Lalon Academy struggling to spread the word of the bard
For almost 200 or so years, Fakir Lalon Shah's philosophy has transcended borders and enriched the minds of Bauls and lovers of his immortal songs across the world. Yet, Lalon Academy that is meant to spread the word of the bard seems to be faltering in doing so. Many researchers, devotees and followers believed the academy could become one of the focal points both locally and internationally. A dream, that has not materialised as of yet.
Fakir Lalon was born in the 1800s and lived in a village of Chheuria, just beside the Kali river in Kushtia's Kumarkhali upazila. It is from here that his journey began. His source of inspiration and his ideologies are left behind in the nearly 2,000 songs and lyrics.
To remember and practice Lalon's songs, his ideals and philosophies the Lalon Loksahitya Kendra was established in 1933 at Lalon's Akhra. It was a non-formal initiative. In 1976, it was formalised into Lalon Academy with the help of the government.
There was another organisation, many years back by the name of Lalon Sebasadan and Mazar Committee was active in Akhra. In addition to taking care of Lalon's shrine, they held ceremonies such as the Dol Utshab and Tirodhan Dibash. After formation of Lalon Academy, a large faction of Lalon's followers drifted away from the shrine complaining of political influence and bureaucracy.
A case was also filed in the 1980s in this regard and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court recently gave a verdict.
The academy used to be run through an elected committee. Life-time and general members form the committee by voting for a year. Currently, there are 10,000 lifelong and general voters. Following the case filed by Lalon Sebasadan and Mazar Committee, the elections were halted after the 2013 verdict of the High Court Division. Another verdict of the Appellate Division came in 2019.
As of now, institutional activities -- which comprises of music classes -- of the academy are closed. The district administration has been conducting some activities by forming an ad hoc committee with some former members of Lalon Academy.
Selim Haque, joint secretary of the last elected committee and later acting secretary, said it is too difficult to organise two events a year. But these events are what raise money for the academy.
As such Selim Haque has lamented on the lack of opportunity to work in disseminating the word of Lalon. They always think of working on research journals, research books but it's tough to realise these ideas given the present condition of the Academy.
Selim Haque is also a member of the current ad hoc committee. The entire shrine is currently locked down due to coronavirus. This has further reduced the income of the shrine. Haque has demanded for government initiative.
Aslam Hossain, president of the academy and also the deputy commissioner of Kushtia, said the academy could not hold election due to legal complications. However, he said the government has plans to develop the academy. He said there is a process to build a good quality tourist motel and a research cell so that Lalon researchers from home and abroad can come and stay here.