At a time when claims of establishing a Hindu country in India from the far right is growing and acts of violence based on religion is markedly on the rise, neighbor Bangladesh moved towards being a secular nation reviving a 28 year old case demanding to drop Islam as state religion. When Bangladesh gained freedom from Pakistan in 1971, the original constitution deemed all religions equal in the eyes of the state. Later in 1988 during the military regime of Hussain Mohammad Ershad, the constitution was amended and Islam was made the state religion.
Following the move by Ershad, a group of 12 convened by Shahriar Kabir, filed a writ petition in High Court to overturn the amendment. The group however did not pursue the case. Mr. kabir said in an interview with Reuters, “After filing the case, we realised that the bench would not be favourable for us, so we did not move further.” Later on Sheik Hasina’s government amended the constitution to bring back secularism but kept Islam as state religion which created a contradiction.
The original petition has now been revoked after 28 years and it has been accepted by the High Court. The first hearing will be held on 27th March. Government prosecutor Rana Dasgupta said, “It will take long time to get any decision. The nature of the case is time-consuming. The High Court will continue to hear from both parties and then will deliver its verdict.”
In recent times, Bangladesh have been plagued by religious violence and extremist acts. A number of bloggers and activists have been killed in broad dayling by religious extremists including a number of foreign nationals. International terrorist organisation ISIS claimed some of the acts but Bangladesh denies presence of ISIS within its boundary. Muslim extremist group Jamat Ul Islam has also masterminded numerous acts of vandalism, riots and murders. Under these circumstances, the move towards complete secularism is a welcome step forward.