Syed Badrul Ahsan
Now that we are in the Puja season, it is refreshing to observe the spirit of unity that is being demonstrated in the country with people of all religious denominations coming together. In the capital as also elsewhere in Bangladesh, the puja mandaps which have been erected have been drawing people to them in ever larger numbers, which in itself is a sign of the essentially secular spirit which underlines our political and cultural foundations. The spirit of secularism has of course a deeper meaning in the sense that it underscores the right of every religious community to practise its religious beliefs in its own way without those beliefs coming in the way of or being opposed on the convictions of others. That is the heritage we in this country have for generations together been heir to.
Today, as the Hindu community moves toward a culmination of the puja season through readying itself for the arrival of the goddess Durga and her immersion in the waters, we must bear in mind that this composite culture which has consistently underpinned our existence as a nation must never be compromised again. It is an integral part of our history that we as Bengalis, as people who have remained rooted to the land despite the diverse ways in which we have prayed to the Creator, waged a momentous war for national liberty forty six years ago. It was on the spirit of Bengali nationalism that we waged that struggle and gave to ourselves the liberty which we enjoy today. But we must not also gloss over the fact that for a long number of years after liberation, through the sinister rise of communal forces in Bangladesh, the concept of secularism was forced into retreat. We needed to wage a fresh new struggle to recover the old spirit and we did recover it.
In these present times, therefore, and especially as we observe the various dimensions of the puja season, let us remind ourselves that this country has thrived when all its people, straddling its various religious strands, have come together as Bengalis dedicated to a preservation and consolidation of their heritage. It is this idea that has once more been brought alive as we observe, as a nation, the puja season. And yet we must all be on guard against those elements which have always lurked in the bushes with dark intentions of giving our society and our state the disturbing colour of religious prejudice.
Here’s wishing everyone a happy Sharodiyo season.
Syed Badrul Ahsan: Associate Editor, The Asian Age. Contributing Columnist, Shottobani