As Bangladesh recalls its violent birth, Modi’s satyagraha claim sounds jarring -

As Bangladesh recalls its violent birth, Modi’s satyagraha claim sounds jarring

But recently as he was preparing to go to Bangladesh, which on its 50th anniversary prepared to honour its freedom fighters (of which he is clearly one), he received an anonymous letter saying he was not welcome in that country anymore. He does not know who sent that letter or who might be upset by his role in the war half a century ago – he has lived a good, successful life since then and really did not want to jeopardise his family for something that happened in another country so long ago. But there are still people in Bangladesh who have neither forgotten nor forgiven the defeat of Pakistan and he would rather not invite any trouble at this late stage in life. He will not write his memoirs for that very reason, he prefers the anonymity of his existence, though many Banglsdeshis constantly seek him out for help and advice on various issues.

I asked him, apart from fighting with knives and guns, if he had also participated in the satyagraha for the liberation of Bangladesh and he simply laughed in my face. There was no satyagraha against Pakistan, unlike Mahatma Gandhi’s movement against the British in India, he told me. Pakistani soldiers simply barged into your homes if they even so much as suspected your sympathies were with the Mukti Bahini, he said. They picked up the women, cut off their breasts and private parts with ordinary razors after raping them; the women died bleeding. The men they simply shot. There was no question of arrests and being left alive in jail, he said.

So, I wondered which side of the border Narendra Modi was doing his satyagraha for the liberation of East Pakistan and where he was lodged in jail during the Bangladesh war. For it was a very bloody and violent liberation and there was absolutely no element of peace or non-violence in the fight for Bangladesh. I can never be on the same page as Modi but I had hoped that he would at least not make me cringe among my friends from abroad every time he opens his mouth. If he wanted to draw a connection to the liberation of Bangladesh, he could have at least studied the events that led up to the formation of the new country and claimed to have fought in the Mukti Bahini. With so many Indians fighting the Pakistan Army, it would have been more plausible.

What would people who threatened my aunt’s son recently have made of the Prime Minister’s claim? If after fifty years those who are hunting down Indians who fought for Bangladesh can locate an anonymous citizen doing his best to disappear into the woodwork, they certainly would know about a certain Narendra Modi who ended up as the Prime Minister of India –his satyagraha and a jail term.

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