New Age Islam Special Correspondent
22 March 2021
On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discriminatiin (21 March), the Harijans of Bangladesh highlighted their plight in a country that claims to be based in Islamic principles of equality and non-discrimination. In a press conference organised by Bangladesh Harijan Aikya Parishad in Dhaka, the Harijans gave an account of injustice and discrimination faced by them in Bangladesh and demanded that the government should enact laws to end injustice and discrimination against the Harijan community. They presented a 5-point charter of demands to the Prime Minister and hoped that the government will ensure opportunities and facilities for providing them a better and dignified life.
In Bangladesh, 5.5 million Harijans live. They work as cleaners and sweepers in municipalities, corporations and government offices. But they do not have access to medical facilities, to judicial remedy, face untouchability and discrimination on social, economic and political level. Their children do not have convenient access to schools. Harijan women face greater discrimination when faced with harassment and exploitation because the judicial system of Bangladesh does not have any specific anti-discriminatory laws.
In 2013, the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Law Commission submitted a draft Anti-discrimination Bill to the relevant ministries of Bangladesh but the Bill was returned to the NHRC for review. The matter is pending since then. This shows the lack of commitment of the government to the issue of ending discrimination against the Harijans. Bangladesh government is a signatory to the International Declaration of Human Rights, the Internatiinal Covenant of Economic, Cultural and Social Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. The Article 27, 28, 29 and 31 of the Constitution of Bangladesh seeks to establish equality and non-discrimination but in reality it has done little to end discrimination of Harijans. Therefore, they have demanded that the government should:
1. Bring laws to end discrimination of Harijans
2. Fix qouta for Harijans in municipalities and corporations and bring equality in their salary.
3. Scrap examination for recruitment of sweepers and cleaners or make the recruitment process easier.
4. Ensure housing facilities
5. Ensure easy access to admission to schools and colleges and opportunities for their development.
Since Bangladesh claims to be an Islamic country based on the principles of equality and social justice, it should adddress the concerns raised by the Harijans.
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