US Congressman Joseph Crowley yesterday said the Bangladesh government must protect the rights of the minorities to uphold democracy in the country.
"In the homework of democracy, the duty of the majority is to protect the minorities’ rights," he told journalists after a meeting with Ahmadiyya leaders at Bakshibazar in the city.
Joseph F Crowley, co-chair of congressional Bangladeshi Caucus who arrived in Dhaka yesterday on a three-day visit, also held a meeting with the Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad (BHBCOP) leaders and Mahanagar Sarbojaneen Puja Committee at the Dhakeswari National Temple.
Earlier, Crowley placed wreath at the Central Shaheed Minar on the occasion of International Mother Language Day.
He appreciated the religious harmony and practice of democracy in Bangladesh, but said the government should take appropriate measures on the allegations of the minority communities in Bangladesh.
On what he learnt about the concerns of the minorities, Crowley said they are sensing threat from the majority within Bangladesh. "I think, probably, it is minority within the majority that makes that."
The minorities are also concerned about their inability to express themselves through publications which is a violation of human rights, he added.
"It is important for the US to maintain the relations with Bangladesh," Crowley said, adding that his country wants to help positively the democracy in Bangladesh to flourish.
Meer Mobashsher Ali, nayeb-e-ameer of National Ahmadiyya Jamaat, while briefing journalists after their meeting with Crowley said the congressman enquired if media reports on the attacks on the Ahmadiyyas are true. "We told him that the media in Bangladesh is quite free and the reports of Ahmadiyya repression is true," he said.
He said they thought their situation in the country should be brought to the concern of the international community. "But of course, if the government wants, it can stop any attack on the Ahmadiyyas as it protected us at Trishal on February 10," he added.
He said they expect that good sense will prevail in the government and it will protect the rights of the minorities as is ensured in the constitution. "There should be something effective like a human rights charter on international basis to protect the human rights of the minorities," he noted.
Earlier at the meeting, the BHBCOP submitted a memorandum to the US congressman, demanding repeal of the fifth and eighth amendments to the constitution to establish a secular and democratic state diminishing all disparities.
It demanded proper inclusion of the country’s minority voters as well as 5.5 million voters staying in India in the voter list and assurance of free and fair elections under a neutral caretaker government and an independent Election Commission.
The BHBCOP memorandum also demanded equal rights and proportional representation in every sphere of life, including parliament, cabinet, defence and civil administration, and assurance of safe return of 10 million minorities who have left the country at different times.
The memorandum urged the government to fulfil the legitimate demands of the aboriginal and indigenous communities, including preservation of their culture and heritage, and implement the CHT Treaty.
The increase in terrorist bomb attacks over the last few years, especially in recent time, follows "directly from the communal state system and the Islamised constitution of Bangladesh", it said, adding, "The extremist forces are enjoying support of the present coalition government."
The communal forces perpetrated widespread attack on the non-Muslims before, during and after the general elections in 2001, and they are now conspiring to deprive the religious minorities of their voting rights in the coming elections, the BHBCOP alleged.
BHBCOP President CR Dutta, General Secretary Dr Nim Chandra Bhowmik and other leaders were present at the meeting.
Crowley also met Archbishop Paulinus Costa, chief of the Catholics in Bangladesh, at the Ramna Cathedral in Kakrail.