This evening a statue for the founding father of Bangladesh, Shiekh Mujibur Rahman in Brunswick Square will be discussed by Camden Council’s planning committee. Whilst in planning terms, it is pretty straight forward, it is more contentious for the UK’s Bangladeshi community, although arguably, the contention is little more than hot air.
Firstly, I am happy to declare that I have written to Camden in support of the planning application for the statue. I believe it is right and proper for London through Camden Council which is home to over 15000 Bangladeshis to acknowledge the contribution of Shiekh Mujib Rahman in the formation of the state of Bangladesh in 1971. This liberation was brought about in a struggle against the Pakistani army and represents the first triumph of linguistic nationalism in the world. If you think about this achievement within the context of a capital city like ours where more than 300 languages are spoken, it brings home the extent of the achievment.
In London, we have a Bangladeshi community of over 200,000. The Bangladeshi population is concentrated in a few boroughs. In Tower Hamlets , there are 86,300 Bangladeshis which is a third of the borough’s population. We have another 32,100 Bangladeshis living in Newham, thats 1 in 10 Newham residents and in Camden, the figure is 15,60, which is 1 in 14 Camden residents. Therefore, it is a fitting tribute to the founding father of the ancestry home to be acknowledged in the form of a statue in Brunswick Square, providing even more of a sense of belonging in London.
So why the controversy for some Bangladeshi’s? The reason is that we have members of the opposition in Bangladesh otherwise known as the BNP, and its allies like the Islamists, are still in denial about the history of the formation of the state of Bangladesh. Needless to say, this party played no part in the formation as it had not been formed by then and the Islamists were openly against the idea committing some awful crimes of collaboration with the Pakistani army. This of course does not stop them making claims, which to this day have yet to be backed up with evidence from the time.
So do expect some demonstrating tonight in front of Camden Town Hall along Judd Street. But, I’d like to reassure people, these views do not reflect the mainstream perspective of Bangladesh but is unfortunately, one aspect of party politics of the country.
Mercifully, the application has been reccommended for approval by officers though there have also been other dissenting voices from local amentity groups. To those voices, I would say that the proposals are subtle and tasteful and will greatly contribute to local use of the public space. It is also in keeping with other similiar tributes in the gardens and squares of Camden like Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Tavistock Square.
So while a lot of noise will be made tonight by “BNP” supporters, Camden council can be reassured that by permitting this statue, it rightly acknowledges the critical role played by Sheikh Mujib Rahman in the formation of Bangladesh, supported by most Bangladeshis to which the party political opposition in Dhaka are still in denial.