Humayun Azad and a few Self-Criticisms

By Dr. Asif Nazrul

Translated by: Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
March 6, 2004

Professor Humayun Azad used to refer white group as the group of purity. In 1987 the white group, composed of Dhaka University’s teachers, arranged a meeting under the leadership of Sirazul Islam, and Dr. Azad was one of the main speakers in that meeting. He had participated in the Senate Election under the same white party, and once he had performed his duty as the warden of international dormitory.

He did not actively participate in the white party for long, and neither did he join in another faction. Instead, as a truth seeker, this academician delved entirely into writing for his self-development of social thoughts and freethinking. He became the bearer of free, independent and greed-less pen. That pen would become a threat for his life; this premonition was there for many years. Political parties and various related groups who misuse religion demanded the banning of his writings. Several threats to his life cropped up more than once, and at last, that threat became the truth in his life.

In his writings, dark or darkness related issues used to emerge in roundabout way. He tried to elucidate dark as the fundamentalists, the anti-democratic forces who are against the progress and the progressives. To him, darkness represented all forms of activities in contrast to the betterment of humanity. His stance against the dark was always consistent, constant and resolute. Like many other Bangladeshi writers, by writing against darkness, he did not get involved with other similar detrimental or less murky politics. Consequently, though there might be different opinions on the intensity of his writings, still, every person with freethinking capacity respected him wholeheartedly.

This is the reason that the barbaric attack on Humayun Azad has saddened and also flared up people of Bangladesh. This attack is seen as the attack on Bangladeshi cultural and intellectual soul. People have become louder in their protest against fundamentalism forces that are deemed as the opposition to the progressives. Nonetheless, is this instantaneous and reactionary protest enough for today’s background? Before this protest stifled, with our demand for justice to be served on the attackers of Humayun Azad, we must take consideration many other issues. We must deduce the BNP and Awami League’s opportunistic politics relating to fundamentalists and communalism.


Only a few days before Humayun Azad was attacked, the leader of Jamaat-E-Islami, Delowar Hossain Sayedi had uttered speeches with provocative messages against his writings. As far as I know, no one protested against his speech then. The political parties were out of the question and even the writers and cultural activists were mute. Then our political attention, perhaps, was centered on BNP and Awami League’s various violent activities. But we have forgotten that before the last general election, these two parties had promised to the nation for developing harmonious political movement that espouses tolerance. When they discussed with the former American president Jimmy Carter, promises were made on very specific issues. Among these issues, there was proposed commitment in not calling strikes, electing deputy speaker from the opposition parties, for the sake of preserving neutrality the resignation of the speaker from his political affiliation, conducting the parliament following the rules of business. To the people of Bangladesh, these two main leaders promised to strengthen democracy.

Just aftermath of the announcement of election 2001 result, these two major political parties forgot all these past promises. On one side the strikes, and on the other side the autocratic way of running the parliament and the nation, these two venomous political processes swallowed the nation. It didn’t take long for the same old conflict ridden imageries to return as they were just after the fall of Ershad government. Once again, for the Awami League, it became way more urgent to face BNP in battles than resisting the Jamaat or communalism infested politics. And for BNP, it became essential taking vengeance against Awami League. For this reason alone, BNP never flinched in sharing of running the nation with Jamaat-E-Islami. If opportunity arises in future, for this same reason of mutual hatred, Awami League, in most likelihood, would not back away from combining with Jamaat in political struggles once again as they did in the past.

Accordingly, under this strange circumstance, in the last one decade, the communalist force that opposes progressive groups, attained sizzling power in almost uncontestable efforts. For this gaining of unprecedented power by Jamaat and other communal forces, failures of running the government by the two major political parties contributed greatly as their never ending violence did the same. Awami League and BNP have failed, Ershad is an old man, the left is not comprehensible – under this scenario, the alternative force can be Jamaat – this type of devastating thoughts have convinced between far and few. It has been curiously observed that the BNP ministers have praised “Shibir” more than “Chatrodol”. And on the other hand, Awami League was seen more vocal against BNP than Jamaat.

The most unfortunate thing is that due to the violent polarization between BNP and Awami League, the professional organizations have become divided or simply acrimonious to each other; civil society and even newspaper columnists have shown the similar acute divergence. During the past struggles against Ershad government’s autocratic rule, the professional organizations and groups had powerful rise and development against autocracy and fundamentalism, but in the so-called “democratic” government, their effects were curtailed, even in many cases had become obsolete. By blindingly supporting or resisting BNP or Awami League’s all just or unjust actions or policy without condition, a large number of organizations of our civil society have become weak, collectively and morally. In approximately after the death of Jahanara Imam, the movement against fundamentalism and communalism have all but dissipated. It is the negligence of the civil society that became the fertile ground for the rising of the communal forces. But on this very time of national and international unstable state of affairs, it was imperative to resist these communal forces.


What is the meaning of opposing fundamentalism and communalism? The meaning is obvious. There is no need to embark on a festooned war opposing them. What is needed is practicing the real democracy, establishing constitutional and lawful government, and needs for the civil society to fulfill their managerial responsibility, neutrally and with unity. If we had had a effective parliament, an independent police force and justice department, human rights commission, and if there were real efforts in BNP and Awami League for practicing democracy, and the bare minimum mutual patience and respect for each other existed, in that scenario, the politics of fundamentalists and communalists would have become weak on its own course. Then the life of writers, journalists, cultural activists or the general people would have been safer.

Without accomplishing this goal, and only blaming the fundamentalists for the barbaric attack on Professor Humayun Azad type of prominent writer, would not bear any fruits. It was the fundamentalist force that had the most imperative implementing this attack. However, at the same time, we must not forget that in the past, the attack on Rashed Khan Menon was blamed on the fundamentalist force that was proven to be wrong afterward. In many other previous cases in the past, other allegations for violence and terrorism against the communalist were not proven either, and indeed, there were many cases that were proven. We should demand that the government should unearth the culprits, whoever they are, with honest approach. The responsible criminals should get their deserved justice in speedy justice process. If justice were served, without deceit, in this specific case, the attacks on freethinkers would diminish in many folds.

There is no reason for not being able to do this. Humayun Azad was taken swiftly to the Combined Military Hospital because of fast and prudent actions done by the Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University and the proctor. And for getting good treatment from the military hospital, Humayun Azad perhaps will return to us, completely recovered. Then the investigation can expect to get inputs from Dr. Azad solving this heinous crime. And still, there is no reason for the government not being able to expose the conspiracy behind this transgression. By insinuating that Awami League was behind this attack, government has already done considerable damage in this investigation. Government must realize that it should discard this policy of shifting blame, and right this moment they should take urgent steps for arresting the responsible culprits behind this incident, and place them under the law so that justice is served. If necessary, they should seek assistance from Scotland Yard types of efficient investigative force.

If the government fails to serve justice for the attack on Humayun Azad, the current and future generations will not forgive them.


Dr. Asif Nazrul is the professor of Dhaka University’s Law Department. He is also a writer and a researcher.

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