Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor yesterday said although Bangladesh is progressing as far as economy is concerned, it is facing the threat of communalism which needs to be addressed through inspiring the spirit of social harmony among the youth.
“The evil efforts of creating disputes among people and dividing them in the name of religion have now become more acute,” he said, terming the problem a “big challenge”.
The minister was speaking at the Cosmos Dialogue on 'Baul Philosophy, Literature and Music' at Cosmos Centre in Dhaka.
Noor said people have been carrying the poison of communalism since the British era and it spread further during the Pakistan rule and subsequent periods.
He said people need to embrace the Baul philosophy -- the philosophy of humanity, love and unity -- to overcome the threat of communalism.
Haider A Khan, John Evans Distinguished University Professor of Economics at the University of Denver, USA, chaired the dialogue while Cosmos Foundation Executive Director Nahar Khan delivered the welcome speech.
Eminent Lalon researcher Dr Anwarul Karim delivered a tour de force on the history and condition of the bauls of Kushtia, close to his home district of Pabna.
Bangla Academy Deputy Director Dr Tapan Kumar Bagchi, writer and researcher Sumon Kumar Das and musician Maqsoodul Haque proceeded to discuss on the Baul philosophy, literature and music.
The cultural affairs minister said Bangladesh regressed after the assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who dreamt of a non-communal state.
He noted that the bauls in Bangladesh often come under attack for their lifestyle, including several times in the past few years. “I don't think those were isolated incidents; those were planned attacks. Those who don't believe in the non-communal spirit carried out the attacks on bauls,” Noor said.
He laid emphasis on guiding the youth to the right direction to maintain peace and harmony in the country. “Youths need to be guided properly as they want to do something positive for the country,” he said.
Prof Haider Khan said Baul philosophy, literature and music will undoubtedly continue to play their historically progressive roles.
Bauls, a mendicant folk sect, mainly inhabit in the districts of Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Jhenidah, Faridpur, Jessore and Pabna in Bangladesh.
They are associated with spiritual music known as Baul songs. They are iconoclasts and humanists who believe that all human beings are equal, irrespective of caste and creed. One is not born a baul, but becomes one after initiation by a guru.
Bangladesh has a rich heritage of Baul philosophy that got currency through the immortal music by Lalon, Kanailal Shil, Radharaman Dutta, Arkum Shah, Amiruddin and Shah Abdul Karim.
The dialogue's aim was to see how the Baul philosophy and music as well as literature derived from this philosophy helped shape a non-communal cultural heritage in this part of the world.