Thursday, 7 July, 2022
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In memory of Abdul Gaffar Choudhury

In memory of Abdul Gaffar Choudhury

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The veteran journalist Abdul Gaffar Choudhury went to the UK for treatment of his wife and could not return to Bangladesh for 22 years after the assassination of Bangladesh’s Founding Father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Choudhury was a proud Bengali and an even prouder journalist and columnist, a legend. A superstar in his field, he definitely firmed ties to Bangladesh. An octogenarian, he was a Bangladesh-born British writer, journalist, columnist, political analyst and poet.

He was best known as the lyricist of the celebrated song commemorating the Bengali Language Movement— “Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano Ekushe February”. The song was regarded by listeners of BBC Bengali Service as the third best song in Bengali.

Choudhury worked as a journalist in different national newspapers in Dhaka. During the 1971 Bangladesh’s Liberation War, he worked for the Jai Bangla, the Jugantar and the Anandabazar Patrika. In the UK, he ran a newspaper named ‘Notun Din’. He has written more than 35 five books. Some of his notable works are Danpithe Shawkat, Chandrodwiper Upakhyan, Nam Na Jana Bhore, Nil Jamuna, Shesh Rajanir Chand, Polassey Thekey Dhanmondi and Bastobotar Nirikhey. He lived in London from where he regularly wrote columns for Bangladesh’s national dailies, in Bengali newspapers of Bengali community in the UK and in a daily newspaper in Kolkata.

He produced a film on the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called ‘Polassey Theke Dhanmondi’. The multitalented personality has received many awards for his immense contributions to journalism and literature, such as Bangla Academy Award, Ekushey Padak, UNESCO literary Award, Bangabandhu Award, Shanghati Lifetime Achievement Award, Swadhinata Padak, Manik Miah Padak and PIB-Sohel Samad Memorial Award.

He was not a mere individual only. He was a formidable institution. Gaffar Choudhury was one of the few personalities involved in almost all historical events of Bangladesh.

His mission’s success hinges on the true spirits of our glorious Liberation War of 1971 when he walked calmly through enemy fire to flip a switch, reprogrammed an imperial robot and when he sacrificed his safety to block an attack against his comrades. Where all the main characters live to celebrate their success; perhaps, the change reflects our own nation’s less optimistic view about how easily battles can be won. On a scale of history, his columns, indeed, were re-imagining human possibilities for which Bangladesh was created in 1971. Gaffar Choudhury’s columns will always inscribe Bangladesh’s historical memories.

He used to hold on to the immutable laws of history in so far as they are prescriptive of what is most desirable for human life in Bangladesh. He has taken exception to the current culture of a feeding frenzy, moral corruption, societal depravity, political dissolution, the gross and sleaze enveloping the human mind that would put to shame even some of the vilest political orders known to human history. Once again, here is to the human possibility! Just when a dispassionate observer could have thought the ravages of age have deprived him of his trademark intellectual vitality, Choudhury let rip in his vintage moral mode.

Yet, he remained forever measured, a towering moral icon who did not compromise with anything outside the framework of superior human values. In this connection, he was once again reaffirming the courage, humility, selflessness and generosity of freedom fighters within the cultural framework of self-reflection. Indeed, a measure of self-reflection is needed if human civilisation is to endure. He felt the current democratic government is a pre-condition to the sustenance of our democracy and good governance. For him the mainsprings of a cultured politics were the practice of truth-telling; being honest, expressive and unambiguous in public discourse.

He believed that a free media culture is vital to the growth of democracy, and support for initiatives that drive such a culture is a priority for the country. We are proud that he continued a fearless tradition of exposing wrongdoing in the public interest. From corruption and governance issues to health, the environment and poverty, he worked to turn the dross of greed and self-interest into fertiliser for democracy.

Choudhury was a prominent Bangladeshi scholar, writer and specialist in political historical studies. His articles are described as an appeal to the people of Bangladesh to respect their cultures, values, and traditions and took a firm stand against alien ideas that pollute our minds and undermine the country. He contended that true scholarship requires rigorous intellectual discipline and entails objective inquiry and analysis of facts and evidence, including admitting failures and shortcomings.

He was an independent scholar who was also a widely read and highly regarded author. He responded by saying that he is just an ordinary citizen of Bangladesh, like tens of millions of others, deeply concerned about the plight of his country for being ruled by some unbridled military dictators and their unsavoury lieutenants for a long time.

His experience also inspired his thinking regarding Bangladesh and its relationship to the Western world, which led to several academic works dedicated to the subject. He wrote about Bangladesh as a whole in such a way as to suggest that he possessed not only a keen understanding of the way things were but also a deep understanding of the way they should be. In fact, as the years passed, and as those early optimistic moments after the true spirits and of our Independence War of 1971 slipped away, he took it upon himself to write about why Bangladesh has fallen short of its vision because of some staid and unabashed so-called politicians.

He became disillusioned with the leadership in the realm of the country’s politics through the years, filled with broken promises, and not long after the country won independence because of usurping of the state’s power by some debased military dictators and their mango-twigs.

He also strongly admired PM Sheikh Hasina as a political leader of the people like her father and contended that among the new breed of Bangladesh’s leaders, she has shown great promise to build up Bangladesh prosperously. With his sharpened writing skills, he held those views crystallised into an ideology for a new Bangladesh’s liberation and forcefully articulated the same things in his writings.

Abdul Gaffar Choudhury was a burnished star figure in journalism in Bangladesh’s history. I still remember his courageous pronunciation which he made in an interview with a renowned Bengali weekly magazine, Bichitra (now defunct) after Bangabandhu’s brutal murder in 1975, “I do not want to return to the country of illiterate soldiers. Whenever I shall return, I shall return to the country as a triumphant man.” Choudhury passed away Wednesday last from a very ill and bed-ridden state in a London hospital. With deep-chested, I remember this far-famed polymath of our country’s history. I also salute him and pray to God to keep him in an eternal peace of place in Heaven.

 

Anwar A Khan, an independent political analyst who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs