Homage To Our Martyred Intellectuals
Nurul Islam Anu
IDEA, throughout human history, has enjoyed an enigmatic existence. On the one hand it has inspired endeavours to restructure society and on the other, acted as a spirit for advancement of civilizations. Idea has reshaped history by breaking the conformist barrier, announcing truths hitherto unknown. It has stimulated human mind to achieve the miracle by breaking the shackles of traditionalism.
Since idea fundamentally confronts the status quo it is disdained by those who are determined to maintain status quo. It has therefore been dreaded by reactionaries or perpetrators of a system that is arbitrary and reactionary. Yet despite this inherent conflict, idea has maintained its triumphant march and continued to maintain its inspiring stance.
The authors of ideas or their practitioners have similarly been dreaded by those who have tried to perpetuate an existing order. Dreamers of new ideas have been subjected to endless persecution and repression through history. Martin Luther and his followers invited the wrath of a powerful Papacy; Socrates was ridiculed and persecuted for telling the most profound truths. Our revered Prophet (SM) was stoned for declaring the monolithic character of the Creator; Martin Luther King was assassinated for heroic stand on racial equality. Nelson Mandela suffered imprisonment for 27 years for his protest against an obnoxious system of discrimination based on the colour of the skin. Bangabandhu gambled with life heroically and suffered in his relentless fight for Bengali Nationalism. Examples are endless. But the message is simple — the authors and the practitioners suffered because they stood heroically behind their convictions.
Pakistan political structure was inherently designed to deprive a majority of its due share and perpetuate a system of economic exploitation by a brute insensitive minority using religion as an instrument. Concealed in this was a veiled and yet determined attempt of cultural domination and the destruction of Bengali Nationalist culture. A determined reaction from those who THINK was an inevitable outcome against such a repressive system. Protests were voiced by teachers, poets, singers, writers, dramatists, film makers, lawyers, journalists. They emerged, as practitioners of truth, as the enemy of repressive system. Classically, confirmation of such a system which is also Fascist in character is temporarily ensured by the help of a collaborative opportunistic minority who collaborate for expedient personal or political gain. Curiously they become engaged as the oppressors’ agent in identifying the voices of dissent or the intellectual practitioners of dissent. In the case of Pakistan it did not prove different.
They were continuously engaged in this exercise of identifying the intellectual enemies of a repressive and semi-theocratic system. An irrational level of religious fanaticism and intense communal hatred made its mad pursuit only vicious. The Punjabi military clique did not know Prof. Munier Chowdhury, Zahir Raihan, Dr. G.C.
Dev, Prof Santosh Bhattacharya, Prof Jyotiormoy Guha Thakurta, journalist Nizamuddin or Shahidullah Kaisar, Dr. Rabbi, Dr. Khair or Prof Giasuddin. They had to die because Bengali fanatic collaborators identified them as narrators of truth. The most savage and barbaric chapter in the history of the Pakistani genocide of Bengalees was written when these revered and innocent tellers and practitioners of truth were brutally murdered. The crude idea was to deprive an emerging nation of its intellectual treasure and foundation who were destined to glorify it.
In the process Pakistan stained its history with an indelible sin standing disgraced before the human race. Without an apology, it stands accused before the court of Almighty and the humanity. Most emphatically Pakistan deserved a Nuremburg experience and an assured humiliation.
I remember these martyrs both with a sense of deep sadness and an elated sense of glory. Many of them were personally known — some taught me directly at the University of Dhaka. Santosh Babu’s eloquent and deep scholarship touches me; Gias Bhai’s commitment to teaching almost reached a religious height Dr. Khair was humble and loving; Dr. G.C. Dev was saintly; Prof Guha Thakurta symbolised an enlightened level of literary scholarship; Zahir Raihan showed his touches of brilliance in filmmaking, a degree so far unsurpassed; Shahidullah Kaisar and Nizamuddin disseminated information with a bold objectivity; my former colleagues Shamsul Haq and Nurun Nabi Bhai were endearing persons and promising administrators; young Shamsuddin, the former SDO of Sirajganj, was heroic in his role and appearance when I last met him at my residence just a few hours before he was picked up.
These martyrs, many of whom I knew personally, made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of a non-communal, secular, democratic Bangladesh. They were tragic victims of the conspiracy of an opportunist collaborative minority.
After 34 long years it is agonising to see that no legal process has begun to punish the crime. More distressing is the threatened derailment of the objective that inspired them to make the sacrifice. The sight of conspirators in the state-craft is abominable.
Martyred comrades, please be assured of warm remembrance of a grateful nation on this day. History is taking a pause, your sacrifice will be rewarded.
Nurul Islam Anu is a columnist and a former civil servant.