Bangladesh is not compromising the honour of the Prophet of Islam, said the Information Minister of the Sheikh Hasina government on Saturday. The Minister’s remarks came in the backdrop of continued protests in different parts of Bangladesh against the comments by two former BJP leaders on the Prophet that were considered to be hurtful. In a freewheeling discussion with a visiting team of media professionals, Hasan Mahmud said that Ms. Hasina acted promptly in containing communal flare-ups in Bangladesh last year and that India has invited Ms. Hasina to pay a visit to New Delhi.
“It’s an internal issue of India and for Bangladesh it’s an external matter. Wherever such things happen, we condemn them. We are not compromising the honour of the Prophet.,” said Mr. Mahmud presenting the perspective of Bangladesh regarding the comments that have triggered a strong backlash from the countries in the Islamic and Arab blocks.
Mr. Mahmud expressed hope that the Indian legal process would take its course against former BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Navin Kumar Jindal and said, “Action will be taken by India.” Mr. Mahmud drew attention to the communal flare-up of last October when Hindu puja pandals were targeted in Bangladesh’s Brahmanbaria, Comilla, Chittagong and Rangpur regions and said Ms. Hasina took exemplary action in containing the damage inflicted upon the minority community.
“The rioters targeted Pirganj which happens to be linked to the family of the Prime Minister as her late husband Dr. Wajed hailed from there. I did not sleep during the night when the attacks took place and rushed to the location the next day. All our workers rushed to the puja pandals and met the minority community members, and the compensation provided was three times of the damage that was inflicted on the families of the minority communities,” said Mr. Mahmud. The 60-year old Minister, a key figure in Sheikh Hasina government, maintained that the Prime Minister remained committed to zero tolerance of extremism and terrorism and observed that Dhaka was aware of the presence of such elements in the 20-party Opposition alliance. “There are some leaders in that alliance who were trained by the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the past,” said Mr. Mahmood alleging that the Opposition had become weak as it did not participate in the 2018 general election.
The Minister pitched for greater connectivity between Bangladesh and India, especially with the northeast and said, that Bangladesh had invested in improving the road and rail infrastructure that would improve connectivity between Tripura, Assam and the Chittagong port. “The British rulers of the subcontinent used the Chittagong port for developing Assam and the better road networks on our side will be ready soon that will help in better connectivity between Tripura and the Chittagong port. The road connection already exists but we are working on enhancing it.” The Minister also dismissed the bullet train project as unnecessary for Bangladesh and called it “wasteful” from the point of view of Dhaka.
Russia and Bangladesh
Mr. Mahmud echoed the concern Ms. Hasina had expressed earlier about the ongoing war in Ukraine and called for a solution to the violence saying, “We want an end to the war as it does not help anyone.”
“I was eight years old in 1971 when the war began and the U.S. 7 th Fleet was sent to the Bay of Bengal. Even as a child I felt the horror shared by the elders of my family. But Russia came to our rescue. We remember the way Russia stood by us,” said Mr. Mahmud, acknowledging the historic role of the Soviet Union which had concluded a Friendship Treaty with India before the war began which allowed it to play a supportive role during the December 1971 war.
Mr. Mahmud acknowledged an invite that India had extended to Ms. Hasina but did not elaborate on the specific date of her visit.