Remembering Bhashani, Bhola and Political Possibilities

37 solar cycles ago Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani returned to his maker after a long political career struggling for social justice through British Occupied India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

45 years and 5 days ago the south of what is now Bangladesh was struck by a Cyclone which devastated communities and killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Allahumma grant them high station and us the collective wisdom and resources to fortify our communities with justice.

The 24 minute UK documentary below centres a team of British Army Engineers as they arrive without much of a clue of what is going on around them.

The film does feature a moving prayer, a rescue story, the long wait for a Pakistani Officer to arrive and some telling banter with East and West Pakistani officials.

The following 13 months is, as they say, history, though that period could have unfolded in any number of ways.

Maulana Bhashani was an elderly and unwell man at the time of the cyclone, receiving treatment in Dhaka. Awaking miraculously the next day he propelled himself to the disaster zone to greet, console and understand what had happened. Returning to Dhaka he delivered a galvanising call and a tremendous bollocking to central government.

His cry of Long Live Independent East Pakistan came from these gatherings and many say this speech act was critical to what happened afterwards even though Bhashani spent most of the Bangladesh War being sat upon by the Indian Government. There will be prayers and conferences in Tangail, provided the ruling party doesn't ban them like they have in the past, the 'secular' left will celebrate him as their totem, unreconstructed Muslim nationalists and (m)islamists will generally dismiss him.

Alternatively, many of believers will smile, sit and marvel at the oath Bhashani's spiritual-political disciples would utter upon and how understanding him unwinds the deceptive secular-religious elite politics of these unpleasant times.

“I give an undertaking that in Allah the Supreme I profess firm belief. 
I will believe with certainty that Rasulullah is the sent messenger. 
I will abide by all the regulations pertaining to the permitted and disallowed, as propagated by the Messenger.   
I will not bow my head to anyone besides Allah.  
I will endeavour tirelessly  to establish socialism, the only way to relieve all forms of human extortion and embezzlement.   
I will join the volunteers corps of the peasantry to eradicate from society all forms of imperialism, capitalism, feudalism,  usury and corruption. 
I will perform litanies, contemplation, meditation,  prayers and fasting… according to the tariqah of Qadria,  Naqshbandiya,  Chistiyyah. 
Every year on the 19/20th January 5 Magh I will attend the large seminar at Santos, Tangail and assist in the advancement and progression of the Islamic University.”
There is a university named after Maulana, primarily dedicated to Science and Technology, but like all institutions in Bangladesh, hardly free to flourish.  Still, it is really important to imagine the possibilities for learning, research and training at such an outfit, unwashed by flags for counter-tyranical, spiritual, social, physical and ecological learning.

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