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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > If Hindu burns, Bangladesh burns

If Hindu burns, Bangladesh burns

Monday 13 January 2014, by siawi3

January 11, 2014


Photo © Kaler Kontho, January 7, 2014
“Did that girl and her darling little baby both jump into the cold and foggy Bhairab river that night? Her sister, her brother, her neighbors, all of them?â€

by Faruk Wasif, translated by Farida C Khan for

January 7, 2014
From Khulna I travelled to what seemed to be the end of the earth to finally reach Abhaynagar. The old bank of the river was broken. Behind it was PC Ray’s abandoned ancestral home. A fragmented set of red brick steps to the bank, with a cement seat, waiting with a despondence reminiscent of Jibananda. Next to that were some gentle woods – a forest so dense that no sunlight entered the narrow path through it. The path broadened and where it turned was a huge peepul tree, casting its shade on the neighborhood. A girl with an infant on her lap watched us…

Did that girl and her darling little baby both jump into the cold and foggy Bhairab river that night? Her sister, her brother, her neighbors, all of them?
When hundreds of people came away on a trawler from Barisal, as though it were part of a fiction, where were the police? Where was the League leader, the one who pressured many of them to go vote at the voting center? When they were told they would be provided safety? Building someone’s vote bank and destroying someone else’s is like clapping – it cannot be done with one hand. The places that are now rife with attacks are the very places that were safe for the Hindu community in the past. So what has suddenly happened?
When they all jumped into the river at night, fortunately there was a trawler there that saved them. When they reached the other side, the village Chairman Habib gave them shelter. All this showed how humans stood by other humans.
In the landscape of Bangladesh’s Bengali culture, how can we measure how many villages are Hindu and how many Muslim? Bengalis are killing Bengalis. Muslims are killing Muslims. But the Hindu community is the most vulnerable among the vulnerable in this society. In truth, they have no one to turn to. The vulnerability of Hindus is politically convenient for the League, and such vulnerability is needed to acquire their vote. For BNP and Jamaat, a terrorized and fleeing Hindu is a model Hindu. For India, communalism in Bangladesh is instrumental; it is fuel for BJP; it is needed for India’s political strategies. There was no compunction on the part of the India-Bangladesh governments when land was taken from Hindu communities for the Rampal power plant, for instance. The US, too, is ready to cast these matters as a Syria type civil war.
In this situation, Hindus are completely alone. This situation cannot be understood through the lens of communalism alone. The role of BNP and Jamaat may be clear, but how will we explain the participation of the state administration in Ramu and that of the Deputy Home Minister himself in Santhia?
The domestic and international power play has led to barbaric battles all throughout Bangladesh. And for that end, the ancient religion of the people must be sacrificed. The Hindu Community is the tortured symbol of this general destruction. I have said for a long time that all this is part of a larger project in this country to cast Muslims as militants and Hindus as foreigners. People from all parties serve as foot soldiers for this project. The story begins with Ramu and now all over the country we are seeing many Ramus and Santhias being born, as though the ghost of 2001 has returned.
Surveys of these areas may be carried out and we may find often that the oppressed communities may be displaced from these areas altogether. This increases the pressure on the central administration in Dhaka. The events that are recognized as communal should be recorded, those involved recognized, and an inquiry carried out about their intentions. This should be done by creating ad hoc committees of governmental and non-governmental agencies. All evidence and proof of these events should be kept intact. There should be archives made of all incidents. Actions should be taken so that these events are never forgotten.
In this country, communalism is so despised that no one would admit to being communal and will object if accused of being so. A typical communalist acts overtly, takes pride in such actions, and carries them out to seek affirmation from a group. This type of pride on the part of Narendra Modi has made him closer to being India’s Prime Minister. Advani wins votes on account of such pride. But there is no food or fuel for communal leaders in Bangladesh. Here, even Jamaat professes a position against communalism. Land grabbing, temple destruction, etc. is a result of a complex interplay of land acquisition and the capture of political power. Capturing power, wealth, and status requires the division of society. Because of this, historically we have seen various manifestations of communal duplicity in the form of nationalism and religion. Nonetheless, the manifestation we see this time appears novel and unprecedented.
What should we call the events that are currently happening? Who are the sacrificing priests involved? We can’t use the old language that we employed to understand communalists/non-communalists anymore. But it is important that we understand it in order to put an end to it. Until we comprehend this unnamed phenomenon, the oppressed cannot be saved.
Leaving Abhaynagar, one encounters that riverbank where many Hindu men and women jumped to save themselves. On the riverbank are two concrete slabs that look like jetties. Facing the bank of the river is a teashop where I sat and watched the raindrops on the river. There were two children playing in the rain, getting soaked. I remember those children well. Abhaynagar is a remarkably beautiful village. On both side there are rivers. Into one of these jumped the Arunima Sarojini of our times. “Remember our neighborhood’s Arunima Sanyal from times past; fly, fly, let them fly quietly in the moonlight of the Poush month†. Remember? The partition of the land is not over. And no one takes responsibility for the victims of partition. There are trials of genocide, but there are no trials for communal genocides in this sub-continent. Because those murdered are non-citizens of non-nations.

If Hindus burn, Bangladesh will burn. If Bangladesh burns, Hindu-Mussalman-Buddhists-Christians-Adivasis-citizens at large will all burn. I remember a word from Mihir Sengupta’s BishadBrikhsa. The cycle that started with land grabbing from Hindus immediately after partition will one day return to devour everything. We will devour ourselves in this process. That word has been proved true today.

Faruk Wasif is an activist and graduate of Jahangirnagar University. Translator Farida C. Khan is Professor of Economics, University of Wisconsin – Parkside.