The demolition of the Lalon sculpture from in front of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport [in 2008] encouraged the religious zealots to make such demands,” she added.
The Islamists, however, demand that a sculpture of the Qur’an be installed instead. Removal of “idols of humans and animals” and stopping floral tributes was a key demand of the Hefazat’s 13-point charter introduced in 2013.
When asked, Hefazat Secretary General Junaid Babunagari said that they were happy that the Prime Minister had finally realised the rationale of their demand.
Islami Andolan Bangladesh leader SM Abdul Azid said, “Prime Minister has respected our demand by saying that she also dislikes the idol.”
Khilafat Majlish leader Abul Hasanat Amini said, “We are really elated and it is a victory for Muslims.
“We cannot accept any idol in front of the Supreme Court. A mass movement would flare up if the government did not meet their demand,” he also added.