The nation observed the anniversary of the formation of the Mujibnagar government last week. In a very important way, the observance and indeed memories of the historic event for all of us were a clarion call for a reassertion of the fundamental principles on which we waged the War of Liberation forty six years ago. The war came to an end long ago and in all the time since, we have been a nation proud in the knowledge that we inhabit a land free of foreign occupiers of all brands.
And yet, even as we inform ourselves that our war came to an end decades ago, we observe the conditions which exist around us today. What we observe cannot make us happy, for suddenly there is the spectre of neo-communal forces rearing their heads and brazenly threatening our very secular ethos as a nation. The hue and cry resorted to by the forces of bigotry in relation to the sculpture erected as a symbol of justice before the Supreme Court is proof that there are forces still out there determined to undermine liberal politics and secular life in Bangladesh. What is clearly more worrying is the fact that some leaders of the Hefazat-e-Islam outfit have now begun to make the blatant demand that all symbols of national pride in the shape of sculpture be dismantled.
Such demands must be resisted at all costs, through the power of the State and the power and majesty of the people. We remain aware of the outrage such elements caused a few years ago when they began advocating a programme that would push Bangladesh’s women into a state of medievalism. Today, it is not merely the demand for a removal of the symbol of justice on the grounds of the Supreme Court that worries us. We are concerned too that if these obscurantists are appeased, they will go on to make other demands, to the peril of the nation. Let us not forget that they have had their ideas make an entry in our school textbooks and have therefore undermined the cause of liberal secular education in the country.
We must not minimize or ignore the new dangers before us. If Pahela Baishakh was a celebration of Bengali heritage, if Mujibnagar was proof of thriving Bengali nationalism, it becomes our collective duty to resist the forces of bigotry and communalism lurking around us.