Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 6, Issue 48, Tuesday, December 13, 2011





Following the thought soldiers

Standing before the Rayer Bazaar Bodhdhobhumi, one can't help but feel a sudden onslaught of melancholic nostalgia. The memorial edifice stands as a tribute to the finality of martyrdom for hundreds of individuals, some of whom were the brightest minds of their time. The monument and coming of 14 December, reminds us of all the lives lost, as we stand united to mourn on the Day of the Martyred Intellectuals.

991 teachers, 13 journalists, 49 physicians, 42 lawyers, and 16 writers, artists, filmmakers and engineers all fell to the hail of gun shots from the Pakistani soldiers.

In a short span of time, legendary figures were reduced to lifeless bodies. Dr G C Dev, Shahidullah Kaiser, Altaf Mahmud and Shaheed Mohammad Salimullah, to name a few intellectuals of yester-years, were robbed of their lives and their opportunity to leave a greater impression in their respective fields.

Their deaths did not erase their names from the history books nor fade their imprints, but rather elevated them to a higher level of greatness. Unfortunately, that did not prevent the gaping hole the loss of such dynamic lives left behind. Effectively, to a certain extent, Bangladesh's intellectual society was set back a few years.

Considering the richness of Bangladesh's literature, culture and tradition, one does find himself pondering the unavoidable question of “What if?” If these intellectuals had been spared, what would have happened to the newly independent Bangladesh? Would we not benefit greatly from their wisdom and presence? Surely, we would have.

The fact that the indiscriminate killing of intellectuals crippled Bangladesh's thrust forward or rather stunted it, is well accepted. However, there also remains no question that these deaths served as an inspiration for others. When our idols championed the cause of a free Bangladesh at the cost of embracing a brutal death, an entire generation rose along with them.

The direct attack at the heart of our community did nothing to deter the freedom fighters, with the mass murders only fanning the flames of the desire for independence and preservation of an identity rightfully ours.

The Intellectuals we mourn today may have receded behind the shadows, faceless in form, but they continue to inspire. Their deaths have given rise to countless other intellectuals, each more determined to preserve and promote their heritage than their predecessors, fully utilising the tools at their disposal. The famed thought soldiers may have been reduced to the history books but their sacrifice remains the rallying point for the rest of us.

The martyred intellectuals leave behind greater lessons than they are credited for. They exemplified the act of waging war, without shedding blood, but rather relying on the might of their pens, their prose and their perceptions.

Their struggle took place in a different sphere, catapulting them from the status of experts to social leaders. However, it was here that rose a glaring contradiction, one yet to be rectified. These men donned the garb of the leader, blaring the trumpets the loudest and garnering fatal attention, all for the sake of their right to their own identity without the need for distinction based on caste or creed.

Yet, they were not singularly glorified only for their acts, but also the weight of their credentials. The ordinary thinker was lost in the crowd of giants, although he too played a pivotal role with his own ideas and beliefs. Indeed, there were intellectuals who weren't certified doctors, teachers or professors, but they were progressive thinkers in their own way. These nameless martyrs also fell on that fateful day and they too deserve a mention in the same breath as the intellectuals we mourn every year.

These intellectuals also paved the way for others in the same situation to have the audacity to voice their opinions without the fear of being muted.

In this aspect, these intellectuals, aided in spreading the concept that a leadership isn't restrained to the upper echelons of society only. Their deaths proved that courage and self-belief is what separated an intellectual from an intelligent being.

Each and every drop of blood spilt eventually led to augmenting the passion of our people. History romanticised the notion of the struggle, with writers comparing the nine month struggle and eventual independence akin to that of a child finally freeing herself from her mother's womb.

The Occupation force's act of murdering the Intellectuals spoke at length of their concerns; they knew that a country deprived of its brightest minds is a country without leaders. Those in charge of re-telling history were to be annihilated but the plan back-fired as their martyrdom only made Bangladesh's history all the more compelling.

Every second a new voice was heard, silenced and then multiplied. In a way, the fall of each intellectual, gave birth to ten others, creating a frenzied atmosphere, breeding a new form of zealous and passionate intellectuals. The martyred showed that the worst punishment was death and martyrdom was a wonderful way to go. Hence, the new breed intellectuals owe their firebrand style of depictions and expressions all to the intellectuals of yesteryears.

40 years later, the loss of so many mentors is still felt. Even today when people line up to mourn at Rayer Bazaar Bodhdhobhumi, the irony of the area's red earth stands as a grave reminder of the blood that remains etched in the soil. But through the ashes rises the phoenix, as the next generation of intellectuals stand united, pledging to re-instate Bangladesh to its glory, as a tribute to the brave men and women who gave their lives for this country.

If the loss of the intellectuals led to a crippling state of the country's mind set, the lessons they taught us can lead to the birth of yet another generation of revolutionary thinkers, heralding the long promised Golden Period of the Golden Land.

By Osama Rahman


Dressing up for Victory Day

As 16 December approaches and we feel a surge of patriotism once again, we are all usually looking for ways to express our love, pride and devotion to our country. Apart from sporting bandanas and wrist bands on that day the other, most easy way to be a part of the celebrations is to customise your attire to reflect your patriotic spirit. Thanks to fine arts students designing everything from t-shirts to fatuas to panjabis for the many shops in Aziz Super Market, dressing up for Victory Day need not entail the obvious green and red garment.

Of course the green and the red combination is a classic for us Bangladeshis and it will never get old. Simply adorning these colours can spark in any of us a sense of utter pride that no other colour in the world can arouse. The t-shirts hanging in Aziz Super Market, however, take it up a notch.

T-shirts for boys in the patriotic theme can be found in either red and green or black and white or some mix of these colours. On the t-shirts there are famous slogans or prints of our national flag and other relevant landmark sculptures related to the Liberation War.

Famous slogans and scenes are also pasted on these t-shirts but perhaps the most unusual and artistic are the ones with abstract artwork on them.

A bird flying away from a cage depicting freedom, a small child standing in front of a scene of destruction depicting resilience and many such related and relevant artworks are now available in these nationalistic collections.

The fatuas and panjabis are more conventional, with the national anthem written on them or the scenes of boats and paddy fields. There are also children's wear in the same theme and you will find t-shirts and panjabis for children there.

Women have not been forgotten, although their choices are much more limited. Apart from t-shirts similar to those for men, women can choose fatuas in green and red with embroidery and other feminine motifs like paisleys done in green or red.

These outfits can be found in the shops of Aziz Super Market such as Bishal, Utshob Fashion and Tara Marka will cost you Tk.200 for a t-shirt, Tk.500-Tk.600 for a fatua and Tk.600-Tk.700 for a panjabi. Children's wear ranges between Tk.200 to Tk.800.

Photo courtesy: Tara Marka


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