Thursday, 7 July, 2022

Straight Talk

Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead

Abdul Mannan

Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead
Abdul Mannan

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Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, to many of us close to him known as Gaffar Bhai and to the nation as the person who wrote the immortal song (poem) sung on the morning of Ekushey February, our Shahid Diwas, currently International Mother Language Day, ‘Aamar Bhaier Roktey Rangano Ekhushey February’, expired thousands of miles away from home, in a London Hospital in the early morning of 19 May, 2022. For quite sometimes he was suffering from old age complicacies. After completing all the documentations and the formalities, his mortal remains is expected to arrive in Bangladesh, the land of his birth and buried in Dhaka, the city where he spent most of his professional life. His ailing wife who never got back to normal life  since 1974  was a remarkable lady, adjusted to her physical conditions and preferred to do the household chores all by herself, sitting on a wheelchair. She took the life as it is as did her husband Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury. When she expired few years back her mortal remains were also brought back to Bangladesh to be buried in land of her birth too. Both husband and wife proved they are true son and daughter of the soil.

Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury was born in the Ulania village of Barisal in 1934 and began his early schooling in a Madrasa. Incidentally during the pre-partition days most of the county did not have minimum facilities for basic education and it was truer in rural areas of Bangladesh. Girls’ school were virtually non-existent and girls going to school, especially the Muslim girls, were considered unnecessary. There were few Madrasas in every village, most of them attached to local mosques. Strangely Madrasas in those days were better places of learning in most cases than the Madrasas of today. They never taught students to hate people of other religions; neither did they teach hate literature as we see today in most of the madrasas, especially in the Quomi Madrasas. They taught the young learners first to be a good human being then to be good Muslim which is mostly absent in today’s Madrasas. When Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury came to Dhaka (then Dacca) for pursuing his higher studies he was just a young man. He got himself admitted in Dhaka College, then at ‘Aloor Bazar’, in the Intermediate class. The language movement which began in 1948  when Pakistan’s Founder and Governor General Mohammad General Jinnah in a speech in his maiden visit to the then East Bengal announced  that ‘Urdu and Urdu shall be the only state language of Pakistan,’ the people of East Bengal, especially the students of Dhaka University protested Jinnah’s announcement and subsequently over next few years the movement for recognition of Bangla, the language spoken by the majority population of Pakistan gained momentum and took an ugly turn when on 21 February 1952 number of protesting students were killed in police firing  in front of the East Bengal Provincial Assembly, then located in the present day Jagannath Hall premises of Dhaka University. On that fateful day Gaffar Chowdhury was also among the demonstrating students which the police firing dispersed. Later Gaffar Chowdhury saw the dead and injured in the Dhaka Medical Hospital and in a matter of weeks composed the immortal poem, later to be turned into a song remembering the martyrs of 21 February. He later on in an interview said the poem was composed in three sitting or in instalments. First the poem was transformed into a song by the music composer Abdul Latif and later by Altaf Mahmud (killed during the War of Liberation in 1971 by the Pakistan Army).

Though Gaffar Bhai shot into the limelight by the song commemorating the martyrs of 21 February, he was a professional journalist, editor, novelist, and playwright and on top of everything always harboured secular ideology and a patriot par excellence. He joined our Liberation War, edited the government in exile’s newspaper ‘Joy Bangla’ wrote script for the ‘Swadin Bangla Betar Kendra’ and on his return to the liberated Bangladesh went back to his profession. Though he was very close to Bangabandhu he sometimes did not hesitate to disagree with certain decisions of Bangabandhu, if according to him it was not right. He maintained this quality even during the rule of Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina. He was quite critical about government’s decision of hobnobbing with the Hefazati fundamentalists and sycophants surrounding her and would not hesitate to point out how a section of bureaucrats have managed to create a make believe world of their own and often would not hesitate even to mislead the Prime Minister damaging the very image of the country and the Prime Minister. On his death Sheikh Hasina has lost a great guide and mentor who always stood beside her during national crisis. Within last two years, during the pandemic time Sheikh Hasina unfortunately lost most of her selfless advisors, none of them to be replaced in near future.

Today’s generation, because of our systematic problem in the education system, will not know much about Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury or even his works  but will at least sing the immortal song ‘Amar Bhaier Roktey..’once a year on 21 February, some even not knowing its background. The encouraging thing is today 21 February has been recognized by the UNESCO as the ‘International Mother Languages Day’ and Gaffar Bhai’s song has been translated into about twelve different languages.

Gaffar Bhai, you may have left this mortal world but the foot prints that you have left behind will transform you into an immortal hero of all times, at least as Bangla and Bangalee live in any parts of the world. You lived a complete life, became a legend and a flagship of Bangla and Bangalee during your life time. Your death can only add to your existing glory, and your name to the pages of history of this nation. To quote Alfred Lord Tennyson ‘Home they Brought her Warrior Dead.’ It is the burial time for the warrior. The warrior will live forever amongst us in his works and deeds. May Allah Bless you Gaffar Bhai!


The writer is an analyst and a commentator