From the Editor-in-Chief: Assaulting bauls is an insult to our heritage

Enayetullah Khan
Thursday, August 4th, 2016
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The attack on some members of the baul community in Chuadanga last week is a clear sign of the vulnerabilities to which followers of the revered mystic Lalon are yet subject in Bangladesh. That is rather ironic, given that this country has consistently been home to various religions and myriad shades of spirituality for ages. Mystics like Lalon and poets such as Hason Raja, together with Rabindranath and Nazrul and so many others, have across the generations been emblematic of the cultural mosaic that society in this country, indeed in the wider region of which it is a part, has always been. That is one important reason why the increasing number of attacks on the baul community by elements upholding twisted versions of Islam worries us to no end. And the worries acquire darker meaning when it is noticed that no steps worth the name are taken by the authorities to ensure that bauls and others like them remain safe from the predatory instincts of fanatics.


Six years ago, similar humiliation was piled on the baul community in Pangsha, Faridpur, when at the call of a semi-literate cleric nearly thirty bauls had their hair clipped in public as a way of bringing them back, as the bigots involved in the shameful act put it, to the path of Islam. It was seen at the time that the authorities as well as the general public remained by and large indifferent to the atrocities thus committed. In the years since then, there have been reports of the persecution of bauls and other people with a similar attitude to faith and God from other regions in the country. To what extent have we been able to address the worries and fears of the community? The indelible truth is that we as a society have failed badly in making sure that the heritage we have always upheld as our moral compass for centuries remains safe. The Chuadanga incident is proof, if at all proof were needed, of our collective failure in keeping that heritage safe and secure from falling into the clutches of the forces of medievalism.


The time is here for us, as a nation, as a secular polity, to rise and meet the challenge thrown our way by the proponents of what clearly is Islamist extremism. And we can do that through an effective mechanism being developed by the government to thwart the evil designs of those who would have us turn our backs on the history that has shaped us and to which history we in turn have added substance. In other words, we need strong and effective leadership from the government in order to be able to build meaningful resistance to those who have been persecuting the baul community, indeed have sought to turn everything we have held dear on its head.


Faith, spiritualism, poetry and politics have been the foundations, discrete as well as combined, which have held us together. Let those foundations not be disturbed by the ignorant and the insensitive and the uneducated.

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