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Salimullah Khan

We are now in a dark age in the literature of Bangladesh In Arabic, it is called Ayame Jahiliyat

Salimullah  Khan

Salimullah Khan

Fri, 22 Dec 23

After second episode

The state called Bangladesh has emerged through an unprecedented mass movement and people's war. The country has now crossed 52 years since Independence, counting one, two, three. We celebrated the golden jubilee of Independence in stately splendor. But how far has Bangladesh progressed as a country in these 52 years? Bangladesh has come a long way in art, culture, literature, intellectual practice, and intellectualism. Rahat Minhaz, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication and Journalism Department of Jagannath University, had a detailed conversation with eminent intellectual and thinker Salimullah Khan on these issues. The critical parts of that conversation appear here in sequence. Episode 3 today:

Rahat Minhaz: How has Bangladesh's art and literature progressed in 52 years? How many great writers have we got in a free country? What is your assessment of this?
Salimullah Khan:
We know about great writers of other countries. We are excited about England's Shakespeare, but is there any great writer after Rabindranath and Nazrul Islam in our country? I think only one great writer, Ahmad Sofa, was born in our country. But Ahmad's sofa is unacceptable to the present society and the state. As a result, he is not celebrated. For example, his writings are not included in the textbooks. I am an insignificant person. My words have no value. However, showing my respect to everyone, I don't know of a second-best writer born in Bangladesh than Ahmad Sofa. I have read the works of Shamsur Rahaman, Al-Mahmud. Ahmad Sofa is a top-rated writer. And they are second-rated. I am saying this based on the reading. Many may disagree. Hasan Azizul Haque passed away recently. He was an excellent writer. But not a great writer.

Rahat Minhaz: What is the difference between a good writer and a great writer, in your opinion?
Salimullah Khan:
Tolstoy is a great writer. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar is a great writer. They didn't spend their lives just writing books. He did not leave out any work from girls' schools to writing children's books. Whenever I see Rabindranath Tagore, I am amazed. Nazrul Islam has practiced literature for only 41 years. I call them great writers. Nazrul Islam, Mir Musharraf Hossain, or Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay - I think they are great writers. But there are medium writers and small writers, too. I am not a writer myself. I say this as a reader. For that reason, if we look at the literature of Bangladesh, I think we are in a dark age. In Arabic, it is called Ayame Jahiliyat. Such an era happened earlier in Bangla literature.

The first translation of the Mahabharata was in Bangladesh, which is called the Mahabharata of Paragal Khan or Chuti Khan. Many say Paragli Mahabharata. A lot of translation work has been done in the Chittagong region. Kabindra Parmeswara's translation was followed by Kashiram Das's or Krittivasa's Mahabharata and Ramayana. These were the basis of Bangla literature. Bangla also has other types of literature. Like Srikrishnakirtan is one type, Charyapad is another. What we know as modern Bangla was born at that time. Bangla Academy has printed Mahabharata printed in two volumes. A job well done. Reading it, you will now understand roughly seventy to eight percent of the book. You won't need too many dictionaries; however, they are heavy on Sanskrit words. We know the names of some of the great ones from Abdul Karim's collection of manuscripts: Shah Mohammad Sagir, Syed Sultan, Alaol, and Daulat Kazi - these are the poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was the golden days of Bangla literature.

Rahat Minhaz: There was a stagnation or dark age in literature before this. Especially during the Mughal period?
Salimullah Khan:
Except for the Chittagong area during the Mughal period, you will find nothing but Vaishnava Geetica in the entire Bangla literature. Why is this? Come up to Bharat Chandra. Then obscenity took over. But the Mymensingh Geetica was written by a Bangladeshi farmer. It was discovered in East Bengal in the 1920s. I remember Dinesh Chandra Sen. He edited it. We don't have that kind of literary practice. During the Mughal period, there was a slack in our literary practice. No great literature was produced, which did happen during the independent Sultanate period or the Arakan dynasty.

Rahat Minhaz: You have highlighted the long-term context of Bengal or the state of Bangladesh. But have we not achieved anything in art literature after the beginning of the journey as a state in modern world civilization in 1971?
Salimullah Khan:
I am sorry to say that during the Pakistan period, we had a struggle against Pakistan, and during the British period, there was a different socio-political context as there was an anti-British struggle. Nazrul Islam appeared later in 1920. Nazrul Islam brought a renaissance in literature in East Bengal. Many other minor writers appeared with him. Jasimuddin's poems should not be forgotten. From a music perspective, we cannot forget the songs of Abbas Uddin. After painter Zainul Abedin, we got some great painters, including the painter Sultan. If you talk about literature, I think a dark age descended after the Independence of Bangladesh. But when you say we are contributing to international peace, our per capita income has increased, and a question arises whether our minimum income has increased. We need to ask this question.

Presently, our national income is increasing. Even if the population does not increase, per capita income will increase when national income increases. But has our minimum wage increased? If we understand this, we will appreciate whether the Independence of Bangladesh has any meaning. Are all the people of the country getting the opportunity for education? Does everyone have access to health care? You can look at it two ways. You can call a glass of water half empty or half full. You might look at me and say I'm speaking in despair, but our per capita income is two and a half thousand dollars annually, and we are announcing it as good news. Still, we get that two and a half thousand by adding the country's lowest income with the highest income. Then you have to tell the income of the lowest person.

Why are you hiding this filter? If our national income increases, per capita income will also increase; it is natural. So, this is not new news. The new news is, who are the lowest-income earners in the country? Suppose, about twenty percent of the population lives below the poverty level. What situation are they in? According to the government, 20 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line. It has increased due to Covid-19. I am not counting Covid-19. Then, we got to discuss this disparity. What will happen to intellectualism in a country where intellectuals do not discuss it? Those who we call intellectuals in this country - economists, sociologists, historians - listening to their conversation, it seems they do not know how the state is faring.
(To be continued)

Also Read

Episode 1
Intellectuals proceeding with fragmented ideas of history a major problem
Episode 2
No more politics, only diplomacy dominates our country

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