In view of the serious rupture in the socio-political situation in Bangladesh consequent upon the victory of Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the simultaneous spread of fundamentalist carnage in the nation, it would be pertinent to read once again Lajja, the novel written eight years ago by Taslima Nasrin, the Bangladeshi writer now in exile. The historical context of the novel was the demolition on 6 December 1992 of the 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, U.P., India, and its devastating fallout in Bangladesh where, in putative retribution, temples were destroyed and the (minority) Hindus overnight became victims of insensate and barbaric violence at the hands of Muslim hoods on prowl. The same set of circumstances obtain there again and vest the novel, retroactively, with a poignant prescience. Some books acquire over time a piquant distinction and abiding relevance in human affairs. Lajja is among them, at least in so far as the sub-continent is concerned. It remains seminal and singular.
Hindu women are being raped, Hindu males are being beaten, their property destroyed or looted, their lives being made a nightmare of random terror and orchestrated tyranny once again. Several women's organizations, one headed by Rokeya Kabir, have brought to light the atrocities being visited upon the hapless Hindus. This is courageous solidarity and invites reprisals from the Razakars who are currently on the rampage in Bangladesh, having distinguished themselves with three hundred murders prior to the elections. Razakars are the Islamic fanatics, who opposed the Liberation War of 1971, and who were the militant fifth column of Pakistani army, wreaking havoc with their brutalities and savageries in a nation that was struggling to throw off the colonial yoke of an alien military dictatorship. The USA was massively aiding the butchers of Islamabad and their native death squads known as subhuman Razakars. With Khaleda Zia government now in saddle again, the minorities, i.e., the Hindus, face a long dark night of knives and dreadful days of rapine and physical violations.
It was these inhuman atrocities that Taslima had used as the staple of Lajja. It was her protest against and resistance to inhuman injustice and feral blood lust. Then, as now, the government had denied any such thing happening there, and called evidence and reports detailing these crimes against humanity all exaggerated and fabricated. The routine and reflexive response of the complicit administrations. It is nothing new. Isn't there a sense of deja vu in the verbal veil of inanity that the states vainly but aggressively seek to spread over their crimes? This is the banality Indians regularly hear in exoneration of the saffronite criminals belonging to the Hindu Taliban gangs, viz., BJP, RSS, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad , Jan Sanskriti Manch, Vidyarthi Parishad, etc., etc.
Before we read a few quotes from Lajja bearing on this discussion a few cognate things need to be mentioned. Over 350 refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, seeking to escape terror, foreign and native, met their watery grave on Friday 19 October in Indonesia when their overloaded ship capsized. Over 900 Palestinians have died from Israeli terrorism (weapons of mass destruction supplied by the US) during the last several months. And, thousands of civilians have been murdered by American bombs raining on Afghanistan now (www.AlterNet.com). All these humongous numbers and numbing tragedies have gone unreported in the Western media, hence remain unknown and ignored, as designed. These dislocations stagger the imagination by their magnitude. These abrupt disruptions of life disintegrate individual human beings. The depth of their pain and rootlessness remains unfathomable.
Equally abominable has been the blackout in the US media of massive European demonstrations against the war on Afghanistan (30,000 in Berlin, 20,000 in Britain). India did one better. It banned all protests against the inhuman, imperialist war on Afghanistan and arrested those demonstrating and leafletting! Can servility and peonage go any further? This is the logical wages of a sin: demolition of the Non-Aligned Movement by the BJP-led National Disaster Alliance. Why? Among other things, the acronym, NAM, offends the US by reminding it of Vietnam, which was known as NAM both in its official records and popular parlance. It is a good example of how master's wishes are anticipated and catered to by their slaves.
Should we expect Dhaka to arrest and punish the goons and gangsters terrorizing the Hindus? No, to be honest. The creator is always indulgent to its creatures. As in Bangladesh so in India. Do we expect the BJP-led National Demolition Alliance to arrest and punish the Hindu Taliban anti-socials guilty of rape, rapine, arson, assassination that they commit with impunity against the Christians and Muslims? Certainly not. Because they have been brainwashed and convinced that their crimes constitute "cultural nationalism" and real secularism, that these make them virile and patriotic. That Surat, Bombay, Maliana, Asind, Pune, Muradabad, Muzaffarnagar are just some of the pinions and pennants of their prowess. That these bloody and tribal savageries have made them more and pure Hindus.
Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh paid a handsome tribute to these Hindu Taliban pioneers by emulating them speedily and spectacularly. If Dhaka can ban the Kolkata weekly Desh (Special Puja Number) for featuring a story by Samaresh Mazumdar touching upon the misery of the Hindus in Bangladesh, Bharat did one better by vandalizing the sets of Water in Varanasi, a film on the plight of Hindu widows. Thus the Hindu Taliban proved that there have been no Hindu widows in Bharat, nor have they ever been treated inhumanely. The project of cleansing, once it starts, won't discriminate, won't stop. It will kill the "other" as gleefully as its own.
Taslima was ranged against a host of enemies: Islamic tribalism, fossils of patriarchy, the privileged establishment, the traitorous Razakars, the illiterate maulvis and the cynical elite. She, perhaps unwittingly, took on all these monsters singlehandedly. She bore a hole in their medieval egos and their pathological ignorance, as she tore to shreds their age-old immoralities and traditional hypocrisies. The only regret is that several other Taslimas in the making, conscientious and capable, perhaps remained suppressed because of the intimidating example of her travails as a woman, as a writer, as a dissident, as an independent thinker. Perhaps temporarily. Or, she opened the doors and windows for others to breathe the fresh air of freedom of thought and expression and venture forth, to stamp out the fog of obscurantism, and to get rid of the choking miasma of inhuman and enslaving superstitions?
Just as we must recall Taslima and her writings to get a grip on the extent of her persecution and the depravity of her tormentors, so too we must recall Khaleda Zia's earlier stint in power in 1995. Ansars, marginalized and economically deprived, suffering from malign neglect by the government, had rebelled to protest their inhuman existence. Begum Khaleda Zia did not flinch from shedding a lot of Ansar blood to smash the rebellion. Ansars were the Auxiliary Police Force which had rebelled on 1 December 1994. The army under Zia dispensation brutally crushed the revolt. With these credentials, she must be dreaded, and not only by the minorities, progressives and secularists in Bangladesh.
The assinine reaction of the Hindu Taliban to the Hindus fleeing Bangladesh is: hound out the "illegal" Bangladeshis from India. They are forgetting that the Razakar terror against Hindus may be their belated but vengeful response to the incessant hurt and humiliation heaped these several years on the unfortunate Muslims of India. And the Razakar terrorism may not be limited just to the Hindus. There are Muslim victims of the Razakar tyranny too. The stupidly myopic attitude of the Hindu Taliban is manifest in their plea that Hindu and Sikh Afghans be let into India but not Muslims. As a result, in a perversion that is mind-boggling, the Afghan refugees in India are now being harassed and deprived of their pitiable jobs. These Afghans are not Taliban's proteges or followers, but either neutral or owing allegiance to Rabbani's Northern Alliance to which Bharat pretends to be friendly.
(Translations below from the Bangla original of Lajja are mine):
Do the protectors of Hindu interests know that there are two crore Hindus in Bangladesh? Why in only Bangladesh, in every country of West Asia are Hindus resident. Have the Hindu fundamentalists pondered what their plight will be? p.10.
They set fire to Dhakeshwari temple, and the police remained standing inactive. It didn't stop it...The communal terrorists numbering 2 to 3 hundred looted the homes of 25 families. p.23.
When the campaign of the Committee to Uproot Traitors and Touts reached its peak, exactly then, all of a sudden, sprang the episode of the Babri Masjid. It was taken advantage of by the anti-national communal forces. p.31.
From the attacks of the communal forces 28,000 homesteads, 2500 commercial establishments, 3500 temples have suffered damage. p.66.
Do we want more of these orgies of waste and violence? If not, it is time, people and their well-wishers in the civil society - progressives, liberals, secularists, independents should let their voices be heard by the powers that be in the three countries of the sub-continent. Natural calamities and man-made deprivations are by themselves more than enough to render the lives of millions of fellow human beings unbearable in this god-forsaken continent. Why compound the tyranny by fanning communal fires?
And, will there be another Taslima to document in a fictional writing the plight of the recent victims of Muslim fanatics of Bangladesh?
More implacable is the angst: will India ever have her own Taslima documenting in a fictional work the tragedy of Indian Christians and Muslims who have long been the silent victims of Hindu Taliban depravity aided and abetted by their criminal godfathers in the state?
October 25, 2001
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