‘More steps needed to ensure rights of minorities’

The social condition of apparel workers has improved and now they walk with their heads held high. The poor in villages still depend on the favour of the rich for their livelihood. So, we still have to wait for the establishment of equality and human dignity in society, Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal, a member of parliament and executive president of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, tells Moloy Saha in an interview with New Age

spe11New Age: The ‘proclamation’ of Bangladesh’s independence, made on April 10, 1971, promised citizens ‘equality, human dignity and social justice’. Now, 44 years into the country’s independence, where does Bangladesh stand in terms of ‘equality’ — political, economic and cultural — of the citizens?
Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal: The proclamation of Bangladesh’s independence was unique and the pledges were to fulfil aspirations of the people. It was also decent as only a few countries could start their war for independence with proclamations and our declaration was appreciated worldwide.
But it is unfortunate that most of the pledges have not been fulfilled after 44 years of independence as after liberation, most of the time, governments that ruled the country followed ideals that were opposite to the spirit of the war of independence of 1971.
Now the Awami League-led government has taken steps to implement the pledges of the proclamation and it would take more time. I will say, in short, that Delhi is still a long way off.
New Age: Do you think that ‘human dignity’ of citizens, particularly of the poor millions, has been established in Bangladesh? If not, why?
Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal: I do not claim that the human dignity of citizens, especially the poor, has been established in the country but the government has taken steps to establish it.
But a big change has happened in rural economies; and working-class people now get work in different development projects that the government has undertaken. As a result, poverty has reduced.
The social condition of apparel workers has also improved and now they walk with their heads held high. The poor in villages still depend on the favour of the rich for their livelihood. So, we still have to wait for the establishment of equality and human dignity in society.
New Age: What is the state of ‘social justice’ in Bangladesh?
Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal: We still cannot say that social justice has been implemented and the question of its implementation is also a controversial issue. We live in a sharply divided society where most people are happy about the execution of verdicts against war criminals, but some people are also opposed to it.
The government should take further steps to ensure rights of the religious and national minorities to establish democratic country having communal harmony.
New Age: What are your recommendations for materialising the ‘proclamation of independence’ at all levels?
Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal: The government should drop Islam as the state religion from the constitution as state religion and secularism cannot remain together in the constitution.
The government should also work to establish socialism and a society free of repression. The government should work for democratic development as the people are eager for democracy. I prefer a decentralisation of power as absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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