In an ominous development in Shyamnagar upazila, Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh is quietly ‘Islamising’ the names of villages and educational institutions there, destroying the rich history, tradition and heritage of the area.The move, bearing all signs of rabid communalism, was initiated following a locally issued fatwa that the names, many of which have been existing for many centuries, now smack of ‘Hinduism’.
Since the immediate past four-party alliance government had assumed power in 2001, of which Jammat is an important component, it successfully ‘Islamised’ the names of many villages and educational institutions in the upazila.
Local units of Jamaat also started using the new ‘Islamic names’ on their official writing pads, propaganda leaflets and invitation cards, sources said.
Hari Charan Roy Chowdhury, the erstwhile Zamindar (large scale land owner during the Mughal rule and in colonial India) of Shyamnagar, established a high school at Nakipur in 1899 under what is now Shyamnagar upazila head quarters, and it was named after him as Nakipur Hari Charan High School.
As the name Hari Charan is a traditional Hindu name, local Jamaat leaders changed the high school’s name to Nakipur Pilot High school and the school authorities hung a sign board touting the new name.
Local residents alleged that soon after the immediate past four-party alliance had assumed power in 2001, former Jamaat lawmaker Gazi Nazrul Islam became the chairman of the school’s governing body, and the name of the school was changed soon after.
While talking to this correspondent, District Education Officer (Secondary) Md Kamruzzaman said he knew nothing about the change of name of the school as no one had taken his permission to do so.
“The school authorities in collusion with a section of officials of Jessore Board might have had changed the name of the school which is over a century old,” he said.
On contact, Shyamnagar Upazila Awami League (AL) President also Sadar Union Parishad (UP) Chairman Jaglul Haidar expressed his grave concern and said, he got his own child admitted to nearby Shyamnagar Model High School instead of the school with the newly ‘Islamised name’.
Local Jamaat leaders also ‘Islamised’ the name of Joshoreshwaripur under the upazila by changing its name to Islampur during the immediate past four-party alliance government.
King Pratapaditya of Jessore, one of the Twelve Bhuiyans who put up a fierce resistance against the Mughal conquest of the delta, established his capital at Joshoreshwaripur during his rule.
The name of the village Haripur under Noornagar union was also changed to Habibpur.
Nurul Islam, a teacher of Habibpur (originally Haripur) Dakhil Madrasa, said he along with Ahmed Ali, Abdur Rashid, Nur Ali Gazi and others of the area changed the name of the village to give it an ‘Islamic’ name as the area is now dominated by the Muslims.
Harinagari, a neighbouring village of Haripur was also ‘Islamised’ by changing its name to Rahmat Nagar.
When contacted, local Jamaat leader Maulana Nazrul Islam, who is also the president of Rahmat Nagar (originally Harinagari) Nurani Hafizia Madrasa’s governing body, and Maulana Hafiz Md Liakat Ali, super of the madrasa, said a large number of people belonging to the Hindu community lived there in the past who had named the village Harinagari, which smacks of ‘Hinduism’.
Now, most of the people living there are Muslims, so they gave an ‘Islamic name’ to the village, they bluntly justified.
Local Jamaat supporters also changed the name of Jyotindranagar to Zahirnagar.
Local people alleged that a group of local Jamaat supporters put up a signboard on Jyotindranagar Madrasa, built adjacent to Jyotindranagar Cyclone Centre, advertising the new ‘Islamic name’.
Local Jamaat leaders Mosharraf Billah, Sultan Gazi and Mozammel Haque said they ‘Islamised’ the name of village Jyotindranagar in accordance with the decision of some local people.
Another erstwhile Hindu Zamindar Jyotindra Nath Sarkar set up the village and named it after his own name, they said. As Jyotindra is a traditional Hindu name and ‘it is not suitable as a madrasa’s name’, they changed it, the Jamaat leaders added with glee.
Local Jamaat leaders also changed the names of some other villages in the area, the name of village Napitkhali was changed to Niamatkhali, Mendlnagar to Mehedinagar, Gopalpur to Golap Pur, Gangramari to Muslimnagar, Gouripur to Garibpur, Kashipur to Kashimpur, Ramchandrapur to Rahmatpur, Ramjibanpur to Ramjanpur, and Shyamnagar to Rupnagar.
When contacted, former Jamaat lawmaker Gazi Nazrul Islam said it is not true that Jamaat-e-Islami changed the names of those villages and institutions.
“We have not taken any decision in the party regarding changing the names. Those who have changed those names locally, have done so in pursuit of their own interests. We have nothing to do with it,” he said.
While talking to this correspondent, Shyamnagar Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Zahidul Islam said, the names of the villages and institutions were not changed officially.
Civil society members of Shyamnagar at an exchange of views meeting held in Shyamnagar Upazila Auditorium on October 12 protested Jamaat’s move to change the names of the villages and institutions.
They alleged that Jamaat leaders are proceeding with a planned conspiracy to change the names in a bid to erase the Hindu heritage of the area.
Local leaders of the Islamist party are also trying to popularise the new ‘Islamic’ names by using them on their official party pads when calling for meetings and other organisational activities, speakers at the meeting alleged. The speakers also vowed to resist the Jammat move.
The meeting was addressed by upazila BNP Convener Abdul Wahed, Upazila AL President also a UP Chairman Jaglul Haidar, local JP Vice-president Azibar Rahman, Atarjan Mahila College Principal Ashek E Elahi, former UP chairman Bishwa Nath Das, Atiar Rahman, Joydev Biswas, and another UP Chairman Alamgir Haidar.