Ramu attack – Secular democracy in Bangladesh, a failure or a sham?

“We, the people of Bangladesh, having proclaimed our independence on the 26th day of March, 1971 and through a historic struggle for national liberation, established the independent, sovereign People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Pledging that the high ideals of nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism, which inspired our heroic people to dedicate themselves to, and our brave martyrs to sacrifice their lives in, the national liberation struggle, shall be the fundamental principles of the Constitution.” (1) – The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

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Although secularism is one of the four founding pillars of the constitution of Bangladesh, the recent attacks on the Buddhist and Hindu minorities make us question its practice in reality. As I write this piece, reportedly 19 Buddhist and Hindu temples and more than 100 houses have been looted, vandalized and torched in Ramu, Patia, Teknaf and Ukhia of Chittagong over the last two days by religious fanatics, allegedly because a Buddhist man was ‘tagged’ in an Islam-insulting Facebook photo by an unidentified person. Following the rampage, Section 144 was imposed in Cox’s Bazaar’s Ramu Upazila, prohibiting assemblies of more than five people in the concerned areas. (2) Continue reading