One of the most influential living philosophers of the world, Bertrand-Henri Levy, yesterday made an emotional explanation of why he as a young, naïve man volunteered to cover the war of independence of Bangladesh in 1971 as a journalist and said the country still has a huge "battle of memory" to fight by counting every person who died in the barbarity of Pakistan.
“I am so struck by the figure of genocide in Bangladesh, and no-one knows how many fell victim to Pakistani barbarians,” Levy said in a lecture on “Philosophy and commitment: For a philosophy of action.”
“Such a situation is not good for the next generation. It is an unbearable situation that the dead are not named. It is difficult to build a country if there is a hole in memory.” “I propose the international community, and it is their duty, to support a real investigation of all districts and all families, to know name by name, face by face of the victims of genocide,” the French intellectual said at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh during his lecture.
Levy who has often given birth to many a controversy for his views said Bangladesh can cut a niche for itself in the modern world by truly reflecting its secular face of Islam.
“The spirit of the freedom fight and Sheikh Mujib is of moderation. The west is obsessed with radical Islam and is looking for an antidote,” Levy went on. “Bangladesh's first constitution was based on secularism. Bangladesh can become the true champion of liberal Islam. This country is armed with its past, and history takes leadership here.”
“Bangladesh is much more than the shameful sweat factory," he said in an emotional voice. “ Bangladesh has its own philosophy. I fulfill my commitment to my own philosophy by returning to this country after 43 years.”
Levy said it was an emotional return for him to Bangladesh with images and meetings with freedom fighters. “All this is so rare for a man to come back to old places after 43 years.”
He explained that Bangladesh was an obscure place on earth in 1971 and was not even born. Yet he as a young man chose to come here out of his own philosophical turn, from a commitment, he said.
A true philosopher has to act from the commitment of philosophy, and he will do it again and again as he has done in Bosnia to tell the testimony of the bloodbath, in Syria and other places.
Levy reported for the French newspaper "Combat", and later published a book on the Liberation War, "Bangla-Desch: Nationalisme dans la révolution (Bangladesh: Nationalism in the Revolution)" in 1977. Eight years later, the book was reprinted under the title "Les Indes Rouges", or "Red India".
He arrived in Dhaka to attend the launch of a Bangla translation of the book, held Friday.