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Youths struggle over nation's history

  • Published at 05:26 pm December 15th, 2017
  • Last updated at 05:41 pm December 15th, 2017
Youths struggle over nation's history
When he was asked what exactly had happened on December 14 in 1971, Imdad, in his late teens, responded that he would have to check Google on his smartphone first to get the details. Imdad, 19, was found waiting for a friend near Shahid Buddhijibi Graveyard in Mirpur - the very site where many mutilated bodies of erstwhile-East Pakistani intellectuals were found. He added that he did not know about its significance, but only knew that it was a graveyard. Jamil, a 12-year old boy who sells peanuts to the evening crowd, also attends a local NGO-run school for underprivileged children. He boasted that December 14, 1971 was the day when the Pakistanis surrendered. Asked, then, what had happened two days later on December 16, he replied that Bangladesh was born that day. The news agency approached a part-time service-holder, Monir Ahmed, 22, in Gulshan area of Dhaka to learn from him about the significance between March 26, 1971 and December 16, 1971. Fumbling with his answers, he came to a conclusion that the struggle for Bangla as the state language took place on March 26, and West Pakistan finally relented on December 16, which was when they also left. "The demand for Bangla as an official language was also made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 7 the same year," he added, substantiating his claims.

State of general knowledge

The answers imply that today's youngsters would rather search for historical facts and figures on Google or Wikipedia, rather than glancing through their textbooks. Matters took a turn for the worse when another youth was asked on Facebook as to who was Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque. She initially replied that he was a language martyr in 1952. Upon being asked to cross-check online, she finally came across the correct information and replied that she did not think he was worth remembering when she read about him in school. Several videos have been published on YouTube with similar content, asking random people questions about 1971. Stand-up comedian Yamin Khan had uploaded similar content, titled "Bijoy Itihash" and "History of Bangladesh's Liberation" recently on his YouTube page, Gold Digger. When asked about what the National Martyrs' Memorial represents, many except for one could not answer that the seven pillars of Bangladesh's struggle for Independence were symbolized through the memorial. Most mistook the pillars as tributes to three millions of lives that were lost during the Liberation War. A respondent in the video "History of Bangladesh's Liberation" referred to Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque as a freedom fighter, who also used to write nationalistic poems.

Current scenario

For the young generation, not many options exist to know and understand the history of 1971 more accurately. National museums are places where the history of independence war is showcased, but almost no schools and colleges hold excursions to such places to introduce their students to history. This leaves textbooks to be the primary sources of information, but they too have often been manipulated by the ruling parties during their respective tenures. Inevitably, for today's youth, such tinkering with historical facts leaves them confused and makes them disinterested in history of the nation. The Asiatic Society of Bangladesh has initiated a research on the Liberation War, collecting stories from all districts of the country, where 90% of researchers are youngsters. But it remains to be seen how the government will be able to motivate today's youths to give emphasis on the actual history of Bangladesh through effective policies and intensive methods in the education sector.