Thursday, 1 April 2010

Bangladesh Independence Day

On Monday evening I joined Birmingham's Bangladeshi community at the Bia Lounge in Small Heath to celebrate Bangladesh Independence Day, which took place on 26th March. The event also marked International Mother Language Day in celebration of Bangla being the country's national tongue.

The banquet and festivities recognised Bangladeshi culture and highlighted the rich contribution the Bangladeshi community has made to the city. Over 200 people attended the celebrations. The event was also attended by the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Dr M. Sayeedur Rahman.

I am of Pakistani heritage, born in England. I am proud of my heritage and my nationality. With my background I could not fail to be aware of the legacy of the terrible conflict that led to Bangladeshi independence. It is understandable that such experiences provoke strong feelings from all sides, even many years later.

As a British citizen I have criticised the actions of British governments, past and present. And as someone of Pakistani heritage I think it is necessary to look at Pakistan's history with a critical eye as well. In neither case should it be seen as a form of disloyalty.

The background to the war in 1971 was institutionalised discrimination and racism. The democratic will of the people of East Pakistan was ignored and the army was brutally used against its own people. The resulting war is a dark chapter in the history of Pakistan. Wrong is wrong, no matter who commits it.

You can watch a video of the event, courtesy of I Am Birmingham, here.