Citizens to unite against sculpture removal
Eminent citizens of the country yesterday decided to bring all the organisations protesting the removal of Baul statues from the airport roundabout under one platform in a day or two to forge a people's movement against fundamentalist forces.
They said they will send letters to the Awami League, BNP and other political parties asking them to support the demand for installing a statue of high art value at the site and stand up to what they termed conspiracies against the spirit of the liberation war.
The roads & highways department (RHD) and civil aviation authority removed five Baul (folk singer) statues, including Lalon Shah's, giving in to pressures from fundamentalists on October 15.
The citizens made the decision at a meeting presided over by acclaimed scholar Dr Khan Sarwar Murshed at Comrade Moni Singh-Farhad Trust building yesterday afternoon.
They said the attack on the sculptures is an attack on the culture and tradition of the country, adding that the country would be unliveable if the fundamentalists were not stopped now.
Academician Dr Anisuzzaman, columnist Syed Abul Maksud, sculptor Emdad Hossain, Ajoy Roy of Sammilita Samajik Andolon, Dhaka University teacher Dr Syed Anwar Hossain, commander Abdur Rauf, human rights activists Dr Hamida Hossain, Khushi Kabir and Shamsuzzaman Khan, among others, spoke at the meeting.
The meeting weighed up three options: publishing an open letter to the chief adviser, a common editorial in all newspapers and submitting a memorandum to the chief adviser demanding brakes on the fundamentalist forces.
The citizens will meet today to choose from the options.
Prof Murshed said the threat manifesting itself by forcing authorities to remove the sculptures and the crowing of Islami Oikya Jote Chairman Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini strike the foundation of the state and its constitution.
He said the communal forces are rearing their heads from local and international conspiracies.
Prof Murshed slated the government for keeping mum on the issue when the country is swamped with strong protests against the removal of the sculptures.
Syed Abul Maksud said the existence of the country as a modern state would come under threat if the communal forces got their own way.
Pointing to a statement of Amini in which he bellowed that they will demolish all the statues erected during the Awami League government, Maksud said they are doing politics using the sculptures.
Sculptures are not idols, he said.
Prof Anisuzzaman said people should be enlightened that the very individuals who are smashing the sculptures now in the name of Islam went on killing sprees during the liberation war using the baloney that Islam would not exist if Pakistan ceases to exist.
Dr Anwar said there is no conflict between Islam and sculptures. He termed the sculpture haters 'distorters of Islam', saying they cling to a distorted version of the religion.
Meanwhile, different political and cultural organisations continued to protest the removal of the statues.
Speakers at a rally of the Democratic Left Alliance (DLA) said the communal forces are conspiring against the culture and the liberation war gaining from the silence of the government.
Citing the instance of allowing Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, wanted accused in a graft case, into a meeting with the chief adviser, they alleged that the government was giving shelter to the fundamentalist forces.
Teachers and students from the fine arts faculty of Dhaka University and cultural activists vowed to resist any axis of evil formed against free practice of arts.
They, at a press conference, announced to hold a convention of artists and cultural activists to form a national committee which would prepare a guideline for sculptures and other installations.
They called for formation of a forum comprising artists, critics, architects and city planners, which would devise a policy for erecting sculptures at important public places.
The artists called for naming the roundabout in front of Zia International Airport as Lalan Square.
Abdush Shakur, Abu Naser, Abdus Sattar, Emdad Hossain, Khushi Kabir, Nisar Hossain, Maniruzzaman and theatre artist Shahidul Alam Sacchu, among others, were present at the press conference.
Dhaka University students formed a human chain in front of the university central library demanding the environment for freethinking and free practice of arts.
Fine-arts students of the university posed as sculptures and paraded on the campus.
Samyabadi Dal of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Chhatra Union brought out processions protesting the removal of the sculptures.
Bangladesh Udichi Shilpi Goshthi will hold cultural programme at the Shaheed Minar today to protest the removal.