After Nepal and Pak, Bangladesh flags mural in new Parliament, wants explanation
India has sought to play down the mural that stoked controversy and last week said the artwork only depicts the spread of the prehistoric Ashokan empire.
NEW DELHI: After Nepal and Pakistan, the political leadership of Bangladesh too has raised the issue of a mural in India’s new Parliament building, with minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam asking the Bangladeshi mission in New Delhi to seek an explanation on the matter.
India has sought to play down the mural that stoked controversy in neighbouring countries. External affairs ministry last week said the artwork only depicts the spread of the prehistoric Ashokan empire.
During an interaction with the media at the foreign ministry in Dhaka on Monday, Alam said the mural has “nothing to do with politics” and there is no reason to “get confused about it”, according to reports in the Bangladeshi media.
Alam added that the Bangladesh high commission in New Delhi has been asked to talk to the external affairs ministry to get an “official explanation”.
“There is no reason to express doubts about it. However, for further clarification, we have asked the mission in Delhi to speak to the Indian ministry of external affairs to find out what their official explanation is,” Alam was quoted as saying by Dhaka Tribune.
Alam was also cited by Bangladesh’s The Business Standard as saying that the external affairs ministry’s spokesperson had described the mural as a “map of the Ashoka Empire and it was three hundred years before the birth of Christ”. He added it was a “map of the area that existed at the time” and the mural depicts the journey of the people.
There was no official word from Indian officials or the Bangladesh high commission. People familiar with the matter said the Bangladesh mission is expected to raise the issue during a meeting with Indian officials.
The people cited above said the mural figured in social media posts in Bangladesh in recent days but had not become a major topic of discussion among the public.
The mural has been referred to by some BJP leaders as a representation of “Akhand Bharat” or unified India that includes parts of several neighbouring countries. These remarks didn’t go down well with political leaders in Nepal and Pakistan.
“The mural...depicts the spread of the Ashokan empire and the idea of responsible and people-oriented governance that [Emperor Ashoka] adopted and propagated,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a weekly media briefing last week.
The mural depicts ancient sites such as Lumbini and Kapilvastu in Nepal and historic locations in present day Pakistan.
Ahead of Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s viist to India last week, the country’s political leaders urged him to raise the matter with Indian interlocutors and to seek the removal of the mural. But Bagchi said the matter was not formally raised by Dahal during talks in New Delhi