People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 24

June 12, 2011


Yechury Attends Asian Peace Conference


SITARAM Yechury, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and leader of the Party in parliament went on a two-day visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh to attend the Asian Peace Conference, organised by the Bangladesh Peace Council and the World Peace Council on June 4-5, 2011.


The conference was inaugurated by the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. Representatives from many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, from Australia to Palestine were present on the dais during the inaugural session. Amongst those who spoke on this occasion were the president of the World Peace Council, former prime minister of Nepal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, former home minister of Bhutan and Sitaram Yechury.


Yechury, in his speech said that following the landslide victory of Sheikh Hasina and her party, the Awami League, the political situation in Bangladesh has witnessed a lot of improvement. Congratulating Bangladesh for successfully hosting the recently concluded ICC World Cup, he stated that many of us in India felt very proud for the manner in which Bangladesh had organised the event. “The coming together of the progressive and democratic forces galvanised the peace and solidarity movement in the country and this is being reflected in the hosting of this important conference too,” he said. He concluded his speech saying, “Bangladesh and India are brothers by birth, not elder and younger, but are twins who share both pain and happiness. It is in this spirit the issues affecting our two countries should be resolved”.


During the course of his stay in Bangladesh, Yechury interacted with the president of Bangladesh, the prime minister, the foreign affairs minister and other senior functionaries in the government of Bangladesh. He also had separate and lengthy discussions with the leaders of all the Left parties jointly, including the Communist Party of Bangladesh, at the headquarters of the Workers' Party of Bangladesh. All the Left parties had expressed their opinion that it is time for the Left and progressive parties of SAARC to jointly discuss and take some initiatives against the impact of neo-liberal globalisation, the widening income inequalities and against imperialism, which is seeking to increase its presence in the region.


In the two days that he had stayed in Dhaka, there was a hartal called by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). It was called to protest against the government approvingly considering the Bangladesh Court ruling on the question of a caretaker government that conducts elections. In Bangladesh, they have a system, where a caretaker government is formed without any political parties’ leaders, under whose supervision elections are held. This system had come into place because of the general feeling that no ruling party will allow free and fair elections when they remain in office. However, recent experiences show that even the caretaker government is liable to be misused to delay the conduct of elections and worse, to facilitate a military takeover. For half of Bangladesh's history, military rule was the order of the day. The court had ruled that such a caretaker government is unconstitutional, but it had allowed the formation of such a government for next two elections, if the parliament so approves. The BNP is currently boycotting the parliament as Awami League has three-fourths majority. Currently, this is one crucial issue in the political scenario of Bangladesh.


In another important development, the court has annulled the 5th amendment to the constitution of Bangladesh. Through this amendment, Bangladesh was declared as an Islamic Republic. With this court verdict, Bangladesh returns to be a secular country, with no State religion. Given the four decades of independent history of Bangladesh, it is natural that this verdict would evoke passionate responses. While the Left took a clear-cut position on secularism as separation of State and politics from religion, there are strong voices of vacillation heard from within the Awami League. They argue whether such a complete acceptance of the court verdict would give grist to mill of the fundamentalist forces in the country. How this issue will be resolved and with what degree of compromise, will be crucial for the future of Bangladesh.


During the course of his stay, Yechury also released a special book commemorating Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's 150 birth anniversary, along with the vice-chancellor of the Dhaka University. This book is published by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka. India and Bangladesh are separately and jointly celebrating the birth anniversary of this great poet and thinker, who incidentally authored the national anthems of both the countries.