In this paper, I examine the roots of the many inconsistencies produced by the fifteenth amendment. These, I argue, can be traced to specific conceptions of secularism immanent in the dominant Bengali Muslim/Bangladesh nationalist imaginary. Scholars have noted the relative clarity of debates around secularism in contrast to the contentious discussions over non-Bengali ethnic minorities in the Constituent Assembly. This, I suggest, was because secularism – defined in the constitution as the absence of communalism - was critical to national ontology. That is, secularism was not about minority rights, religious or otherwise. It represented a precondition and aspiration to Bengali ethnic and linguistic nationhood, one that ostensibly transcended religious difference. Those who were Bengali speaking, Muslim or not, were by definition, part of the nation. Non-Bengali speakers, Muslim or otherwise, could be only outside the nation.
In light of the above analysis, I ask what the original and current constitutions look like from the perspective of religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities today.
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