Don't think of yourself as a minority, Sheikh Hasina tells Hindu community

"You are considered as citizens of this country. You live in equal rights. You will enjoy equal rights. You will observe your religion and celebrate festivals with equal rights. That's what we want. This is the real policy of our Bangladesh and our ideal.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday assured the Hindu community that they will continue to enjoy equal rights and freely celebrate their festivals as she promised strong action against those who indulged in violence and vandalism at temples and Durga Puja pandals in Comilla and elsewhere.

"You are considered as citizens of this country. You live in equal rights. You will enjoy equal rights. You will observe your religion and celebrate festivals with equal rights. That's what we want. This is the real policy of our Bangladesh and our ideal.

"I urge you again never to think of yourself as a minority," she said, joining the Mahanabami of Durga Puja, organised by the Mahanagar Sarvajanin Puja Committee at Dhakeshwari Mandir in Dhaka, virtually from her official residence, Ganobhaban.

"The minority-majority here should not be judged by number. You are an independent citizen in independent Bengal. You have to have that confidence; this is what I want... Why do you think of yourselves as a small community?

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"Please remember, all of you have the freedom to speech, you have right to enjoy your festival by being born in this land... You are the next generation of those who were born on this earth. So, everyone lives here in their own right... I do not consider you as a minority, we consider you as our relatives.

"We are getting a lot of information and of course we will find out who is behind the provocation to destroy the communal harmony... strong action will be taken against those no matter which religion they belong to. I want to remind all; Bangladesh is a land of communal harmony. Here, people of all faiths will live together and will practice their own religion," she said.

Hasina again promised strong action against those involved in provoking communal disturbances by spreading fake photos of the Quran being placed at the feet of a Hindu deity in a Comilla temple, during the biggest festival of Hindus here.

The photos, extensively posted on social media, provoked disturbances across the country. Four rioters were killed in police firing at Chandpur when they went to attack temples and vandalised the Durga Puja pandals and hue and cry raised by radical Islamists demanding to stop the Durga Puja festival, alleging "insult to Islam".

On the incident in Comilla, she said: "We are taking action on the incident that took place. Appropriate steps are being taken in this regard. They will be found wherever such incidents take place. We have done it in the past and we can do it.

"Some people only use their intellect for evil and tend to ruin things when they're going very well. They try to destroy the communal harmony at a time when Bangladesh is moving fast on the path of development.

"Those who cannot gain people's trust and have no ideology tend to do this. It is one of their weaknesses. If we are all aware of this, action can be taken against them."

"Strong punishment must be given to them. Punishment should be given so that no one dares to do so in future...," she added.

Meanwhile, state Information Minister Murad Hassan said that Bangladesh was a secular nation and will soon return to the 1972 Constitution.

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"The military dictators tried to undermine Bangladesh's core ideal of secularism by declaring Islam as the state religion. We will soon return to the 1972 secular constitution that founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave to Bangladesh after independence," he said in a video post.

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