Representing Bangladesh overseas

The other day I happened to hold a discussion with one Soma Howlader, who has been a pretty old timer in America and is currently vacationing in Bangladesh and with one Nazmus Sadat, a onetime expatriate Bangladeshi and a young enthusiast for an enlightened Bangladesh. Soma has brought her son, an American-born teenage boy to Bangladesh, who does not have any practical idea of Bangladesh, his parents’ motherland. Soma, as she says, wants her son to be familiar with Bangladesh, her people and culture and to feel proud of his Bangladeshi ancestry. However, she tells me with an air of disappointment that today’s American-born Bangladeshi youths usually tend to feel more delighted to identify themselves as Americans than as Bangladeshi expatriates. I said there should be no harm in it. They have every right to claim American nationality, but developing love of their parental country is, by no means, a hindrance to achieving it, nor even to being a citizen of the world, I added. This is what we call roots, which prompts even their president, Barack Obama to rush to his far-flung ancestral home in Africa in quest of his roots. If Obama’s Americanness is not affected by his love of Africa, what harm is there in our American Bangladeshi generations’ following Obama example? Soma, however, suggests that it’s time for putting efforts from both Bangladesh and American Bangladeshi’s sides into representing Bangladesh in the globe to inculcate in the hearts and minds of the younger generations of Bangladeshi expatriates a sense of love of Bangladesh.
The sense of roots is a very strong human passion. People with no sense of roots are morally and culturally bankrupt. The angst of rootlessness has been a common theme in modern and postmodern literatures. Great writers like V S Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Omitav Ghosh and even Bangladeshi English writers like Adib Khan and Tahmima Anam are seen crying over the themes of rootlessness and cultural bankruptcy. Nurturing love of one’s motherland or of their ancestral country can give an emotional healing to the wounds of the feeling of rootlessness.
To represent Bangladesh in the world is a need of the time. With this end in view, there should be plans to disseminate the genuine history and culture of Bangladesh, to the Bangladeshi communities in the world. We should familiarize the younger generation Bangladeshi expatriates with the sweet little land called Bangladesh, with the great heroes of the Liberation War of 1971, with the valiant freedom fighters, with her people and culture, with her language, her soil and sovereignty, her sky and sea, rivers and jungles, plains and hills, with the beautiful national flag marked by the red blazing sun amid thick emerald greens and the national anthem– ‘my Bengal of gold/ I love you’.
There should be an organized plan to represent the whole gamut of the history of Bangladesh in two phases. First, the Anglo-Pak period since the Battle of Plassey (1757) to the Liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971 and second, the post independence Bangladesh since the Liberation War (1971) to present. We can carry out our mission of disseminating the true history of Bangladesh and its architect Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through different audio-visual media and electronic devices supported by modern technologies.
We know that Bangladesh had been through a great ordeal in its historical journey from the demand of autonomy and home rule to independence. Bathed in an ocean of blood, the independent country has established herself on the map. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-1975) is the architect of the country and the nation by all implications of the term. It was Mujib and only Mujib, who gave the nation a real touch of freedom. That was quite a trek into the long way of struggle for freedom in which he gave the most active lead. Mujib was a fearless fighter in the Language Movement of 1952; one in the vanguard of the democratic movement of 1962; the architect of the Six-point Programme of 1966; the life force of the Mass Movement of 1969; the enviable victor of the election of 1970 and, above all, the greatest hero of the Liberation War of 1971. He is indisputably the founder of independent Bangladesh and, therefore, the Father of the Nation.
We know all this for sure, but many of us who are living outside Bangladesh may have small chance of being familiar with this like us. So an awareness of the true spirit of our Great Liberation War (1971) should be developed among the new generation Bangladeshi expatriates. We are in urgent need of it because the history of our Independence has undergone huge distortion at the hands of the vested quarters for a longish period after the August Tragedy in 1975-the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The BNP-Jamaat alliance tried to replace Bangabandhu by Zia in the pages of history, vitiate the secular spirit of the constitution of 1972, and make Bangladesh a satellite of militancy-ridden Pakistan or jingoistic Afghanistan. They rewarded the killers of Bangabandhu with high portfolios and protected them by the heinous Indemnity Act. However, it is so fortunate for us that Sheikh Hasina, the eldest daughter of Bangabandhu, remained as one of the two surviving members of the bereaved family to lead the nation in the labyrinth of political turmoil during the prolonged military regime.
Sheikh Hasina’s historic return to Bangladesh opened up a new chapter in the history. She came back, she saw and she conquered. Leading millions of pro-liberation folks into the path of democracy and secularism, Hasina assumed the responsibility of the government as many as three times and is serving the nation to the best of her ability. She has taken a vow to fulfil the Vision 2021 by taking the country to the status of a middle income country, and the vision is no longer a far cry from reality.
What we may achieve from this pro-liberation campaign of representing Bangladesh in the globe is of great significance in the post-colonial era when people are in quest of their roots. That we are not socio-politically and culturally bankrupt would be made known to our posterity abroad who would seek solace in their ancestors’ glorious past and successful present. Representing Bangladesh overseas is an urgent need of the time. And this representation can be organized through cultural programmes and similar other means supported by latest technologies. The government and other NGOs should come up with fresh ideas and plans to implement this ‘representing Bangladesh overseas’ campaign. This sort of programme would, on one hand, help create awareness among people it aims at and dispel the effects of facts distortion on the other. Would our government take heed of it?
Dr Rashid Askari writes fiction and columns, and teaches English literature at Kushtia Islamic University, Bangladesh. Email: