August 17, 2007

60 years of independence from British rule: where does Bangladesh stand?

Shahpar Selim has written a touching article in Drishtipat blog in which she tries to find how Bangladesh fit into the history of 1947. In her own words:


But on this great day when we celebrate the free identity of the subcontinent…whither art thou, Bangladesh? Didn’t we also get independence from the British?


Standing here and now, what do we have in common with our siblings, India and Pakistan? Plenty, for sure! I can stand shoulder to shoulder with my Pakistani and Indian friends and feel tremendous pride at sharing a common heritage and being citizens of free countries. I can read Faiz’s poem about partition and I can share the pain he feels over a traumatic division of India along lines that tore apart families, friends, made promises that were not kept and made enmities that will last forever. I can identify with all of these feelings, but when the flags are being hoisted today, which one are Bangladeshis supposed to gaze at and feel pride? Obviously not India. And certainly never Pakistan. So how do we fit into the history of 1947? Has 1971 erased our name from the roster of those born 60 years ago, today? These were the questions that bothered me — It is also *our* independence day, so why doesn’t the world recognise that? Why do I feel like the sick cousin who has to stay home when the rest of the family is having a picnic? Why no special programmes on the region that became East Pakistan and then Bangladesh? It cant be simple “historical technicality”. Are we just so damn irrelevant? Whose fault is that? They say that the victor writes history. If India and Pakistan are the stars of the history of today (by that I mean August 14/15th), then what does it say about the “also borns”?


In the midnight of August 14th and 15th, when India and Pakistan were created out of the same fabric, we Bangladeshis were also part of that fabric. We may have had another name, but we were not still born. There is blood, history and identity in these veins – and that blood of our forefathers who gave their lives to get rid of the British demand the respect of this generation — to stand up and be counted. If we Bangladeshis don’t recognise that first, the world will not recognise it either.


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