What's in a name? | The Daily Star
04:27 AM, February 20, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:12 AM, February 25, 2015

What's in a name?

Mujibur Rahman Devdas is one of the recipients of Ekushey Padak this year.

But his name does strike us as a different one. Anyone somewhat ingrained in this culture would agree that Devdas, a name usually given to Hindus, sounds strange when juxtaposed with 'Rahman', a surname usually given to Muslims.

Yet, a former university teacher and a Muslim by faith, he had taken the name Devdas in 1971 to shake off his religious identity and to stage his symbolic protest at the Pakistan Army's brutal repression on Hindu minorities and pro-liberation forces in Rajshahi.

But this decision had cost him dearly. The occupation army caught him soon and put him in torture cells for about five months.

Devdas' unique protest and sacrifices were brought out in a documentary titled "The Sound of Silence". Mofidul Haque, a Liberation War Museum trustee and researcher, made the documentary in 2007.

"He decided to take a Bangla name and changed his name Mujibur Rahman to Devdas. Actually the Bangla meaning of both Mujibur Rahman and Devdas is the servant of God," Mofidul said.

Devdas remained unrecognised until yesterday when he was handed this award at Osmani Memorial Auditorium in the capital.

The torture he had been subjected to have left him traumatised for life. Things went from bad to worse as the Rajshahi University authorities did not give him his job back after the independence.

May be that's why he did not smile when he came to know about this award. Upon hearing the news, he just mumbled something about our history. He has confined himself mostly to his village house at Moharul in Joypurhat since 1978.

"We informed him of the award but he kept on mumbling about the history between 1965 and 1971," Mahfuzur Rahman, one of his nephews, said.

When the Pakistan Army set up a camp on the Rajshahi university premises, he wrote a letter to the university authorities on May 10, 1971 which he signed in his new name.

In the letter, he wrote: "This is to inform the authority that I am going to leave the campus since the university campus has, at the moment, been degraded to the state of a military camp. I may come to the campus when the university regains its status of sanctity and starts functioning as a university in the true sense .....I hope to be kept informed about the situation here at the address noted bellow, where I hope to spend these days of calamity, genocide and freedom movement. Please note the change in my name and my new name should be used in future communication."

At the signature line of the letter was written D. Das [Signature]. Devdas. Previous name: Mujibur Rahman, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mathematics, Rajshahi University.

Those haunting memories have left such a devastating scar on him that his whole family failed to get him to sign on the consent letter of the award. Later the district commissioner's office succeeded in getting his thumb impression on the letter.

When this correspondent visited him on Friday, the only complete sentence he uttered was in reply to a question asking his name.

"My name used to be Mujibur Rahman but now it is Devdas," he said.

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