Ban on Ahmadiyya books challenged in High Court
Six civil society groups and a member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Bangladesh (AMJB), yesterday filed a writ petition with the High Court (HC) challenging the government ban on Ahmadiyya publications.
The writ asked the court to issue a rule on the home secretary, senior assistant secretary of the home ministry, inspector general of police and deputy controller of Bangladesh Government Press to explain why the ban would not be declared illegal, and the operation of the order stayed.
The HC Vacation Bench of Justice ABM Khairul Haque fixed today for hearing the petition.
The bench received an undertaking from the state side that the government would not publish gazette notification on the ban before the hearing today.
The government on January 8 banned Ahmadiyya publications in the face of agitation by anti-Ahmadiyya zealots backed by a section of leaders of the Islamic Oikya Jote, a constituent of the ruling BNP-led alliance.
Rights and civil society groups, progressive political parties and professional bodies across the country opposed the ban.
Dr Kamal Hossain filed the writ petition on behalf of the petitioners — AK Rezaul Karim, a member of the AMJB, and a former deputy general manager of Bangladesh Bank, Odhikar, Sammilita Samajik Andolan, Ain o Salish Kendra, Karmajibi Nari, Jatiya Ainjibi Parishad and Nijera Kori. Barrister Tanjib-ul Alam assisted him.
Terming the ban an infringement on fundamental rights of the Ahmadiyyas, Dr Kamal said the law enforcing agencies are unlawfully seizing Ahmadiyya publications as the government did not publish any gazette notification on the ban till date.
The ban prohibiting the publication, sale, distribution and preservation of Ahmadiyya publications is wholly malafide, arbitrary and a violation of fundamental right to equality under the law, he said.
The writ followed a spate of attacks by certain extremist groups on individuals and institutions belonging to the Ahmadiyya community in recent months to force the authorities to enact laws to declare the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims.
About one lakh Ahmadiyyas live in Bangladesh now and their faith was first preached in 1912 in Brahmanbaria.
The Ahmadiyyas have carried out printing, sale and distribution of their publications for many years in Bangladesh without any hindrance and in full knowledge of the government, the petition said.
Certain vested interests led by Khatme Nabuwat have been deliberately fomenting a climate of vilification against the Ahmadiyyas as a community, leading to physical attacks and even murder and maiming of individuals and destruction and looting of mosques and other properties, read the petition.
“Since the ban, Khatme Nabuawat and its affiliated bodies including Amra Dhakabashi have been carrying out attacks on the community in the name of implementation of the impugned order.”
The ban has encouraged certain vested quarters to take the law in their hands, denying fundamental rights to the members of the community, said the petition.
“Attacks on Ahmadiyyas appear to have been instigated by certain vested interests and are part of a carefully orchestrated campaign in the recent past,” the petition said, adding only one or two organisations consisting of a few hundred members have raised their voice and demanded ban on Ahamadiyya publications.
During the brief hearing yesterday, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Helal Uddin Mollah told the court that they received notice on the petition shortly before the hearing, and the attorney general would make submission on the matter.
Dr Kamal expressed his apprehension that the government might publish a gazette notification before the hearing today.
The court asked for assurance from the state side that the government would not publish any gazette notification before the hearing.
The DAG then gave a verbal assurance on the matter.