We, the secularists
By: Daipayan Halder

My friend M teaches Victorian literature at a Kolkata college. He's also a poet, a singer, and a renowned speaker. A bhadralok. M, by his own admission, is a secular fundamentalist. "All communalists should be banished," he hyperventilates.

What about us? The writer's friend is a secularist only in his own state; Bangladesh be damned file pic

For his poetry, M gets invited to Bangladesh, along with other Bengali intellectuals for whom "borders can't divide brothers". And M and company have over the years developed a fan base among an influential section of Bangladeshis that keep calling them over every year. Not only has he recited poems, but also talked about greater cultural and economic bonding. And, apologised time and again for the marginalisation of non-Hindus in India. "If we pretend to be a great nation, we have to stand up against such grave injustices," he proclaimed.

It was such sincerity towards the secular cause that made me point out that next time M visits Dhaka, he should also talk about forced conversion and communal violence in Bangladesh. My Facebook friend Richard Benkin, an independent human rights activist in Bangladesh, has been filling me with horror stories about the persecution of Hindus.

A recent case involves a Hindu woman named Koli Goswami. She was abducted from home and forcibly converted. Yet, the Bangladeshi police have denied that any crime was committed; which allows the perpetrators to roam free. Such atrocities are commonplace in Bangladesh, Benkin says. So are rapes and murders. "You must stand up for the Bangladeshi Hindu population," I told M. 

"It's a contentious issue. We need to get our facts right. Sometimes things are blown out of proportion," M mumbled. So much for secularism.