April 18, 2007

Bangali vs. Bangladeshi nationalism

In an earlier post, I had referred to the debate about Bangali vs. Bangladeshi nationalism. Syed Badrul Ahsan writing in today's Daily Star recounts how it all started:

The first, tentative steps toward a formalisation of historical mutilation came when the journalist Khondokar Abdul Hamid told a surprised Ekushey crowd at the Bangla Academy in February 1976 (the country had conveniently been placed under a state of martial law) that "Bangladeshi nationalism" would serve as the underpinning of the state. The only brave soul at that gathering was Professor Kabir Chowdhury. It was he who spoke, however briefly, of the role of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Bangladesh's history

Now, Mr. Ahsan's writings have never fallen far from the partisan tree. Which is highly infuriating since his writings betray him now and then to be a man capable of original thought, not simply seeing our history through partisan eyes (which, ironically and correctly, is what he accuses his opponents of doing).

Let us dissect the above quote. " "Bangladeshi nationalism" would serve as the underpinning of the state": to this day, I have not come across a single reason why the Bangali nationalism based on ethno-linguistic differences should underpin a state that does not encompass a large group of Bangalis, and moreover includes non-Bangalis within its borders.

Nor have I come across any reason why a territorial definition of nationalism - which Bangladeshi nationalism purports to be even though some of its supporters give it a religious-communal hue - should not underpin a territorial state.

The very next sentence lauds the renowned Professor Kabir Chowdhury's remembrance of Mujib's vital role in Bangladeshi history. Other than BNP's appropriated version of Bangladeshi nationalism (and how many people really BELIEVE in that?), who else denies this? Is it impossible to believe both in Bangladesh as a territorial state and in Mujib as the leader who led us to it? What kind of a Bangladeshi nationalism would we have that did not include his vital role in our history? The BNP's version of course. But why give any importance to what the political parties say about history when you know it's untrue? And why battle one political party's line with another's?

More importantly, Mr. Ahsan never tells us why we need Bangali nationalism to recognise Mujib as the founding father of the state. I don't recall him calling on all Bangalis, East and West of Benapole, to unite. Yes, yes, I know "Bangladeshi nationalism" is the BNP's term, but is it not time we saw the merits of the term - in my mind, the territorial nature of our nation regardless of religion, race or gender - and corrected the demerits, namely the erasure of Mujib from our history? Thus, and only thus, can we appropriate the term from the BNP and make it ours, the people's. (And in a similar way, it would be nice to appropriate Mujib from being "head of the Awami League" or "Jatir Jonok" to being plain, simple and dignified "Bongobondhu", ours, the people's once again!) But in trying to fight for Mujib with Bangali nationalism in hand is throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

But of course Mr. Ahsan does not do this, even as he purports to educate the new generation. For the last five years, to our great shame, our PM would celebrate her (fake) birthday on the day Mujib was killed. And what does Mr. Ahsan offer to absolve us of that shame? More of the same I'm afraid: one historical fallacy for another. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, whom Mr. Ahsan himself likes to quote now and then, the choice we seem to have is between pyre and pyre.

(PS. My non-use of the term "Bongobondhu" when referring to Mujib is deliberate. I believe that titles simply obscure a man's greatness. Nothing is more fitting than one's own name.)


Fugstar said...

Is there no history before mujib? I dont think this ones going to get resolved any time soon. Half the peole will wear the bangla garland and half the muslim one. They will argue and kill eachother over the importance of wearing their garland, which doesnt fit anymore because times change.

Asif said...

Dear Fugstar,

"Is there no history before Mujib?" Powerful question, almost awe-inspiring!

There is a lot of history before Mujib and a lot after. But ask yourself this: since when has "bangla" and "muslim" become mutually exclusive terms? I mean, personally I am both Bangali and Muslim.

Asif said...

As you said, the garlands don't fit but still the people wear them.

Btw, if you post in DP, I commented on your "nobility" post. Nothing personal, I welcome your contributions there and in this blog.

Fugstar said...

the bangla muslim exclusivity is not my creation dude. it is engrained in a lot of peoples heads!

its an essential part of some peoples(say secular triumphalists) analysis of what 71 means to mankind. which leads us on to the communalism/secularism/political blood capital mess that underpins some of the rather naff political discourse people have.

i do beleive that nobility, adab-khalsot, akhlaq, chivalry, bhodroness are indispensible markers of social quality and personnal i'd like to see. some aspects are inherited and others are earnt.

Asif said...

Interesting thoughts and twist on the word nobility. Obviously it connotates heredity. But are you not merely creating a new elite?

Fugstar said...

im describing what exists, and where leadership can come from. human qualities et al. what im decribing probably sounds anti egalitarian. thats not the intention. Sayidna Bilal was an elite. Maulana bhashani was an elite.

Lets twist the word elite. the best. The kind of people who might work at NASA rather than, say Dhaka University.

So a powerful class of people form different places and backgrounds who

-Know their stuff
-Are articulate
-Know how to lead
-Are wise
-Aren't fools.
-Have proven themselves.

The term corrupt foolish elite in this sense cant exist.

The reason I say this is that terms like intellectual or buddhi jibi or sushil samaj(i woulnd liek to know the history of that term) have become nonsense, with the degeneration of our society over the years. Its that flaming 3rd law of thermodynamics and the rise of evil quite frankly.

Anonymous said...

Several Lac Suits / Litigations pending in Court due to illegal occupation of land ignoring documents and title right by Government or Semi Government Organization like Railway Department, City Corporation or Municipality.
Such are happened in whole country and in DHAKA CITY.
Officials of Land Survey , Settlement Office and their Subordinate Office are responsible for such activities as they issue records & parcha to land occupier ignoring deed & title right. depriving owner.
It will continue till TORT LAW are in-acted like USA, EUROPE COUNTR, INDIA & NEPAL .
TORT LAW will Prevent poor becoming more poor.
Correction of records & parcha through Court is life long litigation & an expensive system ,which common people can not bear meantime the face of land changes.
MINISTRY OF LAND , MINISTRY OF LAW; HOME and LOCAL GOVERNMENT may take action at earliest possible time to abolish LAW OF POSSESSION RIGHT without any valid document or title right.

And shall also allow the application TORT LAW in Bangladesh without any delay to established accountability & prevent malpractices

And Government can know the pictures of the country if some Non- Government Organization like the NGO are permitted to conduct survey from Union level to the Dhaka City with arrangement of spot correction of the malpractices of Survey or Settlement Officials till date .

No extra fund will require for the Government ,but will create opening to know the anomalies or malpractice of the officials of the above Department.

It will be highly appreciated if you kindly circulate the above in in all level for creating awareness among the people and international community as well as Patriot Political Worker. Leader or Intellectual Group, & Policy Maker of the Country .

The Peoples

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