The poor have not only been deprived economically, but they have also been deprived of human dignity; they continue to face repression and are deprived of their minimum rights although the constitution grants them all such rights. In the current social order, the poor are considered second-class citizens while the national minorities and women remain the most repressed, Mujahidul Islam Selim, president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, tells Moloy Saha in an interview with New Age
New 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?
Mujahidul Islam Selim: The pledge for equality, as laid out in the proclamation of Bangladesh’s independence, was, in fact, totally abandoned after independence. We included socialism in the four fundamental principles of the state to establish equality in society. But the definition of socialism was changed after the political changeover of 1975, with capitalism gaining ground. The provision paved the way for imperialism, creating avenues for the plunder of public property. Socialism was again reinstated with the 15th amendment to the constitution.
The state reinstated socialism but the government followed free-market economy, creating more scopes for the corrupt and looters. The government these days say that wealth should be accumulated by some people for the sake of development.
The government claims that through the policy it has taken for development, inequality between the rich and the poor will be eliminated and the poor will be ultimately benefited. The philosophy in the claim is that some people would take to looting to maximise their wealth while the poor would be benefited from the trickling down of wealth. So, it is understood that the state has kept away from the philosophy of equality; it has, rather, showed the road for inequality. This stand is completely reverse to the ideals that were laid out in the proclamation of Bangladesh’s independence.
New Age: Do you think that ‘human dignity’ of citizens, particularly of the poor millions, has been established in Bangladesh? If not, why?
Mujahidul Islam Selim: Human dignity of citizens, especially of the poor, has been ignored because of the policy of the state. The poor have not only been deprived economically, but they have also been deprived of human dignity.
They continue to face repression and are deprived of their minimum rights although the constitution grants them all such rights. In the current social order, the poor are considered second-class citizens while the national minorities and women remain the most repressed.
State policies always stand for the rights of the rich and the so-called gentlemen and it has been reflected in the country’s politics. Now politics is controlled with undisclosed money and muscle.
Voters are often deprived of exercising their voting rights as the political party which assumes office controls and uses the state machinery to cling to power. Now the ruling party leaders are seeking to ditch democratic rights of people by saying that development comes first, followed by democratic rights of people. This is in no way acceptable.
New Age: What is the state of ‘social justice’ in Bangladesh?
Mujahidul Islam Selim: Social justice, in fact, has not been ensured as the state has failed to implement it. First, the rich, who have maximised wealth through looting and corruption, are engaged in confrontations over the share of their looted wealth. By doing so, they have set in the criminalisation of society.
They employ muscle power and derail the jobless young people giving them false assurance of protecting their interest.
New Age: What are your recommendations for materialising the ‘proclamation of independence’ at all levels?
Mujahidul Islam Selim: For the materialisation of the proclamation of independence, the constitution as it was in adoption in 1972 should be implemented to the letter and in spirit as it had nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularism as the fundamental principles of the state.
The provision for Islam as the state religion should be dropped from the constitution as the state religion and secularism cannot go hand in hand.
The state should strive to establish the spirit of the war of independence. The ruling parties would not be able to do this. Left parties should be united in organising a third alternative political force to rule the country keeping to the spirit of the war of independence.