Friday, May 13, 2005

Letter from Shafik Rehman - Jai Jai Din

Few days back I wrote to Shafik Rehman of Jai Jai Din about the Creation of Bangladesh issue and the identity crisis :

Click here to read the article on BangladesherDak

creation of Bangladesh and the Identity Crisis

I was brought up as a middle class Bangladeshi Muslim and like all of my friends I never had to face the question of my identity when I was living in Dhaka – studying, passing time with my friends and families and not really bothered about the seriousness of a nation’s identity. As I came abroad in my early twenties, I had to face a pretty different and somehow troublesome picture of my beloved country or the countrymen. I am writing this today because I have never seen someone bringing up this issue to an extent that attracts some sort of interest or action from the Bangladeshi community both home and abroad.

I first heard the phrase ' we created you' from two undergraduate Indians guys. I thought to myself these are few horrible people - believing in the goodness of the mass people. But the numbers kept rising and I thought have I been missing something in my history lesson for all these years. I remembered when I was in my 9th grade an English teacher of my school, during one the his private tuitions, told us that it was indeed India that liberated bangladesh and like many of us would think I thought he is nothing but a Rajakar ! But now after all these years I hear the same thing again and this time it's from the Indians !! Hmmm...Rajakar Indians !?!

After being humiliated and mocked at by various Bharotio Lokjon with the same proud statement I finally asked my closest Indian friend here about the creation thing and to my suprise he said "oh yeah yeah I heard back home...people say that we created you". So it's definitely not a one off thing then. It's a national preaching (propaganda ?) that Bangladesh is nothing but a war ( not love) child with Pakistan from India's point of view. So what about the history books that we memorized so far ? All cover up ? By the way, don't ask a Tamil or a Shikh about general Bhaotio Monovab simply beacuse they don't walk in the mainstream and have a bitter clash with the central government. Coming to that point soon.

Few days back I was watching a documentary on the assault of the Shikh Temple in Punjab during Indira Gandhi's time. The Shikhs, after years of oppression, started demanding for a independent state "Khalistan". The leader of the rebel group was sheltering in the Golden Temple and Indira Gandhi , to capture the notorious rebel, ordered to cut off all the communiucation links to Punjab from the rest of the world and sent hundreds of troops to put an end to the Khalistan demand. The fight continued for the whole night and at the end, early in the morning, the army bombed the main gate of the Temple using a tank and killed the guy. After this incident Skikhs were tortured and burnt live all over India. As a result Indira Gandhi was killed by her own Shikh body guards. But then again the Shikhs were tortured mercilessly.(, I was asking my dear friend ( Ram Deshmukh) why they didn't give freedom to Shikh people. His response was " we can't afford to's the most prosperous state in India...why would we give up part of our country ?" True, very true but then why did you help Bangladesh to get freedom. In response he simply smiled. The same thing goes for Kashmir. When asked why don't you let it be Independent ? The common answer is " It's too small to run own it's own...It's in our blood. We cannot let it go". Yeah ! true again, I guess India loves to help the freedom seeking people ! But It doesn't like other countries helping freedom seekers( The common complaint about Bangladesh now is that BD is helping the North-east rebels of India. The rebels having regular meetings in Dhaka !! ) Goodness me ! A treat of its own medicine !

I remember during my sophomore year, I was working in an exam board during the summer time and then when it first struck me. I met a Bangladeshi guy who is educated to the masters’ level and working in the same place. He was always hanging out with his Pakistani friends and never really caring about his fellow brothers. But that was not the problem; I was stunned to see that this very Bangladeshi guy was speaking in Urdu all day, everyday just to impress his superior Pakistani friends. I remember asking him few times why he speaks in Urdu and every time he failed to come up with a reasonable answer. Well, you might be saying this might be a single case happening somewhere and you are drawing a conclusion based on that. But wait a second, I have more to say. As I got surprised everyday of my life for the last few years I am sure you will be the same as you read through the rest of this article.

Back in the University, the very next year, I met a guy studying law and his father was the then president of the Bar association in Bangladesh. I was expecting a rather polished personality in a young guy like him but guess what , this guy was surrounded by his nearest and dearest Pakistani friends like the other guy I talked about before and this guy was speaking Urdu even better than the first one. His Urdu was so fluent that many of the Pakistanis I knew used to tell me they don’t even know Urdu like this Bangladeshi guy. He even mastered Punjabi version of Urdu and was very proud of it. I know what you are thinking; this guy must be a Rajakar or a Pakistani lover. Oh no! You are absolutely and totally wrong. Just walk into his room and you will discover a large poster of Sheikh Mujib hanging in his wall. He is fluent in Urdu and a fierce supporter of Awami league at the same time. Life is strange. Isn’t it?

I guess those of you who have lived most of their life in Bangladesh or never been out of the country must be thinking I am talking rubbish here. May be I am-may be most of the Bangladeshis are not like the ones I talked about but certainly an alarming percentage of Bangladeshis abroad are like that. You can count on me in this case. I have seen so many Bangladeshis who are so ashamed of the fact they come from Bangladesh that they do not want to express their true nationality to other people. It’s not only that they are ashamed but also they introduce themselves as Indians. In the café or in the classroom wherever you go you will find one or two Indian Bangladeshis trying their heart out to be devoted in Indian culture and polishing their already near perfect Hindi skill. It might no be so shocking to see so many elderly and young people back home glued to the TV set to watch the latest in Hindi serial but watching my fellow brothers trying to become Indians is very shocking and heart breaking –specially abroad. There was one Bangladeshi guy doing MBA who told my Indian friends that he wants to burn his Bangladeshi passport and would like to have an Indian passport. My beloved Indian friends, for obvious reason, were delighted to hear this and even more delighted to tell me about my brother’s desire. How was I feeling as a Bangladeshi that time – mention not! Guess what I am not the only one complaining;-) I found other friends too .

So what’s wrong to be a ‘Bangladeshi’ after all? Sometimes I feel the lack of pride as a country is the root of the entire crisis. But is it really that or something more into it than you can assume from the surface – after all, where on earth all these inferiority complexes coming from. The sign of identity crisis becomes evident whenever an India-Pakistan match is played in Dhaka. Bangladeshi people supporting India having Indian flags drawn over their faces and Bangladeshi Pakistan fans waving Pakistani flags like crusaders. I wonder if any other country in the world would support another country in this fashion and the support doesn’t just stop there in the field; it stretches into universities, cafes and even in the discussion forums on the Internet. Few days ago, I was checking my mails and to my surprise, I found out that a hot discussion is going in a famous forum and the topic of the discussion is West Bengal vs. East Bengal. East Bengal? Now, is that a country or just a province of India? Someone somewhere must be comparing West Pakistan to East Pakistan now. So where is Bangladesh here? Surprisingly, nobody complained about calling the present Bangladesh as East Bengal – a term very famous in the cultural arena of Bangladesh!

Bangladeshis have started migrating long time ago and they have done very good in terms of establishing themselves in foreign lands. The country I am residing now accommodates a large Sylheti population and they have done great in restaurant business. In fact, I was watching a program on Channel 4 few days ago called ‘The Great British Asian Invasion’ and the documentary showed how the people from Sylhet in Bangladesh have changed the taste of British people. But hearing that if you go out to look for a Bangladeshi or a Sylheti restaurant, you will be disheartened surely. What you will find instead is in almost every single area a restaurant having Sylheti owner but outside the restaurant it says ‘Indian cuisine’ and if you dare to go inside you will be hearing Hindi music all day , every day in every single Bangladeshi restaurants as if we don’t have our food or the music even. Strange and pathetic and God knows how many times I have been humiliated by my Indian friends pointing out to these fake Indian restaurants! Now I tried to get an answer for this Namkoron and I found various reasons ( apparently !) . The famous reasoning is most people would recognise India but not Bangladesh. Yeah but that could be a reason for excuse when Bangladeshis first came to UK in the 60's but now ? No way, simply beacuse people who are used to eating 'Indian Curry' already know that these meals are prepared by Bangladeshi people. Actually quite a few of the top Bangladeshi restaurants have managed to name themselves as Bangladshi cuisine and trust me - their business hasn't gone down since they have put the name Bangladesh on the front. So it's completety rubbish if somebody says it's for the business reason, it's probabaly beacuse they are ashamed of their identity at first place. Thanks God that number of Bangladshis having backbones are growing and they have started a campaign to put dine Bangladeshi logo in all the restaurants (

These are just few everyday problems that we have to face as Bangladeshis abroad apart from hundreds of other allegations that keeps on coming everyday- Is Bangladesh next Afghanistan ? (*try typing this in Google and see how many reports you find, I found AL website saying the same - Ooops ! ) , the human rights abuse, world famous floods, most corrupted and what not. And just when I thought It's time to rest , enough is enough - I read that Sony is coming with a game the potrays Bangladesh as a terrorist state where gamers will fight the enemies of USA. Well, here we go again !!!


And this is how Shafik Rehman replied :

Dear Mr Rashedin

Your nationality is Bangladeshi, race is Bangalee and religion is Islam (you could have been Hindu, Christian or Buddhist).

It is as simple as that.

It is true that Indian government, soldiers and the Indian public (they had to buy additional postage stamps to help build fund for Bangladesh Liberation War in1971 supported our freedom movement. Without them, our liberation would have been delayed but we would have been there anyway. But, that support does not mean that they won the war for us. We had to win it ourselves and that is what we did. The eastern states of India plus some southern Indian states aspire for independence today. Can they have it? Even if Pakistan and China support these liberation movements? No, they will not gain their independence. However, this is an Indian issue my point is that independence has to be earned by the people of the land. Nobody can donate independence. Please tell your Indian friends this.

Next, India has been marginalising Muslims, Christians, etc. You do not see them except in Bombay movie industry and occasionally as an Indian President. India was ruled by a fundamentalist Hindu Party (BJP) and caused sufferings to thousands of Muslims in Gujrat and other places. Yet, they claim they are secular. How funny. Even within their own religion, ie, Hinduism, they have brought misery for crores of lower caste Hindus. Can you think of any other country where upper caste people commit suicide just because lower caste people are given some legitimate rights? It happened in New Delhi where Brahmins committed street suicides by pouring petrol over themselves. Why? Because the Indian government had tried to give some education and employment quotas to Dalits (untouchables)!

However, I must also say there are many progressive, secular and democratic Hindus. Yet, India has been ruled by fundamentalists.

That is the difference between Bangladesh and India. Here in Bangladesh, only 2 out of 60 ministers represent a fundamentalist party (Jamaat) and in general Bangalees are much more secular than the Indians.

Lastly, India was never a united country. Aurangjeb tried and failed. British succeeded but left divided. I believe, the process of division may continue if the Hindus fail to change their attitude re. the lower castes and other religion.

You see, we do not have an identity crisis. It is the Indians who have a crisis which they are hiding cleverly but, perhaps, not for long just take away Hindi movies, cricket and English language United India will vanish. You will not need a David Copperfield.

Best wishes.

Shafik Rehman


Blogger Abedin C said...

Nothing is a bigger downer for our sense of a national identity than a schizophrenic treatment of history that led to the creation of Bangladesh in the first place. Disagreements, misinformation and even sheer lies surround the versions of our history out there.

The most obvious ones are the ones surrounding Mujib and Zia. Where these two could have been inspiration for generations to come, they have been reduced to mere punch lines by one party or the other.

To be proud to say we are Bangladeshi, our young generation needs role models who epitomise what it means to be Bangladeshi. Sadly, we don't have any who can fill those shoes - band singers can amuse, but not inspire; Prof. Yunus can inspire but not electrify; and our rag-tag politicians may perhaps electrify the crowds, but they are definitely no visionaries.

6:47 AM  
Anonymous delowar hossain sayeedi said...

shafik rehman, the great clown; leg sucker of tarek zia... the most obidient servant of khaleda... he is also a rotten leftist...

let him go hell...

12:46 PM  
Blogger beyond borders bangladesh said...

I was really shocked to hear these types of words from seasonal politician like Mr. Delwar Hossain Sayeedi on Mr. Shafik Rehman. He did not hesitate to colour his sword of freedom fighters during our valiant past. It is a person like him who is a devil behind a saint's face creating mayhem.

In the mean time I like to say Mr. Rehman has been maltreated by his own people on the recent Jai Jai Din scam. Let us all pray for his family to overcome the situation.

4:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite writer is Shafiq Rehamn. It is sad that his jai Jai din has been arranged by the GANG behind the Care taker hajak by an Awami businessman.
But still he is what he is. I really want to see him comeback in the newpaper publisher & as an editor.

I dont think Delwar h.Syedy could write what is written in this comment page. However, one should comment in better language.

Good luck everybody in Bangladesh.

Golam Mohammed

1:34 AM  
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