- Radicals wanted the 'Lady Justice' statue destroyed, replaced with Koran
- PM Hasina also expressed her dislike for the statue
- Work to take down the statue was supervised by its sculptor Mrinal Haque
The removal triggered angry protests by students who said the government is trying to stay in power by compromising with and encouraging fundamentalists.
The hardline Hefazat e Islami which had campaigned against Lady Justice have now made a fresh demand: remove all statues from the country.
Just after midnight, workers began removing the statue of Lady Justice that was installed at the court last December. Ever since, Hefazat e Islami has been protesting against it, objecting to the idol which is considered un-Islamic.
In February, the Ansar-al-Islam, the Bangladesh Affiliate of Al Queda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) announced it supported the Hefazat's demand.
In April, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met the leader of Hefazat and reportedly said she didn't like the statue either. She had said that it was "ridiculous", that if it was supposed to be the Greek goddess of Justice, Themis, then why was she wearing a sari.
In the darkness, as the statue was taken off its pedestal, its creator, renowned sculptor Mrinal Haque, was asked to visit and supervise the removal. He was almost in tears when protests erupted outside the Supreme Court gates.
"I have nothing to say. Many people have many powers here. I made her. Now if I get different orders, I am bound to obey," he said. In some reports he was quoted saying, "I felt like my mother had died." Another statue by Haque of mystic singer Lalon Fakir was pulled down from near the Dhaka airport some years ago.
As word of the statue's removal spread, so did protests, by students from Left unions and from the activists of the Shahbag uprising of 2012. Police blocked their march to Supreme Court with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. But, students said, there should be no compromise with fundamentalists.
"If this government thinks it can stay in power by compromising with fundamentalist elements and encouraging them, they are mistaken," said one student.
Another student said, "From tomorrow, there will be agitation against this incident in colleges and universities across the country."
There was no word from Sheikh Hasina, though a leader of her party, Awami League, said the decision to remove the statue was the Supreme Court's.
Analysts say with elections due in 2019, Sheikh Hasina is putting a strategy in place to counter the BNP opposition party and its ally, the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami. By compromising with the Hefazat, Sheikh Hasina hopes to divide the hard-liner vote.