Monday, February 05, 2001

Bangladesh 2001: The Myth of Bengalee Culture - Part 6

History is who writes it,
unlived and lived again history changes with the pen,
who writes history walks on water,
distorts the sleep of buried dreams,
and transforms to wine the stream of time,
history is the contrite blood of Christ.

History is an apparition,
of wisdom's holy ghost in extradition,
history is a fractured vision,
caught in oceans of inscrutable time,
history is the crucible of the heavens,
who walks with history talks in parables,
whose words consort with rhymes and riddles,
who fiddles a sad psalm,
history is a dust storm.

History is a living thing, a gusty tree,
growing and bestowing,
its roots, unforgiving spread deep in grief,
extending steep its limbs to implore an end of its repetition,
who reads or heeds it understands,
history is a crust of bread that feeds a multitude,
from the palm of broken hands.

The coagulated thread of civilizations bled,
the scourge of God,
Noah's flood the rod of Moses parting seas,
and Ali's forked sword is history,
the morning star of Al-Zulfiqar,
history is a dead moon,
exhumed by Ibne Khaldoon.

History is the light of a rainbow at midnight,
history is the rain's ablution the wind's intuition,
and extinction of the animal kingdom,
history is the death by flight of the ozone layer,
the glare of radiation history is the suffocation
with a green house effect, history is a nuclear future.

History is a chronicle of crimes destiny by design,
the indestructible soul meandering through time,
history is the romance of destiny by chance.

History is a cryptic beauty,
and Oxonian or Smithsonian historians
when you dip your sharpened pencil into the silence of antiquity,
do be sure to be secure of fate,
before you embrace the subtle curvature of time and space.

Before disremembering the Gordian
knot remember Lot,
and his wife the statuesque pillar of the salt of life,
who seeks her favours, savours the flair for snare,
inherits the curse the face and Medusa's head of history,
and listen to the wailing dead,
their orisons too late History is a hooded figure,
disfigured by love and hate history has a painted face,
concealing in disgrace a congenital eczema
an emotional leprosy of the soul,
history is a charlatan curing
all with an hardening of the arteries, history is Hiroshima.

Tread carefully my friend the lover of destiny,
must circumvent the quicksand's of a lattering palmistry,
and who binds history,
is a blind poet stumbling through the wooded pathway of his sonnet,
to a wounded gate
where history has many streams and waterfalls into infinity...

History is the garden of Allah.

© Nadeem Rahman, History, Poems of Expiation

22. History of Bangladesh: Condemned to Repetition

The History of the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 is by far the most distorted piece of cultural documentation that we have inherited. Thirty years to this month of March 2001, I consider it a patriotic duty not to indulge in the profanity and sheer hypocrisy that it has been reduced to, keeping in mind what my poet friend Nadeem Rahman has mentioned above. One more change of hand and it becomes one more rape, and one more illegitimate version - that I certainty do not want to be a party to.

My only remarks would be that readers who have been painfully following the last five episodes of this writing, have more than ample similes to come to a simple conclusion, that our dishonesty and betrayal with culture has also resulted in dishonesty and betrayal with our history that has only been a catastrophe for our 'shadahron jonogon' - not our elite or the middle class who have since 'hijacked' the War as their personal or party property fraught with their alignments - non of which is aligned to the interest of Bangladesh. Never ever will the history of Bangladesh be written with any degree of authority or authenticity. There is no proverbial silver lining behind our dark clouds.

If blood is a price to pay for Independence, it is the 'shadharon jonogon' who has overpaid, while our elite has only catapulted themselves into 'position' or 'opposition', or whatever over time, standing tall on the accumulated skeletons that the 'masses' and not those on the 'fringe' have left behind.

History has only been fair to winners - and while the common man in Bangladesh won its Independence, it never stood to enjoy the fruits that it so much deserved. While we kicked the Pakistani's out, we made enemies real or imagined in every juncture of our history among our own people - to the extent that the thin line between fact and fiction has gotten more an more dimmer and complicated with passage of each year.

Differences on the question of history alone, and its many versions that is played about with impunity has seen the deaths of thousands of people in Bangladesh most of whom were young. The price Bangladesh has had to pay and is probably still paying for democracy would put the world to shame. Shame as thirty year down the line all the political parties that have come to the lime light of power have found more use of goons and thugs - and while tall talks about curtailing 'terrorism' abound - the truth is our political culture can not operate without terrorism, without threats and importantly without deaths. The piling of dead bodies ensures political survival. Decency and civility are things we probably have no fondness for.

The India factor stands high on our portrayal of patriotism. Thirty vain glorious years later a generation is being asked to remain loyal not to Bangladesh, but to India for its 'help' to our people in 1971 - and never to question its role since. The 'Spirit of the War of Liberation' - which I have earlier referred to as 'chetonization', seeks a clear divide of a people - not its unity, and the philosophy is played up in proportions that one can only call institutionalised lunacy. Revenge for 'crimes of 1971' is been harped up over and over again, to a generation who by and large were born after 1971, and had no role to play in the shaping of its bloody history. The only crime that these young have committed perhaps is being born in the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh?

Bengalee's before 1971 had heroes and traitors in its popular culture who were never Bengalee's in the first place? The 1857 Battle of Plassey, a historical spark reference point for Bengalee nationalism saw the transformation into a 'hero' the tyrant Nawab of Bengal, Sirajud Dowla and the 'national arch traitor' Mir Jafar for his betrayal of Bengal to the British. However neither of them were Bengalee's.

Similarly the word 'Razakar' to describe collaborators with the Pakistani army of occupation in 1971 is a Persian expression - not Bengalee and is a distortion of its original pronunciation 'Rezakar' or 'volunteers'. A strong and far reaching Bengalee word has yet to be invented to express the contempt we feel for these villains's of infamy. Every new day sees newer versions of traitors hobnobbing with the people we have vested our confidence in, and our valuable yet occasional mandate on - LEADERS, who have made it a culture to deceive and distort for petty personal or partisan gains.

Will readers please try and work out wonderful new terminology's in 'pure, correct and cultured Bengalee' that could aptly describe these jokers! I give up……

23. The Patriotic Culture - The Last Vestige of Scoundrels

If economic domination and unfair play in determining our destiny are factors that led to our struggle for Independence, the mistakes we made with Pakistan are the same mistakes we are repeating with India, and today all aspects of our existence revolves around paving the way for the eventual colonization of Bangladesh by the great Republic of India.

A flag and map is all we have inherited to express our geographical independence, the Liberation of our petty minds from complacency, deceit and co-opting to India's will, and standing firm for what Bangladesh is all about, has been shoved to historical dustbins. Support for India and its demeaning communal policy towards Bangladesh will place you in the favors of our 'patriots'. India bashing makes you a 'coward enemy of the people' - even a traitor! So be it.

Prior to 1971 what use to irk the people of Bangladesh was the role of Punjabi nationals of Pakistani descent who were 'muscling in' just about everywhere in our civil administration or private sector - mainly as Managers or Technicians. Menial jobs were left to the Bengalee's - so that in effect, after 1971 the greatest paucity we had was the absence of qualified Managers and sound entrepreneurial capacity among our citizens. Talented Bengalee's would have to compete with the Pakistani's for their dire existence in all jobs including the civil and military bureaucracy. All good jobs would be in the hands of expatriate Pakistanis.

Today the scenario is just about the same. While thousands of talented young Bengalee's with an education are deprived of a job opportunity and find only doors slammed on their faces, Indian nationals of lesser talent and a smattering of the duh duh 'Indianized English' spoken skills are paid six fold salaries and facilities they would normally receive in their own country. The advertisement business, media, multi national companies are now in the firm hands of Indians - some even in sensitive position's detrimental to the security of Bangladesh. Ironically 'management graduates' from the many suspect institution in by-lanes and alleys of Kolkata have the plum jobs in Dhaka - something unimaginable back home?

While Bangladesh nationals have made a mark in the countries that they have gone to anywhere else in the world, in Bangladesh they are discriminated in preference for Indian 'experts'. The pecuniary advantages offered to Indians could have easily seen hundreds of aspiring and qualified Bangladesh nationals queuing in for the same jobs - but for 'patriotic' reasons - that does not happen.

We have conspired to allow the Indian take-over of Bangladesh, and the first phase, media and transmission offensive has already been a great success, thanks again to our 'patriotic' citizens. India does not need to conduct a geographical invasion of Bangladesh to raise its tricolour in Dhaka. Given half a chance - our own Bengalee 'patriots' will do it for them - it is only a matter of time.

While Marwari's together with local collaborators busted the back of our stock exchange in 1996 and brought our infantile yet prospective capital market to its knee, while Marwari's have a stake in one of the largest Bengalee newspaper in Bangladesh whose agenda is communal and distinctly anti-Bangladesh, while the IT industry and computer training schools with dubious 'international' credibility is in the Indian domain and controlled as some press reports would suggest, by operatives of the RAW, while the garments industries and buying houses are controlled by Indians, while restaurants in Dhaka bring in Indian chefs to prepare culinary delights, Bangladesh is being denied a fair chance to trade, its hands twisted firmly backward till it complies to perform as determined - or perish.

The recent incident of battery manufacturers from Bangladesh being battered by anti-dumping legislation in India, is a stark reminder. All of that, and now an attempt by an Indian company to set up a battery manufacturing plant in Dhaka with 'local collaborators' to delete all 'threats' from Bangladesh companies, who have less than 01 % percent of the Indian battery market!

Is India afraid of Bangladesh's potentials? Who knows.

Lets look at the melamine crockery exports to India in the early nineties as another case scenario. Price, Packaging, Product and quality wise, they beat any Indian competitor hands down and turned out to be a great success in West Bengal and other neighbouring states that they were marketed. Yet the Marwari's raised a hue and cry, 'isko bandh karna hai' (this has got to be stopped) raised the tariff and levy so that it became impossible to operate profitably across the border.

Unlike the battery manufacturers cribbing for attention with hopes for a fair playing ground, the melamine crockery business shifted base to the Middle East where it stood to make more profits that it did by trading with India?

Given half a chance, Bangladesh can easily be the lean and trotting horses of the sub continent that can quickly shift and outsmart the heavy elephant India truly is. But these are success stories that rarely get reported - so no regrets!

24. The rise of the Bhajakars - Patriotic Traitors?

Thanks to what began as an 'open policy' in the BNP era in the early nineties, the Indian cultural take-over is in effect complete. With music, films, serials, cinema, news and views dominating almost 90% of Indian overused or abused viewing and listening times of Bangladesh nationals (ZEE TV being the favourite television channel of Sheikh Hasina, to quote no less but her husband), their 'fashion' models, film stars, cricketers, pop stars have a ready market in Bangladesh no different from any other provincial state of the Indian Republic - Made in India, Vande Mataram and Jai Hind - already an integral part of the popular vocabulary.

What do we call these 'pro Indian collaborators' in our culture and politics? If collaborating or 'dalali' with the Pakistani occupation forces saw the coining of the term 'Razakars', I suggest for future usage - when in the unlikely event of Bangladesh becoming a truly independent country - the word 'Bhajakar' meaning 'Bharotiyo dalal'. (Indian collaborators). Any other colourful expression is more than welcome!

It has become fashionable in our political culture to appropriate blame on one or other party to be 'pro-Indian' on a day to day basis. The truth is ALL our political parties i.e. Awami League, BNP, Jatiyo Party even the Jamaat e Islam operate on a pro-Indian agenda, and our political future will therefore remain firmly in the hands of how India decides for us.

While the Awami League is yet unsure of its possibilities of coming back for another four years in election 2001 - if at all the BNP does, it will be by default, not because the people of Bangladesh have any great love for them, but because the people of Bangladesh have become rabidly anti-Awami League (read anti Indian).

IF the BNP does come to power there might be some surgical redefining scenarios at the cultural level, i.e. more doses of 'jasbahization' (Spirits of Islam) that will have the 'kut mullahs' given more access to determine every aspect of our 'national life'. Nothing positive will happen to get us anywhere out of the political quagmire that traps our people, period. While the patriotic card will inevitably be played out with wild abandon in the run up to Election 2001, no political party will raise the specific point of Indian cultural or economic subjugation. The mandate will be determined by those on the 'liberal Islam pro India' side of the fence. The people who will inevitably be 'fenced in' are those that accept Islam as a part of Bengalee culture - which is conveniently forgotten by parties once they hop into the hot beds of power. Not to forget that Islam is neither Bengalee nor Muslim in our culture !

25. Talent and Technology: Juggling with devices

While Bangladesh is still considered amongst the poorest of the poor in the world, what surprises many is the easy and early availability of technology before any other countries in the subcontinent. The first VCP's that were seen in India were actually smuggled in from Bangladesh. Up until 1990 Bangladesh Television (BTV) was the hot favourite of Indian TV viewers in West Bengal and North East India, not only LIVE coverage of Olympics or World Cup football, but stale drama serials and news as well. That all changed once the Indian satellite televisions stormed in and turned the table.

Consider necessary devices like the pagers (late eighties), cellular phones (early nineties), video conferencing facilities, (late eighties) email (early nineties) and the Internet (1995), Bangladesh nationals had access to all of these well before India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Yet it is a great shame that they came in for the 'consumption' of our elite - at a price unheard of anywhere. Early cell phones for instance sold for over two thousand dollar - today anyone can have one for less than two hundred dollars - still expensive - but imagine the early ripoffs by monopolist businesses, aligned to parties in power! Similarly all other information related technology came early yet we could not make any effort to counter the sustained Indian domination over the last five years or so.

Shall we move on to some positive 'cultural gain' and bring this morbid exercise to a conclusion? Shall we be proud of who we are? Shall we once again tell India and the rest of the world that 'up there' is where Bangladesh belongs - so dont dare tread on us any more.

On this thirtieth birthday - shall we be brave enough to show the Indians an index finger?

Hello ! Are there any 'patriotic' Bengalee's around?

First Published 5th February 2001

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