The recently inaugurated event Maitree Bandhan—a joint initiative by the Times of India and Prothom Alo, a leading Bangladeshi daily, to explore cross-cultural camaraderie—went more or less unnoticed. Understandably, it doesn’t have the aura that Aman ki Asha has (or had?) but it’s a brave campaign and a much-needed alarm. There is this undeniable call for deeper interaction with a country with which we not only share the longest land boundary but also linguistic and cultural ties. Hence it’s necessary to bring these aspects to a broader public consciousness, especially to the non-Bengali spread of India.
Also, typecasting Bangladesh as just a Bengali-speaking nation would be more myopic than tagging India as a Hindu state. B’desh, like us, harbours some very complex cells that presumably hinder her homogeneity. She hosts many ethnicities, common to both of us, including the indigenous Santals, Khasi, Garo, Meithei, Tripuri/Kokborok, Kuki/Mizo/Lushai, Chakma, etc. These commonalities better not to be overlooked. On the cultural front, both Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geeti are wholeheartedly venerated on either side of the border.
So what needs to be done? A lot. Like enhance communication, trade and trust. But that’s not it. A lot more needs to be done. Likewise, the same goes for our other immediate neighbors: Pakistan, Nepal, China, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bhutan.