Words swirl around
TUI RAJAKAR! Tui rajakar!
The chanting of wrath and hatred floated from Shahbagh as far as the road in front of Bangla Academy, which has been barred from the flow of traffic to cater to the nation's biggest literary event, Ekushey Boi Mela. The road that lies ahead is a vibrant one filled with flags of different colours, an attempt to bring in the festivity and liveliness of a fair.
In no time after passing through the gates, a portrait of a down-to-earth Humayun Ahmed welcomes you to this year's book fair, the first one to be held after the death of a maestro who had topped the list of bestsellers in this very fair for decades. Hence, rightfully, this year's Boi Mela has been officially dedicated to Humayun Ahmed. Ekushey Boi Mela without his presence seemed depressing.
“O karigar tumi abar esho phirey
O karigar tumi dekho abar eshe
Himu dekho holud jamai ekla boshe
Misir Ali kandche dekho ekkonete”
Although so far new books by Humayun Ahmed are naturally scarce, and the writer will of course not be physically present, he nevertheless manages to be ubiquitous: several books written as tributes by different writers through many publishing houses have been launched. There will also be a discussion about him among the series of events to be held at this year's fair. Moreover, Bangla Academy will show one of his films on the Liberation War.
There has been another first in this year's book fair. This year, it is finally hosting only the publishers, which had been a long hope of the publication houses for many years.
246 publication houses are participating in the allotted 418 units (stall space). 42 units have been given to government and other organisations. A 'little mag corner' is featuring 45 little magazines to host their publications. The stall of Jatiya Grontha Kendra is showcasing works of small publication companies and of those who published books personally. Like every year, there will be events and discussions every day for the whole month. A 25% discount will be given on the books by all the publishing houses; books of Bangla Academy will offer a 30% discount. The entire premises of the book fair have been Wi-Fi-enhanced for the visitors.
Although the fair this year started not many days ago, people have already started pouring in. The whole environment -- the collection of books new and old, the events, the mourning music of Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano, the sudden pacing of our hearts when we spot one of our favourite writers all add up to a day well spent.
The month-long fair will remain open from 3pm-9pm on working days. On weekends, it will be open from 11 am- 9pm. On 21 February, the place will open even earlier, at 8am and continue till 9pm.
LS EDITOR'S NOTE
Chorus for justice
The candlelight vigil continued till the break of dawn. Students gathered around a circle, chanting slogans, demanding the death penalty for Abdul Quader Mollah and all war criminals.
Within minutes of the verdict being read out, messages started pouring in on social networking sites and blogs, rejecting the judgement and calling for mass protests at Shahbagh Mor (Shahbagh Intersection). The initial response was shy of being remarkable, but as the news spread the protests took the shape of a full-blown movement.
One can draw an allegory of this movement with that of 1971. There are also precedents of such astute, student leadership in movements against autocracy in the 80s and 90s. The Shahbagh Mor gathering established one fact -- that the youth of today are just as patriotic and nationalistic and the country's leading politicians are just as ignorant of the power of youth.
The incumbent government won a landslide victory in the last election, primarily with a promise to bring about change; not only in the political sphere but in all aspects of our lives. The franchise bore no fruit and in reality the whole verdict at the ICT was turned into a farce. The judgement against Abul Kalam Azad raised the nation's hopes so high that the plunge after the Mollah verdict turned the aspirations into shambles.
Shahbagh shows that the emotions of the 160 million people will not be toyed with. Our demands are simple, yet our stance is strong. The students at Projonmo Chottor have managed to bring about a revolution without torching a single bus or harassing a single individual. This form of civil disobedience on a mass scale is unprecedented in the our recent history.
It also shows that we are indeed sovereign in our thoughts. We have friends and allies in the international community but no masters. Despite foreign pressure, the proceedings of the ICT continued, maintaining strict standards. Yet, their verdict fell short of our expectations. There have been claims that the demands of this movement have been too emotionally driven and beyond logic. But are they? The war criminals now being tried at the ICT are responsible not for murder, but for genocide. It is up to the law to give justice to the people .
Bangladesh does not belong to any political party, it is yours and mine. Unless we are aware of the happenings around us, unless we are conscious of the politics that weave in our surroundings -- we cannot stand firm. Bangladesh has been a sovereign nation for the last four decades, yet we are a nation plagued with turbulent politics, poor governance and ridiculous political stunts.
This however, is where Shahbagh Mor shines like a North Star. After almost two decades, this is where the nation has united. The leaders of this movement have shunned political labelling. This is a fight of the millions of youth in the country who share one common feature -- love for Bangladesh.
-- LS Desk
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed