Lady Justice at Supreme Court Compound: Cops silence protest over statue removal
12:00 AM, May 27, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:36 PM, May 27, 2017

Lady Justice at SC Compound

Cops silence protest over statue removal

The removal of the statue has cast a dark shadow on our face. It is so saddening that the party that led the Liberation War has given in to the demands that go against the very spirit of non-communalism, a core value of the war. Bangabandhu declared that there would be no use of religion in politics, but the exact opposite is happening now. The conduct of the government today is shaming us and letting our heads down.

It's a great question why the government could not tell Hefajat that the AL is a secular party and that it cannot allow its removal. I am worried if we, as a nation, are walking towards darkness. Such a sculpture, which is a symbol of justice, is seen all over the world and nowhere has such a thing (removal) happened. This proves we have not learned to be civilised as a nation yet.

Arts and sculptures help develop and improve the senses of beauty and free-thinking. So the removal of the Lady Justice is a huge blow to the public psyche. The door to civilisation seems closing, instead of opening. 2365214

Hours after the removal of the statue of Lady Justice from the Supreme Court premises in the dead of night, police in the capital yesterday swung into action against demonstrators protesting the removal, which they see as "surrender to radical Islamists".

At least 20 people were injured as police fired tear gas canisters and water cannons to disperse several hundred protesters near the High Court Mazar around noon.

The statue's removal sparked protests also outside the capital, while people turned to social media to express their anger and frustration over it. Several socio-political and cultural organisations termed the incident an ominous sign for the country.

The statue was removed from in front of the SC building around 4:00am yesterday amid demands by some radical Islamist groups, including Hefajat-e Islam, and Awami Olama League. It is not clear whether the statue would be reinstalled in another place at SC or elsewhere or not at all.

Following its installation at the SC premises in mid-December last year, the Islamists organisations started demonstrating for its removal,              claiming that the artwork was "un-Islamic".

They demanded that the government remove it before Ramadan, saying the statue was of a Greek goddess, a claim refuted by  its sculptor.

At a meeting with the Alem and Ulema in April, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she personally didn't like the statue on the SC premises, and that she had asked the chief justice either to remove or reinstall it at another place.

The removal of the statue yesterday came as a victory for the Islamist groups, which brought out processions at different places, thanking the PM. The Islamist organisations now demand removal of all statues across the country.

There are hundreds of sculptures and statues across the country in memory of the 1971 Liberation War and other glorious movements, and individuals who contributed to different democratic movements.

The Islamist groups on several occasions raised demands for removal of sculptures. In October 2008, religious zealots vandalised Lalon sculptures in front of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, and the sculptures were later removed.

A month later, several hundred religious fanatics damaged the lower part of Balaka sculpture in Motijheel, saying it is “un-Islamic” to make sculptures.

In April 2013, Hefajat-e Islam placed a set of demands. Two of them were that the authorities must not allow the capital to be turned into “a city of idols”, and installation of sculptures at intersections, colleges and universities be put to a stop.

BARRAGE OF PROTEST

Soon after some labourers started working to take down the statue around 11:30pm on Thursday night, journalists rushed to the spot, but they couldn't enter the premises as all the gates were locked.

Mrinal Haque, the sculptor, oversaw the work.

As the news of removing the statue spread, people, mostly youths, gathered on the road outside the main gate and began demonstrating, blocking the road.

"This is not just removal of the sculpture of Lady Justice, it's a compromise between the evil force and the state," Liton Nandi, general secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, told this newspaper around 2:30am yesterday.

This incident would take the country to a path opposite to the spirit of the Liberation War, he said.

Around 3:30am, the protesters announced that they would march towards the SC from Dhaka University campus at 11:00am.

The statue was pulled away by a crane and put on a pickup around 4:00am. The statue was then taken to a spot near the Annex Building of the SC.

In the afternoon, SC officials told this newspaper that no decision was made yet about reinstallation of the statue.

Contacted, Mrinal Haque said no one had contacted him regarding its reinstallation.

"Those who possess power will decide on it," he told The Daily Star.

Earlier in the morning, left-leaning student bodies held a rally near Raju Memorial Sculpture on the DU campus.

"We fear Bangladesh would gradually be turned into a country like Afghanistan if their [Islamist fundamentalists] demands are met this way," Liton Nandi said at the rally.

Rania Sultana, social welfare secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, said the government made a compromise with the radical Islamists to stay in power.

Later, the protesters started marching towards the apex court from the DU campus. They were stopped near High Court Mazar gate where police had put up a barricade.

When the protesters tried to get close to the barricade, police used water cannons and tear gas, leaving at least 20 people injured.

Police picked up four protesters -- Liton, Morshed Halim, Joy, and Arif Noor -- from the spot. They were yet to be released.

The protesters then announced staging countrywide demonstrations at all educational institutions today. They also demanded release of the four.

Maruf Hossain Sarder, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Ramna Division), said, “The High Court is a restricted area, and no such protest programme can be held there.”

“We talked to the protesters several times, asking them not to cross the barricade. But they didn't listen and tried to march on. We then dispersed them,” he claimed.

The protesters, however, said police lobbed tear gas canisters and used water cannons before they could reach the barricade.

“Such police action is shameful,” a protester said, seeking anonymity.

At Jahangirnagar University, students staged protests and blocked the Dhaka-Aricha highway for an hour early yesterday.

In Barisal, a protest programme was held in front of Ashwini Kumar Hall in the morning.

Meanwhile, hundreds of activists of Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan brought out a procession from the Baitul Mukarram mosque after the Juma prayers, lauding the removal of the statue.

Talking to journalists outside the mosque, Hefajat leaders thanked the prime minister for meeting their demand.

Islami Oikya Jote too congratulated the premier.


Sultana Kamal

Lawyer and rights activist

 

The removal of the statue from in front of the Supreme Court is not unexpected. I'm not surprised at it. It was to happen because that's the atmosphere the prime minister, her cabinet colleagues and lawmakers have created through their remarks on various occasions.

It's part of a game. It's a compromise with conservative, militant and fanatic forces. It seems the government has taken a policy of conciliation with Hefajat. The Awami League is considering Hefajat very powerful. It has taken the pro-liberation forces for granted, believing that they would cast their votes for the AL anyway. So there is no need to talk to them (the pro-liberation forces); but there is a need to talk to Hefajat.

Such a conduct by the AL is a compromise with ideals of the Liberation War. It is a matter of sorrow that the forces that can flex their muscle are actually winning… They can lay siege to Dhaka and kill people; but we cannot do it. It is a deep crisis of democracy. 


Muhammad Zafar Iqbal                                

Educationist and writer

 

I am very upset and aggrieved. Today's reality goes totally against our dream about the country. Did we want a country where there will be no sculpture, people will not read poems or women will wear veil?

All these are happening because of Hefajat-e Islam. They do not even own the country, and yet they are dictating the terms to the authorities today.

It seems that the government has surrendered to Hefajat, most probably for the politics of vote. If we sacrifice our core values for the politics of votes, what's the point of such voting?  Something ominous is already happening. 

This is a total surrender by the government to the so-called Islamists' votes and also a clear government step to demonstrate its superiority over the Supreme Court. Hence, it is completely undemocratic and contrary to the spirit of the rule of law.

The AL has become desperate for so-called religious votes and one need only wait to see how far the government goes to accommodate and give in to the medieval demands of the so-called Islamists. 


Shahdeen Malik

Jurist

This is a total surrender by the government to the so-called Islamists' votes and also a clear government step to demonstrate its superiority over the Supreme Court. Hence, it is completely undemocratic and contrary to the spirit of the rule of law.

The AL has become desperate for so-called religious votes and one need only wait to see how far the government goes to accommodate and give in to the medieval demands of the so-called Islamists. 

 

 


Kamal Lohani

Journalist and cultural activist

The removal of the statue has cast a dark shadow on our face. It is so saddening that the party that led the Liberation War has given in to the demands that go against the very spirit of non-communalism, a core value of the war. Bangabandhu declared that there would be no use of religion in politics, but the exact opposite is happening now. The conduct of the government today is shaming us and letting our heads down.

It's a great question why the government could not tell Hefajat that the AL is a secular party and that it cannot allow its removal. I am worried if we, as a nation, are walking towards darkness. Such a sculpture, which is a symbol of justice, is seen all over the world and nowhere has such a thing (removal) happened. This proves we have not learned to be civilised as a nation yet.

Arts and sculptures help develop and improve the senses of beauty and free-thinking. So the removal of the Lady Justice is a huge blow to the public psyche. The door to civilisation seems closing, instead of opening. 

 


Kamal Pasha Chowdhury

Artist

Our strong objection is that the statue has been removed as per the demand of Hefajat-e Islam. Does it mean that the government will remove all other sculptures in the country if they raise the same demand? Surely, the / artwork could have been improved had it been faulty. Therefore, its removal is saddening and we demand it be reinstalled.

We think its removal goes against the very spirit of the Bangalee culture, which is non-communal, and that of the Liberation War, which was fought for a secular Bangladesh. This incident will impact the psyche of the next generation, which will not develop love for artwork, the symbol of modern civilisations. We can see great sculptures in cities like Paris, Italy and Greece. We go to those places only to see the artworks. We are proud of our sculptures like Aparajeyo Bangla.

There is no clash between sculptures and Islam. We can see many beautiful sculptures in Iran, Iraq and Syria. What happened in Bangladesh is that a certain fanatic group wants the sculptures of Bangladesh's Liberation War removed using religion. This is just the beginning. 


Mrinal Haque

Sculptor of Lady Justice

I think this is just the beginning. Eventually, there will be more demands from them (Islamist groups). If the demand is raised and eventually met, it will be very saddening. Can you accept if the Aparajeyo Bangla is removed?

The statue has been removed following pressure from high-ups. We have conceded defeat to a certain group who was against us, against our Liberation War. It's a slap in the face of the pro-liberation, cultural and freedom-loving people of the country. It seems Razakars, Al-Badrs are the winners.

Stay updated on the go with The Daily Star Android & iOS News App. Click here to download it for your device.

Grameenphone:
Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 22222

Robi:
Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 2222


Banglalink:
Type START <space> BR and send SMS it to 2225

Leave your comments

Top News

Top News

Top