Author Topic: Ekuse February  (Read 6745 times)

Offline Mahmud

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Ekuse February
« on: July 01, 2011, 09:15:28 PM »

“Aamaar bhaai er roktey raangano
Ekushey February,
Aami ki bhooltey paari”

If young (below 30) Bangladeshis are quizzed today: “who composed the above lines (lyric)?” it is fair to assume that most of them shall fail the quiz. Well, the answer to the quiz is: Hon’ble Abdul Guffar Choudhuri, the celebrated composer of those immortal lines.

In the Bengali daily (newspaper) “Dainik Statesman” of 20th February 2011 (Sunday), published in the state of West Bengal, India, hon’ble Abdul Guffar Choudhuri wrote a thought provoking lead article (in Bengali) titled “Amor Ehushey – Secular Bangalir Aasha O Bhaasha”. I borrow heavily from the said article while writing this piece:

Quite pertinently, as one turns the pages of history back to the British reign of undivided India, one finds that: Muslims by and large existed backward in comparison to Hindus in terms of socio-economic parameters. Muslims lived with perennial apprehension and anxiety of being overwhelmed by Hindu rule and subjugation. It was in their utmost urge to project a distinct identity that Muslim community imbibed such socio-cultural symbols as: wearing “lungi”, sporting beard, learning to speak Urdu, Arabic, Pharshi languages etc – as a sharp contrast to real or imagined Hindu cultural symbols. Names of some Newspapers published by Bengali Muslims in (the then) East Pakistan (EP) were: Azad, Takbir, Mehammadi, Medina, Sougat, Ittehad, Miilat, Ittefak, Zindagi-Insaf etc. When in 1951, the daily “Sambad” was first published in Dhaka, the daily “Azad” castigated it saying the word sambad was associated with Hindu origin hence should have been avoided; instead the name “khobor” would have been appropriate, for, the word khobor had its origin in Urdu, hence was Islamic.

With the partition of India, Pakistan as a nation state came into being. The Bengali Muslim community, now constituting overwhelming majority in East Pakistan (EP), became free from earlier apprehension of Hindu rule; but soon they began to fathom the delusion of a religion-based nation state. The rising bengali middleclass Muslims of EP were then faced with a new dilemma: they had earlier (before 1947) dreamt, upon the partition of India, of a great leap from being repressed, exploited to being empowered sharing the fruits of socio-economic (material) progress; instead they found themselves (after 1947) under the juggernaut of non-bengali (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pathan etc) Muslim rule who were perceived as mere substitution for British rule. On the 21st March 1948, Mr. Jinnah, the ruler of Pakistan, proclaimed that Urdu would be the sole national language throughout the state of Pakistan. The dream of Bengali Muslim community in East Pakistan (EP) was shattered. Islam, their religion, could no longer offer them a political solution.

The Bengali Muslims of EP had perforce to search for a clarion call that should galvanize all Bengalis of EP – irrespective of which God one worships or does not worship – in their bid to fight the juggernaut of non-bengali rule of EP. Bengali intellectuals of EP supplied the slogan (spiritual armoury / weapon): Secular Bengali Nationalism and Bengali Language!

Having observed the socio-cultural-political evolution of Liberated Bangladesh (BD) since 1971 till this day (2011), one may infer that: it was much less for the love of secularism and bengali language than for political gain (political empowerment) that bengali Muslims of EP embarked on language movement while professing to embrace secularism as core value of the political struggle/ movement thus enabling them to galvanize all Bengalis – Muslims or non-Muslims – towards the great struggle. As a footnote one may add that: the ploy also worked in impressing upon India that it was to the interest of India that (the then) EP should be liberated into a secular democratic Bangladesh (BD) bordering India. The language movement did not really ingrain secularism into the gene (psyche) of Muslims in BD, few exceptions notwithstanding.

Soon after partition of India in 1947, Bengali Muslims of EP under the new dispensation began to perceive themselves as subjects of new colonialism thrust upon them by non-Bengali Muslims. As a part of the language movement, Bengalis of EP began to celebrate (as cultural praxis having connotation of secular political struggle): birthday of Rabidranath Thakur, Pahela baisakh (first day of Bengali calendar), sharad-utsov (autumn festival), nobanno (festival of fresh paddy-harvest) – each of which used to be deemed as Hindu cultural symbols before 1947. Upon the liberation of EP in 1971, the new nation was named: Bangladesh (an abode of all Bengalis, one’s religion notwithstanding). BD adopted its new constitution delineating secularism and democracy as the corner stones of its polity.

Alas, not for long! The political party, Awami League, with Shaikh Mugibur Rehaman (SBR) at its helm, had been the spearhead of liberation struggle. Thus, in 1971, Awami league became natural successor to rule the new republic of Bangladesh with SBR as its first President. Mukti Bahini, the liberation force, dumped its original `liberating’ spirit, changed its color and became armed cadres of Awami League. SBR sought for `President for Life’ and endeavored to turn BD as his personal fiefdom. Liberation having achieved, the only objective that each political person / group – from top leadership in Dhaka to the grass root armed cadres in towns and villages – aimed at was: UN-EARNED BENEFIT! When muscle power became the only argument, there would never be shortage of various gangs and groups – including communal forces – engaging in flexing muscles. Under such circumstance, the group having strongest muscle would naturally win. Thus in 1975, the army took over the reign of BD and SBR paid for his life. [I can’t resist quoting a dry humor here: Indians have their general election while their neighbors elect generals!]. Since the spirit of secularism and democracy was just skin-deep among BD’s citizens (lasting for a brief period of liberation struggle), Bangladesh quite naturally lapsed into becoming an Islamic State having dumped the original constitution of 1971, as if, posing to rest of the world, “Isn’t it natural for a Muslim majority state to become an Islamic State?”

Bengali Muslims have always been suffering from an identity crisis, confusion thus: Are “being a Bengali” and “being a Muslim” two mutually exclusive identities? Can Muslims and non-Muslims exist as equals within a socio-cultural-political fold / entity called “Bengali”? Taking advantage of this confusion, Islamic extremists, the communal forces, raised their heads through religious and political fora; every political party in BD today (2011) is beholden to these communal forces. No wonder these communal forces flex muscles every now and then – a natural corollary to being an Islamic state.

Thus there hangs the trillion dollar question: “Can Bangladeshis return to their true homeland / motherland? Will Bangladeshis reinvent the true spirit of Ekushey February and liberation struggle?”

[Those who prefer seeing the glass half-full to seeing the glass half-empty, raise your hands!
Meanwhile, I await with bated breath what kind of constitutional reforms Egyptians undertake!]