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Dhaka Tribune

M R Mahbub: Who lived to tell the story of 1952


Update : 11 Jun 2020, 12:30 PM

M R Mahbub, known for his extensive research on the 1952 Language Movement, passed away too soon at the age of 50. He was the executive director of Bhasha Andolon Gobeshana Kendra O Jadughar (Language Movement Research Center and Museum), a private initiative founded by Kazi Golam Mahbub, who was convener of the All-party Central Language Action Committee in 1952. 

Documentation of the Language Movement, which was precursor to our Liberation War in 1971, was the sole passion in Mahbub’s life. It was since 1987, when he was only 18, that Mahbub had begun researching different aspects of the Language Movement. After he became a part of the Language Movement Museum, he always went the extra mile to enrich its collection and make it a worthy/useful destination to both visitors and researchers. He was a committed researcher who put in unrelenting efforts to collect important manuscripts, rare historical documents and journals, and unpublished photographs, pamphlets, paper clippings, souvenirs and other memorabilia of the Language Movement. 

Mahbub worked patiently despite many obstacles and limitations, often without any government patronage or recognition. He had worked for long on collecting and preserving the local history of the Movement as well as initiating the construction of Shaheed Minar at district level. As part of his research, he interviewed nearly 350 Language Movement veterans across the country. In the span of two decades, he wrote and edited 52 books on the Language Movement. In 2012, his important work, Jara Amor Bhasha Shongrame (The Immortals of the Language Movement) was published. This book contains brief biography and contribution of 214 Language Movement veterans; it has brought to public knowledge the little known but significant contribution made by female Language Movement activists. In 2016, he co-compiled Rashtro Bhasha Andoloner Dalilpatra (Documents on the Language Movement) with Prof Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque. Shongbadpotre Bhasha Andolon: 1947 Theke 1956 (Language Movement in Newspapers: 1947 to 1956), a work of great archival value and the output of his decade-long research, came out in 2017. In the same year, he co-authored Rashtrobhasha Andolon: Itihash O Onushongo (State Language Movement: History and Ancillaries) with renowned Language Movement veteran Ahmed Rafiq. 

M R Mahbub had always been very vocal about the importance of preservation and circulation of the detailed history of the Language Movement. To expand people’s understanding of the Movement beyond the cumulative protest rallies and marches on February 21 in 1952, he worked relentlessly, sometimes singlehandedly. His work was a reference point for journalists and budding academics. His untimely departure left many projects unfinished, many dreams unfulfilled. His death is a great loss to the field of substantive research in history.

Pointing out the fact that this assiduous researcher never won the Ekushey Padak award, an honor bestowed on writers and researchers upholding the spirit of the Language Movement, many of his fellow activists have emphasized that he should be given the honor posthumously.  

“M R Mahbub’s life revolved around the Language Movement and the Liberation War. He should have been awarded the Ekushey Padak while he was alive. Now we are appealing to the Prime Minister to posthumously award him the Ekushey Padak for his immense contribution.”

Mahbub died of a stroke on April 21, 2020.

Rifat Anjum Pia is Staff Writer, Arts & Letters, Dhaka Tribune. 

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