By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh may be in jeopardy as the function he was invited to has been postponed due to public health concerns.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited Modi as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the 100th birth anniversary of the country’s founding leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka on March 17.
“After the detection of coronavirus cases for the first time in the country, the government has decided to avoid any huge public gatherings and the inaugural session of Bangabandhu’s birth centenary has been postponed, so most of the foreign guests will not come,” Dr. Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, chief coordinator of the birth centenary celebration national implementation committee, announced at a press briefing Sunday night.
Bangladesh on Sunday confirmed the first novel coronavirus cases in the country, saying three people tested positive for the virus.
Chowdhury declined to say for sure whether Modi’s visit will be cancelled, noting an announcement would be made Monday after another meeting of the committee.
“I just can say that the inaugural session has been postponed at which many foreign guests, including Narendra Modi, were invited. We will hold many small-scale functions throughout the year since March 17, 2020 to March 26, 2021 is Mujib year,” he said.
Meanwhile, sources with the Foreign Ministry who preferred not to be named told Anadolu Agency that Modi’s visit will likely be postponed, but a final decision will be formally announced on Monday.
Huge numbers of Bangladeshis in the capital Dhaka held demonstrations Friday after weekly prayers.
Accusing Modi of "killing Muslims" and "patronizing communal violence" in his country, they demanded that the government revoke the invitation.
They also held banners and placards, with some condemning "killings of Muslims" in Delhi, while others read: "We want punishment of killer Modi" and "Killer Modi has no place on Bangladeshi soil."
“We are pleased that ultimately the visit of Narendra Modi is going to be postponed after our demonstrations,” Dr. Khalilur Rahman Madani, chief coordinator of Bangladesh’s Islamic parties alliance, told Anadolu Agency.
“He is a killer and terrorist. We never accept such a person in our country. We welcome Modi in Bangladesh if he shuns communal violence and discrimination in his country,” Madani added.
At least 52 people have been killed in New Delhi during demonstrations against India’s controversial citizenship law.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by the Indian parliament in December last year, has sparked protests and riots across the country. It grants citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from three neighboring countries.
The legislation has been criticized by international bodies, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has filed an unprecedented plea with India's Supreme Court asking to be made a party in the case against the act.
Despite the demonstrations and mounting criticism, the Hindu nationalist government has rejected calls to repeal it.