Dhaka : India’s role in the formation of Bangladesh and the two nation theory is under the spotlight here with the Jamaat-e-Islami chief saying that Indians have always been “hostile” towards Bangladeshis and historians dismissing his views as “seditious”.
“The Indians do not like us Bangladeshis because we are Muslims,” Motiur Rahman Nizami, chief of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, said Tuesday in a discussion being held in the run-up to the Dec 29 parliamentary poll.
Nizami also appealed to the voters to elect the alliance led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia, with whom he and the Islamists shared power during 2001-06.
“Indian soldiers plundered our country indiscriminately during the War of Independence,” he said, referring to India’s role in Bangladesh’s emergence in December 1971.
A war with Pakistan on both fronts in December that year led to 5,000 Indian soldiers and numerous Bangladeshis being killed before 93,000 Pakistani officers and men surrendered to the Indian forces.
“[They] took away not only the arms and ammunition abandoned by the Pakistani troops, but also stripped our factories down to the nuts and bolts and robbed educational institutions of their laboratory equipment and decamped with even bags of blood from the blood banks,” Nizami was quoted as saying in the New Age newspaper.
He justified Pakistan founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory that projected the Muslims and Hindus of undivided India as two separate nations.
“The hostile attitude demonstrated by India towards Bangladesh through the past 37 years also proves that the two-nation theory was absolutely right,” said Nizami, whose party was banned along with several Islamist outfits in the years immediately after independence for their “collaboration” with the Pakistani authorities in killing unarmed civilians.
The Islamists returned to the political mainstream was during the military regime of slain president Ziaur Rahman, who founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Nizami’s questioning of India’s role and reiteration of the two nation theory was lambasted as “seditious” and “a trick to get media coverage ahead of the elections”, The Daily Star said, quoting the views of four historians.
Historians Serajul Islam Choudhury, Anwar Hossain, Imtiaz Ahmed and B.K. Jahangir told the paper that Nizami was trying to “rewrite” the history of South Asia and of Bangladesh and hoped that this would be rejected by the electorate on Dec 29.
They termed Nizami’s remarks an “audacious” and a “tendentiously wrong reading of history” because Bangladesh was “not liberated based on the two-nation theory but Bengali nationalism”.
Historian Anwar Hossain said: “I am inclined to believe that Mr Nizami is trying to retrieve a theory that has long lost its logical, political and historical basis.”
Another historian Serajul Islam Choudhury described Nizami’s statement as amounting to an act of sedition.
“Had the two-nation theory been right, Bangladesh would not have been founded. Foundation of Bangladesh buried the two-nation theory back in 1971,” he said, adding that Jinnah had himself categorically cancelled his own theory.