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'Dr Singh has misjudged the influence of jamait'
Bangladesh's leading anti-fundamentalist campaigner Shahriyar Kabir tells TOI-Crest that a new freedom struggle, mukti juddho, will begin if there are attempts to radicalise Tagore's Sonar Bangladesh.
Your reaction to Manmohan Singh's comments.
Ill-informed for a man of his stature and erudition, I would imagine. If the Jamait enjoyed support of 25 per cent of people here, those like me would not have survived. The Jamait creates big-time terror but enjoys little popular support. So while we don't discount the nuisance potential of the Jamait, their capability to murder and kill and cause terror, we must correct Dr (Manmohan ) Singh on his mistake. He is giving the Jamait more credit than it deserves.
Do you think this reflects poorly on India's understanding of Bangladesh?
I won't say all Indians don't understand us, but many in India, including some in power, make the mistake of looking at Bangladesh as another Pakistan. People like me who fought for our independence in 1971 will always be ready to come down to the streets to fight any conspiracy to turn Bangladesh into another Pakistan. We will fight it like hell. My friend and film-maker Nasiruddin Yusuf has even threatened a new mukti juddho (liberation war) if there is any such attempt. We support that view. Our cultural forces, secular parties, students and youth who represent the spirit of Bangladesh will never accept such an imposition. India must support the right forces in my country.
Your reaction to the Hasina government's dilly-dallying on the issue of restoring the 1972 constitution?
If Bangladesh has to return to the spirit of 1971, we have to get the constitution that enshrined the spirit of our liberation war. This great constitution was undone by successive military rulers who allowed religious parties to return to politics and declared Islam a state religion. Now that the court has declared all those military-backed changes illegal, Sheikh Hasina's government must take the parliamentary initiative to restore the 1972 constitution. There is a pro-Pakistani coterie of advisers and army and intelligence officials who are asking her to go slow. But that has upset many of her own leaders. When we had a conference on the issue at the Dhaka Press Club last month, even her minister, former air chief A K Khandkar, supported our demand. Hasina shouldn't worry about the mullahs and religious die-hards. They never vote for her. She should honour the sentiments of the vast majority who resoundingly brought her to power in December 2008. She must not only restore the 1972 constitution, but pursue with determination the war crimes trial. Only then will we get the Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal) of Tagore.
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