Nazrul, Tagore and Tolerance
Any discussion on modern Bengali literature is not possible without referring to the works of Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore. One of the most salient features of these literary legends is their humanistic approach towards literature. Both of the doyens of Bengali literature have depicted the true essence of humanity, and this particular side has been highlighted this year's Hay Festival Dhaka by Dr Niaz Zaman, Sonia Nishat Amin and Dr Kaiser Haq. Throughout their life and works Nazrul and Tagore have conveyed the message of equality and tolerance among people, regardless of their religion, class, sect and caste.
Tagore's approach to humanism was more philosophical in nature. Many of his works carry an in-depth message of his humanistic philospohy. His short stories 'Kabuliwala' and 'Musalmanir Golpo' clearly show that virtues cannot be bound by religious rules and regulations, universal as they are. According to Sonia Nishat Amin, “Unlike Nazrul, Tagore approached it in a subtler way.”
On the other hand, Nazrul was quite vocal and straightforward on religious tolerance, as during his lifetime Bengal was burning in the flame of numerous riots. Time and again, Nazrul has raised his rebel voice. Both Nazrul and Tagore later became the source of inspiration for humanistic authors of Bengali literature like Syed Waliullah. These pioneers have laid the foundation of free thinking and intellectual liberty that is now practiced in Bengal.