An old man sits alone in a room stuffed with photographs, old documents, statuettes, posters and some other relics of our glorious student movements. Since 1991, a room in the two storied historic DUCSU building is used as an archive. Once vibrant DUCSU is no more alive but Gopal Chandra Das, the unofficial curator and the only guardian of the archive, is maintaining it since its beginning as, he says, "The collections are rare and depict Bangladesh's glorious past."
Rare photographs, posters, exquisite sculptures, paintings, historic documents, belongings of the martyrs have been carefully preserved in this single room. In fact, it is the most appropriate place to know Dhaka University and its leading role in the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation.
Nestled quietly just beside historic Madhu's canteen, the first thing to be noticed in the museum is a preserved part of the historic mango tree under which students demanding Bengali as the state language gathered and decided to break Section 144 during the fiery days of 1952. Next to it is the dark wall on which hang the photographs of the martyred teachers of Dhaka University (DU). These bright minds of the nation were killed by the Pakistani army and their collaborators during the liberation war of 1971.
There are several rectangular display boxes in the room covered with glass. There lie the belongings of martyrs who were either students or teachers of the university. On one of these tables the belongings of Shahid Janani (mother of the martyrs) Jahanara Imam are placed with a copy of her historic diary. A part of the wall of the archive is decorated with a collection of very rare photos of the Liberation War. Most of these photos can be found only in this archive and are collected by Gopalda himself.
Photos: Prabir Das
Another wall bears the names of 106 students who embraced martyrdom during the movement for democracy. A white shirt of martyred student leader Raju is preserved in the archive, a testimony to the students' history of sacrifice for democracy and people's rule. Banners, posters, leaflets, photos that adorn the other walls tells the story of the days when the entire nation led by the student leaders of the DU became united to depose the tyranny of HM Ershad and his regime.
The archive is also famous for its antique collections. It has a huge collection of ancient coins and bank notes. There are also some rare maps of the city and the entire world that date back to 16th, 17th and 18th century. Philately is also an attractive part of its exhibits. Postal stamps depicting different parts of Dhaka University and rare souvenir stamps have been preserved in the archive. Another attraction is collage posters made by Gopalda himself. He has created these thematic posters by assembling lots of paper cuttings and photos and gave it an artistic shape with a clear humanistic message.
The history and growth of the DU gets a special space in the gallery. Photos of the vice chancellors, famous teachers, achievement and research works of the brilliant students are proudly displayed here. These exhibits are a source of inspiration to the current students, especially to those who want to follow the footsteps of their luminous predecessors. Many famous students have donated their valuable works for the archive. Renowned sculptor Shamim Shikdar has donated some of her exquisite works and her Ekushe Padak to this archive.
Das has single-handedly maintained everything of this archive without any salary and honorarium. He has retired from his official job two years ago but he could not leave the archive for which he has a fatherly affection. Still he is brushing every exhibit of this archive with his own hand and keeps them in the right place. After sharing his long experience with the DUCSU he takes us to a room full of rare exhibits. These invaluable antiques are gathered haphazardly throughout the room with a thick layer of dust on them. Original painting of Abanindranath Tagore, Kamrul Hasan, many rare photos and artworks are decaying due to the lack of space.
Das's contribution in preserving the University's lost glory is undeniable. He doesn't want much in return, as he says, “My life is almost over. I love this University. I don't expect anything from it. I would be happy enough if the authority refurbishes it and saves all the decaying artefacts.”
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