Rabindra Nath Tagore's short story Dalia is about the story of Shah Suja's daugher Amina and the king of Arakan. Shah Suja and his family were given the promise of assilyum in Arakan by the King and were also promised to be sent to Mecca. Thus, Suja began his unfortunate journey from Chittagong through the now called Shah Suja Road. As they arrived in Arakan, Suja's daughter Amina was asked to give marrage to the King. When refused, the entire family was massacred at the order of the King. All of Suja's children were brutally killed by axe. Bhattacharya says, "She [Amena] was forced to "eat ngapi, a strong flavoured [smelly] fish paste, which she apparently did not like" (Sen, 1930, 504-505). The news of the death of the family and the subsequent "lamentation by the people of Bengal was widely spread among the rural population of present Bangladesh. The omnipresence of words like Magh and Barma and so forth in Chittagong folk poems, and indeed across entire Bengal, may be seen as another indication of the central role of Arakan in the construction of Bengali identity."
The consequence of the event led the Moghul determination to free Chittagong from Mogh piracy. In 1666 Shaista Khan, the Uncle of Shah Suja, defeated the Moghs in Fotee Ga,(the village where a war was won) now known as Potenga in Chittagong. Ironical
ly, Suja's unfortunate death brought the end of Mogh lawlessness in lower Bengal. In 1784 Burma finally occupied the tiny kingdom survived on piracy and made it into a province of Burma.
"Tagore interpreting the usual story of Suja's murder by the Arakanese king, "into a love story of an unprecedented character remained largely incomprehensible." Bhattacharya comments "In Tagore's yet another work Mukut ( Crown) the strong message of the Arakanese pride has been upheld." If we see the mind of Tagore, the Brahmo, and his paradigm, we see Tagore's devil in the detail.
After reading Dhalia, I personally wondered why did a Bengali Indian poet known to be "secular", 'humanist" and "progressive" also known as a poet of "humanity" turns a brutal murderer into a lover? The King was not even an Indian for him to twist the story. The answer to the Tagore-lovers on this matter could not be hypothetical but apparent. It is all in his paradigm. It was Tagore's Indian Buddhist connection. It is clear, Tagore as a culturally religious Brahmo, was a believer of Hindu- Buddhist civilization. Surprisingly to Tagore, it was as if the Buddhist king was a nonviolent Buddhist not a brutal murderer of the Suja family. " In reality, the King was a Theraveda Buddhist, a follower of the fundamentalist political sect of Buddhism. The ballad Suja Tanayar Vilapa – i.e. lamentations of Suja's daughter – for generations these ballads were sung in the remotest villages of Eastern Bengal." Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti) says,
"One of the intensions of
his [Tagore's] visits to countries like Siam, Burma , Island Southeast Asia, Japan and China was to bind those countries deeper with India where Buddhism could be the torchbearer." The historical reality is that after the Buddhist emperor Asokh's death, there was the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India against Buddhism, and Buddhists enmass were expelled from India.
Historically speaking, during the British period, we see the penetration of Hindu influence in Burma for a Hindu-Buddhist alliance against Muslims resulting "from mid 1930s there appeared to be a succinct polarization between Buddhists and Muslims of Burma, … U Ottama, the leading Pongyi activist and friend of India who led the entire Pongyi movement during 1920s, became twice the President of Hindu Mahasabha in 1930s." Swapna says, We should however restrain ourselves to stamp out this revolutionary monk as orthodox and anti-Muslim. He demanded a " closer cooperation between Hindus and Buddhists." U Ottama was from Arakan." Here also in the pretentions of being "progressive" the Hindu fundamentalist influence is apparent. From here we can see Tagore's Brahmo paradigm is increasingly becoming intelligible. Surprisingly, Aung San Suu ki who studied in Delhi during the 60's also belives in the paradigm of a Hindu-Buddhist
civilization.Today, Muslims in Burma are only 4% of the population but are considered as the #1 enemy. Could it be a result of Brahmo influence in Burma?We know that the Hindu extremist Tilok was exiled in Burma by the British. Further research should be done to find the sources of Hindu fundamentalism and the anti-Muslim influence in Burma.
In British India, in the Hindu conceptualization of a Nehru's, and Patel's Akhanda Bharata, Muslims were uneasily felt and Hindu Mohashova even didn't want not tolerate them. But many Muslim philosophers and leaders like Iqbal even sang the famous song of "Hindustan hamara..were for a Hindu- Muslim civilization. Iqbal remained committed to the idea until the 40th's. The disillusioned poet later on became the dreamer of Pakistan. Tagore by the way wrote "Amer Sonar Bangla…" song during the early 20th century to the tune of Swadeshi's anti-partition movement. The song was adopted in the 70's as the national anthem of Bangladesh. During the 30's Tagore composed the song " Gono Mono Jona…" to be the national anthem of India. His was for a Hindu civilization. Is his paradigm any different from today's so-called "progressive minded" Bangladeshi Hindu-Buddhist- Christian Oiko Parished's that is alligned with India?
Unlike the othe chauvanistic Brahmos, fortunately Tagore felt Muslim presence in India and tolerated them. In his short story "namaj," he beautifully described the Muslim peasant praying on the boat in the Padma. The peasant was his description of the beautiful nature of the Padma River.
Tagore, Rabindranath. 1988. Dalia. In Rabindra Rachanavali , Govt. of West Bengal Publication
Tarling. Nicholas. 1992. The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press ( 2 volumes)
Swapna Bhattacharya (Chakraborti), Islam in Arakan: An interpretation from the Indian perspective: History and the Present, 2006.
Sen, Dinesh Chandra. 1986. History of Bengali Language and Literature. Delhi: Gian Publishing House
Stuart, J. 1919. Arakan Eighty Years Ago. 1919. Vol. 9, in Journal of Burma Research Society: 27-31
KHRG (Karen Human Rights group) website: in its” Background on Burma." (Talks about Burman identification of Muslims as the enemy #1)
http://www.khrg.org/background_on_burma.html, June 23, 2007.