Protection impossible without empowerment
Religious and ethnic minorities cannot be protected without ensuring their empowerment, speakers told a discussion, “Eradication of communal violence: Duties of Government and Civil Society” yesterday.
Presenting a concept paper, Shahriar Kabir, acting president of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, said the number of Hindus, comprising the population's nine percent, was less than five percent in government and semi-government jobs in Bangladesh.
“In the armed forces there is almost no Hindu person at all...Even in Sheikh Hasina's last cabinet there were three full ministers from minority communities. This time there is none,” he said.
The committee organised the discussion in the capital's Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA).
He also urged the government to form a separate ministry and a commission for minority communities while enacting minority and witness protection acts.
Such measures will ensure that victims of communal violence can get justice fast and file their grievances, complaints and demands with relevant institutions, he said.
State Minister for Social Welfare Promode Mankin, Human Rights Commission member Aroma Dutta and Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist, Christian Unity Council General Secretary Rana Dasgupta echoed Kabir's appeal.
Law Minister Anisul Huq, as chief guest, assured that the government would take into consideration and implement the recommendations in the long run.
About the communal violence after the January 5 national election, he said it was still being investigated.
“I have suggested that the trial of these cases should be held under the special powers act and by speedy trial tribunal,” he added.
Law Commission Chairman Justice ABM Khairul Haque, however, said rather than enacting new laws, existing ones must be enforced to establish law and order.
Pointing out weaknesses of the legal system and investigation agencies, he said, “The conviction rate in our country is the worst in the world. Only 60 percent crime is reported out of which conviction is only 10 percent.”
Other recommendations included reinstating the 1972 constitution with secularism as one of the four basic pillars and making public the Shahbuddin Commission report on the post-2001 national election communal violence.