Home Muslim culture Tagore and Nazrul walk together in Bangladesh

Tagore and Nazrul walk together in Bangladesh


The fireball of hate sweeping over Bangladesh brings me back to the birth of this nation. When the war for the liberation of Bangladesh started, I had to cover it for The Statesman, where I was a junior journalist. The instruction to do the cover was a headache: I would not go to the Bangladesh front, instead I would be chaperoned, along with a multitude of foreign correspondents, by Major Ram Mohan Rao in Chhamb in the western sector, scene of an important battle in this war.

Why was I chosen to cover the western sector? Why was I refused the main theater? Did I not trust?

It turned out to be spirit ogres, summoned by me. The truth was much more revealing of the reality of Bangladesh. The editor-in-chief, in his wisdom, thought that in Bangladesh I would be mistaken for a Punjabi Muslim and killed.

The other reason was even more convincing. The Statesman was a Bengal institution, headquartered in Kolkata. I was in the newspaper’s office in New Delhi, emotionally removed from operations in Bangladesh in which our colleagues in Kolkata had an “owner” interest. It was, for them, an intra-Bengali affair: the reporters in Calcutta would harmonize much more with the emerging elite, which was tearing itself away from the Urdu Punjabis of Pakistan.

Linguistic and cultural identity supplanting religious identity was clearly at stake even when Indira Gandhi handed custody of Sheikh Hasina to Pranab Mukherjee, practically as her ward from 1975 to 1981, when she escaped a threat. for his life.

When Inder Gujral, as Prime Minister, embarked on a daring three-nation summit (Sheikh Hasina, Nawaz Sharif, Gujral) in Dhaka, I received a surprise call from him: Am I there? accompany to Dhaka? I read his mind instantly. The accompanying contingent did not have a single Muslim in a summit involving two full-fledged Islamic republics. As it turned out, the search for a fictitious Muslim was bogus.

Never in my life have I been so alone with my Muslim references. My colleagues in the press contingent were suddenly lost to me once they got past immigration to Dhaka. The Chakravartys, Mukherjees, Ghoshals, Basus and a certain Karlekar (more Bengali than most because of his Bengali mother) got confused in a rather indistinguishable way with the Rehmans, Haqs, Mujibs, conversing in Bengali with vengeance.

The high decibel sounds of “Ki khabar, Khub bhalo, Oray baba” completely marginalized me. “Illichh Maachh” was the flavor of the trip and my friend Tarun Basu actually came back with the biggest cooler full of hilsa, the tastiest fish in the world but so crowded with bones you have to be a born Bengali, each side of the dividing line. , to eat it without choking.

There is noticeable, sometimes pronounced, schizophrenia in Bangladesh. I experienced it during Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s visit to Dhaka when Zia ur Rehman, representing a streak quite different from that of Cheikh Mujib, was in power. New Delhi had acceded to the demand for food grains from Dhaka but Prakash Shah, co-secretary of the Morarji secretariat, sought in vain for the gesture which received no notice in the official media. There was a tendency not to be seen shaking hands with India.

In dealing with Sheikh Hasina, for obvious historical reasons, there was always a kind of stealthy warmth. But even so, in international relations, especially with neighbors, the word “obligation” has negative repercussions. India’s role in 1971 sometimes boomerangs the relationship.

Sheikh Hasina comes under inexorable pressure when citizenship laws in the contiguous state of Assam are distorted against Muslim migration. After all, she is a politician and will always take political action to deal with troubling events at home. This may involve, among a host of steps, further accommodating a determined Chinese lobby. Thus, the question of citizens not only strain the ties between India and Bangladesh, it immediately opens spaces for China.

It’s a subcontinent irony that Chinese influence in the neighborhood became much more pronounced after India helped create Bangladesh. Until 1971, much of Indian diplomacy consisted of neutralizing Pakistan everywhere. But the creation of Bangladesh changed the political geography of the subcontinent.

India has become a big country surrounded by small ones. It is as clear as day why President Zia ur Rahman launched the idea of ​​SAARC. Its political goal was simple: to balance India’s expanded post-1971 presence in South Asia. To this end, each of the nations bordering India began to bloom a map of China, almost in concert.

When Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as foreign minister, visited Beijing in 1979, he thought that a thaw in Sino-Indian relations would be a step towards diluting the Chinese map in the pockets of China’s rulers. SAARC. The visit ended in a disastrous manner. Beijing did not even convince the visiting foreign minister that Vietnam was about to receive “a lesson”.

Under Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee, relations with China have sailed and faltered, but never reached the levels that prevailed after Narendra Modi put Ladakh in relief after branching off Jammu-and- Cashmere.

Eastern Ladakh, Pakistan, the emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a spike in targeted killings in Kashmir were all threatening enough. Reports of attacks on Hindu places of worship in Bangladesh are multiplying the threatening clouds gathering all around. What is happening is dangerous and sad. The politically polarizing communities in India may have been somewhere near the ignition point and the world knows it.

What is a shame is that in its culture, Bangladesh is essentially composite, incorporating many Hindu motifs into its social practices without in any way undermining its Islamic faith. Tagore, the author of his national anthem, was influenced by the Brahmo Samaj: the gods and goddesses do not come out of his writings. But Shiva, Shakti, Tandav, Durga are an integral part of the songs of Qazi Nazrul Islam, so much an organic part of the fabric of Bangladesh.


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