HISTORY AS ETHICAL REMEMBRANCE

Dhaka University, Shaheed Minar and CP Gang’s ‘bessha’ banner
by Rahnuma Ahmed

Prologue
The online group CP Gang's banner reads (translated) 'Resist these so-called civil [society] liars and anti-Independence intellectual prostitutes in order to uphold the true history of the liberation war to the younger generation.' Those whose faces are crossed out are, from left to right, journalist Mahfuzullah, Dhaka University professors Asif Nazrul and Amena Mohsin, North South university professor Dilara Chowdhury, lawyer Tuhin Malik, writer and columnist Farhad Mazhar, Saptahik editor Golam Mortuza, New Age editor Nurul Kabir, and daily Manabzamin editor Motiur Rahman Chowdhury. A human chain at the Central Shaheed Minar organised by the Muktijoddha Sangsad Santan Command, Dhaka on October 17, 2014.
THIS story begins with the sudden and unexpected death of professor Piash Karim on October 13, 2014, of cardiac arrest. Piash, who had returned to Dhaka in 2007 after teaching for nearly two decades at an American university, had joined BRAC University and was teaching in the department of economics and social sciences. Dr Amena Mohsin, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, and Piash Karim got married in March 2013; high-school student Drabir Karim, Piash’s son from his first marriage, was part of their family. Earlier known in his circle of friends for his left-leaning views, Piash gradually gravitated towards the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, a centrist party and the ruling Awami League’s arch-enemy. He began frequenting television talk shows, popular, as no real debate takes place in the parliament. (The popularity of TV talk shows has drastically declined, however, with the silent black-listing of dissident voices; a couple of analysts have reportedly left the country). His comment that the Ganajagaran Mancha, initially composed of a small group of bloggers and activists calling for the hanging of war criminals of 1971, later mushrooming into a sea of people at Shahbagh square in Dhaka city and spreading nationwide, was developing ‘fascist’ undertones, earned him widespread denunciation. The movement was then riding high. Continue reading “HISTORY AS ETHICAL REMEMBRANCE”

THE LEGACY OF MADHU’S CANTEEN

By Ananta Yusuf in The Daily Star

Photo: Prabir Das

Taking a stroll around Madhur Canteen, named after Madhu Sudan Dey, a visitor would come across various spots – where students of Dhaka University sit in rows, chatting and possibly planning their future. It is a place where the streets widen to make room for creative minds and the walls are covered with political graffiti and posters. Chairman of Workers Party of Bangladesh, Rashed Khan Menon considered it as a parallel school of progressive thought, politics and rational debates, and till date he believes, “its yard is filled with the leaders of tomorrow.”Family members and former students of Dhaka University remember Madhu Da and the vibrant centre that he unwittingly created that became the epicentre of many significant movements.
There are also amusing stories about this legendary canteen. Madhu Da’s son Arun Kumar Dey talks about a ledger called ‘Na Diye Udhao’ (‘disappeared without paying’) that has a rather eminent list of debtors including the likes of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Ataur Rahman Khan and so on. The historical ledger, however, was lost after Madhu Da’s death in 1971.
Rashed Khan Menon recollects: “I heard that Madhu Da had a ledger called Na Diye Udhao. It contains many well-known names of today.” “Perhaps my name is also there!” he laughs.
“Madhu Da used to visit different government offices to collect his dues. Most of the time such efforts were in vain” he adds. “But still he used to do it cheerfully because I know that he enjoyed visiting old faces.”
Madhu Da was far more than just the canteen operator. Arun Kumar, now the director of Madhur Canteen says that his father always used to help the students and never very particular about retrieving the dues the students owed him.

Today’s Madhur Canteen was once used as a ‘Darbar Hall’ of Nawabs for formal and informal meetings. Photo: Fritz Kapp

He tells the Star, “Sometimes, students mockingly complained that Madhu Da, you charge extra. My father would relply, ‘give me less when you will pay all the dues, it is not possible for me to keep correct accounts all the time’. He was very simple man and always tried to help the students. I believe his long presence among the student leaders made him a political analyst as well.”
During the rule of East Pakistan, before every political movement, student leaders and activists used to gather at Madhur Canteen. It was for this that after the military crackdown by the Pakistani army, Madhu Sudan Dey was killed in the dark night of March 26, 1971.
Arun recalls the agonising incident, “My brother and his wife were the first victims. When they arrested my father, my mother tried to save him. But, they did not care and started firing. My mother died instantly while my father fell to the ground with one bullet hitting himone of his hands. And then they dragged my father to Jagannath Hall playground. There he was killed with many students.” Since then, Arun Kumar Dey has been running the canteen.
Like a fresco, the canteen’s ceiling is painted in green and red stretching from east to west. Today’s Madhur Canteen once used as a ‘Darbar Hall’ of Nawabs for formal and informal meetings. Built as a skating rink and a ballroom for the Nawabs, it was later converted into a dining hall and meeting place for students and faculty of Dhaka University. This is where the Muslim League of India was formed in 1906.

Like a fresco, the canteen’s ceiling is painted in green and red stretching from east to west. Photo: Prabir Das

The history of Madhur Canteen dates back to 1921, late Aditya Chandra Dey, started the Canteen with his fifteen-year-old sons Madhu. At that time they used to sell different types of sweets and confectionary. In 1935, soon after Aditya Chandra’s death, Madhusudan Dey began to run the Canteen. Gradually he became a popular figure among the student leaders and became fondly known as “Madhuda”. His towering popularity changed the Canteen’s billboard and within years it was renamed Madhur Canteen.
In the late 1960s, Madhur Canteen became a focal point for planning student protests against the West Pakistan regime. Flanked on one side by the Arts Faculty of Dhaka University and on the other by the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), till date the Madhur Canteen remains a powerful political symbol in the country.
In 1995, Toufiq Hosen Khan a second year student of fine arts engraved a sculpture of Madhu Sudan Dey, which remains as a reminiscence of Madhu Da, who connect himself with the protest and struggle of the people in 1971. In an interview with the Star Toufiq says, “Madhu Da is one of the inspiring figures and a role model for the students and he is also a martyr of the Liberation War. So I wanted to do something that will stay as a permanent mark of respect and to tell the students about Madhu Da.”

BLACK NIGHT 1971 Bangladesh

By Monirul Alam

The black night of March 25, 1971 when the Pakistani occupation forces kicked off one of the worst genocides in history that led to a nine-month war for the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
On this black night in the nation?s history, the Pakistani military rulers launched ?Operation Searchlight?, killing some thousand people in that night?s crackdown alone.?As part of the operation, tanks rolled out of Dhaka cantonment and a sleeping city woke up to the rattles of gunfire as the Pakistan army attacked the halls at Dhaka University, the then East Pakistan Rifles (now Border Guard Bangladesh) headquarters and Rajarbagh Police Lines, killing the several thousand unarmed Bengalis on the single night. The planned and designated centres of offensive operations under that plan were Dhaka, Khulna, Chittagong, Comilla, Jessore, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Saidpur and Sylhet? areas, where West Pakistani army units were concentrated. Continue reading “BLACK NIGHT 1971 Bangladesh”

Part VI Military-installed caretaker govt, or a 'consortium' govt?

by rahnuma ahmed

Yesterday, I had ended with the words, “there is still hope.”
But, of course, hoping doesn’t mean that one daydreams, or fantasises. Or, becomes cynical when things don’t turn out the way one had wished.
“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” — words attributed to Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, imprisoned by Mussolini. To see the world as it really is, underpinned by the will that humans have the courage to change it. One thus needs to dispassionately examine what occurred later. But before doing so, let me turn to the cat- out-of-the-bag story.
The ‘minus two plan’ was officially confirmed by the World Bank South Asia vice-president Praful C. Patel. While visiting Dhaka, at the end of 2007, he said, “What [had] looked possible before, like the minus-two approach, does not seem possible today, because the two ladies have [a] very strong and powerful power base.” Continue reading “Part VI Military-installed caretaker govt, or a 'consortium' govt?”