Several eminent citizens yesterday said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina should not have attended the Qawmi madrasa platform's rally for which public examinations were deferred.
Talking to this newspaper, a number of renowned academics and rights activists said the Awami League-led government is meeting the platform's demands one after another for “political gains” and as “part of election strategy”.
Hasina joined the rally titled “Shokrana Mahfil” as the chief guest, while Hefajat-e Islam supremo Shah Ahmed Shafi chaired it at the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan.
Al-Hiyatul Ulya Lil-Zami'atil Qawmiya Bangladesh, a combine of Qawmi education boards led by Shafi, organised the rally to hail the passage of a bill making the Dawra-e-Hadith degree equivalent to master's in Islamic studies and Arabic on October 19.
Earlier on Saturday, the education ministry deferred the tests of Junior School Certificate and Junior Dakhil Certificate to November 9, citing unavoidable circumstances.
Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury termed the PM's joining the programme an “unexpected compromise”.
“I am shocked.
“The government is making compromises for them,” he said.
The Qawmi platform was successful in bringing harmful and objectionable changes to textbooks by mounting pressure on the government, he said.
“From now on, they will exhibit their power. They will put forward more demands in the future,” Serajul said.
Prof Syed Anwar Husain of the history department at Dhaka University said the rally should have been rescheduled, not the public exams.
“I am taking this negatively as public exams were deferred because of a political rally.”
The changes brought to textbooks in line with Hefajat's recommendations are a strong proof that the country has derailed from the spirit of the Liberation War.
He condemned and rejected the government decision to recognise Dawra-e-Hadith as a degree equivalent to master's.
“These events are politically motivated ... The government can have strategic ties with them but I believe they will not vote for the Awami League,” he added.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Ayesha Khanam thinks the PM joined the rally taking the global situation into consideration.
“But this is a big political achievement for the Qawmi platform.”
Many countries across the globe are leaning towards the political beliefs of the far right, who uses religion in politics and denounces women empowerment, Ayesha mentioned.
This could be part of the PM's election strategy, she added.
“But has he [Shafi] changed his seriously objectionable stance on women,” she questioned.
Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education, said everyone has the right to hold a meeting or a rally but there should be an environment in which students can sit for exams peacefully and complete their courses.
Both the government and the Qawmi platform are trying to reap benefits from each other but this poses a threat to the non-communal spirit enshrined in the constitution, she said.
Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir said the PM should not have agreed to go there to accept gratitude from the Hefajat men, considering what they did in 2013.
It is really unfortunate that nobody was punished for the 2013 mayhem. Besides, the Hefajat tarnished the country's image by placing a 13-point demand at that time, she pointed out.
“We do not know why or under what circumstances their proposal for recognising the degree was accepted.” The Qawmi madrasas are not even registered with government agencies, she mentioned.
“Hasina's joining the rally was like giving a seal of approval to the religious group's demand for implementing Sharia law and its 13-point charter.”
The government is meeting the Qawmi group's demands one after another on political consideration but it has not met the students' logical demand for ensuring road safety, she added.