As a Muslim state, Bangladesh state cannot give freedom to the Hindus. Just like the way, it cannot guarantee full citizenship to its Muslims. Muslims in this state will continue to marry four marriages but will be devoid of citizen rights. Hindus in this state will be victims of Hindu inheritance law, but won’t get the benefits of the secular law. The state we see here does not recognize citizens but Hindus and Muslims. A state based on religious identity is bound to behave like this. Such states exploit the religious identity of the majority and arrest their freedom.
Muslim identity is, thus, not enough to become a ‘human’. To be a human, one has to first make claim and attain equal citizenship. The wish to become a citizen does not necessarily mean to negate one’s religion, it is rather denying the religious-state and by that saving the religion from the clutches of the state and also saving the state from the clutches of the religion. The state then will not deny religion; it will just treat religion as a constituent element of the society. Religious groups would then become a secular group like the worker’s group or the women’s groups and then the conflict with other groups becomes that of friendship and not of destruction. An open state is not religion-centric, nor is it anti-religion. This state is free from the anti-religiosity of secularism but it exists above the narrowness of the religion.
From this perspective, the ‘Hindu question’ is a secular issue, much like the ‘Muslim superiority and narrowness’ which too is a secular issue. In other words, this is a material issue and not an otherworldly thing. Resolving a secular issue in a secular way is to search for a resolve not in the domain of religion but in politics and law. The superiority claims of the Muslims and the Hindus belong to religiosity but this prioritization has no place in secularism. The politics of special rights is bad for both groups.
The Muslim state will provide special rights for the Hindus: it will provide special quota, special law but not equal rights. For example see the Hindu Law and the Muslim Law. On principle, the Muslim religious state admits to protect the minority. But they are often considered as second class citizens, at once beneficiaries of the special rights. If we look at the case of the special rights of the ‘adivasi’, things will be much clearer. Thus, in the name of special rights, the barbwire of division prevails in the society. Nation building then becomes impossible.
So, Muslim state suppresses its Muslims, much like it suppresses other religious identity groups and uses them against each other. This usage is named communalism. Communalism is the grist which is used for all the nation buildings of the Indian sub-continent. This is not an exception, rather this is the rule. Thus, on the basis of this material, the state (no matter whether this is a Muslim state, a Hindu state or a Buddhist state) could not be a state at all. This is neither state nor something else. This is nothing.
If a Hindu declares himself Hindu and claims equal rights to a Muslim state, he then really becomes an ideal antagonist to the Muslim state. If a Muslim too wants to claim equality by not willing to get past with his Muslim identity, he becomes an ideal antagonist of the Muslim state. The situation thus becomes: if you are a Hindu, why should I not be a Muslim? And when the Muslims are dominant in number, they wish to keep themselves at the upper hand due to the very strength of that number. The Muslim who opposes this is called an atheist and kept outside the Ummah.
A resolve to this was thought out by Maulana Madani, the non-violent freedom fighter who opposed the two nation theory. He believed in Millat based nationalism and not Ummah based nationalism. Millat is a nation based on different communities whereas Ummah is a Muslim community based on different nations. But still partition continues at the cost of partition of the heart.
The special right of the second class citizen gets complicated in states which are based on religion. When the Hindu wishes to have superior claim as a Hindu to the state which itself protects the interest of the Muslim, a situation arises where both sides develops communalism against each other. Because, by claiming special rights, the Hindu denies the Muslim populace, the very political group who constitutes the state. Then the Muslims also deny their existence. The politics of the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council thus drives the minority against the majority. This is much like the Muslim state politics which pits the minority against the majority. When the [Hindu] Unity Council prioritizes its claims of Hindu specialty but denies similar superiority complexes of the Muslims, then communalism against each other helps each other. Thus, as an answer to Muslim communalism, the play of Hindu communalism and vice versa continues. This path can take us only to the division of the country or leaving the country and nowhere else. Bangladesh with its red and green flag will become another Pakistan and parts of it will become a Hindu based Bengal land. Who know that this process is not in place?
Why the Unity Council could not have done without being communal and unite the Hindus and the Muslims? Why a community-organization which does not take responsibility of the Muslims, speak for their freedom, would be taken care of by the Muslims; this logic then gets a validation. Take the example of people of the CHT or poor Muslims or garments workers, whatever happens to them, if they are not Hindu-Buddhists-Christians, the council will not take responsibility of them. This is how, the very problems of the minority is taken beyond the reach of the majority by the Council; the majority is only addressed as the accused.
In the undivided India, the way Muslim League did its politics of the minority is being followed by the [Hindu] Unity Council today. The birth of this politics is in the mindset of becoming communal in the wake of communalism. This then becomes an issue of which came first, that old chicken and egg debate. So we need to stop somewhere. Both the Muslims and the Hindus have to leave the space of special rights and think in terms of equal rights. The Hindu will then not seek protection as a Hindu but as a citizen on the basis of equality. Because, when equality of the citizen is established, the equality of the Hindu and the Muslim will also be established. The Muslims too enjoying special protection and superiority complex must not forget that they cannot be complacent by not securing the general interest of the people. Indeed, he needs to work for every one’s equal rights.
The Muslims must also understand that without the establishment of the equality of the Hindus, Muslims will also not be able to establish his equality. Thus, I cannot go in favor of any of the special rights of any of these groups.
[Faruk Wasif is a journalist, currently working for The Daily Prothom Alo, Dhaka. This piece written in the wake of recent communal attack in Sathia is collected from Faruk Wasif’s facebook post :https://www.facebook.com/farukwasif2/posts/1405502979685372. Originally written in Bengali, the piece is translated here for Thotkata readers by Mahmudul Sumon.]