I met Saima, my first Pakistani friend. I was ten years old; we bonded on a land, where culture and language were foreign to both of us. We found solace in speaking a language that was common between us, Urdu. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, I’d probably bestow the credit to Indian Sattelite Channels, according to her, I spoke Urdu quite well. I was surprised at myself. Urdu ? Me ? I always thought I was speaking hindi, however, may be it was her influence that brought about the change in my accent.
When I returned to Bangladesh, after my two years stay in Canada, I learnt a number of lessons. Firstly, I could no longer differentiate between myself, an Indian and a Pakistani. To me, we were all brown people, with more or less the same culture and we all spoke a language which derived from Sanskrit. Secondly, the western world and its norms introduced me the concept of a socially and economically balanced society. For the first time in my life, I didn’t see poverty and lived in a safe environment. After returning to the beloved capital, I engulfed myself in learning about world history and revolutions, and you guessed it! History was my favorite subject. I compared my nation’s revolution and war stories starting from the language movement till present to revolutions around the world. My focus turned to the political events and situations of Bangladesh and I analysed quietly sitting on the rooftop of my beloved apartment the cost and affects of our Independence.
“এক সাগর রক্তের বিনিময়ে , বাংলার স্বাধীনতা আনলো যারা , আমরা তোমাদের ভুলবনা ”
“Lest we forget: those who sacrificed their blood for the Independence of Bangla”
I asked dad, why he didn’t have a grudge against a nation who destroyed Bangladesh. He corrected me.
“It’s not the nation, ma, it was political decisions taken by extremely selfish, power hungry, drunk political people. Military was ordered by politicians to eliminate and cripple the Bangla community, which was majority East Pakistan. Pakistani military were convinced that Bangalis’s were not Muslims, and Pakistan wasn’t tolerant towards a different religion. Not that it made sense to massacre people of a different religion. I cannot hate Pakistan as a nation because it wasn’t a decision made by Pakistani’s as a country. There was a time when, I sang the Pakistani national anthem everyday at school, I used to be inspired by people who would go to Lahore and Karachi for jobs, we had Pakistani Punjabi neighbours who were colleagues of your dada and were absolutely not involved in politics.”
Was I satisfied with his answer? I thought of Saima and our different perspectives of Islam. She belonged to a more conservative family and I came from a secular nation and liberal minded environment. In 1947, the British Divide and Rule policy stirred the idea of religious nationalism. Pakistan was born out of the demand for a Muslim state. However, Pakistan meant, West Pakistan (Current Pakistan) and East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and the two states had very different perspectives towards religion and culture. Also, since the concept of ethnic division based on land area is absurd, it was normal that East Pakistan (East Bengal/Bangladesh) had minority religious groups and their culture was not strictly influenced by religious beliefs. For a majority West Pakistani, being Islamic was a part of their identity whereas for an East Pakistani, being Bangali came first as their identity. This was clear during Bangladesh Liberation War.
As the years passed, I religiously celebrated Ekushey February, Independence Day and Victory Day. I prayed for Boni Uncle and many departed souls every year on these days. My heart saddened reading newspapers everyday. My beloved nation was suffering from poverty, corruption, high crime rates, social issues and what not? Major political parties and countrywide disease of corruption crippled the Freedom we earned in 1971.
I stopped reading newspapers. I stopped listening to arguments about who was a better political party. I closed my eyes, ears and well…my mouth was never open in the first place. I disliked anything political. The Freedom we needed and earned in 1971 was exploited and raped by a handful of unethical, power hungry and no points for guessing, politicians! What could a 16 year old do ?
Life in the past ten years have taught me enough to realise : Independence and freedom light the spark for progress, and are instigators of opportunities. Bangali’s fought for independence to progress as a community; they rebelled against suppression of language. The Liberation War was not a religious warfare, it was declared to fight against genocide Pakistani military committed beginning on 25 March known as Kalo Raat. The Dark Night when Dhaka city was a burning hell : women, children, elderly tortured, raped and murdered under Operation Searchlight. Pakistani military were motivated to do such blasphemy because “non-Muslim” East Pakistani’s were trying to take over “their” Muslim Pakistan. Bangali Muslims were abused physically and mentally to prove their religious identity. Minority ethnic groups were under death threats. Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani reporter, exposed the scale of the Pakistan army’s brutal campaign in 1971 which caused a worldwide uproar and and influenced Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to prepare Indian intervention. (Source http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16207201)
Picture: Anthony Mascarenhas above
Independence and freedom needs to be mitigated and harnessed carefully, so that it doesn’t have a negative counter affect. Yes, I agree that independence and freedom needs to be controlled to a certain extent to avoid unnecessary results.
In August 1975, Talukder Maniruzzaman, Professor and Head of Department of Political Science, Rajshahi University summarised the post war political situation and concluded, that 1971 was not the end of a revolution, it was only the beginning. Within a couple of years after the birth of Bangladesh, there was an instability in the political situation. On January 25 1975, the Bangladesh Constitution was amended to provide a form of presidential government where The President was authorised to form one party and suspend all activities of other political groups opposing the proposed national party and instate Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of Nation who declared war of Independence on 26 March 1971 as the President of the nation for the next five years. (Source: The Journal of Asian Studies / Volume 34 / Issue 04 / August 1975, pp 891-911 Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1975 )
Clearly, post Liberation War, the freedom and independence we earned as a seperate secular nation was abused by, ding ding ding! Power hungry politicians. With all due respect to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as he and his family was eventually massacred through a military coup – no one took the initiative in the early years as a true patriot to harness the freedom and Independence of Bangladesh since 1971.
My motherland is a third world country. It is corrupted, and socially cripple. It is a nation with suppressed anger, hatred, unfair treatment, frustration and most importantly, it never got its true freedom. True patriots and original guerrilla fighters are beggars or has taken shelter as a refugee abroad. Pakistani military successfully butchered Bengali Intellectuals one by one and dumped their bodies like insects; this left the fate of our nation in the hands of greedy and uneducated politicians who not only invited corruption but also facilitated to re-instate Razakars (religious fundamentalists who assisted Pakistani Military during the Liberation war) as samaritan Bangladeshi citizens. This is my true identity. I am a Bangladeshi, a citizen of a poor but proud nation that has a history of progressive values. Once upon a time it rebelled against suppression of culture and language, a nation that did not tolerate violence in the name of religion, a nation that was, is and will always be my Shonar Bangla (Golden Bengal) despite the fact that it is being raped over and over again by conscious less pigs who have unfortunately become the leaders of this God forsaken nation.
The battle within, to hate or not to hate Pakistan as a nation, has subsided. My dad was right, I cannot hate a nation for the decisions made by people who lack ethics and humanity. The battle within, to question my Patriotism as a Bangladeshi born, Australian resident still pursues: who do you think makes a good patriot ? The one who loves their land so much that they consider moving to a different nation a betrayal or the one who loves their nation so much that despite settling down on a different land, they remain rooted to their culture and heredity as part of their identity ? We are all one and the same.
@copy 2013 Tasnim Hafiz