Kachi-Kanchar Mela, a children's organisation, has succeeded to cross hurdles to reach sixty-two years of existence in Bangladesh in spite of political doldrums, anarchic and economic hardship. Kachi-Kanchar Mela is a dedicated children's organisation set up by Rukanuzzaman Khan, pseudo name Dada Bhai, on October 5 in 1956 at the residence of Poet Sufia Kamal at Tarabagh. This children's organisation is the offshoot of Kachi Kanchar Ashor of Daily Ittefaq. Rukanuzzaman Khan became a legendary figure during his life time for launching a movement for the well-being of children and establishing their rights in the society. Being inspired by the ideal of Moni Mela of the Ananda Bazar Patrika of Kolkata and Mukul Mahfil of the Daily Azad of undivided Bengal, he floated the idea of grooming the sons of the soil to shoulder the responsibility of the country.
Mr. Rukanuzzaman Khan began his journey with a handful of members of Kachi-Kanchar Ashor to build the pioneer children's organisation against the backdrop of economic and cultural exploitation by the Punjabi-dominated military-politico elite of former Pakistan regime. This was possible for Rukanuzzaman Khan, because he utilised the services of mufassil representatives of Daily Ittefaq as the Mufassil Editor of Daily Ittefaq, apart from Editor of Kachi-Kanchar Ashor. Poet Mahbub Talukdar, a member of Kachi-Kanchar Ashor, was the first convener, who is now serving as Election Commissioner of Bangladesh, followed by Khandakar Ibrahim Khaled, a former member of Ashor as well. Khandakar Ibrahim Khaled retired as Deputy Governor of Bangladesh Bank and now steering the Kachi-Kanchar Mela. Syed Mohiuddin Mansoor was the first member of Kachi-Kanchar Ashor, who became a civil engineer and also joined Kachi-Kanchar Mela, Shamsuzzaman Khan, first organiser of Central Kachi-Kanchar Mela, is now Chairman of Bangla Academy. Rukanuzzaman Khan tried to make the children imbued with a sense of values and tradition of Bengalese and patriotism for the country as well. There was no doubt that Rukanuzzaman used the services of Mufassil correspondents for building Kachi-Kanchar Mela. This writer was approached by the Kushtia representative of Daily Ittefaq A.K.M.Mutaleb, a poet and editor of the weekly journal of Kushtia, Jogajog, to form a branch of Kachi-Kanchar Mela. This scribe was privileged to see the letter of Rukanuzzaman Khan addressed to Mr. Mutaleb sometime in 1958, who expressed his nostalgia by expressing that there was darkness under the lamp. The reason was that no branch of Kachi-Kanchar Mela was formed in Kushtia. Rukanuzzaman Khan's father was from Bheramara of Kushtia district while he was born at Pangsha under Faridpur district, from where hailed his maternal uncle and renowned writer Yakub Ali Chowdhury and Rowshan Ali Chowdhury. This writer succeeded to form a branch of Kachi-Kanchar Mela in Kushtia in 1958 under the name of Joy Jatra Kachi-Kanchar Mela wherein Kushtia College Principal Professor M. U. Bhuiya, Babu Hrishikesh Moitra, Headmaster of Kushtia United High and Municipal School, and Abdul Latif, who won the title of Mr. East Pakistan in 1953 as a body-builder, were advisers. This writer also formed a branch of Kachi-Kanchar Mela at Azimpur in 1962 wherein writer and novelist Jobeda Khanam, who became the first chairman of Shishu Academy, Professor Sanjida Khatun and Principal of Kinder Garten School of Azimpur Anowara Mansoor were involved. Classes of Kachi-Kanchar Mela used to be held on the premises of the Kinder Garten School. Poet Rubi Rahman, who retired as English Professor, was the convener. Although Shishu Academy was established by President Ziaur Rahman, it was the brainchild of Rokanuzzaman Khan. At his advice President Zia established the Shishu Academy.
In his pioneering efforts Rukanuzzaman Khan was assisted by Scientist Dr. Abdullah Al Muti Sharfuddin, Abdul Wadud, General Manager of Daily Ittefaq, Professor Ajit Kumar Guha, Professor Anisuzzaman, etc. Many stalwarts like Shilpacharya Jainul Abedin, Palli Kabi Jasimuddin, illustrious poet Sufia Kamal, among others, had been associated with Kachi-Kanchar Mela since its inception.
That Rukanuzzaman Khan was successful on his mission had amply been demonstrated during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. A large number of members of Kachi-Kanchar Mela participated in the War of Liberation. My close friend Shahadat Chowdhury, who became Editor of Weekly Bichitra and Shaptahik 2000 after Bichitra was sold out, was a daunting freedom fighter. An artist and writer, Shahadat took up arms to liberate the country from the clutches of Pakistani marauding armed forces. They built up a guerilla force and initiated adventurous actions in Dhaka on several occasions, including a bomb blast in the Hotel Intercontinental to scare the Pakistan administration and invite attention of the world to the success of Mukti Bahini. Shahadat also succeeded to whisk away two daunting daughters of Poet Sufia Kamal to cross the border to join in the liberation war. Both Sultana Kamal and Sayeda Kamal were members of Kachi-Kanchar Mela. In fact, Sultana Kamal was convener of Central Kachi-Kanchar Mela in 1962 who became one of advisers to caretaker government. Abul Bark Alvi, now a professor of Charu Kala Institute, was also involved in the war of liberation. Alvi was Joint-Convener along with Sultana Kamal in 1962. Another member of Kachi-Kanchar Mela M. Golam Mustafa, Ph.d, who retired as Chief of Public Relation of Bangladesh Bank, also participated in the war of liberation. A large number of members of Kachi-Kanchar Mela were killed in the war of liberation. Mr. Rokanuzzaman Khan was boastful saying that no member of Kachi-Kanchar Mela became a collaborator of the Pakistani army.
He was workaholic. That had been demonstrated in his untiring effort to develop Kachi-Kanchar Mela. From morning to afternoon Mr. Rokanuzzaman Khan remained busy in the Ittefaq office while in the evening his presence was felt in the Central Kachi-Kanchar Mela office at Segunbaghica. During Saturday and Sunday his presence was invariably felt in different classes at Kachi-Kanchar Bhaban. When a marshy land was awarded by President Ziaur Rahman's government through Land Development Minister Barrister Abdul Haque to Central Kachi-Kanchar Mela at Segun Baghicha Mr. Rokanuzzaman was looking for donors to develop the marshy land. NORAD came forward to develop the land. He formed a committee to look after development. Engineer Syed Mohiuddin Mansoor and architect-cum-poet Mr. Rabiul Husain and myself were members of the construction committee. In fact, the design of Kachi Kancha Bhaban was made by architect Rabiul Husain. Foundation of Kachi-Kancha Bhavan was completed by Messers Mir Akhtar Hossain Limited and we were informed to take over the building following a meeting of the construction committee held on July 12 1995. It was inaugurated by Chief Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman while auditorium by Rokanuzzaman Khan. At the advice of Rokanuzzaman Khan, Barrister Abdul Haque was invited by this writer to attend the ceremony.
It was unfortunate that Rokanuzzaman Khan did not see further development of Kachi-Kancha Bhavan which now has a three-storied building and we succeeded to make the auditorium air-conditioned as well. During his lifetime Central Kachi-Kanchar Mela established unwritten friendship with the children of Norway. There had been exchange of visits from both sides.
Apart from holding classes for painting, recitation, dance and music and computer, presently Kachi-Kanchar Mela introduced a gathering of old and young alike and annually holds a picnic as well. The first picnic was sponsored by founder and Chairman of Givency Group of Industries Mr. Khatib Abdul Zahid Mukul at the Rehabilitation Centre Bishia, Kuribari of Gazipur in 2002.As a matter of fact, the rehabilitation centre for elderly people was inaugurated by Mother Theresa while second such a picnic sponsored by Barrister Mainul Hosein at his Mamaripur Baganbari located on outskirts of Dhaka in January of 2003. Barrister Mainul Hosein also contributed financially to Central Kachi-Kanchar Mela during the life time of Rokanuzzaman Khan. This year the picnic took place on January 26 at Baliati Zamindar Bari at Manikganj.
Kachi-Kanchar Mela also holds the birth days of celebrated personalities like Poet Sufia Kamal, Shilpachariya Joynul Abedin, Palli Kabi Jasimuddin, Scientist Dr. Abdullah Al-Muti Sharfuddin and Litterateur and Journalist Rokanuzzaman Khan, apart from Poet Nazrul Islam and the Bengali New Year as well. Kachi-Kanchar Mela also introduced an annual cake competition during winter. Long live Kachi-Kanchar Mela.
Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat, former Joint Director of Central Kachi-Kanchar Mela and permanent member of Central Kachi-kanchar Mela, writes from Virginia, USA.
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