Centenarian Binod Bihari Chowdhury:
A Ulysses of our Time
“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said.
This is my own, my native land”- Sir Walter Scott
From unwritten memoirs it is known that the above lines inspired Biplobi Binod Bihari Chowdhury to devote himself in a war of self-determination against British colonial rule. Recently he reached the milestone of one hundred years on 10th January. The event was celebrated in the heart of Chittagong for three days through different cultural and discussion programmes. I was very fortunate to be a part of the festival. A week prior to the festival, an autobiographical book was published titled, 'Agnijhora Dingulo' by Savdachash Prokason, Chittagong, where the revolutionary narrated untold stories of his eventful life. I got an opportunity to read out pieces of his biography on stage. I was overwhelmed to see his struggling life, life in imprisonment, his firm conviction and adamantine spirit.
Revolutionary Binod Bihari Chowdhury is one of the last living testimonies of three distinct phases of our history. In all three stages he played a pivotal roleagainst British rule, against Pakistani exploitation and against military autocracy in Bangladesh. He was a member in the operation of capturing armoury in 1930 in Chittagong and in the war of Jalalabad under the heroic leadership of Masterda Suryasen who succeeded in keeping Chittagong independent for four days that time. The Bidrohi was also a fellow-fighter alongside Pritilota Waddedar. He also came in close association with Tarekeswhar Dastidar, Modhushudon Datta, Ramkrishna Biswas, A.K. Fazlul Houque and Bangabandhu Seikh Mujibur Rahman. His active participation in the Indian National Congress in 1939 and in the Language Movement in 1952 is remarkable.
On the inaugural day (8th January) of the Centenary Programme our cultural group Raktakarabi commenced with the song 'Cholo jai durjoy praner anande' and the National Anthem in front of the Shahid Minar. Justice Habibur Rahman and Prof Alamgir Md. Shirajuddin, Former Vice Chancellor, Chittagong University, were amongst the distinguished guests. When the Centenarian Binod Bihari was called on stage. He was offered a seat to make his speech, but vigorous Binod Bihari left his chair and stood up, raised his voice, and stood as an 'Epitome of Patriotism'. I was spellbound listening to his speech and his charisma to ignite people. His shoulder stooped down but his unflinching patriotic spirit vanquished old age infirmity. He was ruling time; time was not ruling him.
He pointed to the religious and social disparities of our country. He said, one class spends nights on the streets and one class lives in luxury. This is not our 'Sonar Bangla'. He emphasized several times to shun our cowardice, conquer fear and intimidation; and to protest against all injustices of society. To the young his only assertion was “Wake up young men! You have no scope to be lethargic and contemplative. Be active. Your will power is your best help for you to bring change in society and abolish all evil doers”.
Along with the guests, Biplobi Binod Bihari Chowdhury placed flower wreaths at the altar of the Shahid Minar. A colourful rally was arranged where people from all walks of life joined.
On the 2nd day (9th January), Raktakarabi paid tribute through patriotic songs. The immortal song of Khudiram 'Ek bar biday de maa ghure ashi' left the audience speechless and created a solemn atmosphere at the J.M. Sen hall premise. A photography exhibition depicted the Bidrohi's time and life. On the closing day (10th January) of the Centenary Festival, Rezwana Chowdhury Bonna was the guest artist and the chief guest was Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Prof Alamgir Md. Shirajuddin called the Bidrohi a 'Saint-Revolutionist'.
The young have always come forward whenever our nation has been in crisis. The young must wage a war to establish an exploitation free society. Looking at this living legend, it seems to me that the Bidrohi is a Ulysses of our time“I will drink life to lees”. Happy Century, Dear Bidrohi!
(The writer is a student of the Second Year (Hons.) in the Department of English, Chittagong College.)