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The tale of Kayes Bhai, Jamalpur’s only living Language veteran

  • Published at 12:33 pm February 18th, 2019
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Kayes Uddin Ahmed is the only living Language Movement veteran in Jamalpur Dhaka Tribune

The 92-year-old veteran soldier said he has no one to look after him

The only living Language Movement veteran in Jamalpur is Kayes Uddin Ahmed. Locals fondly call him Kayes Bhai.

Old age has hunkered down the 92-year-old veteran soldier, yet he still dons his white panjabi, pajama and shawl, and listlessly wanders around the alleys in the city of Jamalpur.

He composes his own songs protesting exploitation, deprivation, injustice and corruption, and sings them himself.

Whenever there is a meeting by a progressive political party in the city, he will be there, sitting in the first row. If requested, he will also sing some of his self-composed songs onstage.

Kayes was a devoted supporter of Maulana Bhashani, the Islamic scholar and political leader. As he was deeply affiliated with politics, he never got married.

When asked about the Language Movement, Kayes becomes nostalgic. His words start to jumble up.

He said he had been a believer of anti-British sentiments. Therefore, he had been involved in the movements that were organized to throw the British out of the subcontinent.

After primary education, Kayes Uddin could not continue further in his studies due to financial constraints. His late father was Saim Uddin Sarker from the city's Beltia area.

He said: "We did not want any division in the country. However the division started when communal riots erupted in 1947, after partition of the country.”

"The Muslim League is a communal party, while we were in opposition to communalism, which is why we tried to save the lives of the Hindus," he said. 

In 1952, when Governor Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared the state language to be Urdu in Curzon Hall of Dhaka University, it gave birth to the Language Movement. Kayes also went to join that movement.

The men under whose leadership he joined the movement were: Tayeb Ali, Tasir Mokhtar, Haidar Ali Mallik, Nasir Sarker and many more.Kayes Uddin Ahmed is the only living Language Movement veteran in Jamalpur  | Dhaka Tribune

Protests erupted all over the country when Salam, Jabbar, Barkat and Rafiq were martyred, and later the government of Pakistan was forced to accept Bangla as an official language.

Kayes used to motivate Bangali people by singing songs about the Language Movement. He even went to jail for a year for composing songs against Ayub Khan, during the time when Pakistan's President Ayub Khan had declared martial law.

Now, Kayes lives in a store in Gatepar area in Jamalpur city. He recently injured his hand, but he has no one to look after him.

"I protested in the anti-British movement, even went to jail for the language of my country. However, no one even looks out for me now,” he lamented. "I didn’t even get married for the sake of my country, and now I have no one to look after me."