Begum Hasina has made a reassuring statement in the aftermath of the recent communal flareup in Bangladesh, promising and indeed initiating action against some of those responsible.
But the bilateral equation has soured considerably and it must be open to question whether passions will cool down on either side of the fence on the eastern flank in the aftermath of the temple violence in Comilla.
Bangladesh has let it be known that it plans to expedite the trial of all accused in the case. This has been buttressed by the country’s law minister who has been quoted as saying that “there are provisions in the speedy trial tribunals to accept CCTV footage as evidence.”
The cases will be sent for trial as soon as the police investigations are over. On the face of it, this is doubtless a measure of forward movement ever since 21 October when Bangladesh identified a resident of Comilla, Iqbal Hossain, as the prime culprit whose machinations had ignited the riots.
Hossain was arrested in Cox’s Bazar where he had fled. While there have been political protests in India, the Modi government has maintained a studied silence. And publicly, it has reposed faith in the government of Begum Hasina.
This cordiality is an imperative for India; alternative political formations such as those led by Begum Khaleda of the fundamentalist Bangladesh Nationalist Party nurse an agenda that is deemed inimical to New Delhi. It is in this context that Hasina’s statement on Sunday assumes importance.
She sounded emphatic on the point that “certain quarters with vested interests are disseminating propaganda aimed at creating a communal divide.” However, she was remarkably diplomatic as she stopped short of naming any person or party.
“No matter how much good work we do,” she said, “there is a quarter that is preoccupied with discrediting Bangladesh. What do they want? They don’t want the normal democratic process to continue in this country”, she said and urged Bangladeshis “to be wary of the attempts to destabilize the country.” It is a measure of the bilateral bonhomie that Hasina congratulated India on crossing the 100-crore vaccine milestone.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said that Bangladesh had also administered around 60 million vaccines. She thanked India for resuming vaccine exports to Bangladesh, and hoped that that this would remain uninterrupted.
India had stopped exports when the deadly second wave struck the country in April-May this year but is now contemplating resumption of supplies overseas. As important as addressing Covid is the imperative to mend communal fences and build up a relationship of faith and trust between the Hindus and Muslims of Bangladesh. Equally, the communal question must cease to be an issue in bilateral ties.