Although my antigen test tested negative the night before, I went to bed with my heart beating fast at the height of tension, since I developed florid COVID-19 symptoms including fever, running nose and lose motion from last afternoon. I was pretty convinced that I was down with COVID for the second time, but unfortunately had no other option but to wait till late afternoon for the confirmatory PCR test to come. For obvious reasons, I skipped hospital that day. I awake after a phone call from Mr. Pijush Bandyopaddhaya, Convenor of Sampritee Bangladesh, who informed me about the untoward incidence that took place in Cumilla earlier that morning. That someone had placed a copy of the Holy Quran on the lap of Hanuman at a Durga Puja Mandap, which led to widespread vandalism of places of worship, residence and work of the Hindu community in Cumilla and eventually nationwide is now over a week old and is also well reported and therefore well circulated. Over the next few hours I remained busy with my cell phone trying to rally the progressive elements in Cumilla and beyond, utilizing my personal as well as Sampritee Bangladesh contacts. However, one thing that I failed to realize is that, which stupid person will ever believe that a Hindu will risk ruining his/her biggest festival by such an idiotic act. The sad part of the story however remains that most people never even bothered to turn to this simple logic. I was saddened and depressed all day, as I failed to realize how, sitting in this digital era, civilized human beings can turn to savages abandoning humanity and morality, in the name of religion, putting religion in the cupboard.
I usually do not get into arguments with known or unknown ones in Facebook. I also never assume that hundred percent people will appreciate my statuses. When some odd person crosses the limits of decency and humanity and makes disturbing comments in my wall, I gently block them and simply delete their comments. Like previous years, this year also we have sent greetings banners to Puja Mandaps across the country from Sampritee Bangladesh. Besides our members and well-wishers also paid courtesy visits to Mandaps all over Bangladesh and like I do every year, I have shared these events in my wall. The problem began with a particular post, where I had posted two photographs. One was that of a madrasa student steering at Goddess Durga and another one of several Muslim young stars posing in front of Durga. The idea was to share the spirit that ‘religion is personal, but celebrations are universal’. After I posted this status, I had to block and/or delete minimum fifty comments. I also had to unfriend several persons from my list. This long list includes teachers, doctors and nurses of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, like it also includes such people who are known to be secular and at the same time influential in our society and it is not that they are Muslims only, there are Hindus as well. To my utter surprise I realized that the country has dipped in shit hole, while I remained ignorant of the reality.
I joined a talk show on a major national TV channel on the night of Aushtomi. After much brain storming, soul sourcing and deep analysis, I finally believe that I have possibly cracked the nut. I have possibly found an answer to these queries. It is the reality of life that ‘BangaBhanga’ by the British Raj was not meant to uplift the Bengali people. It was rather the opposite. In Bangladesh extremism has long been state sponsored, although the country enjoys more than thousand years heritage and culture of secularism. Except for the brief rule of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and subsequently first five and then the current thirteen years of uninterrupted rule by his able daughter Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has always experienced tension in the name of religion for many years. BangaBhanga was in fact a way of reprogramming the Bengali mindset that they are not one people. Rather there are two sects in them, namely Muslims and Hindus and if they have to prosper, they can only do so by competing with each other and not through cooperation.
We have seen the continuation of this state sponsored evil practice during the twenty four years existence of unified Pakistan and then in independent Bangladesh under the pro-Pakistan rule of General Zia, General Ershad and finally Khaleda Zia. It is the blunt reality that even during the 1970 general elections, where Awami League recorded landslide victory, plus-minus thirty percent Bengali voters still decided not to opt for Awami League and in other words they chose to opt for Pakistan. Those thirty percent are very much here in today’s Bangladesh, who have swollen in numbers with support from the establishment. I found the anchor of the talk show in little disagreement with my explanation. Her logic was how something as old as fifty or hundred years can be so pertinent today. I actually wanted to make this point. Although we are now celebrating fifty years of independent existence of Bangladesh, it is only just one year more than an era that pro-liberation forces are in control in Bangladesh uninterruptedly. Since coming to power in 2009, the Awami League Government had to engage most of its energy and efforts in pulling Bangladesh back on the track of development and as a result could divert very little attention in strengthening ideological aspects.
This is the reason why we see ruling party leaders responding promptly to any criticism directed against ongoing development activities of the government. On the contrary they are rather lost, when faced with Cumilla like situations. Typically they hardly ever respond. The response is triggered from all corners including the government machinery and the political forces only after the Hon’ble Prime Minister comes out and leads them from the front. This is the time when the perpetrators are once again in back foot and Bangladesh starts marching ahead. But the question is how long can we go on like this?
It is obvious from the leaked phone call of a BNP leader and some of the recent comments by some other leaders of the same party, who orchestrated this latest series of attacks on Hindu interests in Bangladesh. On October 22, the world remembered ‘Operation Gulmarg’ when on this day in 1947 the Pakistan Army in disguise violated international boarders and occupied one third of the Princely State of Kashmir that forced Maharaja Hari Singh to join India on October 27. However the fact remains that thirty five thousand Hindus perished in those five days, which the world today remembers as the first state sponsored genocide in the Indian Sub-Continent after the partition of India, not to mention that all subsequent genocides in the region including that in Bangladesh in 1971, was carried by the savage Pakistanis. The state sponsored policy of crimes against humanity by the Pakistan regime that was unleashed in Kashmir in October 1947, has continued in many different forms in the region at different time points either directly by the Pakistanis or by their evil followers. What we experienced in Bangladesh recently is nothing but yet another demonstration of savage brutality by the Pakistan backed pro-Pakistan elements.
However, fools never learn from history. It is his creator against whom Frankenstein turns first. The Taliban who were once created by the Americans are the ones from whom the Americans had to run away hurriedly. On the contrary, IS Khorasan, another ISI creation, who fought side by side with the Taliban against the US-backed Afghan forces, is now nightmare for the Taliban. BNP-Jamaat, who are now seeking refuge in the extremist elements of the society to ride to power, have failed to learn from history that although it is a far cry, even if they secure power through this evil route, it is these evil forces to whom they will perish, not to mention that some of the ruling party elements are also living in fool’s paradise, believing that they will be able to save their Biryani by sharing tits and bits of bread with the fanatics.
The secular forces in Bangladesh are looking for their salvation to the gracious lady who has assumed the responsibility of pulling back Bangladesh from the deep hole where it was dumped after the brutal assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. She has made some drastic comments recently, which have ushered new hopes for the pro-liberation forces of Bangladesh. She has promised that she will ensure that the honest and patriots are placed in their designated places. She has also pledged that all those who carried out attacks on Hindu interests will be brought to justice. The way ‘apa’ has transformed Bangladesh in the last decade gives me the confidence to be confident that a new Bangladesh is emerging. I have now started to believe that after the next general elections in Bangladesh in 2023, I will never have to block anyone, nor delete any comment from my Facebook wall after posting a status relating to what I truly believe in.
Professor Mamun Al Mahtab, Member Secretary, Sampritee Bangladesh.