Volume 2 Issue 17 | September 01, 2007 |


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From Comilla

Kanu Dutt: Serving God

"I do the will of God, therefore if people are helped out by my efforts even in the slightest, I am satisfied”, says Kanu Dutt, mortician at Comilla's Moha Shoshan. He was born on the 19th of December, 1934 in Barahipur village of Feni district. He is the fourth of eight brothers. Due to financial difficulties, his studies did not advance much further beyond his secondary schooling. His life then moved to Kolkata. He started working at a whistle factory in Kolkata at a salary of 90 rupees a month. He would also sing keertans at various shelters. Gradually, he became quite an expert at playing the harmonium, tabla and violin. Prof. Indrabhushan Bandopaddhay of Kolkata University was so impressed by his keertan he arranged for him to enroll into college. After passing his higher secondary, his learning stopped once again. Since his childhood, Kanu Dutt had had a love for serving God and man, so he returned to his country. In 1953 he got a job in the postal service. In his spare time he would visit shelters and volunteer there. At one point he was transferred to Feni. With some help he established the Sriguruchakra Ashram there. After this he got involved in various Ashram activities.

In the meantime Kanu got married to Renukarna Dutt from Chittagong. They had one daughter and one son, after which they moved to Comilla. His son committed suicide in his youth. His last wish: his funeral should be directed by his father. With a big wound in his heart, Kanu Dutt arranged his son's funeral. This was his first act as a mortician. Since then he has arranged 1621 funerals. He treats all the dead bodies with great care. He sends relevant information to family when a preserved body is found. It is often said that lower caste Hindus cannot cremate the bodies of Brahmins or vice versa. Comilla's Moha Shoshan is an exception to this rule. All human beings are cremated here. Lower castes are not discriminated against. Kanu Dutt partakes in all duties; he cleans everything up with his own hands. He works without any remuneration. Even when someone offers him money he refuses.

The Thakurpara cremation ground was not, at the time, a full-fledged cremation ground. It was not equipped properly. Nevertheless, Kanu Dutt visited that ground regularly. One day he became upset after seeing dogs rip up the body of a young girl and decided to form the Hindu Cremation Organization. He started cremating bodies for others for no fee. Others like Narayan Majumdar, Babul Das, Shagatam Ghosh, Dr. Amrito Lal and others came forward after seeing his efforts. The cremation ground was developed into a better one.

Even though the Comilla cremation ground is not government approved, currently its electricity bill is being paid for by the Comilla City Council. After independence, there have been some funds from the government to improve the place but it is still not a fully modern ground.

In 1980, Kanu Dutt won the Shamajsree award and the social organization Ushsee presented him with the social worker award. Dhaka University's former Vice-Chancellor Dr. Shamsul Haque and Jahangirnagar University former Vice-Chancellor Dr. Zillur Rahman Siddiqui presented him with the awards. Lions Club praised Kanu's organization and made a donation.

All the improvements that have been made to the cremation ground to this date would not have been possible without the help of countless devotees, the tireless efforts from social workers and Kanu Dutt's dream. So far, under Kanu Dutt's initiatives, about half-crore taka has been spent on reforming the cremation ground. Besides cremating, Kanu uses funds of his organization to help poor children pay their exam fees and buy textbooks, pay medical fees for the sick and to help parents in debt with their children.

Kanu Dutt lives with his wife in a tin shed house built on the property of Late Maheshchandra Bhattacharjee Trust. This retired vegetarian now spends all his time looking after the cremation ground. His only daughter Gopa Dutt is married and lives in Dhaka. His family runs on a mere Tk. 2,683 pension. He dreams of peace and fraternity between Hindus and Muslims. Because of his love for caring without need for reward, Unilever Bangladesh selected Kanu Dutt as “Shadamoner Manush” for one of their programs. Kanu won a one lakh taka prize for that. Even though he is himself struggling financially, for him, giving is still a priority. As soon as he won the prize he put Tk. 50,000 in the Hindu Cremation Fund. He has given Tk. 10,000 to Prothom Alo's clothes distribution efforts. He says he is planning to use the rest of the money towards helping out the poor and helpless.

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