Former University Grants Commission Chairman Prof A K Azad Chowdhury addressed an open discussion titled 'Communal Harmony, Peace and Conflict' hosted by The Asian Age at a city hotel yesterday. -AA
Leading personalities of the country yesterday spoke at an open discussion on communal problems in the South Asian region and said Bangladesh was best positioned to lead the people of the eight countries in ensuring communal harmony.
Dr. Richard Benkin, a US-born literian, socio-economic analyst and policymaker who spoke as the main discussant, said "Bangladesh can become the leader of communal harmony in South Asia if all concerned work together with the goal of eliminating communal entities from the country."
"I urge Bangladesh to be a part of the solution to communal hazards rather than being a part of the trouble. Communalism makes countries vulnerable to international embargos," he added.
Dr Benkin said that the western countries do not have vivid and adequate ideas about Bangladesh. Therefore, he added, promoting Bangladesh on the international stage was very important. Kazi Sazzad Zahir, joint secretary general of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) said the rise of capitalism creates communal sentiments.
Former mayor of Chattogram City Corporation Mahmudul Islam Chowdhury, ex-press secretary to Prime Minister, AKM Shamim Chowdhury, former additional secretary Kali Ranjan Barman, World Peace Council Secretary, Bangladesh Chapter Mahbubul Islam and FBCCI Director and Member of Awami League's Religious Affairs Sub-Committee Dr Kazi Erteza Hasan also attended the discussion.
The Asian Age newspaper organized the open discussion on "Communal Harmony, Peace and Conflict" on Monday at a hotel in the city. Political leaders, academic scholars, higher officials, prominent citizens, journalists and financial experts attended the discussion. It was moderated by Major General Shamim Chowdhury (Retd), Advisory Editor of The Asian Age.
Nadeem Qadir, Roving Editor, The Asian Age presented the keynote paper at the program.
Qadir said that Pakistan army maltreated the people of Bangladesh with brazen communal behavior. He recalled a few personal experiences during the Liberation War of 1971 to describe how ruthlessly the Pakistan army massacred people from the Hindus faith across Bangladesh.
He gave a brief picture of how communal venom was spread once again throughout Bangladesh after the assassination of father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
According to Qadir, "The present government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina firmly believes in the principles of humanity and upholds the spirit of the Liberation War. Therefore, we can hope the government will be successful in wiping out communal entities from Bangladesh and will eliminate all other forms of vices and violence to fortify peace and stability."
Former Foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury thanked The Asian Age for hosting the discussion program. He said that communalism is a terrible nightmare for the whole world, not just for Bangladesh. Mobin Chowdhury said that more than one million Rohingya refugees have been sheltered in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
He referred to the atrocities in Myanmar's Rakhine province as a cold-blooded and state-sponsored act of genocide based on a communal attitude. The glorious Liberation War of 1971 was fought with a non-communal enthusiasm, he told the audiences.
Mobin Chowdhury further said that the color of the blood of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians is all the same. He asserted that it is essential to follow the values of father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to overcome the evil shadow of communalism.
Professor Dr. AK Azad Chowdhury, former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University and ex Chairman, University Grants Commission (UGC) said that during 1905 religious minorities in East Bengal (present day Bangladesh) were 35% to 38%, whereas now it has come down to 8% to 10%.
"Ten million refugees from Bangladesh left for India during 1971 out of which 70% belonged to religious minorities," he pointed out adding that "we are grateful to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking great efforts to firm up communal harmony in Bangladesh."He laid emphasis on an integrated social movement in favor of communal fraternity in the country.
Professor Dr. Ataur Rahman, Department of Political Science, Dhaka University congratulated Daily Asian Age for organis9ing the discussion. "Bangladesh is a model of communal peace …. Bangladesh is much better than other parts of South Asia in terms of communal harmony." He blamed the world's superpowers including the United States for creating radical outfits.
"A broader understanding of interreligious concepts is vital for unity within the believers of different religions," Dr. Ataur Rahman added.Awami League's Organizing Secretary and Member of Parliament BM Mozammel Haque said that a true approach to history is one of the most necessary things for promoting a non-communal outlook.
He condemned the British colonial rulers for dividing Muslims and Hindus through heinous ploys. BM Mozammel Haque said that the British authorities infused communalism into both Muslims and Hindus by launching fundamentalist organizations.
BM Mozammel Haque made references to the establishment of Jamaat-E-Islami by Mawlana Abul Ala Maududi for Muslims and the inception of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for Hindus both of which were founded during the British colonial era.
Three million people gave away their life during the Liberation War of 1971 under the charismatic leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in which people from all religions spontaneously participated, BM Mozammel Haque stated.
He added that the present government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working for a prosperous, safe and peaceful Bangladesh.Bangladesh Bank's former Governor Dr. Atiur Rahman said that it is a time-befitting discussion as the country is poised for another round of democratic transition.
He said that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's aspiration for Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal) motivated the patriotic people of Bangladesh to fight the Liberation War of 1971 in which the country's masses took part irrespective of Hindus or Muslims. Dr. Atiur Rahman recalled that Bangabandhu once said, "We will transform these ashes into gold and prosperity."
Dr. Atiur Rahman warned that Pakistani ghosts are still roaming around which is why misperceptions on different issues still persist. Bangladesh's economy is currently a booming one, he said. He asserted that Bangladesh is fast moving ahead towards sustainable development through the relentless endeavors of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Dr. Atiur Rahman told that fundamentalism destroys countries. He named Pakistan as an example. As long as people from all walks of life stay united, communal forces will never be able to derail Bangladesh, Dr. Atiur Rahman expressed hope.
Lt. General Mainul Islam (Retd) said that the British colonists first taught communalism to the people of this subcontinent. He talked about the communal riots that broke out during the partition of India in 1947.
At the closure of the event Shoeb Chowdhury, Chairman, Editorial Board of The Asian Age thanked all discussants for arriving at the discussion program. He said, "We are heading for the national election. All speakers have shared their opinions and views. These things will be very helpful to overcome the upcoming challenges."
Shoeb Chowdhury expressed worries about the financial anarchy, irregularities and corruption across banks, terror finance and trade deficit which are blazing threats for the nation.
He called upon the government to restrain graft and malpractices in banks and all other sectors to establish good governance and socio-economic justice throughout Bangladesh.
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