JBS Vol 15. Num 1. 2013 - Fractured Nation, Fractured Identities: Quest for a National Reconciliation in Bangladesh

Sayeed Iftekhar Ahmed

In Bangladesh, the two main political parties — the Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) — have held contested, opposing views on every significant national and international issue, and except for two years in 2007–2008, they have been in power in every consecutive term since 1991. This has led to the absence of even a minimal ideological consensus — an essential component for any smoothly functioning democracy. This ideological chasm is rooted in the failure of the nationalist elites to develop a unified discourse that is based on a shared identity and national imagery; this in turn has led to the development of two parallel nationalisms in both the elite and the subaltern domains which has fractured the entire nation and created dual identities. This study urges the construction of a space for reflexive, discursive, and deliberative local-level dialogues that could engage the government, opposition political activists, and civil society activists at the Zilla, Upazila, and Union levels, in a much-needed public examination of Bangladesh’s national identity. It would help to deconstruct these projects through dialogical and democratic means rather than forcing their totalizing claims upon each other.