Humayun Azad is well known for his pithy and barbed character as well as for his controversial writings.
Azad was threatened by hardliners for criticizing religious fundamentalism. On February 27, 2004, two assailants hacked Azad several times on the jaw, the lower part of the neck, and hands when he was returning home from the book fair at Bangla Academy. He was taken to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Later, he was shifted to the Combined Military Hospital and later to Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand.
A few months later, on August 12, Azad was found dead in his apartment in Munich, a week after he had gone there to conduct research on 19th-century German poet Heinrich Heine.
Fourteen years have since passed but his family continues to wait for justice. The writer’s eldest daughter Mauli Azad expressed her frustration at the delay.
“We miss him so much. His departure left a void in our hearts,” she told the Dhaka Tribune. “It is frustrating that we did not get justice yet after so many years. I hope we will get it one day.”
Azad was given the Bangla Academy Literary Award in 1986 for his contributions to Bangla linguistics. In 2012, he was awarded the Ekushey Padak posthumously.
Azad was born in Rarhikhal village in Munshiganj’s Bikrampur on April 28, 1947. His name was Humayun Kabir but he legally changed his name to Humayun Azad on September 28, 1988.
Mauli says her father lives on through his works.
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“My father was a complete person. He was a poet, a researcher, a linguist, a literary critic, a novelist, a columnist, and teenage litterateur as well as an anti-traditional man who never bowed his head for personal benefit,” she said.
Mauli added that Humayun Azad’s first love was his village. “It is through his writings that we (his children) learned about the beauty and nature of the village,” she said.
“He used to live in the US and Europe but we never heard anything from him about those countries. He always loved to speak about his village and he successfully brings out the beauty of the village in his writings,” she added.
Azad used to spend most of his time at Dhaka University. But the university did not pay any tribute to him after his death, Mauli claimed.
She said: “After our father’s death, we tried to bury him beside national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam but the university authorities denied our wish. They did not pay tribute to him by naming any street or seminar after Humayun Azad.”
‘Born in the wrong era’
Even so many years after his death, Azad continues to play a big role in the lives of his children, said Mauli, a novelist herself. “He taught us to make decisions ourselves. We learned our freedom from him,” she said.
Mauli Azad visits Ekushey book fair regularly and exchanges views with Azad’s fans.
She said writers have been enjoying less freedom nowadays than before. The writings of incumbent writers do not meet the readers’ expectations.
Mauli claimed that her father deserved more from the country. “He always dreamt of a secular and modern Bangladesh.”
Demanding justice for the murders of secularists, she said: “Humayun Azad always thought about the country, not for personal benefit. He also deserves a Swadhinata Padak for his outstanding contribution to Bangla literature and language.”
Referring to her father’s ‘Ami Benche Silam Onnoder Somoye’ (I lived in another time), she said: “I feel like my father was born in the wrong era.”
“He was not opposed to religion but was against the people who believed in religion blindly. I have always believed in religion but he never asked me to stop practicing.
“He always thought religion is the matter of personal belief but no one should believe it blindly or force others to follow suit.”