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Television journalist Nobonita Chowdhury is widely known as a talk show host and moderator. But she’s rarely known to have moderated her opinions during hosting debates. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It certainly isn’t when you have a jam packed live audience that is engaged and clinging onto every word spoken by the speakers. Nobonita provided the fuel that lit the fire at the ‘Juddho Sheshe Juddho’ panel discussion on the third and final day at Dhaka Lit Fest 2016.
Held on the main stage and moderated by Nobonita Chowdhury, the panel consisted of Akimun Rahman, Mahbub Aziz, Ahsan Akbar, and Faruk Wasif. The title of the discussion alludes to Bangladesh’s struggle after the country won independence from the brutal repression of its former West Pakistani rulers.
The discussions invariably revolved around the idea of a secular state, minority rights, repression, Muslim identity, and the way forward for Bangladesh, among others.
Host of primetime political talk show, Rajkahon on DBC News, Nobonita, the moderator, objected when Faruk Wasif said that secularism is better translated in Bengali as “humanitarianism” instead of “religion-neutral”. Wasif implied that the point of being secular is not espousing an anti-religious stance but it is to treat everyone equally.
An assistant editor at Prothom Alo, Faruk Wasif also writes a weekly column on socio-political issues. He has published two books on politics and literature and two works of translation.
Wasif said the divides among the people of the country is purposely kept alive to reap political benefit off of them. “There was no conflict between the Bengali and Muslim identities. It was concocted by few intellectuals who had agenda,” he said.
Ahsan Akbar said the Dhaka Lit Fest is truly representative of Bangladeshi community because of its reach. “People asked me ‘why don’t you do this at Radison?’ But we rejected that idea. We wanted to it at the Bangla Academy, within the Dhaka University Campus, and free for the general public,” Akbar said as he was heartily applauded by the auditorium full of audience members. Ahsan Akbar is a poet and writer and has been a key organiser of the festival since its beginning in 2011. His debut book, The Devil’s Thumbprint, is a collection of poems and it has been recently included in the English literature programme at SOAS, University of London.
Poet, writer artist, and essayist Mahbub Aziz said that ‘Bengali Muslim’ is not an identity that we should endorse. He said that the conflict of identities is not over. “If it had been over then August 15 could not have happened,” he asserted. Aziz won the Citi Anondo Shahitya Puroshkar In 2015. He is currently the feature editor at the Daily Samakal.
Akimun Rahman’s calm and compose demeanor was only matched by her eloquent words. A teacher from Narayanganj, Akimun Rahman has a PhD from Dhaka University, and has taught at Independent University, Bangladesh. Her books include Purush Prithibite Ek Meye, Ei Shob Nibrito Kuhok and Bibi Theke Begom.
“I have tried to inculcate the native philosophies and indigenous folk literature within my works in my own way. They are simplified and presented easily but folk literature like the Maymensigh Geetika is represented in in my work,” Akimun Rahman said while commenting on the importance of representing and preserving the folk literature.
The audience that filled the large auditorium was heard murmuring excitedly to each other as the discussion ended. Some were flocking around Faruk Wasif to ask him further questions. The session apparently provoked further discussion and left the audience contemplating.