UDDIPANA GOSWAMI, Literary Editor
On 16 December, neighbouring Bangladesh celebrates its Victory Day. The country has traveled a long way from political subjugation and ethno-cultural domination. When it finally won independence after the Liberation War of 1971, it became an inspiration for the many small and big nationalities fighting for self-determination everywhere in the world. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Northeast where insurgencies against the Indian State’s ‘step-motherly’ policies have mushroomed since the 1970s. It is a different matter that most of these erstwhile revolutionaries have today turned mercenaries – of peace and war.
In Bangladesh, the glorious legacy of the country’s liberation has also been besmirched by religious fundamentalists who work against its raison d'etre. A lot of blood, tears and turmoil went into its inception. To forget these travails is to belittle the sacrifices of those who chose to be culturally emancipated rather than be fanatics for a faith. They died for their conviction.
The poet Gobinda Halder promises,
Ek sagar rakter binimoye
Banglar sadhinata anle jara
Amra tomader bhulbo na
(You who brought freedom to Bangladesh through a sea of blood, we shall not forget you).
The political climate has now changed in Bangladesh. The spirit of 1971 is back in politics and hopefully will bring with it other socio-cultural changes. Problems of course persist. The voices of ethnic minorities are not heard as much as they should be; there is poverty and underdevelopment; years of insinuating religious fundamentalism into prevalent institutions has not been easy to counter and the Bengali ethos of the country continues to face the threat of radical Islamisation. But there is hope still, and an immense pride among the people of the nation. Often, this pride and a whole bunch of sentiments adhering to the horrors and the harvest of 1971 instigates strong reactions towards any attempt to revisit the Liberation War. In this issue, our editor Subir Bhaumik, who saw Bangladesh fight its way to independence as a schoolboy in his border hometown of Agartala, examines how the real face of the country comes alive in its reaction to a book written and a film made against the backdrop of the War.
Many in the western world had stood by Bangladesh in its hour of need. George Harrison sang in the
Concert for Bangladesh,
My friend came to me, with sadness in his eyes.
He told me that he wanted help, before his country dies.
The country lives on, but how does the Western world view it today? We take a close look at David Lewis’ book Bangladesh: Politics, Economy and Civil Society to find a few answers.
We also bring you an extract from Tanveer Ahmed’s memoir, The Exotic Rissole. The author who migrated to Australia as a child, gives us a glimpse of life inside Bangladesh during the Liberation War through an account of the courtship between his parents.