Reading from “Mukti: Free to be Born Again – Partitions of Indian Subcontinent, Islamism, Hinduism, Leftism and Liberation of the Faithful” by author Dr. Sachi Dastidar at ISPaD: Partition Center on Sunday, March 6th, 2016
Shuvo G. Dastidar, ISPaD Project Coordinator
Reading from Dr. Sachi Dastidar’s nonfiction book “Mukti” held today was a monumental occasion for history. The event was held in the conference meeting area of The Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation (ISPaD) Project. Those who attended were impressed by some of stories told. Stories, Indian and Bengali, which are actually narratives, depict a society that has sidelined all inhibitions towards any pain, fear, war, and hatred directed at one’s neighbor - literally. Prejudice and impartiality runs side-by-side, is a serious contradiction of the society. Too many parts of society have also moved to eliminate choices as the society, mostly through harmful acts and violations of human rights, moves to become a religious region by force. Dr. Dastidar succinctly explains to readers the background and mobilizing factors that propelled his authorship forward and completion of a book/historical piece in the Preface of the book: “Mukti is a product of love and pain of at least three decades. It is a byproduct of over three decades of field work, social work and travel in the 1947 Partition-affected Bengal –Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), West Bengal State of India – as well in the neighboring states…….During my travel in Muslim-majority Bangladesh I have come across the term ‘mukti’ from many, especially indigenous pre-Islamic Hindu, and lately Buddhist, families as they pray for liberation from their suffering….The book is directed towards Western readers many of whom may have heard of India, yet very little is known about post-partition Muslim-majority Bangladesh and Hindu-majority West Bengal, the effects of Indian Partition on the people of the Bengali-speaking region, the former mixed Hindu-Muslim Bengal Province of Colonial British India……Yet the privileged-caste Hindu-refugee elites quickly rose to power in two Hindu Bengali-majority states in India: West Bengal and Tripura. They would champion liberal, left and Marxist ideologies but refused to show solidarity with the oppressed, mostly belonging to Hindu oppressed castes [whom they left behind]… Seeds of Mukti was first sown in early 1990s when many of my friends and associates asked for translation of my Ai Bangla, Oi Bangla (This Bengal, That Bengal.)…..The Bengal of British India was known to be a relatively-tolerant mixed Hindu-Muslim society where both Hindu and Muslim nationalism played significant role. In a surprise twist of history after Partition of Bengal and India in 1947 both Bengals took stride towards intolerant politics, one…Islamism, the other….Leftism, led by Bangladeshi (East Pakistani) Muslims and Bangladeshi (East Pakistani) Hindu, albeit refugee. The book delves into that ethos and contradiction, although politically incorrect and, at times, impolite…..I have no power to protect individuals and families who have shared their deepest feelings to my family. I have no power to protect their villages either. As a result I have not used the real names of individuals, villages and neighborhoods….”
Dr. Dilip Nath introducing Mother Language Day and Sachi Dastidar
The painstaking intellectual, research (both with documents and with people), unbelievable amount of time, and most certainly emotional process that coalesced to complete this piece of work is something which truly does “blow my mind”. Mukti is a 700 page book that took over 18 years to write
The day of the reading started out a bit slow, as was to be expected of most Bengali/Indian events – especially one in which there was a cricket match of Bangladesh vs. India. Little by little the room filled up with individuals. Dastidar was introduced by Dr. Dilip Nath and then by this writer introduced the Partition Project. Dr. Nath, in line with the Mother Language Day asked all for a moment of silence for the Language Martyrs who were killed on February 21, 1952 to defend their mother language.
Dr. Caroline Sawyer and Ms. Anjali Sharma during Q&A
Following the introduction was the book reading portion where Dastidar selected a few passages he thought would be especially relevant to the individuals present. Mrs. Shubra Goswami graced the crowd with her beautiful voice by singing several songs. Mrs. Goswami sang traditional Bengali songs and at the request of the audience sang a song of Rabindranath Tagore. A Q&A followed the reading. After the formal event had finished all individuals introduced themselves and their special interests. AND finally all partook in the wonderful Indian food available in a wide variety in large amounts, as well as Caribbean snacks from Brooklyn provided by Mr. Jay Hyman. Most who attended also purchased one or more copies of “Mukti” and made sure that it was signed. It was a day that will be seen as a date to remember since it was the date “Mukti” was made publicly available to us and the first speaking engagement Dr. Dastidar gave for it. (Few more book readings are coming in Ozone Park, New Jersey, Albany and Long Island.) Thank you all for having supported research about the Indian Subcontinent.
During Question & Answer
A Few of the Book Presentations at:
- Harimandir Temple, South Richmond Hill, Queens, New York City; March 26, 2016
- State University of New York, Old Westbury, Long Island; April 19, 2016
- Albany, NY organized by State University of New York Distinguished Professor Dr. Ram Chugh; May 31, 2016