Prominent Bangla blogger Himu has started a campaign to boycott Indian products on 1 March to protest BSF atrocities. I have no idea how the campaign is faring in the ‘real world’, but in my (limited) observation of the cyberspace — blogs and facebook — the idea definitely resonates with most Bangladeshis.
I personally wish the campaign success. If nothing else, it will be a worthwhile symbolic act. And symbols are important.
The thing is, I am not sure boycotting Indian products will have much more benefit beyond symbolism. In fact, if this is actually successful, the result will probably be more harm than good. That doesn’t, however, mean there is no place for civic activism. There is. And people like Himu can play a big role in leading that activism beyond symbols.
A trip to London isn’t complete without a visit to the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. About a year ago, when Bangladesh was sleepwalking towards 1/11, I happened to be in London. One Sunday, after a tour of the Hyde Park, I met up with some family friends at a Deshi eatery in the Banglatown. One of them asked if I had spoken at the Corner. I said no. She said she sang there when she first visited London. When I enquired what she sang, she replied: Keno? Amar Shonar Bangla!
Of course she’d sing that, what else would it be, what else would I have sang (no, make that recited, I can’t sing) if I did anything at the Speaker’s Corner? Those of us born in free Bangladesh tend to identify instinctively with Amar Shonar Bangla — along with the green-and-red flag and shapla — irrespective of differences in religion, class or political opinion. And yet, there is no clear articulation of why we should. While we tend to feel our Bangladeshi identity, seldom do we think what it means to be a Bangladeshi, and there is little clear articulation of what kind of a state our People’s Republic should be.