Of late, a lot of political narratives involve religious ideologies and religion-based atrocities. On the one hand, there are all kinds of accounts around social issues of oppression and human rights violations. One of the important points of discussion has also been the interference of state with religion to run a democracy. These issues are, in depth, evidently and subtly, covered by one of the very courageous authors, Taslima Nasrin, in her book Lajja published in the year 2014.
In 1992 in India, Babri Masjid was demolished which followed riots in the country and a lot of unrest. However, the ripples of that demolition spread through the neighboring country of Bangladesh. The book talks about the situation on the ground of how the Bengali Hindus faced atrocities as a response to the agitation of the Muslims in Bangladesh over the incident in back in India.
The story revolves around the Duttas, who have lived in Bangladesh throughout. It’s the accounts of Suronjon, Sudhamoy, Maya, and Kironmoyee Dutta who found it difficult with the tag of being a ‘Hindu’. Sudhamoy and Suronjon were politically vocal, didn’t subscribe to the idea of religious fundamentalism and were liberals. Sudhamoy was also a part of the famous Liberation War of 1971.
Sunonjoy, unemployed in his early 30s, is an atheist and has a despondent and indifferent attitude to the bitter air in the society that threatens his and his family’s existence in their native land. Sunonjoy’s father Sudhamoy and mother Kiranmoyee are dealing with the trouble at hand in their own distinctive ways, whereas his sister Maya has taken refuge in a Muslim home.
The story is a perfect depiction of how evil spawns evil and engenders spite. Mostly seen from the eyes of Suronjon, we discover how an educated youth finds himself descending to the gutters in desperate times.
Lajja is a splendid tale of what follows when religious extremism holds ground. The narrative bluntly criticizes religion ruling the government and the plight of the minority. The deadpan delivery of grave and heinous acts is so effective that it leaves a chill in your spine and makes your stomach turn.
The leading characters are realistic and relatable, bringing out the very emotions that engulf people in a place of distress: survival instinct, fear, anxiety, despondence, indifference and hurt.
A lot of facts are mentioned, to the extent that one loses all focus from the story and is surrounded by so many names and places, eventually forgetting all that was going on. I found myself skipping paragraphs and pages at a time.
The emotion, the setting, all of it is very real and that is what tugs at your heartstrings. Despite its very obvious flaw, the book is a must read, for it gives a glimpse into the ugliness of extremities.
Taslima’s writing is simple and clear. Her subtle hints at religious fundamentalism, gender oppression, and the idea of nationalism make this book worth the money and the time spent on it.
I would recommend this book for it is still relevant after decades of the horrific incident that shook the Indian subcontinent, with ripple effects in Bangladesh and maybe many other countries.
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