‘The time is now’
Different religious and ethnic community leaders yesterday demanded that the government create a separate ministry and national commission for the country's minority communities.
They said the government needs to formulate separate laws to protect people of those communities and end discrimination against them.
They placed the demands at the inaugural session of Bangladesh Hindu-Bouddha-Christian Oikya Parishad's two-day 10th triennial council, held at the capital's Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh. A new committee of the parishad is expected to be announced at a session today.
Minority leaders said the government needs to properly implement Vested Property Return Act-2001 and CHT Accord-1997, and make CHT Land Commission functional. They also demanded a separate land commission for ethnic people living in the plains.
In his written speech, advocate Rana Dasgupta, the parishad's general secretary and International Crimes Tribunal prosecutor, said ensuring the wellbeing of people belonging to different religious and ethnic communities has become a challenge in present-day Bangladesh.
He said a secular, democratic, and discrimination-free Bangladesh, as dreamt by Bangabandhu, will not be established without going back to the 1972 constitution.
"Fulfilling such pledge is the call of time now," he added.
At present, the country's rights situation is worrisome, and equity has not been established yet, said veteran left-leaning politician Pankaj Bhattacharya, also chairman of the council preparation committee.
Former chairman of National Human Rights Commission Prof Mizanur Rahman said minorities still have to raise their voices for rights, 50 years after the independence.
Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon, who joined the session virtually, said at one end, there are discussions on the country's development, while at the other, minorities are facing discrimination.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haq Inu said it is the state's duty to ensure safety for every citizen. The government should be held responsible for failing to protect minorities.
Eminent economist Debapriya Bhattacharya said at one end Bangladesh is targeting to become a middle-income country and expressing desire to become a developed nation.
However, there has been disruption in ensuring people's equal rights, he said.
AL Office Secretary Biplab Barua said the prime minister has ensured rights of the country's religious and ethnic communities.
Columnist Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury joined the programme virtually. Politician Mujahidul Islam Selim, and lawmakers Shameem Haider Patwary, Aroma Dutta and Syed Nazibul Bashar Maizvandary also spoke at the programme.