We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of eminent cultural activist and journalist Kamal Lohani on Saturday. Mr Lohani was undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Dhaka. According to reports, he tested positive for coronavirus and was already suffering from several pre-existing conditions including heart disease and diabetes along with lung and kidney complications. This is, undoubtedly, a sad day for all of us at the journalist community, and the wider society in general, who benefitted from his wisdom, leadership and public service. His death, just six days short of his eighty-seventh birthday, also gives us pause to take stock of his rich legacy as a conscience-keeper of the nation since as far back as the 1950s.
Kamal Lohani played a significant role in different socio-political and democratic movements of our history, including the 1952 Language Movement and the Liberation War. He was jailed and tortured several times for his political activism in the lead-up to the war. In 1971, he worked at the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra as its news editor. In an interview with The Daily Star in 2015, he explained how his role as a shobdo shoinik—collecting and broadcasting news—was, for him, an instrument to be used in the service of the nation. "I am fortunate that I was entitled with the responsibility of writing and reading the news bulletin on our victory," he said. In the post-war period, he served in important posts of many unions for journalists and relentlessly worked for establishing their rights and demands. In his long life, he also served as the director of Bangladesh Press Institute and the director general of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Furthermore, he was a president of Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigosthi, and was also involved with Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee. In 2015, he was awarded the Ekushey Padak.
Mr Lohani was a giant who walked amongst us, and today the country is left poorer by his death—coming as it did on the heels of an already long list of prominent individuals succumbing to the coronavirus. He deserves a hero's farewell, by the people who he served and who looked up to him for guidance but, unfortunately, that may not be possible because of social distancing restrictions imposed by Covid-19. But he will live on in the memory of the people and his legacy will continue to guide us in the future. May his soul rest in peace.