By Shantanu Mukharji
On one hand, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserves kudos for her determination and grit in fighting Islamic terror afflicting her secular nation. Yet, on the other, she seems to be losing her battle against the Islamic zealots trying to steadily put Shariat and Islamic agenda in place.
Political sceptics, however, assess that she is not only losing the battle but cleverly giving in to the fundamentalist forces, ostensibly for the general elections, due in early 2019. Hence there is no contest. In reality, the secular fabric of the 46-year-old nascent nation is succumbing to the pressure of the Islamic right wing reactionaries, leading to a marked regression.
The above argument is buttressed by the fact that there is a distinct manipulation of the educational curriculum in Bangladesh. The well calculated tampering is part of an Islamic agenda which desires more Islamic presence and references in textbooks.
What's more worrisome is the removal of Hindu names from the curriculum who once formed an integral part of the education system, contributing substantially to the academic canvas of the country.
Notable those removed from the list are famous Bengali litterateur Sarat Chandra Chattopadhay and Michael Madhusudan Dutta - literary giants of all times who have enriched Bangla in Bangladesh with a vision for posterity. Also axed from the list are Sunil Gangopadhyay and Sufi singer Lalon Fokir. Excerpts from the Ramayana, running for many, many years have evaporated under the Islamic heat.
Significantly, Rabindranath Tagore lived in Selidaha, Kushtia, Bangladesh, in pre-Partition Bengal, and churned out the best of literary works inclusive of short stories, novels, plays and music, and is also the author of the national anthem of Bangladesh.
If this disturbing trend is not curbed, Tagore may also vanish into thin air due to the ongoing diktat of the Islamic forces. It would appear that these historical figures are targeted for their being Indian and possibly because their origin is Hindu.
Lamentably, this trend is noticed in Pakistan too where history has been repeatedly flirted with distorted versions causing hatred for India by the younger generation. It's ironical that Bangladesh is emulating Pakistan - a nation which tried killing the spirit of Bangla and the rich culture. There is an obvious attempt to put the clock back.
Bangladesh owes India a great sense of unforgettable gratitude for India for the latter's supreme sacrifices during the former's liberation war and it's a historical reality that Bangladesh came into being due to India alone, which trained the freedom fighters and helped defeat the occupation forces.
This fact cannot be ignored and all out resistance must be put to stop any attempt made to distort it in the textbooks of history.
Against this backdrop, it is also imperative to identify the villains responsible for subverting the education system. The principal enemy of this initiative is the Islamic outfit Hefazat-e-Islam. Headquartered in Chittagong, this entity has only six years of existence but has been flexing its muscles to put an Islamic agenda since 2013.
In brief, within three years, it was on the streets airing its demands. It has a 13-point charter which, inter alia, calls for introduction of Shariat law, madrasa education, and death to those defaming Islam and other related demands reminiscent of the medieval period.
According to the trend, therefore, Bangladesh is being transformed towards Islamisation. Sadly again, Hefazat-e-Islam is largely composed of teachers and academics who are meant to shape the youth, instilling education on liberalism and tolerance but their blueprint is just the opposite. Their level of intolerance has Sufis and Ahmediyas on target.
Regrettably, a segment of the Bangladeshi youth has lately come to notice, being romanticised by IS-sponsored radicalism. This is evident by the complicity of the "educated" youth participating in the terror attacks in Dhaka and neighbouring districts. The same youth will get more radical ideas by the corrupted version of the curriculum. This remains an area meriting close vigil.
Defending her decision to allow such Islamic forces to get the better of her and her policies, the Prime Minister is reported to have confided that she cannot allow such Islamic forces to be wooed by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and any tie-up with them may impair her own electoral prospects.
Politically, her move could be astute but for a forward thinking nation with a bloodied past, it will be suicidal to give in to the radical lobbies. As it is, there are numerous cases of forced conversions, grabbing of Hindu property, desecration of Hindu places of worship, etc.
Amid this, if O (in Bangla) is written as Orhna (scarf to cover the body part) instead of earlier Ol (yam) in the textbooks, then certainly Islamic orthodoxy will replace the secular credentials, undoing all achievements consolidated so far by Bangladesh. It's high time secular forces from India and Bangladesh jointly embarked on a loud protest and prevented our immediate neighbour from going completely Islamic, bringing disastrous consequences to the region.
There are still about two years to go before the next elections and both countries need to collaborate to defeat such forces. Better sense must prevail sooner than later.