Dhaka, May 27 (BDNews24): Bangladesh police lobbed teargas shells to disband people protesting the removal of Lady Justice’s statue from the Supreme Court premises here on Friday.
The statue was removed from its spot near the court’s entrance on Thursday night, following demands by radical Islamist outfit Hifazat-e-Islam.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had also felt that it was “ridiculous” for a Greek Goddess like figure to be in a sari, but left it to the Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha to decide. Being a Hindu in a Muslim majority country he played it safe and went along with the Prime Minister. He brushed aside the lawyers’s view that it could be relocated if it offended conservative Muslims.
Enraged by the decision, leftist student bodies began demonstrating outside the court premise and announced protests for the morning.
On Friday noon, police put up barricades near Bangladesh Shishu Academy to stop a procession by ‘progressive students’ who were marching towards the Supreme Court from the Raju Memorial at Dhaka University.
Police used teargas shells, water cannons and rubber bullets to disband the protesters as they tried to break through the barricades, said Samajtantrik Chhatra Front’s General Secretary Snehadri Chakroborty Rintu.
Bangladesh Students Union General Secretary Liton Nondi was among five who were detained. At least 20 have been injured, according to protesters.
Sanjoy Kanti Das, Shamima Ara Mina, and Mukta Bhattacharya from Samajtantrik Chhatra Front suffered injuries, said Rintu.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Commissioner Maruf Hossain Sarder said they warned protesters to not enter the Supreme Court area.
“We tried to stop them by putting up barricades. We used teargas shells when they tried to break through our barricades,” he told bdnews24.com.
He, however, could not confirm the number of protesters who have been detained.
The students then took back their procession to DU campus chanting slogans against government’s “surrender to fundamentalists”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during a programme at her official residence on Apr 11, assured Hifazat delegates that the statue will be removed.
Defending her view, she said the sari-clad statue is half-Greek and half-Bengali, and that it is in full view of Muslims pray at the National Eidgah.
Syed Badrul Ahsan writes: The deed is done. The light is gone. Enlightenment has taken a fresh beating. The bigots have had their way.
It is a sad Bangladesh we live in. Once more, we have been informed, in no uncertain terms, that the night is all in our national life. In the depths of the night, Lady Justice, that symbol of fairness, of Rule of Law, was subjected to injustice of a gross kind. In the dark hours, men worked away in frenzy, on the instructions of those who wield power, who have authority over the State, to strike at the roots of symbolism, to lift it bodily and remove it from sight.
Mrinal Haq is not the only one who is shedding tears today. A whole nation weeps at the creeping fanaticism, driven by communal hate, that has been eating away at our national self-esteem. There are the many tales of how shaheed minars have been vandalized throughout the country by bigots in recent years. The horrors inflicted on the Buddhist community in Ramu will not be forgotten. The regularity with which Hindu temples are broken into and broken into shards of depressing memory shames us all. The brutality through which our many ethnic communities suffer is a tragic tale we hear day after day.
But this time, it is a different kind of heartbreak we go through. Those in power were told by the forces of obscurantism that they did not appreciate Lady Justice being there, that it militated against religiosity. To our dismay, to our intense shock, a putatively secular government listened to these men. Where the government ought to have stood firm, in defence of secular values, in defence of the Chief Justice and the broader judiciary, it aligned itself with these men — the very elements that caused mayhem on the streets of the capital a few years ago, the very people who have been asking for women to be pushed back into the confines of their homes — and made it clear that the statue had to go.
And now it is gone. The night was all, for it was in the dead of night that Lady Justice was brought down. Go back to history. It was in nocturnal darkness that the Central Shaheed Minar was blown to bits by the Pakistan occupation army in March 1971. In that same darkness, the Kali Mandir was razed to the ground by soldiers driven by hate of Bengali secularism. In the night, thousands of academics and students were murdered. Hate driven by the engine of false religiosity did the mischief.
The night has been macabre in the history of this nation. Assassins stormed Bangabandhu’s home in the black colours of the night and left an entire country bereft of leadership. It was the night when the four men instrumental in the Mujibnagar government were bludgeoned to death in the ‘safety’ of prison. In the night, sinister men moved in November 1975 and put paid to Khaled Musharraf’s bid to restore decency in the land. In the night, hundreds of soldiers and airmen were speedily dispatched to early graves through dictatorial fiat in 1977. In the fervid hours of the night, a coup d’etat ejected from power a duly elected president in 1982.
The night, therefore, has been our history.
One more night has come . . . and gone. And gone with it is a sense of our historical values. That symbol of justice was an emblem of secular, liberal Bangladesh. The grief that pounds away in our collective national heart stems from the knowledge that the symbol was made to vanish, in the night, by those who have claimed to be defenders of a secular and liberal Bangladesh.
How many more of such nights must we go through? Shall we wake up, on unreal dawns in the not too faraway future, to discover that the Shaheed Minar we rebuilt in 1972 is gone — to stumble on the horrific truth that the Aparajeyo Bangla at Dhaka University does not exist anymore — to stare in disbelief at a spot where the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Savar has been brought down and carted away in the witching hours of the night?
In the gleaming light of day today, the night screams in macabre happiness around us.
Mourning becomes us, for when a symbol is murdered, impassioned grief turns into the unspoken language of a nation. Lady Justice is gone. On the spot where it once stood, the sighs of a society mingle with the heat of the season, to give rise to a dirge.
We mourn . . . in a month given over to celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam, men who taught us the meaning of light, whose poetry shaped enlightenment in our souls.
We mourn. This fresh wound, this new gaping hole made in the heart will cause endless bleeding.
This grief will not go away.
(The featured image at the top shows the Statue of Justice in front of the Supreme Court being pulled down at night)