The battle for objectivity

The separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 was a traumatic event in the history of the region. In the aftermath of the war, the government of Pakistan sought to downplay the role it played in the conflict and erase any evidence of the atrocities committed by its military during the war. This was done to maintain control over the narrative surrounding the event and to avoid accountability for the actions of its military. To do this, the government of Pakistan actively worked to suppress historical evidence and silence those who spoke out about the true events of the war. This included destroying historical documents and records, censoring media coverage, and harassing and arresting those who dared to speak out about the truth.

The result of this suppression was a distorted and incomplete understanding of the events surrounding the separation of Bangladesh. The government’s official narrative portrayed the conflict as a purely internal affair and downplayed the role of external factors, such as the support of India, in the separation of Bangladesh. In recent years, there have been efforts to correct this distorted history and to acknowledge the truth about the separation of Bangladesh. However, the government’s official narrative remains deeply ingrained in the public consciousness and it remains difficult to challenge the dominant state-sponsored view of the events of 1971.

This situation is reflected in the actions of politicians and state officials who visit universities and present a one-sided view of the separation of Bangladesh. Rather than presenting the facts and allowing for a nuanced understanding of the events, they seek to reinforce the government’s official narrative and maintain control over the historical memory of the conflict. This distorted view of history is reinforced by the statesmen’s selective use of facts and their emphasis on the official narrative. They present a one-sided view of the events, ignoring or downplaying important details and evidence that contradicts the government’s official version of events. This creates a misleading and incomplete picture of the conflict, which reinforces the government’s control over the historical memory of the separation of Bangladesh.

In some cases, universities and academic institutions may also be complicit in this manipulation of history. They may provide a platform for these statesmen to present their views without critical examination or challenge. This lack of critical engagement reinforces the official narrative and perpetuates the distorted understanding of the separation of Bangladesh. Furthermore, the visits of statesmen to universities can also have a chilling effect on academic freedom and free speech. Students and faculty may feel intimidated or discouraged from speaking out against the official narrative or presenting alternative perspectives, for fear of repercussions. This creates an environment of self-censorship, where important questions and discussions are suppressed, and the truth about the separation of Bangladesh remains hidden.

The manipulation of the historical narrative surrounding the separation of Bangladesh by visiting statesmen has the potential to polarise society along ideological and political lines. When a distorted view of history is presented as the official version, it can create a sense of division and mistrust between those who believe in the official narrative and those who do not. For example, those who are exposed to the government’s official view of the separation of Bangladesh may come to view those who question or challenge this view as being anti-national or unpatriotic. This can lead to a sense of animosity and division between different groups within society, as each side becomes more entrenched in their beliefs and less likely to engage in constructive dialogue and debate.

Moreover, the suppression of alternative perspectives and evidence can limit the ability of individuals to critically examine the events of 1971 and form their understanding of the conflict. This can undermine the ability of society to learn from its past and to develop a shared understanding of the events that have shaped its history. Furthermore, the manipulation of history can also create a sense of distrust in government and institutions, as individuals realize that they have been misled about important events in their nation’s past. This can have long-term consequences for the stability and unity of a country, as individuals begin to question the legitimacy of their leaders and institutions.

Usama Asghar

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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