Bangladesh will mark its 40th year of independence in 2011. The celebrations have already begun, and will continue until next December. The TV channels are already playing patriotic tunes. One such tune is Shona shona shona. The song says the land, mati, of Bangladesh is better than gold, and under this land sleeps many heroes: Rafiq, Shafiq, Barkat, Titu Mir and Isa Khan.
Who are these heroes? Rafiq, Shafiq and Barkat were killed by the Pakistani authorities during the language uprising of 1952 — a milestone moment in Bangladesh’s nationalism. Titu Mir defied the East India Company and organised a peasant revolt in the 19th century. Isa Khan was a Bengali chieftain who resisted the Mughals in the 16th century.
Notice how all of these heroes are Bengali Muslim men?
A year ago in hearing of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto my heart sank as I thought our region was at boiling point. Over the last week as I heard news of the brutal attacks in Mumbai my heart sinks further as I mourn not only for Mumbai but for our region.
I want to begin with Southasia, borrowing from Himal Southasian. Himal claims it wants to “restore some of the historical unity of our common living space – without wishing any violence on the existing nation states”. I want to go further and not only hope for the eventual withering away of those nation states, but also consider the political space of not only Southasian history but of the Southasian present. And in thinking about Southasia, I can not avoid considering South Asia, as defined by the nation states and their relationship, particularly in the form of SAARC. And when I remember the last two SAARC Summits in 2007 and 2008, I recall a silence and an emphasis. Silence on political processes and emphasis on terrorism. Why the latter and not the former, even from the nation state perspective, both would be important within nation states and between nation states. Continue reading Terror and the Political Space of Southasia→