The New Age, Saturday, December 16, 2007
Politicians admit veering from secular democratic ideals
Thirty-five years after the nation was rid of the occupation forces of the Pakistan Army through a nine-month-long bloody war, the secular-democratic ideals of the liberation struggle continue to be undermined by ‘occupation from within’ by forces of religious extremism and dictatorial past, leaders on both sides of the political divide have said.
   Three central leaders of the mainstream political parties — BNP secretary general Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, Awami League presidium member Abdur Razzak, and Workers Party president Rashed Khan Menon — also admitted to New Age that political parties across the divide have collectively failed to uphold the secular democratic aspirations that drove the nation to fight the war of independence.
   The three — all of them valiant freedom fighters — warned that the situation may aggravate further if secular and pro-democratic parties, organisations and individuals remain oblivious to the threat and do not unite to begin a collective struggle against fundamentalist and despotic forces.
   ‘The major political parties, and pro-democratic social organisations and individuals have collectively failed to uphold the secular democratic values of the country that was founded through the war of independence,’ Razzak told New Age on Friday.
   Bhuiyan said, ‘The current plight of the secular-democratic order is a result of the collective failure of the post-independence political leadership, irrespective of party colours.’
   Menon said, ‘Fundamentalist forces and forces that were borne of autocratic rule are trying to occupy the country from within as secular organisations and individuals have collectively failed to maintain the political spirit of the war of independence.’
   The freedom fighters had given birth to a secular democratic Bangladesh and this achievement was recorded in the preamble to the constitution of the country, Menon added. ‘But unfortunately we had failed to maintain the status as we failed to root out extremist and anti-democratic forces.’
   Menon claimed that after the August 1975 assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, these forces have been rehabilitated in politics with help from subsequent military rulers, and they have built up a huge economic base for themselves by establishing banks, hospitals, manpower recruiting agencies and NGOs.
   Bhuiyan, however, said the regression from the secular democratic ideals started as soon as the constitution of 1972 was amended to induct a one-party autocratic system here. ‘Continuous compromise between major political leadership, irrespective of ideology, and non-secular parties, and widespread practice of opportunist politics for power are another reason of continuous deterioration of the situation,’ Bhuiyan said.
   Mentioning the rise of Islamist militancy and countrywide series bomb blasts in 2005, Razzak said, ‘The fundamentalists have not only veered the country away from its secular direction, they are also trying to divide the nation and lead the country down an extremist path.’
   Menon expressed dismay at both the BNP and the Awami League’s lack of inhibitions to form political alliances with Islamist political parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote factions, and the Islamic Constitution Movement, as well as their shameless efforts to woo the former despotic president HM Ershad over the last few years.
   Menon said, ‘We are trying to start the struggle to stymie such tendencies within the [Awami League-led] 14-party alliance. But there are a number of stumbling blocks…as many compromises are being made for the sake of power nowadays.
   ‘But [the left leaning organisations] are continuing our fight against these extremist and anti-democratic forces at the cost of our political fortune,’ he said. ‘We have faced election debacle in the past and many of us have been killed.’
   Bhuiyan, Razzak and Menon all agreed that the only way to counter the infiltration of religious extremists and anti-democratic forces into the social fibre is for the secular and pro-democratic forces that are now either oblivious or knowingly ignorant of the trend to unite and begin a collective movement.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace Activist
PENUSA FTW Award 2005, AJC Moral Courage Award 2006
Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz
Chief Editor, Weekly Jamjamat
Web:  Web:

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around