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Hindu Rights Activist: Bangladeshi Democracy on the Verge of Extinction

The persecution of the Bangladeshi Supreme Court’s Chief Justice due to his opposition to the 16th amendment highlights the oppression experienced by Hindus within the country and the extent to which the last remnants of Bangladeshi democracy are in danger.

According to Shipan Kumer Basu, the head of the Hindu Struggle Committee, the recent uproar regarding the spat between the Bangladeshi Chief Justice and Sheikh Hasina’s government highlights the lack of democracy within the country: “It demonstrates how the ruling party is back stabbing the judiciary and the democratic rights of the minority communities. The recent spat over the 16th amendment of the Constitution has opened a can of worms. It has shown the true and malicious nature of the ruling Awami League government towards the minorities.”

Basu asserted that Sheikh Hasina’s government directly attacked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court merely because he is Hindu and has spoken out about the lack of legality of the current government, whose power rests upon sham elections that were held in 2014. During these sham elections, he emphasized that the idea of having a neutral caretaker government oversee the elections was scrapped and 153 MP’s were selected instead of elected. Due to this situation, he argued that the present ruling Bangladeshi government lacks the democratic legitimacy to rule.

Many readers are probably pondering, what is the 16th amendment of the Bangladeshi Constitution and why is it so problematic? The Bangladeshi government under Sheikh Hasina inserted the 16th amendment to the Bangladeshi constitution, which empowers the Bangladeshi Parliament to remove Supreme Court Justices if allegations of incapability and misconduct are proven to be true. However, Basu proclaimed that this provision is problematic for it jeopardizes the existence of an independent judiciary within the country since the current parliament is not truly democratic and thus non-democratically elected officials under this amendment have the ability to compel an independent judge to resign from his or her position.

Bangladeshi Chief Justice Surendra Kumer Sinha is gravely concerned that this amendment hinders an independent judiciary and will remove the last remnants of Bangladeshi democracy: “Judges can be removed following a due procedure. They cannot be removed or punished for bona fine errors or for disagreeing on a particular interpretation of the law. International law clearly establishes that judges can only be removed for serious misconduct or incapacity. Disciplinary proceedings must be conducted by an independent and impartial body.”

Ever since the Bangladeshi Chief Justice has come out against the ruling government, the Awami League seeks to have him replaced. However, Basu claimed that if he was not a Hindu, the ruling government would not have the audacity to seek his resignation over his position on this issue even if they did not like it for he is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and that position demands respect. He implied that this situation demonstrates that even though Sheikh Hasina’s government appointed this Hindu to the judiciary, her government doesn’t respect the political positions of Hindus in the same way that they would if he were a Muslim.

“The persecution experienced by the Supreme Justice of the Bangladeshi Supreme Court is only the latest in a series of examples of minorities being persecuted within the country,” Basu told the Foreign Policy Association. “In Norail district, 12 to 15 minority families were thrown out of their homes and their land was seized from them. Channel 24 reported on the incident. After they covered this incident, the mayor of the ruling party threatened them. There is no freedom of the press within Bangladesh. After EU MP Frank Creyelman visited Bangladesh a few months ago, the news of his visit was censured by the government. There are hundreds of cases of minorities getting murdered, assaulted, raped and having their land stolen from them. There are also many instances of Hindu idols and temples getting desecrated. However, these incidents go unreported in the Bangladeshi media.” Basu has argued that Bangladeshi democracy is on the verge of extinction.

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is based in Israel and publishes in a variety of media outlets throughout the world. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media." Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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