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Identity, Religion and Politics - Future of Bengali identity

Brief History And Background

Geo-politically and Geo-physically Bangladesh has a unique position in this part of the world Bangladesh is the link between the South East Asia and South Asia.

Geo-Politically, if we look from historical perspective we see the Greeks could not or didn't cross the Ganges, situated in the eastern region of India. Later on other invaders including the central Asian Muslims also did not cross the Ganges. At a much later stage they sent their Sultans or Subedars (Governor) to take control of these areas. But in that case also rules (Muslims and Non-Muslims) made or tried to take an independent posture against Delhi. Only in Akbar's time did Bengal become a permanent province of Indian Empire.

From the South East Side the Mongolians came up to Myanmar (Burma). But they also could not overtake Bengal. But in the process in Mongolians made some infiltrations. Anthropologically over thousands of years Malayan features became part of Bengal culture. So the Aryans, Malayan, Veddids (Aborigines) and the Muslims cross breading gave birth to the anthropological features of the present Bengalis, living in this region particularly in Bangladesh.

Geo-Physically, this region is surrounded by hills and mountains from two sides (North and East), ocean (Bay of Bengal) from the South. In the West this area is linked with the rest of India by land, but the Ganges is the biggest barrier. Internally this region has a network of rivers, sub-rivers, canals, marshes and vast green landscape.

It is only the English who treated this region in a special way. First they entered India through Bengal. Secondly, they first introduced English language-culture, science and technology, European enlightenment and British Political System into this area. Thirdly, they ruled Bengal but didn't try to live here permanently. This was different from the earlier foreign rulers. Thus the British gave the Bengalis a new life and that is what we are today. (Their maltreatment and exploitation of is also an act that can not be excluded while we consider their positive sides.)

Bengali's could never setup a country of their own. It was always a province or province-like. The emergence of Bangladesh as a homeland for the Bengalis (Which Bengalis lost with the downfall of the Palas in 750-1150) has been able to attract the attention of the whole world for the following reasons

1. People of Bangladesh through their professional-occupational status are the 5th biggest community in the world (talking all the Bengalis of the world into consideration, it is now 200 million, and by 2025 it will be 400 million).
2. It has unexplored huge natural resources like gas, oil, coal, sweet water, uranium etc.
3. It is the bridge of thousands years of missing link between south Asia and Southeast Asia.

Present conditions

Economically, Bangladesh is moving fast. Bangladesh is self-sufficient (more or less) in food and clothing. Food production has been doubled but population has not doubled (if we take 1971 as the base year). Our garments industry has posed a serious competition to other garment exporting countries. Our expatriate labour force contributes highest amount of foreign exchange in the form of remittance. Our export has gone up many folds, so have imports. Road communication and electricity has been extended up to villages. (Thanks to Upa-zilla system). Electricity covers 35% of the villages. Percentage of literacy has gone up to 38% women are also taking the lead. Economic activities are everywhere in the country, I mean up to village level. People are trying to do many kinds of work for their economic upliftment. The NGO's should also get the credit for this. Of the total GNP 47% comes from agriculture, 14% from industry, 39% from commerce and service sectors. Television and radio are screened and tuned even in the remotest villages. In a word, life has changed; better to say life has started to change; best to say the people want to change.

For change politics should be the leader. But our political system, our political structures, our political parties, that is our total politics is running in the style of the 1940/50. Here is the main contradiction in our system.

Now let us consider Trisected Global System. There we find

1) First Tier System - FTS (Information Based Society) controls

a) Information Technology (IT)
b) Management
c) Manipulation
d) Creation of Information rather than traditional heavy industry.
e) Economy interdependence and cultural heterogeneity are sometimes transcending national interest boundaries and in part sovereignty.
f) Govt. acts as agents of business, particularly MNC's and TNC's. Of course Govt. looks after peoples security.
g) Demassification inter-connectedness flexibility, creativity in production, development, management etc.
h) Aversion of war or major armed conflicted by methodical communication and discussion.
i) Integrating the people (profession and community wise) in the political decision-making, thus making democracy on participation, which is called developed form of Participatory Democracy.

The USA, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan are the countries and the nations in the First Tier System.

2) Second Tier System - STS (Industry and Agriculture based society). Where a

a) They get technological and financial support from the First Ties System (FTS) countries.
b) FTS countries try to stem the dissemination of vital technology in the form of copyright, patents, encryption NPT, environmental and other innovative ways. Traditional industrial and agricultural productions remain the economic bedrock of Second Tier System (STS) countries.
c) Traditional industrial and agricultural productions remain the economic bedrock of Second Ties System (STS) countries.
d) Nation-state and special interest groups (like in business community, army and some other community) will dominate and influence each other, depending on their respective strength and advantages. Cultural development will be of mixed nature.
e) Election based representation (Territorial and professional constituency) which is also called Participatory Democracy (Not like FTS) rule the state and society. Traditionalism and modernisation go to in STS.
f) Question of sovereignty and independence remains the first priority and for this reason regional and local war and conflicts breakup, hampering the economic growth and social peace.

The Second Tier System (STS) includes countries like China, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam etc.

N. B. The Russia, CIS countries East European countries and some of the South American countries can be categorised between FTS and STS.

3) Third Tier System- TTS (Economic stagnation, political ungovernability, violence based society) where

a) Subsistence level production, barter etc works as base economy.
b) Imports goods from FTS and STS countries in exchange of their viral natural resources.
c) Culturally conservative but proud of it.
d) Some times there is practice of democracy but tribalism, authoritarian outlook and military dictatorship are the determining factor.
e) Civil-military bureaucracy ruled the country.
f) Brain drain to FTS and STS countries is rampant.
g) Where as the FTS will be characterised by a widespread aversion to violence and the STS by the notion violence is justified under certain condition, violence in the TTS countries is a routine of life.

Most of the African and Asian countries are within this Third Tier System (TTS).

Where is the future!

The whole world is now under a wave dominated by Information Tech., Computer Tech., Bio-Tech., Genetic Eng., Nuclear Science, Space Tech. Military Science, Ecology, Robotics etc. owing to the influence of these advancements new dimensions are being added to peoples styles of life, religious beliefs, form of Govt., International Relations, Production - in a word at all walks of life. And this change has brought about complete difference from the past, when the society was based on agriculture only and them assembly-line factories.

This is going to influence Bangladesh in particular and Bengali communities of the world in general. Bangladesh stands at an advantageous position. It is the only nation state for the Bengali's though Bengali community is spread all over the world. So Bangladesh has the opportunity to become the leader of the whole Bengali community. Bangladesh can be the rallying-centre and nerve-centre of all the Bengalis of the world.

Cultural unity is there among the members of different language-speaking communities of the world and they are spread all over the world. For example it is there among the Chinese-speaking English-speaking Arabic-speaking French-speaking, Spanish-speaking; on the other hand the Jews spread all over the world consider Israel to be their centre.

Thus the 400 million (40 crores) Bengali's that will live on the face of the earth by 2025 will consider Bangladesh to be their centre. There will develop among them a cultural unity.

So, the whole Bengali community will be Bangladesh - centred. They will have to take the initiating role in the field of conducting political-economic-cultural activities with the objective of developing to the level of knowledge base civilisation.

There are three chief duties in this regard:
(One) Along with the representation of political parties, all professional-occupational people will have to be given the opportunity of representative participation in all matters concerning national policy and state administration.
(Two) In stead of restricting sense of nationality to matters of language-relation-culture, those will have to be developed to the notion of profession-based nationality.
(Three) Sub-regional co-operation will have to be developed in consideration of linguistic cultural economic and geo-political nearness, keeping the geographical countries of the SAAR intact.

With this objectives four sub-regional grouping called eastern region, western region, southern region and northern region are to be worked out. These will have to be based on political-economic-cultural co-operation.

  • Eastern Region: Bangladesh, Chittagong Hill Tracks, Bhutan, Nepal, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, tripura, Monipur, Mizoram, Nagaland.

  • Western Region: Sind, Beluchistan, Frontier Province, West Panjab, Jammu & Kashmir, East Panjab, Hariana, Rajasthan, Gujrat.

  • Southern Region: Srilanka, Maldives, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.

  • Northern Region: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Delhi.

This futuristic analysis makes an end of the idea that Bengali's will never rise for the third time after their two shout-lived rises or regeneration. First rise came in the life of the Bengali's in the 16th century with the coming of Sri Chaitaynna's vaishnabism and Islamic values introduced by Muslim ruler Hossain Shah. The second regeneration happened in the first half of the 19th century due to the influence of English language-culture and European enlightenment. Both these regenerations were short-lived because those changes didn't cover the economic lives of the people.

But this third regeneration is going to be a permanent feature like in other nationalities of the world. Because the third rise covers whole spectrum of the society - starting form the economy, that is, from production to distribution to the cultural and political life of the people.