Bangladeshi officials reinstalled the controversial Lady Justice statue in a new location on the country’s Supreme Court premises on Sunday after mass protests by secular groups, Dhaka Tribune reported. Several radical groups, including the Hefazat-e-Islam, a body of madrassa teachers and students, the Awami Olama League and the Islami Andolan Bangladesh had been campaigning for months against the sculpture for being “anti-Islamic”. They gathered outside the apex court to protest against its re-installation, AFP reported.
Installed in December 2016, the statue was a creation of sculptor Mrinal Haque who was present at the site to ensure that the statue was not damaged. “We have just placed the sculpture in front of the Annex Building of the Supreme Court,” he told AFP. “I was not given any clarification but was only ordered to relocate it.” Haque said the statue was relocated behind the court where it was nearly out of public view.
Police reportedly arrested several of the protestors, who were agitating against the reinstallation. “Police arrested nine of our peaceful activists. If they are not released immediately, we will call for a stronger countrywide movement,” said Hasibul Islam, spokesperson for the student-based Islamist party Islami Shasantantra Chhatra Andolan.
The statue depicts the Greek goddess of justice, Themis, holding a sword in one hand and the scales of justice in the other, while wearing a sari. It was removed on May 26. As Muslims do not believe in idol worship, the statue of Lady Justice was considered “anti-Islamic” by some groups and protests had erupted in Dhaka demanding its removal.
Attorney general Mahbubey Alam had said an order to remove it was passed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has, in the past, criticised the instalment. On April 18, she had asked why the statue of a Greek goddess was set up in Bangladesh. “The Greeks had a certain type of costume, but here a statue has been built and it is wearing a sari,” she was quoted as saying by the Daily Star. “It is a funny incident. I don’t know why such an incident happened.”
Hasina’s statements has been interpreted as a way to balance her support from religious hardliners and conservative rural voters during the elections in 2018.