Toppling down of statues of Christopher Columbus and other big plunderers of the world is a historical necessity. The process has started through the Black Lives Matter movement since the killing of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer. We are lucky in Bangladesh that here we have no statues of oppressors, exploiters and plunderers on our streets or public venues. We have some idols of gods and goddesses belonging to non-Muslim peoples in our country. Also there are sculptures reflecting struggles of our people in some periods of our history. These idols and sculptures provide strength to our people of all walks of life in their hard journey towards progress.
If the social conditions of our country had been different, we might have seen statues of plunderers on our streets, too. Whose statues these would have been? Statues of those people who ruled us for two hundred years. Though our streets and public venues are free from their statues, our minds and hearts are not. The British reign over our mind is deep-rooted and widespread. Names of many places and streets of many of our cities are after many big and small clerks of the British. Is it due to our regards for history and legacy or something else? The British education, rules and many systems of statehood made to serve their own interests are standing as strongly and unbroken as before.
Now I wonder if the British had not come, how we would have lived. Only Allah knows where we could have got our systems of education, law and so many other fine things! So they have not left us. They are with us with all their invisible ties. They cannot even leave us because of our tight embrace; we do not let them leave. In our secret mind we worship the British legacy in quite a shameless manner.
I failed in my HSC exam for not having pass mark in the English subject. Similar experience belongs to many others in this country. Can you imagine any civilized education system which is as shameless as to make a student fail in the whole exam if s/he cannot pass in the exam of a foreign language? Just for this can it ignore all of his/her learning in other subjects like science, social affairs, literature, etc. and the qualities achieved as a social being? Can it declare all this zero in the blink of an eye, degrade her/him before society and state, regard her/him as worthless in society and shut the doors of development for moving ahead? Should I or this shameless low colonial so-called modern education system be ashamed of this? You might say in English that English is the international language. Yes, because you the slave put on a rag thrown away by your master and wag your tail in boundless joy.
Let us discuss the issue a little further. If we need to learn a foreign language in our school, there should not be any pass or fail in this subject. The number, any number, one gets in it can be added to the total. And foreign language need not be English only; it can be any other like, German, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or any other chosen by the student without any constraint from any side. Teachers and books have to be prepared for this, but it is not an impossible task. But number in the exam on this foreign language should have no impact on the total grade point. Again, mother language should be prioritized without any compromise in the education system.
With so much importance given on the English language learning, are we really learning English? This education system which consider English one of the most essential subjects for our lives and regards knowledge in all other matters entirely useless without having pass mark in it is teaching us English well? The English we say or use having learnt it for 12 or more years in our schools and colleges and having dedicated our priceless youth at its altar is hard to understand not only for Bangalis also for the English people. Our rulers who are the most courageous in the world shake just to think of bringing down this idol down to the earth the way backward people are afraid of throwing away their idols of worship.
But Lord Macaulay will cry if he can see the distress of his mother language in our hands. If he can be brought back to us from the other world now and shown our education system he will certainly think that we have been maintaining the circus of this English learning for a single purpose of revenging on him. Sly as Macaulay was, he loved his mother tongue and so crossed the sea to a foreign country to teach this. On the other hand, we are struggling to forget our mother tongue in the race to learn Macaulay's language. The laughable way we are failing to do this, we can certainly rejoice at Macaulay's distress now!
However scared we are to put down the idol of the English language, black people in Europe and America are not giving a damn to topple down the statues of those who once was their masters and tormentors. We are hesitant maybe because we are mixed color people so feel a big pull towards white. There may be lack of food or no book in a house, but one cannot miss the 'fair and lovely' in it. We are in a dilemma about what we keep and what not. Blacks are free from such dilemmas and so are bringing down the worshiped.
So the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, England, has gone into the river. Slave trader Rober Milligan's statue had to be removed from outside London Museum. Students have demanded to remove to statue of the imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Protesters set fire to the statues of King Leopold, murderer of many Africans, in Belgium. By binding a rope around the statue of the Italian sailor Christopher Columbus, a slave trader and murderer of many people, activists have thrown it into a river.
Statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart have been removed from their places in America. Demand has risen for removal of the statue of Captain Cook, the British explorer responsible for slavery and genocide in Australia. The statue of Indro Montanelli, a propagandist for fascist colonialism, has been defaced with words 'racist, rapist' in Milan, Italy. The Statue of Winston Churchill, responsible for the great Bengal famine has been sprayed with graffiti saying 'was a racist'. There is a strong call to break down the statue of Robert Clive of East India Company, the criminal victor in the battle of Plassey.
Wanted to write on the historical need for toppling down of the statues and monuments of all the plunderers like Columbus and Clive. But it turned into a write-up on the need for removing the idol of the English language set on the chest of our education system. These are, however, the same things; statues visible on the streets and invisible in our minds, all should be removed for the sake of freedom.
The writer is Editor of Biggan O Sangskriti, a little mag.
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