Everything that is wrong with the BBC Hindi’s interview with ULAB students

It has been a long time since I’ve written something expressing strong opinion on something. But that’s the problem with those of us who like to write. If something starts bothering us, we tend to write about it.

I’ve been at ULAB for nearly a year now, and although I haven’t written here as much as I thought I would about the experience of studying there, let me assure you that has been amazing so far. I’m proud of my choice to study at the ULAB.

However, as anyone who is a member of two of the most prominent Ulabians’ Facebook groups has noticed, the interview that a journalist from BBC Hindi took of a few ULAB students at our campus B lobby and live streamed it on Facebook has caused quite an outrageous response.

I’m not sure if the university authority is to blame here, as we have been informed that the top officials of the university were well-informed about this interview, but I do know they had the best at heart. That doesn’t take away the fact that this was completely unacceptable. As a personal opinion, I’d like to mention about the following things that make me think the students should not have talked in Hindi when speaking to BBC.

But first, let’s watch the clip if you haven’t already.

Now. on to the points that I wanted to discuss.

They are in Bangladesh

Let’s imagine a picture where a Bangladeshi journalist goes abroad to interview someone whose first language is not Bangla. Do you think that person will make any effort to talk in Bangla, especially when the topic of conversation is as serious as terrorism? No, as an ideal journalist, he or she has to know and understand English — the language that is globally accepted as the international language — and will try to talk to someone who also knows English.

If we insisted on speaking in English or Bangla, this would not have happened.

If the journalist cannot find someone who can speak in English, he will find a translator and still have the interviewee talk in native language. Haven’t we watched tons of interviews on television (BBC included!) where the foreign (non-English) language is dubbed and captioned (sub-titled) at the bottom of the interview?

It was the interviewer’s duty to make sure the interviewee talks in either English or Bangla. But I guess our over-smart students were eager to show off their smartness (!) by attempting to try and speak in Hindi.

It’s BBC! And they have a Bangla section!

For god’s sake! It’s the BBC! They have tons and tons of in-house translators. Heck, even they have offices in Bangladesh and a dedicated (also active) BBC Bangla section. It wasn’t any difficult for them to send someone from their Dhaka office to accompany the journalist from India.

Don’t you think we were indirectly mocked by BBC (even if it wasn’t their agenda)? Why would they have us talk in Hindi when they have a f**king office here in Bangla? It’s not like it was some reporter from NDTV although my first point would still have applied where they should have talked to us in Bangla or English or bring a translator.

Or perhaps it’s again just us trying to look smart and talk in Hindi. If we insisted on talking in Bangla or English, this couldn’t have happened.

Who do we want to please? Since when Hindi is more important than English?

Granted, after the Gulshan incident, the image of Bangladesh in front of the world has been crippled, and it’s our job to make sure the world understand those involved in terrorism do not represent the majority of Bangladeshis. But, after reading a post by an assistant professor posted on the Facebook group, I though to myself, who are we trying to please?


Since when “Hindi” is more important than English? I get it. If the problem was we couldn’t speak in any language other than Bangla, this would have made sense. That okay, Bangla is not a global language, and it would be ideal to speak in English so that the majority of the outside world can pick up what we’re saying.

The problem is, we’re trying to assure people who do not speak English or Bangla. That means we’re trying to assure people who exclusively speak Hindi. I don’t know about you, but that sounds absolutely ridiculous to me. If we spoke in English, don’t you think Indian media has the people to translate it into Hindi? As mentioned in the previous point, the BBC itself can translate it better than anyone.

But it was a live stream!

That might be your last excuse if you’re one of those who support what just happened. To you, I refer to the first point of this article. It was the interviewer’s responsibility to come prepared. And it was our responsibility to insist on speaking in either Bangla as it’s our native language or in English as that is our second and a global language. We shouldn’t have looked like a moron and speak in Hindi trying to look cool.

It’s on us

Lastly, I want to conclude this post saying that whether you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said above, you have to agree to the fact that this whole thing could be turned around had we insisted on it.

We — and I don’t know if I’m referring to the students who spoke or the authority that let them speak Hindi — should have insisted on speaking in Bangla or English. And we would not have looked disrespectful by doing so.

With respect to every language on earth — including Hindi, just so you don’t think I hate Hindi for some reason (I don’t) — we love our language. We have a rich history (GED 100 anyone?), but we understand for better communication, we need to learn (and we do) and communicate in a common language.

That common language between Bangladesh and India should have been English. It should not have been Hindi. I’m just sorry that this has happened. And I hope whoever let it happen will come to their senses and prevent ULAB from making a fool of ourselves.

The purpose of this post is to simply express my concern and disagreement with how the interview took place. I’m sure any Bangladeshi on their senses would criticize us ULABians after seeing that video — which people will eventually see it — and I wanted to make it sure that a vast majority of ULABians do not agree with how the interview took place. 

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