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WC 2015: India vs Bangladesh is a 'head vs heart' dilemma for Bengalis

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The India versus Bangladesh quarter-final match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday presented a classic case of overlapping and clashing nationalism.

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When the players of the two teams were singing their respective country's national anthems, both penned by great poet Rabindranath Tagore, many on this side of the border also got goosebumps. That is what the force of nationalism can do.


Dilemma for Bengalis on this side of the border

But Bengalis residing on this side of the border really have a dilemma in their hand. After the Partition, Bangladesh is no more a country that Bengalis in India belong to and no matter how much factors like Tagore and linguistic bond work, nationalism persists as a negative force, more so in South Asia. The head (patriotism) has to prevail over the heart (nationalism), the unwritten law in this part of the world suggests.

Bangladesh's win over England was compared to Mohun Bagan's historic win in football in 1911

A few days ago, when the Bangladeshis beat the English in the ongoing World Cup, many had drawn a parallel between that victory and that of 1911 when Mohun Bagan had beaten an English club in football to lift the IFA Shield. It was a victory of nationalism in its purest form.

Nationalism & patriotism have parted ways after Partition

But today, the paths of nationalism and patriotism have parted and the victory of a nation-state is not necessarily seen as a victory of a nation. Bangladesh's victory against England was certainly an opportunity to celebrate for the Bangladeshi nation-state but for Bengalis living in India, it was a distant joy, nevertheless a joy.

Nationalism is a funny concept

Nationalism is indeed a funny concept. Guarded by the walls of the nation-state, we do not always feel at ease to express our feeling for the nation, but nationalism is a feeling that transcends geographical borders at the slightest of provocation.

We should use nationalism to enhance harmony in South Asia

Tagore's Amar Sonar Bangla (which is equally popular among Bengalis in India) sung before the start of the quarter-final match between India and Bangladesh was one such moment. But it is good if this feeling is allowed a space in tune with the spirit of the game and not used as a medium to breed hatred.

This is how we South Asians should learn to build a harmony in our far-too fragmented region.

Story first published: Thursday, March 19, 2015, 11:50 [IST]
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