Bangladesh coup linked to 1971 war: Tahmima Anam


    By Manish Chand

    Jaipur, (IANS) The recent failed coup in Bangladesh was directly linked to the 1971 liberation war, says acclaimed author Tahmima Anam while rejecting fears of Islamisation in her country and asserting that democracy was the “best indicator” of what people want.

    “It’s directly related to the coup. The head of the Jamaat-e-Islam party Ghulam Azad was arrested recently,” Anam, the London based novelist of “A Golden Age” and “The Good Muslim”, told IANS in an interview at Diggi Palace, which is hosting the Jaipur Literature Festival.

    A PhD in anthropology, Anam’s latest novel, “The Good Muslim”, probes the aftermath of the 1971 liberation war and probes the issues of identity and what it means to be a Muslim in Bangladesh.

    “The war crimes tribunal was set up recently. People were celebrating in the streets but some sections in the army were upset. It speaks to some of the divisions in Bangladesh,” she said.

    The International Crimes Tribunal, set up to try crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War, recently ordered the arrest of Azam and rejected his bail plea saying there were formal charges against him for his complicity in violence.

    The failed plot to oust the Bangladesh government has been attributed by the army to “religiously fanatic” officers and has revived fears of Islamisation of the country.

    Anam, 37, however, rejects such fears resoundingly, saying nobody wants Islamist parties around.

    “Democracy is the best indicator of what a nation wants. They have just three seats in parliament. Most people want a secular and responsible society,” said Anam.

    “Whenever the Jamaatis are kicked out of power, they blame feminists. The so-called Islamists are just fringe elements,” she said,

    “We have a strong NGO culture, we have a strong civil society and we have a vibrant media. New TV channels are coming up. There is a great art culture,” she said when asked whether there was an ongoing renaissance of civil society.

    Anam vehemently repudiates the stereotyping of Muslims as radicals or jehadis, a trend that has become more pronounced after the 9/11 attacks in New York.

    “The stereotypes are going to be there. Our job as a great writer is to break stereotypes,” she said.

    “I was raised in a secular family. I was born a Muslim but never read the Quran till recently. We talk about Muslims either as moderates or radicals. There are also radical Muslims of the left.”

    Anam feels that the legacy of the 1971 liberation war continues to mould the sensibilities of Bangladeshis.

    “People were imagining a new country, a new secular and democratic society. I have a nostalgia for that liberating moment. It was a period that made people feel alive to live in the moment.”