Published:  12:49 AM, 05 November 2017

A book urging national self-introspection

A book urging national self-introspection Bangalir Joi Bangalir Berthota by F. R. Al-Siddique, Publisher - Parama, Distributor - Popular Publishers, published in: February 2000

Liton Chakraborty Mithun comes across the indications, precedents and evidence of a patriotic author

Among the Bengalis scientists are not many in number. The number of scientists having a good command over the Bengali language and writing thoughtful essays on interesting socio-political issues is even fewer. Given these facts, nuclear scientist F. R. Al-Siddique has appeared as a refreshingly glorious exception.

This Dhaka-born academic's collection of essays titled Bangalir Joi Bangalir Berthota has recently snuggled its way into my bookshelf. As I have sat for my weekly ritual of writing a book review, the book comes to my mind like a no-brainer. The catchy title itself is enough for a Bengali nationalist like me to grab the book and page through it. Below are my highlights of the book for you.

Right from the beginning the writer has proved his nationalistic streak as a patriotic Bengali. He goes on to explain why 'Joy Bangla' should be our national victory cry in spite of political differences among the parties. Referring to the nationalistic slogans of some major Muslim countries, he says that there is nothing un-Islamic with the word "Joy" as some political parties claim.

He also argues that the catchword "Zindabad" has nothing to do with Islamic culture as its use is limited to the sub-continent only. He maintains that the slogan "Joy Bangla" is not a possession of any single political party. Rather, each and every Bengali has a glorious stake in it. Moreover, he opines that our national leaders with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib at the top are our common national asset. He argues against any form of politicization of our greatest national heroes. To put it simply, this stance of the writer is quite impressive to me.

F. R. Al-Siddique strengthens his appeal to me as he dismisses the disturbing tendency of our major political parties to narrow our War of Liberation down to their own party-narrative. He makes a bold statement that the legacy of this glorious historic achievement belongs to Bengalis of all socio-political stripes. On top of that, he proves to have had the insight of a social scientist as he discovers a self-deprecating attitude of a large section of the Bengalis regarding Pakistan. He names this attitude, servile at its core, "Paki-philia".

Despite the brutal experience of genocide and large-scale rape in 1971, a frustratingly big portion of the people feels a slavish pull toward their former masters. After a detailed unfolding of this uncouth reality, he traces an element of masochism in our national psyche regarding the Pakistan experience.

However, he presses the demand that Pakistan should return to Bangladesh its due as well as a compensation for the havoc they wrecked on the Bengalis. The article in which he makes this demand created an uproar and sensation immediate after its first publication in a newspaper. Some of the written criticisms on the article were appended to the book, much to my satisfaction.

In addition to political issues, Al-Siddique gives a commendable attention to our socio-economic matters. He takes immense pride in the fact that two Bengalis received Nobel Prizes and two other Nobel Laureates from the sub-continent had a remarkable Bengali-affiliation. But, he does not seem complacent and rues the fact that most Bengalis are still poor and illiterate.

He lays emphasis on the import of education as a key change-maker in national life. In the same spirit, he criticizes the education policy available then that favored unduly the rich segment of society. This nonsense, in my observation, continues even now. He expresses his hope for a positive change in the education system that would put the nation on a right course.

Besides, he expresses his satisfaction in the recent peace deal signed by the then Bangladesh government and the Shanti Bahini, a guerilla outfit from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). By a thorough vivisection of the recent history of the sub-continent, the writer makes a humanitarian appeal to stop discriminating against and repressing the ethnic minorities of the country. On top of that, he unleashes the probable beneficiaries of any unrest and unjust warfare within the territory of Bangladesh. Moreover, he advises us repeatedly to learn from history, which I find quite telling.

In the book of essays Bangalir Joi, Bangalir Berthota, Al-Siddique shows how an organic intellectual looks and thinks like. He spices up almost each of the chapter with verses from Rabi Tagore, Nazrul Islam, Satyendranath Dutta and a few other poets. He also employs with an equal ease proverbs, sayings and rhymes from colloquial Bengali. His is a prose of captivating charm and poetical flavor. Besides, his arguments are strongly accentuated and fact-based. Truth be told, I have found a kindred spirit in this senior fellow.

To wrap up my discussion, I must call myself lucky to have stumbled on this old book in an open makeshift bookshop last week. I have learned nuggets of information concerning our national as well as sub-continental history from this rare piece of intellectual work. I believe this kind of book is very necessary for the promotion of our national self-glory and confidence. I also strongly recommend that the book Bangalir Joi Bangalir Berthota come out in further editions and reach out to appreciating readers.

The reviewer studied English literature at the University of Dhaka, and can be reached at [email protected]

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