Arsoning of Santal houses and majoritarian growth of the state

Published: 01:35, Mar 11,2017


THE Rangpur police have finally submitted its investigation report to the High Court on Thursday, identifying at least two policemen — Gaibandha Detective Branch subinspector Mahbubur Rahman and Gaibandha Police Lines constable Sazzad Hossain — to have been directly involved in setting fire to houses of Santals at Gobindaganj in Gaibandha on November 6, 2016. The Gaibandha police — its superintendent Ashraful Islam, to be precise — earlier refused to disclose the identity of the members of the law enforcement agencies who committed the heinous crimes while the deputy inspector general of the Rangpur Range submitted the report only after the High Court had asked the government to withdraw the superintendent Islam for non-cooperating with the court in dispensing justice to the victims. Now that the police have complied with the court order, assured further cooperation, we hope that the alleged criminals would be lawfully punished and the victims would be adequately compensated.
Be that as it may, the incident of arson by the Bengali police of the houses of the Santals, and the subsequent police attempt to cover up the crime, calls for serious inquires into the nature of the state by its political managers, on the one hand, and the democratically oriented sections of society, on the other, and that, too, keeping in mind the historical promises of the country that became independent through a liberation war joined in by all sections of its people, irrespective of their religious, ethnic and gender identity. When the armed forces of the then West Pakistan launched its brutal genocide in March 1971, no particular community of the Bangladeshis — ethnic or religious — was spared the brutality, the reason why the entire people, barring a few collaborators, irrespective of their ethnic and religious identities put up resistance against the forces of Pakistan, eventually resulting in the victorious emergence of Bangladesh.
However, once independent, Bangladesh has always displayed the tendency of evolving as a majoritarian state — sometimes Bengali majoritarian and sometimes Muslim majoritarian — due to the overwhelming size of the Bengalis and the Muslims. Side by side with that of the non-Bengali and non-Muslim minority communities, there had always been some political resistance from majority communities against the tendencies, but the resistance had never been decisive. The result is obvious: the state has almost always sided with the majority communities, ethnic or religious, whenever any conflict of interests has arisen between the opposing communities. The case of setting fire to the houses of the Santals, an ethnic minority community, by the Bengali police could hardly be analysed without considering the majoritarian nature of the state. Burning down the Santal houses by the police, who are supposed to protect lives and property of every citizen, irrespective of ethnic, religious and gender identity, is not only a case of a serious breach of law by a section of a law enforcement agency but also a clear betrayal of the democratic spirit of Bangladesh’s liberation war that drew the people from every community, both ethnic and religious, to put up resistance against the occupation army of Pakistan.
Under the circumstance, those who really want to uphold the ‘spirit of the liberation war’ must come forward, politically and culturally, to stand in the way of the majoritarian growth of the state and reverse the course to turn Bangladesh into a truly people’s republic — the republic of all citizens, irrespective of their ethnicity and faith. 

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