We have failed to inculcate in our children the spirit of the liberation war. It was our responsibility to see our children grow up in that spirit.
After the fall of the autocratic regime and eventual return of the pro liberation party to power, we had hoped that they would try to create a secular mind-set among the ordinary citizens, including their children. However, the government paid more emphasis on economic development. They are more focused on the infrastructural developments like building roads and bridges, increasing military power, prioritising GDP growth etc.
There is no denying that Bangladesh has already made tremendous progress economically. However, the poison of communalism was allowed to spread in the minds of people, which historically began in the post-1975 period and enjoyed state patronisation for 20 years.
We see the impact of this in our education system, in our cultural practices, in our everyday life dealing with people who don't belong to the same religion as ours. We no longer allow the Bauls to sing. We do not allow jatras to be staged. We make disrespectful comments of anyone who we think don't match with our ideas of being.
We no longer include texts containing secular thoughts and ideas for our children in their educational materials. Rather, we have removed them from the textbooks. The government at some point decided to introduce a secular education system for all, which the government itself backtracked from implementing. We could not even launch our National Women's Policy publicly as fundamentalists violently opposed it and the pro-liberation forces in power bowed down to them.
It is clear from these examples why our children give no space to secular thoughts or learn the rules of equal respect and dignity for people of all religions. These children have not known the spirit and ideals that motivated us to go to the Liberation War.
Political followers of Bangabandhu talk about the ideals of Bangabandhu, but what has been done to make children aware of the ideals of Bangabandhu? You cannot make them aware simply by declaring that the country will be run according to Bangabandhu's dreams and ideals. Do the children learn what is meant by these words? Children, most of the time, see the opposite picture in the lifestyle of these people. Bangabandhu's ideals need to be studied and discussed first of all among the members of Bangabandhu's party. They must practice them in their public, as well as private life, to stand as role models in front of young children.
The people who are in leadership positions of the country should reflect the ideas of the pro-liberation forces in their attitude and behaviour. We do not see very many examples of that happening. There are clear differences in what they say and what they do.
When peoples' human rights are violated, when people of different religious groups are attacked, the politicians of the pro-liberation forces try to take up a policy of avoiding responsibility to answer for the failure to prevent it.
Where is the crisis in our politics? Politicians in the past at least took responsibility for creating a progressive society. Now, with politicians adhering to power-centric political strategy, they wish to operate within their comfort zone defined by themselves.
For this reason, we could not create the right mind-set in the young generation. Helping and creating opportunities to imbibe progressive thoughts in the young minds are not considered a priority in today's politics.
Politicians, as well as the policymakers of the country, do not feel that they must act to deter this kind of communal violences or take responsibility for not having succeeded to prevent them.
We ourselves must first behave non-communally before our children. How many of us are doing that? Even people of my generation are failing in upholding the values of secularism and respect for all. The post-1975 governments attacked the secular state by striking off Secularism from the Constitution. It continued for 20 years. During these 20 years, communalism grew roots in the country, be it in education or culture, or social interaction. The seeds of communalism were planted in every sector of the society. The claimants of pro-liberation politics did not succeed in uprooting the plants of communal hatred from people's minds. They seem to have watered them to grow freely.
The pro-liberation forces have compromised with the fundamentalist forces. Every weekend children hear words of hatred against the people belonging to different religions through religious sermons of a particular group. These forces have also taken possession of social media. When the four pillars of the state, including the media, become weak, other forces become influential. But pro-liberation forces are not rising up to that. For example, the education policy has been changed, the women's policy has been shelved, Jamaat-e-Islami is still not banned and pro liberation political forces colluded with Hefazat e Islam to change the educational curriculum.
The presence and dominance of communal forces exist in every aspect of our lives. As a result, we could not make our children believe in secular or progressive ideals. Seeing the hypocrisy and contradictions in our attitude and behaviour our children do not trust us, they are confused by the policymakers.
Our children have not been given the opportunity to understand the ideals of our war of independence. They do not understand the essence of the Bangabandhu's speech of March 7. I think this is a serious failure of the ruling party.
In schools, students are not taught anything that makes them embrace secularism. On the contrary, be it at madrasas or at what is generally known as secular ones, they learn religious chauvinism.
It is high time policymakers do some introspection and find out where we are making mistakes. Economic development is not the only form of development. We have not looked at cultural development, as well as at social development. And our children are only following in our footsteps.
We must get out of this.
Sultana Kamal is a human rights activist and the founding president of the Manabadhikar Shongskriti Foundation