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Salimullah Khan

No more politics, only diplomacy dominates our country

Salimullah  Khan

Salimullah Khan

Fri, 24 Nov 23

After first episode
Bangladesh was born through an unprecedented mass movement and people-oriented freedom fight. One after another, the country has already passed 52 years of independence. The nation celebrated its golden jubilee of independence amid great indulgence; however, as a nation, how many roads it walked? In terms of art and culture, literature and intellectual practice, Bangladesh crossed a long way. In an exclusive interview with Assistant Professor at Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Jagannath University Rahat Minhaz, renowned intellectual and philosopher Salimullah Khan conversed on various aspects of all these issues. Prominent parts of that interview have been published consistently.

Rahat Minhaz: I want to know your opinion on the areas of intellectual praxis in Bangladesh that has been flourished.
Salimullah Khan:
To be perfectly honest, Bangladesh has only made intellectual progress in the context of historical practice. Nothing significantly altered in the other domains.
Although I have already mentioned archeology, I would rather point to history this time. Professor Montajur Rahman and Abu Mohammad Habibullah are two individuals who have accomplished numerous worthwhile and enduring projects.
Aside from these, Ahmad Sharif accomplished significant tasks in the history of Bangla literature. They are our milestones. Abdul Karim Shahityabisharod rediscovered the history of Bangla literature. He passed away in 1953.
He collected thousands of puthis . Among those, approximately five or six hundreds has been listed. I can refer an example of our intellectual tendency regarding this issue. Ahmad Sharif edited almost 40 books for Bangla Academy. Though many people considered those as irrelevant. They asked- what are the benefits of publishing those books at this point of time?

Rahat Minhaz: Bangla Academy is frequently referred to as a hub for academic praxis. What is your assessment of this organization?
Salimullah Khan:
In 1955, Bangla Academy was founded. The introduction of the Bangla Central Development Board followed. The first book published by Bangla Academy was "Laili-Majnu," by Daulat Uzir Bahram Khan. It was the Bangla Academy's contribution. Recently a newspaper published a heartful lecture by Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah regarding this.
He stated, "In order to preserve our literature, we must establish a central committee.” Though I say this with heavy heart, Bangla Academy accomplished a great deal during the Pakistani era that it was unable to repeat after Bangladesh gained its independence.

Rahat Minhaz: Every year, Bangla Academy hosts a book fair where a large number of books are published. How would you evaluate this event?
Salimullah Khan:
Moktadir and Chittaranjan Shaha initiated that book fair at the Bangla Academy. In 1978, the fair was hosted by Bangla Academy for the first time. I won't be describing the story here today. When Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah was at the academy, beneficial goals were accomplished there. In the entire world, such a great talent is very rare. It doesn't make me proud of him that he is a citizen of my nation. I'm not aware that a genius like that has ever existed. I suppose you could say that in that way, the scope of our conceptualizations is expanding. It means that more people are enrolling in universities and graduating with degrees.

Rahat Minhaz: Regarding book publishing, it is evident that Bangla Academy publishes a sizable volume of books. Concerning it, what would you say?
Salimullah Khan:
Excuse me, but I would like to disagree with what you said about "sizable." In actuality, how many books are published? That is not a sizable number. I frequently provide an instance. Sweden is home to one in twenty people than ours. Maybe one crore, roughly. In numerology, I am not very good at. Let's say we have eighteen crore and they have one crore. They do, however, publish twenty times as many books as we do. In that country, there must be fewer readers than ours. Their literacy rate is 100%. Let's return to the initial discussion now. You say that we have a lot of books, but in reality, not at all. Then the second query is, are those books up to the mark? As I mentioned before, Bangla Academy is the publisher that prints books that other publishers are not interested in because authors are high-priced and books don't sell. With all due respect to the late Secretary of Government Kazi Mohammad Manjur-e-Maula, he initiated the 100 books series in 1984. I can say that these assignment from Bangla Academy is mistaken. These are supposed to be done by National Book Center. The problem is that you will create a mule if you are unable to distinguish a horse from a donkey. A mule entity is Bangla Academy. I want to claim it, even though it may sound rude. The Bangla Academy Book Fair itself is now an association. Not too bad, though. Is there another option available besides Bangla Academy? That is also not my concern. I want to know if Bangla Academy publishes quality books. Maybe you won't believe me. As far as it is about quality, it depends on judgment.

Rahat Minhaz: What would you think of Bangla Academy's publication of dictionaries of different kinds?
Salimullah Khan:
The collocal dictionary is one of the unfinished projects that Dr. Shahidullah began. They are currently releasing light-hearted dictionaries, pronunciation guides, and helpful Bangla dictionaries, for example. It was Enamul Haq and Shib Prashanna Lahiry, who started this helpful Bangla dictionary. These books are meant for a commercial audience. Golam Murshid, an author who is publishing here, lacks the wisdom of Dr. Shahidullah. I deliberately employed these examples. So, where is the intellectual progress? I would like to conclude with a different issue. Poetry, fiction, drama, and novels that are considered creative literature do not count as actual literature. People might ask me- we better write a poem then. However, if we look back fifty years backward, what kind of literary progress we made? We have a popular writer, Humayun Ahmed. I must admit, he wrote a few remarkable books that are widespread among our middle-class readers, regardless of gender. However, why did he write television drama? I do not disgrace these works, but do they have long-lasting value? In songs, there is a part that sustains, and other parts do not. I consider these works as non-sustainable. We have to point out the sustainable value. Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, for instance. He used to be considered as a great writer once upon a time. After 100 years, although his huge popularity, what is the absolute value of his literary works?

Rahat Minhaz: Don’t we have any kind of intellectual progress?
Salimullah Khan:
Yes, we learned to lie as intellectual progress. We learned to hide the truth and we call it diplomacy. Diplomacy is overpowering now, there is no more politics. We hide what happened. USA was against us during 1971 liberation war, but we don’t mention that now. We rather focus on what a senator or a professor said for us. We are ever grateful for those two words. That is the reason why US could not interfere by sending the seventh fleet. It was significant that America was also divided regarding the war. I must say, we still remember this.

Rahat Minhaz: But Bangladesh is contributing on global professional sector. Bangladesh is working for UN peacekeeping mission…
Salimullah Khan:
We are contributing in peacekeeping. May I ask humbly, what contribution we are actually making? You may say, we are partners there. What kind of partner? As juniors. If we were member of security council, that I could count. Pakistan or India was not a member of UN security council during the independence of Bangladesh. They had to take permission to go for the meeting. While Bangladeshi Justice Abu Sayeed was being proposed to deliver a lecture by an Indian representative in UN in December, 1971, China vetoed that. Now we are reading the history up side down. Does anybody mention that, US and China had a great manipulative force in 1971? Even more than Pakistan? America was against the birth of our nation. Do you find this fact in today’s history?

(To be continued)

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