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Lest we forget: Rafiq goes into oblivion

Published : 20 Feb 2024 10:20 PM

Rafiq, the first martyr of the Language Movement of 1952, has been forgotten by the new generation, including the children and students of his own village. 

They are also not well aware of the Language Movement, Martyr's Day and International Mother Language Day and the heroic contribution of language martyr Rafiq.

On 21st February 1952, ignoring the threats and bloodshed by the Pakistani rulers, innumerable people of different ages had come out to demand the establishment of dignity and rights of mother tongue in violation of section 144. 

When the peaceful procession came in front of Dhaka Medical College, the police opened fire on the procession. Rafiq Uddin and many others were martyred in the streets on that day. This bright star of Manikganj became the first martyr of the Bayannar language movement. 

The Pakistan Army buried his body in Azimpur graveyard in the capital city in an unmarked grave. His mother could not even visit her son’s grave once.

Rafiq Uddin Ahmed was born to Abdul Latif and Rafiza Khatun of Parli village in Baldhara union of Singair upazila in Manikganj, on October 30, 1926.

Later, the native village of Language Movement martyr Rafiquddin Ahmed was renamed 'Rafiqnagar' from 'Paril' and his home has been named Rafiq Angan.

In 2000, this son of Surya received the Ekushey Medal posthumously.

Shaheed Rafiq Uddin Ahmed was the eldest of 5 brothers and two sisters. He was a teenager with thick black hair, long nose, somewhat high teeth, and a dark complexion. The name of Rafiq's grandfather is Mohammed Makim. He spent his childhood and adolescence in this remote village. As a child, he studied in village school. The late Ashraf Uddin Chowdhury and Birendra Mohan Dattagupta completed their primary education as deserving students.

Describing the life history, Khorshed Alam, younger brother of Shaheed Rafiq said with tears, Rafiq used to study literature as well as study, from an early age. He was quite skilled in the sewing needle industry. He always went ahead selflessly in the misery of the people of the area. 

He was foremost in social welfare work. He passed the entrance examination from Boyra Kobi Nazrul High School in Singair Upazila in 1949 and studied Commerce at Manikganj Government Devendra College. 

He then studied at Jagannath College, Dhaka. I heard from my mother that while studying in Dhaka, Rafiq used to collaborate with his father in the press business.

Khorshed Alam has heard many stories of Shaheed Rafiq from his mother. Recalling those memories, he said, Shaheed Rafiq was lively from his childhood. There was a great hobby of climbing trees. He broke his leg once while climbing a tree. At that time he was sent to Calcutta for treatment.

Khorshed Alam lives with his family in a rented house near Khan Bahadur Awlad Hossain Khan College in Manikganj: The children of the other brother live in Dhaka.

Bahasa Shahid Rafique's only surviving younger brother said, at that time his marriage talk was going on in the village. Dhaka was then agitated by the demand for language. My father Abdul Latif came to the village house from Dhaka to set the date for his brother's wedding. Rafiq Bhai's wedding date with Panu Bibi, daughter of Nasir Uddin of the same village was also fixed. 

He was scheduled to return home in the evening of February 21, 1952 with his wedding sari-jewelry and cosmetics. But he was no longer in the throes of marriage.

About 80 years old Khorshed Alam said, I have to stay here to preserve the memory of this house. Only when the language month comes, the value of the family increases, he said adding people from different parts of the country and abroad come and ask for information about Shaheed Rafiq. 

Everyone came with the assurance of help. Everything ends with assurance. No one keeps us informed. We only remember February.

Shaheed Rafiq was unmarried, so his mother was given an honorarium. On the death of the mother, other members of her family were given this state-given honorarium. At present, the family of Shaheed Rafiq is somehow running with a small government allocation of only tk 10,000.

Dr Qazi Faruq, Chairman of charitable organization Proshika, built a house for Rafiq’s family on his paternal land in 2000.

Shahjalal alias Babu, the son of Shahid Rafiq's younger brother late Abdul Khaleq, is living here to preserve the heritage of the homestead at Rafique Nagar. He said, "My uncle has dedicated his life to the language." 

For this reason, the world including the countrymen remember him with respect. So I consider myself blessed as a member of his family.

To preserve the memory of language martyr Rafiq, in 2008, Manikganj district administration built a Library and Memorial Museum at a cost of Tk 90 lakh in his native Rafiq Nagar area at the birthplace of the martyr. The district council also built a Shaheed Minar in his house compound, and a mural has been built in front of the museum. Now, a librarian, a guard, and a cleaner are appointed for maintenance of the whole museum, which sadly very few people visit these days. Building those long-time dreams of the local people has been realized, but the desired goal is yet to be fulfilled. Visitors and readers from various parts of the country often come to the museum and return disappointed.

Farhad Hossain Khan, librarian of Shaheed Rafiq Memorial Museum and Library, said that there are about 16 thousand books in the library. Most of them are novels. Although there are some photographs in the museum and a few books on the liberation war, there are not enough books named after the martyrs. There is only one book in the name of Shaheed Rafiq. Readers look to books to learn about the contributions of martyrs, but are unable to collect the desired book many times.

Acknowledging the shortage of language books, the librarian of the library said that the lack of readers is greater than that of books. Library management is also good. There is also care. The library is dirty here simply because of the lack of readers. 

After the establishment, the first readers used to come, but those readers have gradually decreased. Readers don't come like before. As a result, students and visitors cannot acquire knowledge about the heroic contribution of language martyr Rafiq. There are Punjabi and lungi worn by Shaheed Rafiq preserved in the Bhasha Shaheed Rafiq Uddin Ahmed Library and Memorial Museum.

Priya, a ninth grade student of Rafiq Nagar Noor Mohsin High School, said they wanted to come to the library, but that there are no books written about language movement, Shaheed Rafiq and other martyrs in the library.

However, according to Maria Akhtar, an XI student of Singair College, the library does not get many visitors as it is located in a secluded village.

Siddique Hossain, Sajal, Amit, Shiblu Khan, regular readers at this library, share the same opinion with Priya and Maria.

Principal of Manikganj Government Women's College, Md. Mahbubur Rahman thinks that to make the new generation library oriented, various programs must be undertaken. The students of the district should show Shaheed Rafiqnagar with initiative. Various aspects of the library should also be modernized.

Dr. Md. Rezaul Karim, Principal of Government Devendra College said the story of language movement can change lives. Patriotism can increase. So the new generation should know this history. Everyone needs to know. May Bengali language win everywhere. Pure practice and practice everywhere in Bengal can keep the spirit of martyrs intact. He called for more enrichment of books in the library to inspire the glory of martyrs' sacrifice.

AK Hossain Lota, a childhood friend of Bhasha Shahid Rafiq said, Bhasha Shaheed Rafiq Memorial Museum and Library in Rafiq Nagar village becomes thronged only in the month of February. The rest of the year is spent in carelessness and neglect. The 83 year old elder demanded that children should be taught the correct history of the language movement and language heroes in educational institutions.

Abdur Rauf, nephew of Shahid Rafiq,expressed with sorrow, “Journalists and media houses crowd the house on February 21, but they forget about us during any other occasion.”

A mural of Shahid Rafiq (picture of Shahid Rafiq carved in stone) has been installed in front of Shahid Rafiq Memorial Museum and Library. Rafiq's picture does not match the Mural. It created a great anger among Shaheed Rafiq's family members, local residents and foreign visitors.

Shaheed Rafiq's younger brother Khorshed Alam said the demand of setting up a mural in accordance with Rafiq's appearance had already been reported to the district council several times. It is not yet fulfilled.

When Manikganj District Council Chairman and President of the district unit of Bangladesh Awami league, veteran freedom fighter Advocate Golam Mohiuddin was contacted in this regard, he said that an initiative has been taken to preserve the memorial in the museum along with setting up a mural along with the picture of Shaheed Rafiq. 

These will be implemented soon. He expressed hope that there is a plan to construct an auditorium named after Shaheed Rafiq in Rafiq Nagar, which will be implemented soon.

Lt. Colonel (Retd.) Mujibur Islam Khan, a prominent person of Rafiq Nagar village, has established a Charity Medical Center after the name of Shaheed Rafiq in his own house.

Free medical services have been provided twice a month to the poor in the area since December 16, 2006.

Rehena Akhtar, Deputy Commissioner of Manikganj said that steps must be taken to ensure that there are enough important books including on language movement in the library. Family and social patriotism and compassion should be increased.

The young generation should be inspired in the spirit of mother tongue and liberation war. 

She expressed the intention of building Shaheed Minar and library in all the educational institutions of the district to make the students library-oriented. Besides, she said to take initiative to revive language martyr Rafiq library and memorial museum. 

Various programmes are held here every year to honour the Language Movement martyrs, in particular, Shaheed Rafiq. Like this, the Ekushe Parishad arranged many programs in Rafiq’s hometown on this year’s Mother Language day. Started on February 15, poetry recitations, art competitions, handwriting competitions, singing, dancing, and reading activities are also arranged at 51 educational institutions.

Memories may be lost, but the inextinguishable flame named Rafiq will burn in the Bengali alphabet, in the melody of Baul, in the red glow of Hijal-Tamal-Krishnochura.