The Financial Express


Only martyred intellectuals and no more!

The Martyred Intellectuals memorial at Rayer Bazar in Dhaka. The memorial is a tribute to the Bengali intellectuals and professionals, killed by Pakistani forces, during the Liberation War in 1971.	— Online The Martyred Intellectuals memorial at Rayer Bazar in Dhaka. The memorial is a tribute to the Bengali intellectuals and professionals, killed by Pakistani forces, during the Liberation War in 1971. — Online

They are martyred intellectuals. Yes, martyr has a positive sense in that one chooses to suffer or die rather than giving up a strongly held belief. By doing so, one advances a cause or principle. December 14 marks the Martyred Intellectual Day but the observance of the occasion falls far short of the importance, the gravity and the magnitude of the loss this nation suffered only two days before its ultimate victory against the Pakistani invading army. The homage paid is not on a national scale but mostly confined to the families of the martyred intellectuals and a handful of people driven by an inner urge. The official programmes are perfunctory. Only the media have tried their best to live the memory as much as they could. But this year even most of the electronic and print media failed to live up to the standard set by them previously. Why? What has happened suddenly that there is a collective indifference to highlight the day when such a large number of the best of minds this soil has produced were done to death?

The Bangalees are known for atrocious forgetfulness. Contributions by its valiant sons and daughters in the form of art, literature, philosophy, science, medical service have enriched the national ethos. Politics alone cannot advance the cause of national emancipation. A nation first earns its own freedom in its mind. The rise of a people happens gradually in mind first and then it explodes like a bomb to smother its adversaries. On that count, the intellectuals did the task of preparing the nation for its Liberation War. Politics apparently leads the journey of a nation but the intellectuals provide it with the arms and ammunition.

That the intellectuals did not leave the country is not their fault or cowardice. It is important how they played the role in favour of the Liberation War. In the face of overwhelming odds, the doctors treated the wounded freedom fighters or common people. Lyricist Altaf Mahmood held aloft his conviction rather than betraying the cause of liberation. Had this not been true in case of all others, they would not be the victims of target killing by the Pakistani army and its local collaborators. The blue print was to make the country barren of intellectuals on the eve of the country's liberation.

Clearly, here is a special breed of people who could enormously contribute to the rebuilding of the country in its most difficult phases. The enemy rightly identified the persons on the basis of their merit and creative prowess to the cause of the nation. But in the independent country the intellectuals have not been given the due respect and homage they deserve. Reportedly, not even a list of them has as yet been prepared and given recognition as war heroes. This certainly is unwarranted of a nation that has earned its independence at such a colossal cost. Not all the families of the intellectual martyrs needed financial help but some did, no doubt. If they are not recognised as war heroes, the question of receiving any help does not arise. What a gross oversight on the part of this nation taking so much pride in the glorious chapter of independence!

Has the country's socio-cultural journey derailed so much so that its weaknesses and aberrations are getting increasingly exposed? Many vices including sexual and child violence are occurring randomly. Corruption and economic polarisation are doing enormous harm to Bangladesh society. Clearly, the sobering impact the martyred intellectuals could leave on society is missing. Those iconic personalities might be able to stem the rot, at least to some extent. By honouring them, the nation would have honoured itself. National heritage could thus get nourished.

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