By Myskin Kabir:
The idea of Bangladesh was enshrined upon the faith of secularism. When it was a part of Pakistan and known as East Pakistan, it was evident that our identity was not that of a Pakistani. Eventually, it was proven that we cannot be integrated with a nation state where our culture, language and way of life are not respected. To the Pakistani state, Bangladeshis were just part of a nation which was fairly poor, illiterate and culturally different.
Our identity is Bengali and majority of our people are Muslims. When we say we are Bengali, a history of proclivity towards Hinduism always represents our identity. We protested when the Pakistani authority accused us of using a language more related to Hindu culture. We didn’t let them take our language away from us. Our existence, breath, thoughts and feelings gyrate around us being Bengalis. We sacrificed our lives and established Bengali as our official language. It gained respect all across the world. The world celebrates International Mother language Day to show respect to our martyrs.
We didn’t suffer noiselessly. We fought hard to win our liberation from Pakistan and established an independent nation. One of the main reasons for us to get separated from Pakistan was because we didn’t want them to dominate over us. The idea was to live in a secular country. Hindus should get a country where they don’t have to suffer from the fear of the same treatment that most Bangladeshis received from the Pakistani army and state. We have been liberated, but are not entirely free from vices of the Pakistani state’s ideologies. A group of people still believe that if we were with Pakistan, we would have been in a good position on the issue of religion. Our neighbouring country India is being criticised by our countrymen whenever there is an attack on Muslim families in India. There are also Hindu families that are being attacked randomly in Muslim majority areas of Bangladesh.
What we lack as a nation is tolerance. Our country is growing economically and that has an impact worldwide. Being a small and densely populated country, it was very difficult for us to reach this far. It is a noteworthy achievement. With the advent of technology, most households of the country have access to modern facilities. But with advancement comes immaturity too. Not everyone uses the facilities available to us in a suitable manner. People misuse facilities and put controversial statements online. For such people, punishment should be a must. But there is a law to look after the issue. If you believe in your god, believe that the culprits will receive the due punishment. It is a more punishable offence to attack innocents. You cannot take away the possessions of people who do not have a role to play in making controversial statements. Their homes cannot be burned down and their god cannot be disrespected on an issue which could have been easily been solved with the help of the law enforcement authorities.
The attack on October 30 on the Hindu families in Brahmanbaria is the most recent and fresh wound in the series of attacks unleashed on the Hindu and other minority communities over the last few years. The Hindu families were attacked after someone had allegedly put a Facebook post, making fun of Masjid al-Haram, the holy site for Muslims. After the terrorist attack on July 1, the way law enforcement agencies were dealing with extremists and terrorist groups, we had started to believe that evil had been forced out of our backyard. But the hatred towards minorities is inbuilt in the thought process of the misled orthodox right wing politicians. This particular act of violence is condemnable. These kinds of attacks are uncalled for. The people who were involved in the attack should get a harsh punishment. The authorities should not only make sure that the main culprit who published the edited photo and insulted Islam be punished, but also the ones involved in the attack must get strict punishments.
A system of tolerance should establish the limitations of our activities. These attacks on minorities are not new. It’s been happening ever since the Pakistani state began its propaganda of attacking people from the minority community. If we take out time and do research, we will get to know how peacefully the Hindu and Muslim community had been living in Bengal. Almost everything is common amongst us, except religion. Our identity as a Bangladeshi comes first. Only after that does anything else matter. If we attack any Bangladeshi who is innocent, it’s an attack on the idea of Bangladesh. If we disrespect people of a particular community who are citizens of Bangladesh by law, we are disrespecting the diversity we share from time immemorial. I urge my readers to convey the message that Bangladesh is secular and it’s time to establish tolerance and respect for everyone irrespective of any religious identity.