The Financial Express

Returning to the old values

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One need not be a Sherlock Holmes to understand that the incident of placing the Muslim's holiest scripture, the Quran, on a temporary Puja pavilion was ill-intentioned. Also, the masterminds behind the incident have been eminently successful in their design. From the reports published in the media about the violence that took place in Cumilla over the issue, it appears, was orchestrated rather than spontaneous. There is no doubt that the sinister minds behind desecrating the Muslim's holy book in that manner were mainly to blame for eruption of the violence that spread to more than twenty districts across the country. And the fact that the target of violence in every case has been the members of the Hindu community, their places of puja festival, their religious temples and even their residential quarters only points to the reach of the schemers' network.

It is not to say that there was no spontaneous participation of some onlookers in the ransacking of Hindu houses and their religious places. It might have happened in some isolated cases. But that was not the general picture. Since there is no information about fanning of religious hatred against the Hindu community preceding the Durga puja festival, the possibility of the members of the majority Muslim community getting spontaneously involved in the vandalism that has taken place does not arise.

On the other hand, the common people who gathered at the scene of violence were rather trying to protect the lives, properties and places of worship of the Hindu community. Had it not been the case, the situation could be far worse with greater loss of life and property. A closer look at the incidents that unfolded would show that there was an element of surprise in each case of vandalism. It looks like the people were not expecting any untoward incident before the mayhem started at the scenes of incident. The incidents of police firing into the mobs, as it happened in Hajiganj, are a telltale sign of their (the police's) being desperate. But most of those killed in Hajiganj police firing were teenage boys. It is strange that children had to pay the ultimate price in a chaos that was basically the handiwork of some adult mischief-mongers. Maybe, those children were pedestrians caught in the crossfire, or drawn to the scenes of violence purely out of curiosity or even that some of them were in the violent processions engaged in pelting stones or ransacking the Hindu places of worship. Whatever may have been the case, the end result was tragic for the families that lost their children to the police firing.

Equally, the deaths of people from the Hindu community who were the victims of vandalism at Hajiganj and Chowmuhani are tragic, unfortunate and unacceptable.  But what is important to note here is that the incidents of vandalism in the districts bear the mark of something done in a deliberate manner and not of a spill-over effect of the Cumilla incident. One would like to be assured at this point that, as the home minister informed the other day, the police are hot on the trail of the person who put the Muslim's holy book on the makeshift puja pavilion at Nanuar Dighi in Cumilla. It is also hoped that the quarters that employed the person to commit the heinous act would also be tracked down with equal efficiency and held to account.

The members of the Hindu community affected by the acts of vandalism, the civil rights groups and others concerned among the public have been pointing the finger at the law-enforcers for what they think their lack of force and readiness in responding to the incidents of violence as and when those happened. One wonders why it was so, as they alleged. Was it because they were taken by surprise at the way the violence unfolded? Or that they did not have the preparations equal to the magnitude of the emergency they were faced with? However, the police authorities concerned have dismissed the allegations saying they responded to the situation promptly and with efficiency. Anyway, the mischief-mongers have got away with what they wanted to do-trust of a community in a society they believed so long to be theirs broken!

Many among the intelligentsia have expressed their surprise and dismay at such painful turn of events during the Hindu community's Durga puja festival. For they said it went against the spirit of the War of Liberation and the ideal of secularism as enshrined in the constitution! In truth, ideals are better said in slogans than practised in real life. Terms like democracy, secularism are concepts borrowed from the West. Elected democracy and secularism are a matter of practice in the West, not mere slogans.

These democratic values evolved in their societies through a protracted struggle over the centuries. It all went hand in hand with intellectual and industrial revolutions that took place there. Nothing like those happened in this part of the world. But the common people at least value tolerance and have respect for each other. And they are not communal at heart. But these traditional values are also the ingredients of democracy and secularism.  The common people learnt those from their ancestors, from the traditional society they live in. The toxic habits of intolerance, mutual disrespect, even communalism are basically of urban origin. These are now out to break the millennia-old unity among the common people regardless of their diverse faiths. The unity born of traditional values need to be restored.

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