A Homage to Prof Khaled |
Mohit Ul Alam
Professor Muhammad Khaled (1922-2003) was a role model for all aspiring journalists.
He was a progressive man par excellence in a traditional Islamic garb white punjabi and pajama, starched and ironed, with a cotton topee on his head. His voice had a rich bass tenor, and he spoke on everything with a big conviction, in unambiguous terms.
In his long career as an editor, for 40 odd years, he made his paper The Daily Azadi, a newspaper that really valued only news, cutting off the non-news portion from an item. With his death, the editorial voice exercised with an impeccable sense of neutrality, which has defined Azadi for so long, may be sadly missing.
With years Professor Khaled grew bigger than Azadi, and with years he also grew bigger than his image as a 'young Turk', which started with his stupendous victory in the 1970 national election over Fazlul Quader Chowdhury in Raozan.
When Professor Khaled died last week, already shaken by the mortal blow of his son's death (also from cancer), he was not merely the editor of Azadi, or an erstwhile politician, but the greatest citizen of Chittagong. He embodied whatever were the positive, the progressive, and the modern in the cultural world of Chittagong, and he also defined the civic sense that went across party affiliations and groupings. His kind of neutrality, deployed without sacrificing his own views, enabled Professor Khaled to become the spokesman of Chittagong.
Wherever there was a political, social or cultural crisis in the nation, it was Professor Khaled who always was found to be at the helm of things in the port-city. In his leadership, there was an unobtrusive quality for which people of several ages and several opinions would accept him as the leader.
The Liberation War taught Professor Khaled what it meant to be a truly democratic man. His democratic values were imbued with a great sense of patriotism that actually arose from his faith in the Bengali nationalism. This explains, why Professor Khaled, in spite of his role as a leader of the people, had to struggle very hard to retain his democratic ethos in the face of a rising politics of deceptions and chicanery.
In his later years he was gradually wearing down, his stout build hunched, one could see that; and he was at battle with himself regarding the prolonged illness of his son; his spirit may also have been daunted, as he knew his own time was closing down; but, then, true to his spirit, he almost remained the last true follower of Bangabandhu.
So, as he was invited to be the chief guest at a seminar on Bangabandhu held in August this year, he stood up in his enormously frail health, but spoke, his voice still retaining that old power, forcefully to an audience, most of whom were young university teachers, to cultivate nationalistic values.
With the departure of Professor Khaled, Chittagong surely lost its most conscientious child, whose place will remain empty for a long time to come.