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The changing mindscape in rural Bangladesh

Written By: HarunurRashid
04/07/2013 20:28 04/07/2013 20:23
Social Issues

During the last 42 years after the War of Liberation, there has been a sea change in the mindscape of the people living in the rural areas. The War of Liberation dealt a tremendous shock to the psyche of the villagers living peacefully in the lush green delta washed by the hundreds of rivers that sustained their livelihood. In one mighty blow destiny conspired to bring them out of the middle ages to the glare of the 20th century.

As the Pakistani hordes burnt down their homes and killed them indiscriminately with sophisticated weapons, they ran for life, not even caring to give the dead a decent burial. As they emerged from the trauma, some of them chose to join the Mukti Bahini with anger coming out of the barrels of their guns. It was the worst of time, but it was also the best of time that changed their mindscape to become a part of the contemporary world. The battery operated transistor radio became their window on the world as they listened to the BBC every evening before going to bed. Those who were within the band-width of the Swadhin Bangla Betar, listened to the ‘Charampatra’ with their hearts full of hope for their heroes to come home victorious. 

As the country became independent and their supreme leader Bangabandhu came home, they got off to a new start with a heart full of dreams of a golden future. That they now belonged to an independent country filled their heart with new courage and ambition. In spite of the quickly changing political scene after the assassination of the Bangabandhu, they tried to make the best use of whatever resources they had with them. The hybrid IRRI paddy to which they quickly adjusted themselves brought a fair measure of prosperity in their life. They now knew how to use a shallow water pump and bring newer lands under boro cultivation. 

The Bangali mind which is as rich as its alluvial soil now fitted the shallow water pump to the boat. How they did it or who did it first is not known. But the one who did it first, perhaps never understood the implication of what he was doing. It meant a revolution in the life of the people living in the villages. It helped them conquer distance and gain speed in their communication. The nearest urban settlement was now within a few hours distance. Their ability to negotiate with the middlemen in selling their produce increased. It gave them a fair measure of power which was not only economic, it was political too.

This is borne out by the fact that the two military dictators who ruled Bangladesh for the next two decades were extremely sensitive to their wishes and needs. This is why General Ziaur Rahman brought changes in the Constitution which appeased the religious feelings of the majority of the population who lived in rural Bangladesh. The 8th amendment during General Ershad’s regime declared Islam as the state religion. That too was aimed at appeasing the sentiments of the majority. 
In the meanwhile, a huge lot of people began going abroad from the villages. That brought in changes in the life of the rural community. A steady remittance flow created islands of prosperity in almost all the villages. This brought them psychologically closer to the country where their sons, and now also their daughters, went. 

Improved communications now attracted a huge lot of young girls to flock to the cities and work for the garments factories. Compare this to the situation in the villages half a century earlier. In one go, they achieved their emancipation as they became economically solvent and kept sending money to their parents in the villages. Add to this the ever broadening mobile network and you have a picture of the rural mindscape which is more open and relaxed than ever before. 

The last phenomenon which has been slowly changing the rural scene is the Grameen Bank. The Bank, an experiment with collateral free micro-credit, proved a resounding success that changed the life of nearly 80 million women living in the villages. This gave them economic solvency and made them respectable members of the family unit in the rural areas. 

So the mindscape of the majority of the population living in the villages is changing fast. The politics of the country is lagging behind the pace at which their mind is changing. Politics is still dominated by outdated ideas. Undermining the rural mind would be a terrible mistake for any political party. Literacy may have got stuck somewhere near 54 per cent, but the mindscape of the villagers is more sensitive to politics and they understand everything from Lavalin to Hall Mark to Digital Bill Boards. 

Politicians had better try and understand that Machiavelli is an outdated text for politics in present-day Bangladesh. 

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About HarunurRashid

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  • Name: Professor M Harunur Rashid
  • From: Dhaka
  • Nationality: Bangladesh
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    Professor Harunur Rashid is a Cambridge Gradute, former professor of North South University, now Teaching English at International Islamic University Chittagong(IIUC), Dhaka Campus. Contributing as an Associate Editor of The Independent and former DG of Bangla Academy.


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