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Social media discourses: Liberation War memes on Facebook

  • Published at 06:55 pm August 14th, 2017
  • Last updated at 07:17 pm August 14th, 2017

Memes have incredibly normalised the most serious of topics without losing any of the context or significance in the process. The 2016 US elections were a testimony to that. In Bangladesh, memes have always been mostly about laughs, or pointing out severe flaws in our society. Lately, a Facebook page has been posting memes about the Liberation War. The memes reflect a thorough research and a throwback to the struggle for Bangladesh, and does not refrain in having fun at the expense of benevolent president Yahya Khan, master strategist Lt Gen AAK Niazi and razakars. The Dhaka Tribune reached out to the admins of the page, who had no qualms about talking about what inspired them to reintroduce history in a manner that appeals to the younger generation. Siraj Ud Daula and Crackplatoon (codenames, because internet law frowns upon identifying meme page admins), the two teens who run the page, were eager to share their patriotic fervour. Siraj Ud Daula: I never thought this day would come.

We actually thought you'd get sued, shut down and locked up.

Siraj Ud Daula: Hope it doesn't come down to that.

What gave you the idea to start a meme page about Bangabandhu?

Siraj Ud Daula: Well the page was started by my friend <redacted>. I used to make these memes in a political meme group which consists of Indians and Pakistanis. An acquaintance of mine tagged me in the comments one day and I talked to <redacted>. I showed him my memes and we basically started from there. Crackplatoon: It just struck me down while I was returning home from college. I thought of some memes while walking and when I got home I made the page and a few memes. That Joy bangla at a Chhatra League rally was one of the first memes. I never expected more than 100/200 likes but when it reached beyond that, I thought this could be something more than just fun. Then, I started re-reading the events of the Liberation War like crazy.

Given how politically volatile our country is, with people getting sued left and right for even printing invitation cards with Bangabandhu's photo, were you not concerned?

Siraj Ud Daula: Yeah we were very concerned. Everyone we showed our memes told us the same thing that we'd get sued or arrested. But the point is, we don't make these memes just to have a laugh or two. A lot of thought goes into these memes.

So you guys are history buffs?

Siraj Ud Daula: Yeah. More importantly, Bangladeshi history buffs. And then they say English medium students don’t know anything about the history of Bangladesh. My friend <redacted> studies in Bir Sreshtho Nur Muhammad though. So it doesn't really matter which "medium" you're from. If you love your country, you're bound to be interested in its glorious struggle for freedom. The price we paid for freedom was a lot. But it was worth it. And now it’s up to us - the future generation, to preserve it. Crackplatoon: There is a lot about the Liberation War which you can’t find out by just reading books. You really have to go out and search for that knowledge. I've learned so much since then - Operation Jackpot, crack platoon operations at Hotel Intercontinental, smuggling arms through the Indian border.

Your memes are always in line with what themes or templates are trending.

Siraj Ud Daula: Yeah. We try to keep up with the meme world so that our fans can get the context behind each and every meme we make

It's really cool that you take something historic and present it in a current context - informing people while making it something to be happy about (read laugh and feel proud)

Siraj Ud Daula: Well most teenagers now would rather scroll through a bunch of memes rather than read a bunch of books. Why not make a fusion of the two?

Quite clever. Do you have any future plans for the page?

Siraj Ud Daula: We haven't really thought about it that way. Maybe we'll just keep on making memes till we're dry or we run out of ideas. Every good thing must come to an end.

But one good thing is rather prominent on your page. You’ve inspired others to create similar memes and send them to you.

Siraj Ud Daula: Yes. We never imagined that we would come this far. Not because we'd get sued or anything but Bengalis aren’t really a tolerant bunch. We thought someone would get triggered and would take the page down. But we were proven wrong. The amount of love we have received till now was far beyond our imagination.

Have you thought of your course of actions if the government comes knocking?

Siraj Ud Daula: We did get our memes checked by a lawyer to be sure if they're jailbait. In my opinion, we haven't done anything wrong. We haven't made any memes which make fun of Bangabandhu or any other person of national interest. So I hope we don’t get into any trouble. We hope they appreciate the work we've done when they come knocking.

That shows a lot of foresight. It's good to know that you're fully in the clear.

What would you say is your finest meme on the page?

Siraj Ud Daula: I'd say two of our finest memes are the "Building a time machine to go to the 7th March speech" and the “he protecc he attacc he liberate from Pak.” Crackplatoon: I think it's the Mukti Bahini Pepe who's wielding an AK-47 in front of a Bangladeshi flag. It doesn't have much likes or reacts like the other memes, but to me, it's my favourite. Second one is that Chhatra League screaming Joy Bangla at their rally. It's offensive and risky because it challenges the “Shut up and lick the boots of authority” mentality that persists in Bangladesh today. Crackplatoon: The day when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came back from Pakistan, he gave a speech. There was a quote in the speech that went "If there's even one person in Bangladesh who goes a day without eating a plate of rice, we can never say that we truly achieved independence. Then this independence will have no value." He was right. Bangladesh is rich enough; her land is fertile enough to feed everyone at least 2 meals a day. Yet the bourgeoisie, the landlords hoarding wealth and creating artificial scarcity is the reason why people are still dying without food. We can never achieve true independence unless we've liberated ourselves from these parasites. This is the message I really want to spread through everyone. It would've been impossible if any outside forces intervened in our creativity.