Dhaka: An Islamist group in Bangladesh has stoked controversy after it demanded the removal of the country's Hindu Supreme Court Chief Justice and sought to cut funding for Bengali New Year celebrations, terming it 'haram'.
The Ulema League, which claims to be an affiliate of the ruling Awami League, staged a human chain protest in the capital against the government's funding for the celebration of Bengali New Year, Pohela Baishakh, and demanded the removal of Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, who is Hindu.
The group also demanded that the government cut funding for Pohela Baishakh celebrations and divert the money to Islamic festivals like Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi.
Several secular groups and social platforms criticised the Ulema League and demanded an explanation from the Awami League on its relations with it, as senior ruling party leaders were previously seen joining their programmes.
The mass circulation Daily Star in a front-page commentary wrote, "So then, is our government upholding a 'haram' culture as it is a public holiday? Are the 160 million Bengalis observing a haram festival? . . . What Ulema League has been doing over the years is a crime."
"It (Ulema League) can hurt religious sentiments of the Hindus or any other minority people as it has done this time just yesterday when it said 'a Hindu chief justice in a country where 98 per cent people are Muslims is hurting the sentiment of religious Muslims'."
The Awami League, however, denied any links to the group.
"I am telling you, Awami League does not have any affiliate called Ulema League... we have 11 affiliated or associate organisations and you would not find the so-called Ulema League in that list," Awami League spokesman and joint
general secretary Mahbub-Ul-Alam Hanif told PTI.
He said that law enforcement agencies were asked to take required legal action against the group for carrying out controversial activities using the Awami League banner.
Hanif also denied a media report that the outfit was allowed to use a room inside Awami League's central office, saying "they earlier hung a banner in our office but it was removed as soon as it came to our notice".