When did celebrating Pohela Boishakh become an issue?
After two years of pandemic restrictions, this year, we celebrated Pohela Boishakh with the usual fervour and zeal.
It was pleasing to see the colourful procession of Mongol Shobhajatra, and the musical performance at Ramna Batamul again.
People of all ages came out, defying the already scorching heat to take part in the celebrations.
However, what appeared beautiful and charming to us hasn’t essentially incited the same feeling among some others.
From a subjective point of view, it is quite normal that everyone will not like everything.
What is not normal, however, is the abusive language used on social media by those who try to pretend to be on a crusade against any cultural event like Pohela Boishakh.
For any individual with a genuine passion for different Bengali cultural events, those comments and the entire mindset that works behind them will surely generate anger and disgust.
This generally results in slinging mud at each other on online platforms.
But such squabbles have never brought any good outcomes; instead it deteriorates the atmosphere facilitating further division as if we are not polarized enough already.
I strongly believe it is essential for us to search for the root of this hatred towards Pohela Boishakh.
The genealogy of this anti-Pohela Boishakh mentality can be traced back to history.
What we are witnessing now are the remnants of that.
When the self-proclaimed Pakistani Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan came into power, he banned the celebration of Pohela Boishakh.
Obviously, he had his Bengali collaborators who shared his ideology as they still do.
This is relevant here because the anti-Pohela Boishakh mindset is fiercely anti-Tagore as well.
Veteran left-wing political activist Badruddin Umar has analyzed this phenomenon of communal attitude toward cultural activities in detail in his famous work Sanskritik Sampradayikta.
In my conviction, the most outrageous thing Ayub Khan and his cohorts tried to do was to write Bangla in the Arabic alphabet, for the Bangla alphabet descended from Sanskrit.
Which was not considered perfect for a good Pakistani Muslim.
Mohammad Ayub Khan’s perception of the Bengali people and their culture can be found in crystal clear terms in his famous autobiography.