Race, Bangladesh and ‘Gunday’

Bangladeshis are protesting at a new Indian movie Gunday, which they claim, wrongly portrays their country's turbulent birth in 1971. According to Gunday storyline, Bangladesh gained independence as a result of 1971 war between Pakistan and India, something Bangladeshi nationalists dispute.

Posted on 03/20/14
By Nadia Chowdhury | Via bdnews24.com

Gunday_(2013_film)Bangladeshis all over the world are aware of the Gunday fiasco.

 

The recently released film in India, Gunday is a love triangle story between two men and a woman; however, the film also portrayed-and imagined-the Bangladesh Independence War of 1971 as the result of an India-Pakistan war, and not something Bangladeshis achieved on their own through their own effort and will.

 

As if Bangladesh could possibly think on their own, let alone want something for themselves on their own!

 

The Indians be thinking, “What? Those Bangalis did something on their own”?

 

Really?

 

We Bangladeshis cannot do anything on our own?

 

Is that why we ended up with an independent country?

 

Without any efforts of our own?

 

Indo-Bangla beyond Gunday

 

But wait. Why am I talking about Gunday here?

 

Because it was not too long ago that the Tipaimukh dam was an issue with Bangladeshis-abroad and at home over the issue of water. And then again, it was the Rampal plant, a deal which took place in private or was sealed using Tipaimukh as a diversion, has India once again proved that well, we are here to take your gold and ensure that ours remain safe?

 

And on that note-goodbye Sundarbans. It was nice knowing you.

 

Inter-country conflicts aside watching the dynamics of how “foreign control” creeps into national, international and state affairs is proof that history never learns nor does it teach others. And for our country Bangladesh, a country beset by problems related to climate change, poor income levels, hostile neighbours and a vast wealth of human labour versed in only blue-collar work as a result of the government offering skittles in terms of long term education and support…

 

Yes, it is a long sentence and yes, if the length of the sentence is what riled you up, you have priority issues, my friend.

 

Oh well. Country, ethnicity, race, religion and of course, safety and security are always so precarious.

 

The fiction of homogeneity

 

As Bangladeshis, we are used to hearing our society being a homogenous one; however, we know only too well that there are people of diverse ethnicities within one single Bangladeshi unit of culture, let alone different adivasi societies and religious minorities in the country.

 

The 1971 independence war-and subsequent massacre-led to thousands of war babies born over the years. Many of these babies are of ethnic Pakistani (Punjabi/Pashto/Sindhi/and so on) ethnicities, depending on whoever was the soldier who raped the woman and the majority of men enlisted in the Pakistan Army at the time. Despite these children-and their descendents-descended from certain parts of Pakistan, they will not be seen as foreigner, but Bengali and Bangladeshi in Bangladesh.

 

In my family, my father’s ancestors hail from parts of Afghanistan (city and district unknown), Hoogli (India) and Noakhali (Bangladesh) respectively; my mother’s ancestors come from Kolkata (India), Uttar Pradesh (India) and Jessore (Bangladesh). If you ever saw me, you would not be able to differentiate between me and the average Bengali (assuming our population, despite being mixed is understood to be homogenous). At times, it is a nice disguise to be seen as pure without any other elements; however, that is not all that is Bengali.

 

For there are many types of Bengalis living off the land. There are no “pure” ethnic Bengalis but the earliest settlers are said to be the ones of Austric origins and then came the Tibeto-Burmans, the Dravidians who were already here and Aryans who came from Western Asia and took over India.

 

Of particular significance to our land and country are empires such as the Mughal Empire, amongst others, who also came and took over in the guise of imperial aspirations of Central Asian Muslim empires. Given our treatment of minorities in our country, of which the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Biharis, Ahmaddiyas, and Hindus constitute a great part and are forced to take our violence for nothing, it would do us good to remember that if today, we are oppressing our own, tomorrow a stranger may come in and start oppressing us.

 

When Bengalis oppress

When the Rohingya conflict broke, many people defended Bangladesh turning its face on the refugees who came to seek asylum on its shores, citing population and overcrowding in the already densely populated country to be a reason.

 

For they are not us.

 

Setting up settlements and camps in the CHT has led to a critical situation and marginalisation of the adivasis at an unprecedented scale. But we sent Bengalis to settle there with total disregard of the adivasis because they are ‘not us’.

 

The depletion of the Hindu minority population is perhaps the best or worst indicator that it’s a process whereby we not only depopulate but also create land grabbing opportunities because they are not us.

 

So if we are so busy making politicians rich and victimizing/oppressing the ordinary people of this country who are not ‘us’, I wonder how are we then able to critique India over what they do to their neighbours in an act of dominating assertion of interpretation of their and our history.

 

After all, what matters is not what one is doing; actions remain the same. What matters in the long run is who is doing it.

 

And getting away with it.

 

A psychotic attitude we do not want to change.

 

If we should desire that a Gunday be never made again then we have to start treating our own people who are not Bengali Muslims better. Otherwise, we are asking others to do what we don’t do ourselves.

 

Nadia Chowdhury, an aspiring writer, is a graduate from York University, Canada. 

This article first appeared on bdnews24.com, a Bangladeshi news portal.

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