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Beyond National Chauvinism

The liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971 is a highly charged emotional issue for the common people of Bangladesh for good reasons.

The bitter memory of devastating loss, national humiliation, cruelty of military occupation, rape of women, termination of the leading intellectuals of the country by razakars, al shams and al-badars are only some of the awful scars difficult to heal. Nevertheless, the personal reconciliation with the national trauma, reflection and reconstruction of the events as "history" are not the same with different classes of the society. It is also different to women and needless to mention about the cultural minorities. The marginalisation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the constitutional denial and suppression of the cultural identity of the minority communities are cruel examples that emergence of Bangladesh have different implications to people in different positions in the society.

"Understanding of our history from the grassroots perspective is the imperative of the day in the era of globalisation"

The CERAS seminar on 25 years of Bangladesh will be an opportunity to look into this difference in sharp focus. It is time that we interrogate the elite's assertion of homogenised "nationalisms" of various types, "bangalee" or "bangladeshi" to unfold the popular aspirations of the people from the grass root. The "nationalism" of the ruling classes indeed blurs and obliterates the struggle of the working classes, peasants, women and indigenous communities.

For the people of South Asia a subcontinental understanding of our history from the grassroots perspective is the imperative of the day in the era of "globalisation". This is an absolute necessity mainly because of the potential threat of the rise of communalism, continuation of the old unequal relation and the present phase of our time and the experience is placed in their proper perspective; that is, within the dynamics of global capitalism. The bloody war of 1971 was not simply an ethnic and cultural contradiction between the people of Bangladesh and Pakistan, it is rather the result of the capitalist development of a post-colonial society controlled by the feudal and the trading classes. The myths and lies that it was nothing but a war between the people of Pakistan and the people of Bangladesh must be dispelled. The military-bureaucratic state of Pakistan never represented the will of the people at the first place. The toiling masses of the sub-continent have far more profound interests that may generate solidarity and collective action. In Bangladesh, this is the general approach of the progressive and democratic forces to the common sub-continental issues and accordingly we are struggling to orient our grass root movement.

In the CERAS seminar we will try to present what the people are trying to achieve, what are they resisting, where are the areas of negotiations in a changing world scenario. Despite the gloomy pictures often drawn by media there are significant advance in many areas. The independence of Bangladesh and her survival for the past 25 years are glaring examples of the capacity of the people. The need now is to stand above the national chauvinism and articulate the questions from the view of the real living community.

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