In the midst of one of the darkest moments in the history of independent Bangladesh, we have lost a guardian and a beacon of hope, Professor Anisuzzaman. The Dhaka University Professor Emeritus, a public intellectual, historian, writer, activist, teacher and researcher, passed away on May 14. From his participation as an activist in the Language Movement in 1952 to his role as a member of the planning commission of the government-in-exile in 1971 as well as a member of the committee drafting the Constitution in Bangla in 1971; from his contribution during the movement for restoration of democracy in Bangladesh in the 1980s to his commitment to the trial of war criminals, he was a moral compass who led the nation through its most challenging transitions for over six decades. He was as invaluable as an activist as he was as a scholar and mentor, bridging the gap between theory and praxis in all he did throughout his illustrious career. His impact on Bengali literature, language and culture is unparalleled.
Although he is gone, his spirit and his teachings will always be with us, guiding us to do the right thing, to confront and challenge injustices and bigotry and to uphold the four pillars of independence—secularism, nationalism, socialism and democracy—in our continued quest to build a Bangladesh which he would have been proud of. We believe the way to truly pay respect to his soul is by continuing his lifelong pursuit for the betterment of our people, our culture and our democratic institutions. As we embark on an uncertain future posed by a pandemic that has already wreaked havoc on people, especially the poor and the vulnerable, we need to emulate his selflessness, conviction and strength of character and be there for those who need our support. We must rise to the occasion, as he did throughout his life, and defend this nation not just from the virus, but also from all forms of autocracy, injustice, corruption and greed.