Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Bangadesh: Of nationality and nation



This is speaking from a sociological point of view. This refers to Bengali community. On the other hand the term "Bangalee jati" in Bengali should mean "Bengali nation" heaving distinct reference to a state or homeland of this "Bangalee jati". If we call our "jatiota" or nationality as Bangalee jatiota it becomes a misnomer. The people of West Bengal is part of Bangalee jati (speaking from sociological stand point) but they do not have an independent homeland as we, Bangladeshi, have. We should not call our jatiota or nationality as Bangalee jatiota. We should better call it as Bangladeshi jatiota or Bangladeshi nationality.


Of nationality and nation
Syed Manzur Ali


A nationality is a group of people who may have identity of culture and customs, identity of language or an identity of religion or a common political aspiration, Nationality is feeling of identity, a sense of unity among the people who constitute it. A nationality is a group of people who feel themselves apart, separate and distinct from other peoples. John Stuart Mill says "A portion of mankind may be said to constitute a nationality if they are united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any other which make them co-operate with each other more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the same government and desire that it should be governed by themselves or a portion of themselves exclusively". (J. S. Mill- Considerations on Representative Government).

H. J. Laski says, nationality is an unity of mind in a group of people. " That unity is the outcome of common history of victories won, of traditions crated by a corporate effort there grows a sense of kinship which binds men into oneness. They recognise their likenesses and emphasise their difference from other men" (Grammar of Politics).

There are no absolutely essential elements that go to from a nationality. In the nineteenth century when the small German states united under the leadership of Bismark to form the present a 'German State' there was the identity of language. identity of culture and customs among them. So is the case of the Italian unification who formed the Italian nation also in the nineteenth century... there was identity of language and of culture. On the other hand, there is no identity of language or culture among the people of Indian subcontinent, but in 1947 they formed an integrated nation?the Indian nation. For there was the feeling of unity a sentiment of unity among the people and there was a common political aspiration. That aspiration was to achieve freedom from the foreign rulers? the Britishers.

The English and the people of the USA have got identity of language and identity of culture and customs, identity of religion, but they formed two different nations because they felt like doing so. The people of the United States had the sentiment to from a nation in 1789. They fought with the Britishers and formed a nation.

The Jews are of different countries, but they have the same religion, they have consciousness of unity, they sought a homeland, they found one and formed a nation. Language, it has been said, is the badge of nationality. But in Austria, there are more than one language, but the people had the sense of unity, and they formed a nation, In Canada there are two languages, English and French, and in Switzerland there are four languages. But in these states despite there having more than one language, the people formed a nation. In fine, there are no absolutely essential elements, presence or absence of which with go to make a nation. Despite the presence or absence of any of these stated elements, the people may make a nation. It is essentially spiritual in character, it is feeling of unity, and a sentiment of mind.

From "nationality", we come to "nation". A nationality plus its own government a nation. Bryce says, " A nation is a nationality which has organised itself into a political body, either independent or desiring to be independent". Even a nationality which has not yet won a state of their own but is striving to get one may be said to constitute a nation. The Jews even before they got the state in Palestines formed a nation, so is the case of the people of Bangladesh who in March 1971 formed a nation. Though by then they did not get a state of their own.

Now some words about the Bengalee and Bangladeshi nationality. The Bengali word " jati" means both the English word "nation" and the English word "race". The English word "nation" if translated in Bengali is "jati" and again the English word "race" is also translated in Bengali as "jati". This causes the controversy when we say in Bengali "Bangalee jati" we may mean Bengali race, speaking Bengali language and having Bengali culture and customs, and even a common ethnic or racial origin.

This is speaking from a sociological point of view. This refers to Bengali community. On the other hand the term "Bangalee jati" in Bengali should mean "Bengali nation" heaving distinct reference to a state or homeland of this "Bangalee jati".

If we call our "jatiota" or nationality as Bangalee jatiota it becomes a misnomer. The people of West Bengal is part of Bangalee jati (speaking from sociological stand point) but they do not have an independent homeland as we, Bangladeshi, have. We should not call our jatiota or nationality as Bangalee jatiota. We should better call it as Bangladeshi jatiota or Bangladeshi nationality.

The original Constitution of Bangladesh said that the citizens of this state should be called Bengalees. If it is so, what about the people of West Bengal? The people of West Bengal are also called Bengalees. But certainly the are not the citizens of Bangladesh. We should better call our selves as Bangladeshis.

Now let us examine certain facts. The people of the United Kingdom and the people of the United States have same language, same religion and almost same culture customs. Do the people of the United States constitute English Nationality. What about the people Austria and Germany? The languages of Austria and Germany are German. Do the people of Austria constitute German Nationality ? What about the people of the province of Quebec in Canada? Their language is same, do they constitute French Nationality? All this is parallel to the case of the citizens of Bangladesh and the people of West Bengal. The Bengali terms, Bangalee jati are equivocal and ambiguous. We should better guard against them.

New Nation 01/11/2004