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3 months ago

Paradigm shift in relationship between people and places

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People and places seem to develop a symbiotic relationship. This happened for millennia until colonial powers in Europe embarked on expeditions in the 15th and 16th centuries for exploration and exploitation of lands and their peoples in Americas, Asia and Africa and Australia. Ever since the time of the hunters-gatherers, the ancestors of today's modern people were on the move for their survival until they found suitable places to settle down and learnt the craft of fashioning some kind of shelter for living in. On that count, historical evidence is scanty to record how a particular people became indigenous in a certain geographical boundary.

The mass exodus by the Europeans following the expedition by Italy's Genoa-born Christopher Columbus to North America marks the greatest ever continental human migration on this planet. By no means was Columbus the discoverer of America because centuries ago Vikings such as Leif Eriksson set their feet on the continent where native Americans had been living for centuries. Yet it was Columbus's three expeditions that are thought to be responsible for connecting old continents like Asia, Africa and Europe with the 'New World', Americas to be precise. But the extreme cruelty resorted to by him to gain his exploits led to his arrest even in those early days of colonisation.

Inspired by his exploits, European powers made their forays into Asia and Africa in order to establish their economic and political strangleholds on the vastly rich continents. This was the cause and effect of the two World Wars late in the 20th century. As a by-product decolonisation followed and the advancement of science and technology triggered the pace of mobility, severing people's roots with places. This is contrary to the inhuman slave export from Africa to America. Now the compulsion is self-driven and considered illegal migration from Asia and Africa to Europe and America. On the way, many meet tragic end either in the Mediterranean Sea off the Lybian coast or under unusual circumstances. Their quest for their El Dorado ends up thus or in jails in foreign land. Those who are lucky make it to their destinations.

In modern times, the world has become a global village and a growing number of educated and moneyed Bangladesh nationals have either opted for settlement in Europe, Australia and North America or have retained dual citizenship in order to visit their homeland from time to time. But their children will hardly feel the pull from the land they left so early with distant memories. This is how human journey continues with the more capable and privileged among Asian and African people moving to the West and feeling comfortable to be considered global citizens. A kind of silent and subtle reverse colonisation is taking place as evidenced in Barak Obama's ascension to the presidency in the United States of America, Rishi Sunak's elevation to the premiership in the United Kingdom, the once most powerful colonial empire. There are Sadiq Khan to hold the mayoral position in London and Kamala Harris to grace vice-presidential position in the USA.

However, playing dominant roles is not limited to rise in political affairs only. The majority of US tech giants were led by CEOs of Indian origins until recently. A few of them have retired and former Twitter's CEO Parag Agarwal was sacked after Elon Musk took over it and rebranded it as X. From East London boroughs such as Tower Hamlet in London to Begum Para in Canada, the burgeoning expatriate populations of Bangladesh descends make a case for redirection of the process of sharing a slice of the pie.

However, there is a difference in the emigration the working class Sylhetis initiated in the 40s of the past century and the expatriation process to Canada in recent times. The illegal migration to European countries like Italy is different from the ones to East London and Wales where approximately 0.65 million people of Bangladeshi origin, 1.1 per cent of the total population of England and Wales, have received naturalised citizenship.

The expatriation to Britain is rooted to its colonial history but to other destinations, the pulls are quite different. However, this would never have been possible if the internal migration in Bangladesh had not undergone a paradigm shift, in the first place. Obviously, this was possible because of the independence the country attained in 1971. A kind of domestic colonisation also took place with the concentration of wealth in its capital that witnessed an explosion of physical expansion for accommodation of an ever burgeoning population. Opportunities---both fair and foul--- abounded and right speculators as well as fraudsters grabbed those in the happy hunting grounds. Streams of the illiterate and uneducated also followed but they sought their shelter in slums, doing odd menial and other low-skilled jobs. A large majority made an easy option for pulling rickshaws.

Thus the exploitative colonial mindset had its part in the country's--- mostly the capital's, the port city's and other urban centres'--- development. The privileged and the opportunists now look for tax havens and second homes abroad to the neglect of their land of birth. Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gunrah's observation, "geography became biology in order to construct a hierarchy in which to place the people who lived in the inaccessibility and primitiveness in other places of the map" is equally true for internal colonisation.                   

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