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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Bangladesh fears Tagore attacks
Bomb blast aftermath
A bomb in Dhaka last month killed 10 people
By Alastair Lawson in Dhaka

Police in Bangladesh have stepped up security at arts and cultural centres associated with the revered Bengali author and poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore: His legacy is in question
The authorities say that they fear the centres may be subjected to bomb attacks by elements they describe as opposed to secular Bengali culture.

Tuesday is the 140th anniversary of the birth of Tagore, whose name means the same to many Bengalis as Shakespeare does to the English.

He is venerated for his poems, prose and song.

Secular legacy

Yet there are elements in the country who are opposed to Tagore's largely secular legacy.

Rabindranath Tagore
Born in 1861
Wrote first poem aged 7
One of his songs now used as Indian national anthem
Produced thousands of poems, stories and songs
Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature
Died in 1941
The government accuses hardline Islamic groups of venting their hatred against Bengali culture by instigating a series of bomb blasts over the last two years at cultural festivals.

Last month, 10 people were killed in a bomb attack while celebrating Bengali new year in Dhaka.

The bomb went off as a musician was singing one of Tagore's songs.

In January, there was a similar bomb attack at a meeting of the Bangladesh Communist Party in Dhaka.

Islamic groups

No-one has claimed responsibility for either of these attacks, but a poem published in most newspapers on Tuesday by one of the country's most celebrated writers, Shamsur Rahman, strongly hints that radical Islamic groups are to blame.

Written in the form of a open letter to Rabindranath Tagore, the poem bemoans the undermining of Bengali culture and arts by intolerant elements.

Mr Rahman said in an interview with the BBC that Rabindranath Tagore's legacy was being attacked and must be resisted.

The emotions stirred in Bangladesh at the mention of Tagore's name to some extent go to the heart of the debate about the country's future.

There is much discussion as to whether Bangladesh will assume a more overtly Islamic character, or whether it will continue to take pride in Bengali culture and traditions over and above religious sentiment.

See also:

02 Mar 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh singer rocks traditionalists
23 Aug 99 | South Asia
Bangladesh angry over Time report
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