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Dr Zoha’s sacrifice unrecognized for 50 years

  • Published at 10:31 pm February 17th, 2019
web_Dr Mohammad Shamsuzzoha
File photo of Martyr Dr Mohammad Shamsuzzoha Collected

Dr Zoha is famously known to have declared: 'Before any bullet strikes any student, it will hit me.'

Every February 18, Rajshahi University celebrates Teachers’ Day in memory of martyr, Dr Mohammad Shamsuzzoha. It has been 50 years since he was shot dead for standing up to protect students against the Pakistani Army, and not a single regime has acted on their promise to acknowledge him since then.

Today, the Rajshahi University authorities will fly a black flag at sunrise. At 7am, the university administration will pay their respects to Dr Zoha at his grave and memorial, followed by others who wish to pay their respects as well.

At 10am, the Senate Bhaban will host a session in memory of Dr Zoha, where Kolkata University Professor, Shyamol Chakraborty, will be a guest speaker.

After Zohr and Maghrib prayers, additional special prayers will take place in his memory.

The legacy of Dr Zoha

When students formed the bulwark of the Mass Uprising against Ayub Khan in 1969, Pakistan declared Section 144 (ban public gathering) on February 18. Students of Rajshahi University organized rallies in defiance of the ban, prompting Pakistani troops stationed in the city to prepare to shoot. Dr Zoha, serving as the proctor, ran to the gates and blocked the way of the Pakistanis.

He urged them not to shoot and advised caution, while pledging to return the students to campus.

Dr Zoha is famously known to have declared: “Before any bullet strikes any student, it will hit me.”

His last words were perhaps an ominous foreboding, as the commanding officer, one Captain Hadi, unholstered his pistol and shot Dr Zoha. His troops then proceeded to bayonet the injured teacher to death.

His death was one of the penultimate catalysts for the Mass Uprising to whip people into a frenzy that successfully toppled Ayub Khan. Dr Zoha’s sacrifice also makes him widely considered as one of the first martyred intellectuals.

The life of Dr Zoha

Born in 1934 in Bakura, West Bengal, Mohammad Shamsuzzoha was the second of three siblings. He enrolled at Dhaka University to study chemistry, where he was involved in the Language Movement. Afterwards, he completed his PhD from Imperial College in London. He returned to East Pakistan and began to teach at Rajshahi University in 1961. At the time of his death, he left behind wife and daughter.