Part IV: Sentimental Fog

Dec 2012

This is the fourth of a multi-part series “Waiting for a Real Reckoning on 1971″ by Naeem Mohaiemen. Part I | Part II | Part III

The Indian recollection of 1971, particularly in West Bengal, plays a role in shaping the way the story of the war was presented on the world stage. The West Bengal intellectual class operated within a vision focused on the Indian role and a glorified narrative of Bengali freedom fighters. On the other hand, Bangladeshis saw not only the heights of 1971, but also the crushing setbacks afterwards. The manhunts against Maoists in 1973, the manmade famine of 1974, the massacre of Mujib in 1975, the counter-coups until 1977, the second assassination in 1981, and all the manipulations and setbacks that came in between and afterward served as a reality check. Faced with our own brutal self-rule, it became difficult to believe in a fully sanitized history of 1971.

West Bengal’s sentimental altruism started during the war. Consider the “Bangladeshi” songs being broadcast from Swadhin Bangla Betar radio in Kolkata. Many of these were written by Indian Bengalis. Their loving and (post-1947) forgiving view of their “brothers across the border” comes through in the lyrics: the iconic “Shono ekti Mujiborer” (23) (From one Mujib will come…) which included the line “Harano Bangla ke abar phire pabo” (We will find the lost Bengal again); or the song “Amra shobai Bangali” (24) with its impossibly optimistic, and eventually crushed, dream of a secular whole that would reverse the tragedy of Partition (“Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim/We are all Bengali”); or the harkening back to a pre-Partition bucolic life in “Padma nodir pare amar chhotto shobuj gram” (25) (My green village on the banks of the Padma River).

1971 remains, for a generation of West Bengalis, the tantalizing possibility of some form of united Bengal—if not politically, then at least philosophically. It was also an equalizing moment when Bengali Muslims asserted themselves as being steeped in the same Bengali culture and deployed that culture as a weapon. 1971 functioned as a space where West Bengal could imagine that the wounds of Partition would finally be healed, at least on a symbolic level.

Footnotes

23. Gauriprasanna Majumdar (lyrics), Angsuman Roy (music, vocals).

24. Gauriprasanna Majumdar (lyrics), Shyamal Mitra (music, vocals).

25. Rudrangsu Ghoshal (lyrics). Shyamal Mitra (vocals).

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One Response to Part IV: Sentimental Fog

  1. Viktorija on Jan 2013 at 1:06 PM

    I am glad to see how great work has been done so far on this website, its very imsvpsiae and collective approach to bring positive impact of Pakistan, and showing the world real inside of the country, not like showing by Inner Media and international perception to take terrorism and extremism.I believe on one that , extremism in any thing like individual is not good for anyone, especially when we living in 21th century and word become to small inside the global Village and social Networking.Regards,Abdul M Chaudhary

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