December 14 evokes pain and sorrow | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 14, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 14, 2012

December 14 evokes pain and sorrow

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December 14 is a day that evokes pain and sorrow in Bengali souls as we remember that on this day, 41 years ago, in misty winter, some of the bravest and most enlightened sons of Bangladesh had made their ultimate sacrifice for the cause of pride and liberty. Teachers, writers, journalists, professionals and social thinkers were picked up from their residences, blindfolded and taken to the deserted trench of Rayer Bazar, to be tormented and massacred just two days before the victory in the nation's war of independence on December 16, 1971.
The nation today is in intense pain because the murderers of the intellectuals still move about on the same soil that was reddened by the blood of the great sons and daughters of the land. The pain of their loss only doubles when the thought that the actors behind the scene had not been put in the dock as per the laws of the land haunts our minds.
The brutality of the occupation army and its supporters was meant to maim the nation, which would certainly need the sagacity and wisdom of its worthy sons to move ahead in the early days of its independence. But what they overlooked is that the assassins' bullets could not destroy the teachings and ideals of the intellectuals, who dreamt of an independent Bangladesh. The martyred intellectuals have a permanent place in the hearts of the people of Bangladesh. The lesson to be learned from the day is that men of character, wisdom and commitment to society cannot be defeated.
The best way to pay tribute to the martyrs is to remove the social discrepancies and discriminations which amount to violation of people's rights. The need for having men like the ones we lost on that dreadful night cannot be overemphasised, because we are passing through a crisis emanating, by and large, from degeneration in almost every sphere of our national life. However, we can still overcome the difficulties by remaining faithful to the teachings of the martyred intellectuals.
Most of all, the responsibility lies with the present-generation intellectuals to prove that they deserve the mantle they have inherited from their fallen forebears. Sitting over their academic records and professional laurels will enhance their self-image but will not bring the country nearer to realisation of the pledges of the Liberation War. Freethinking and free expression of views in a freed country has been cramped by party loyalty. Divergence of thoughts among intellectuals is healthy but straight bifurcation of intellectual life along party lines does not go to foster healthy intellectual pursuit.
The professors, academics and intellectuals of today have a much wider exposure, facilities and opportunities for global interaction than could ever be enjoyed by those pioneers. But what is their contribution as a whole, not counting some constructive exceptions? Where were they when secularism was thrown away? Where are they now when the nation's natural resources are being bartered away to foreign corporate monsters? Martyred intellectuals day is also a day to remind us that all the failings of ours at present are perhaps nearly as massive as the achievements of the past.
December 14 relights the memories of the martyrs and also rings the bell of continuing the unfinished job of building a prosperous and proud nation that they cherished so zealously as teachers, writers, journalists, professionals, social thinkers and so forth. This nation can never do too much to honour those martyrs, the hundreds of thousands of men and women, sung or unsung, who have left behind a deathless saga of valour and sacrifice. And it is not enough to merely honour them if the cause for which they laid down their lives is not upheld in our everyday life, in offices and homes, in political assemblies and street corners, in intellectual discourse, playfields, classrooms and textbooks. Our commitment in this respect must go beyond observing a day devoted to the souls of the martyrs.

The writer is Head of Tourism, Language and Culture, NHTTI.

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