Of men who misinterpret historical truth | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 18, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 18, 2009

Of men who misinterpret historical truth

A superannuated bureaucrat horrified us all the other day (and he was on one of those inane, live television talk shows) through his convenient forgetting of national history. Or was he deliberately informing us that what we went through in 1971 did not matter any more, that the distortions we have lived through since August 1975 are all?
To give you an idea of why he lost his cool, not long ago the respected freedom fighter C.R. Dutta had demanded that certain religious provisions which have made their way into the Bangladesh constitution since the rise of the defeated pro-Pakistan forces in 1975 be repealed. It is a sentiment millions around the country, those who recall the ethos of the war of the liberation, have not forgotten.
And they have not forgotten because in 1971 it was a pure, unadulterated Bengali war that brought together Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists and others in the armed struggle to eject Pakistan out of their lives. It was a secular state that the founding fathers enunciated and upheld in Mujibnagar. And that secularism was reinforced, resolutely and morally, by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman once he came back home from captivity in Pakistan.
Ah, the pity is that these noble ideas simply escaped the imagination of this bureaucrat. He raised his voice, to inform us that ninety per cent of Bengalis happened to be Muslims and so our way of life would be patterned along that reality. And then he said something worse. If Bismillah could not be part of our lives, should we borrow something from Hindu scripture?
That was not only hitting below the belt. It was at the same time a throwback to the arguments used long ago by the old Pakistanis. But then, why take matters all the way back to a Pakistan we ran out of town all those years ago? The problems, those we are burdened with today, are here in our own living rooms, in our backyard, of our own making.
There are people who tell us they love music, men who have enjoyed being elitist in their perception of culture. But then something bizarre happens to them. They falter, they stumble. Why must you then blame Ziaur Rahman for bringing communalism back into our lives, excoriate Hossain Muhammad Ershad for the religious identity he gave this proud state of secular Bengalis?
If these men, these bureaucrats called to nearly every television channel for whatever wisdom, or the lack of it, they spout, now tell us that we are no more secular Bengalis but Muslim Bangladeshis, you have a sense that somewhere their comprehension of history has simply turned upside down.
They leave us embarrassed, for what they are doing, despite knowing what the Pakistanis and their local cohorts went around doing nearly four decades ago, is to inform us that Bangabandhu was wrong, that the Mujibnagar men were wrong, that the three million men and women who died in defence of Bengali nationalism were fools who simply had little business putting up armed resistance against a marauding foreign power.
Forty years after liberation, it is an outrage hearing some men trying Soviet-style revision of Bangladesh's history. And if C.R. Dutta and other Bengalis lend their voices to the urge for a return to the 1972 constitution, they have not only our sympathy but our active support as well.
We were part of that war. We have remained committed to the principles that underpinned that war. Which is why we register our disgust at those who seek to pass off the war of liberation as a civil war. Which is why when retired bureaucrats think it is a Muslim country, we pin them down to a serious argument on the realities of history.
Which is why when some people think President Obama should visit this "Muslim" country, we need to remind that this happens to be a Bengali state. And when some foreign diplomats seek to make us happy through eulogising us as a moderate Muslim state, we tell them they are wrong, they are blissfully unaware of our history.
That is about all. And yet there is a little more. Some people reminded us the other day that the late lamented General M.A.G. Osmany was a great democrat. He was, up to a point, the point being January 1975. And then, in August 1975, he linked up with Khondokar Moshtaque Ahmed, stayed with him till November of that year.
It is now for you to make up your minds -- about irascible bureaucrats, about dead soldiers.

Syed Badrul Ahsan is Editor, Current Affairs, The Daily Star. E-mail: bahsantareq@yahoo.co.uk.

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