"They didn't know what they were destroying" is the reaction of a maestro of Indian classical music, Pundit Jasraj. Indeed, the burning down of Alauddin Khan Sangeetayan at Brahmanbaria has been nothing short of a sacrilege. Dedicated to the memory of the greatest exponent of Maihar-famed classical music gharana, Ustad Alauddin Khan, this musical centre-cum-museum had so long preserved treasures once blessed by him.
What have the attackers destroyed will never be recreated. There were two sarods, two violins, a santoor, a sarengi, a pakhawaj, four tanpuras, a number of flutes, two carpets Alauddin Khan received as gifts from Nawab of Maihar, 25 letters written by him and two prayer mats presented to him by Saudi king when he went to the kingdom for performing Hajj, rare photographs of his daughter Annapurna, son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and son-in-law Pandit Ravi Shankar among others.
This list may not be full but it is good enough to indicate what an invaluable treasure trove of world heritage went up into smoke, courtesy of the fire students of a nearby educational institution that basically imparts religious education, set the sangeetayan on. On that count, it is the destruction of humanity and civilisation too. An Alauddin Khan is not born every other day. He is an icon not only of Indian classical music but also of music that transcends boundaries of caste, creed, culture and geography. His son-in-law Ravi Shankar and son Ustad Ali Akbar Khan have more than proved how universal the appeal of music is. The Western audience too are left spell-bound by their ragas played on sitar and sarod respectively.
No wonder, the followers of Ustad Alauddin Khan have felt the unconscionable agony to learn about the ruination of musical instruments once used by the ustad and various other articles he brought with him during his visit to Brahmanbaria in 1956. Indeed, it has been one of the most sinister attacks on art and culture. Such attacks on art and culture are unfortunately on the rise across the world.
Comparison is irrelevant if the nation fails to realise the depth of the loss. True, the apathy shown to this grave incident by the country's progressive sections of society is baffling. The instruments and articles that could be saved from the marauding Pakistani army during the Liberation War could not be protected from attackers growing up with a mindset alien to culture and heritage of this land. If this is how mob mentality starts getting the better of all things sane, aesthetically pleasing and achieved by the gifted minds of this soil, can this nation really count on its abiding strength?
A columnist through a column in a Bangla contemporary has rightly complained that the enthusiasm demonstrated at the Bengal Classical Music festival held at the Army Stadium leaves much for doubting if things are going in the right direction. No worthwhile protest organised against this barbaric attack is but a symptom of unpardonable indifference. He points out how the cultural awaking as part of a protest against Pakistan's political, economic and cultural hegemony in the 60's has led to the formation a number of cultural organisations including the Chhayanaut.
Today, such awakening looks to be light years' away. Why? Before man's physical annihilation, his spiritual death takes place. Spiritual here does not necessarily mean religious; it means enlightenment as well. This nation has proved too weak to receive the baton from the stalwart activists of cultural movements.