• Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022
  • Last Update : 09:54 am

Bangladesh still reeling from the loss of martyred intellectuals

  • Published at 06:00 pm December 13th, 2020
The Martyred Intellectuals Memorial built in memory of the intellectuals who were killed on December 14, 1971 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

‘Bangladesh was born as a secular and humanitarian country’

Nearly half a century has passed since Bangladesh became independent, but the nation is still suffering due to the blow dealt by the Pakistani forces and their collaborators as they systematically executed many pro-liberation Bangali intellectuals in 1971.

The recent anti-sculpture movement by some Islamist groups is a glaring sign that indicates that Bangladesh is yet to recover from that setback, remarked family members of several martyred intellectuals.

The Martyred Intellectuals Day is a black day in the history of Bangladesh. 49 years ago, on December 14, the Pakistan Army and their local accomplices targeted some of the best minds of our country in order to destroy the intellectual backbone of the nation.

On this grim day, prominent intellectuals of the country were abducted from their homes and executed in a brutal fashion. Their bodies were later dumped in killing grounds across the country, most notably at Rayer Bazaar.

‘Bangladesh was born as a secular and humanitarian country’

Zaheed Reza Noor, son of martyred journalist Serajuddin Hossain, on Sunday told Dhaka Tribune: “Bangladesh got its independence as a secular country in 1971. Notable personalities of that time, including academicians, writers, doctors, journalists, filmmakers and cultural activists, who were supposed to help Bangabandhu establish a newly born country, lost their lives just on the cusp of liberation.”

“It created a huge vacuum in our history, culture and the spirit of the Liberation War,” he added.

Anal Raihan, son of a notable filmmaker, writer and cultural activist Zahir Raihan, said: “We are still facing the problems that emerged after the loss of our intellectuals in 1971, Bangabandhu on August 15 in 1975 and the four national leaders on November 3 in 1975.”

He continued: “Bangladesh was born as a secular and humanitarian country. At that time, my father Zahir Raihan could openly declare that he was an atheist. But what’s happening in Bangladesh now! You cannot express your thoughts freely.”

“These things build up day by day. After 1975 till 1996, all governments of the country tried to achieve permanent acceptance for Jamaat-e-Islami. They wanted to model Bangladesh in the image of Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia. But people didn’t fight the war in 1971 for Bangladesh to become a country like that.”

Asif Munier, son of martyred playwright Munier Chowdhury, told Dhaka Tribune: “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has done a good job by ensuring justice for war criminals. But we think the time has come for Jamaat-e-Islami to face the music as a collaborator of the Pakistani troops. We also want to reestablish the Constitution of Bangladesh adopted in 1972, to ensure that religion and politics stay separate.”

Regarding the list of martyred intellectuals, Asif, also the acting president of Projonmo 71, said before making the list, the government should define the term “martyred intellectual”.

“I say this because the brutal executions of intellectuals occurred across the country from March 25 onwards and most of them were killed in mid-December, 1971. Furthermore, Zahir Raihan was abducted in January [in 1972],” he said.

“It is sad but true that we are growing as a nation without the proper representation of our history,” Asif commented.

On this topic, Zaheed Reza Noor told this correspondent: “The Liberation War was the continuation of a long historical event, it did not happen overnight. We should keep our history alive and pass it along to the new generation so that they grow up to be secular and kind human beings.”

Shawan Mahmud, daughter of martyred musician Altaf Mahmud, said: “I don’t want to see my father’s sacrifice turn into a waste. He dreamt of a secular Bangladesh, not of a country where people debate over what is a sculpture and what is a doll.”

“The ruling party says it believes in secularism, so we want specific and clear action from the government against religiously biased people,” she added.

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