The man behind the iconic song
The man best known for penning the immortal song "Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano Ekushey February", a popular columnist, litterateur and political analyst, Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury breathed his last yesterday at a hospital in London at the age of 87.
The journalist was suffering from various age-related health complications.
Gaffar, in his late teens, in 1952, was moved with grief at the death of Rafiq, the first of the activists of the Language Movement to be shot. It provoked him to write the iconic lyric to honour the martyrs of the Language Movement.
Little did he realise that this poem would one day become a historical song portraying the intense love for one's motherland and a unique expression of remembrance of the sacrifice of the language heroes.
The tune was eventually given by Altaf Mahmud (who later joined the Liberation War and was killed by the Pakistani army) and received immense appreciation. Listeners of the BBC's Bengali service had voted the song as the third most popular Bangla song of all time.
As a staunch proponent of the spirit of the Liberation War, Gaffar inspired people with his emotive writing while working with Weekly Joy Bangla, the first newspaper of independent Bangladesh registered through the Mujibnagar government during the war.
Through his writing, Gaffar advocated the need for establishing democracy, which would lead to a non-communal, inclusive society.
His passing has evoked messages of commiseration from many important figures of the country.
President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, ministers, diplomats, distinguished personalities and top leaders of different political and socio-cultural organisations expressed deep sorrow at the death of the journalist.
In his condolence message, the president said Bangladesh lost a pioneer who was progressive, creative and believed in the spirit of the Liberation War.
The PM in her message said Gaffar Chowdhury with his talent and work upheld the spirit of the Liberation War, the non-communal spirit of the Bangalees till his death and also put forth the country's true history before the nation.
Gaffar was born in Barishal on December 12, 1934. He started his journalism career during his student life in 1950. He worked with Dainik Insaf and was a translator for Dainik Sangbad. He also worked for Monthly Sougat and Monthly Nakib until 1955.
He then worked at Dainik Ittefaq and Dainik Azad before leaving journalism for two years in 1964 to set up a press. In 1966, he returned to the profession and published Dainik Awaz.
He also worked with Dainik Azad and Dainik Ittefaq in his second stint in journalism till 1969.
When the Liberation War began in 1971, he took his family across the border and reached Kolkata via Agartala. There, he wrote for Anandabazar and Jugantar, two newspapers of Kolkata.
He left Bangladesh in 1974, when his wife became seriously ill, and went to London where he ended up living till his last days. In the UK, he started a newspaper called Notun Din. From London, he regularly wrote columns for Bangladeshi dailies, Bangla newspapers published by the Bangladeshi community in the UK, and a daily newspaper in Kolkata.
He has authored 35 books that include children's literature, poetry, a novel, short stories, memoirs and a book on Bangabandhu and the Liberation War. A short-story collection titled "Samrater Chhobi", a novel titled "Chandrodwiper Upakhkhyan", a play titled "Palashi Theke Dhanmondi", children's fiction "Danpite Shawkat" and memoirs "Dhiree Bahe Buriganga", are some of his notable works which give an idea of his versatility as a writer.
Gaffar Chowdhury's repertoire also includes a film titled "Palashi Theke Dhanmondi" on the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
He is the recipient of both the Swadhinata Padak and Ekushey Padak, the country's highest civilian honours, for his contribution to literature. His other accolades include the Bangla Academy Literary Award, UNESCO Literary Award, Bangabandhu Award, Sanghati Lifetime Achievement Award, and PIB-Sohel Samad Memorial Award.
The Daily Ittefaq honoured him with the Manik Miah Padak.
On December 18, 2012, his wife Selima Choudhury passed away in London. His daughter Binita Chowdhury died last month. Binita was the third among his four daughters and a son.
The Bangladesh High Commission in London has said in a statement that the time of Gaffar's namaz-e-janaza would be announced soon.
Although he has passed on, Gaffar will be remembered with love and admiration for unstintingly championing the values of the Liberation War and for the timeless song dedicated to the sacrifice of the Language Movement martyrs.