INCLUDE PAKISTAN IN RABINDRANATH TAGORE’S 150TH BIRTHDAY JOINT ANNIVERSARY PROGRAMMES.
UNESCO declared 2011 as the year of Rabindranath Tagore and his 150th birth anniversary were celebrated all across the globe including Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia and China. Bangladesh and India had arranged a year-long joint commemorative programmes both at government and non-governmental levels. However, little was heard from Pakistan.
Ironically, Tagore’s writing became an indicator of tolerance of a society. Tagore’s writing was banned and burned in Nazi-occupied Europe, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. Tagore was once banned in Communist Russia and China. Tagore became a target from all directions in pre-1971 Pakistan. Finally in 1971, Tagore became a matter of ‘life and death’ in Pakistan Army occupied Bangladesh. Pakistan’s fury knew no bound when the Bangladesh (Mujib Nagar) Government-in-Exile adopted ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ as the National Anthem of Bangladesh in May 1971. Tagore experts at Universities were selectively targeted and killed by the Pakistan Army and Al-Badr Killing Squads. I remember my mother tore pages from a thick book and threw into oven fire during a house to house search in old-Dhaka city by Pakistan Army (probably October/November 1971) — a (Tagore’s) volume was mistakenly not destroyed till then.
State-sponsor manipulation of religion is nothing new in Pakistan. But during 1980′s the military rulers in Pakistan adopted a US plan funded (mainly) by Saudi Arabia — the radicalisation of the society and defence forces (to subdue the communist Russia in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries) . Over the years radical and militant ideas rooted deeply in Pakistan society. Civil society, media and intellectuals seems cowed into submission and radical jihadist become uncontrollable for its creators. Nuclear armed Pakistan’s trajectory is now defined by the radicals. This cause panic in US and rest of the world. Now the US has came up with ‘de-radicalisation’ plan which include the promotion of Sufism (Sufi teachings, Sufi music, Sufi Universities etc.) . Many doubt if ‘Sufi therapy’ would work for Pakistan at this late stage but there is no harm in trying it. The core of Sufism — peace, love, tolerance, enlightenment — and Tagore’s philosophy are essentially the same. Like the Sufis, Tagore has message for the soul.
So, I request the Bangladesh and Indian governments and non-governmental cultural organizations to include Pakistan in their joint celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary and beyond.
Westerners reading Tagore's poems here in English translation will not fully understand his true poetic genius. His poems in original Bengali are a musical and aesthetic delight. Tagore was not only a poet, but also a painter and singer. He used to sing his poems in his melodious voice. His words emanate from the very depth of human heart and speak universal truth. Here is a poet of utter compassion, in whose compositions you will never find a tinge of narrowness or bigotry. Like the legendary Soma and Homa birds of the Vedas, his consciousness remained always aloft.