In the month of independence, we were struck once again by extremist forces, this time resulting in a four-day standoff that led to the death of 10 people in Sylhet. This worrying turn of events, closely on the heels of two recent suicide attacks in the capital, is endemic of the militant threat that has cast a shadow over Bangladesh for some time now.
In times like these, we are once again reminded of the writers and free-thinkers who lost their lives to militant attacks in recent years. While all of their untimely deaths were equally unjust and cruel, the brutal attack on Faisal Arefin Dipan was particularly shocking - the 33 year old was killed in October 2015 for publishing books by Abhijit Ray who was also murdered earlier that year.
Jagriti Prokashoni's recent publication, Faisal Arefin Dipan: Sharangrantha, now shows even greater insight into the irreparable loss of Dipan through a sizeable collection of writings by eminent thinkers, writers, reporters, publishers and officials - all connected by one thread – they knew and admired Dipan. Throughout the book, condemnations against the attack were pronounced in one voice.
One of the more poignant moments in the book are the reflections by Dipan's aunt, who writes of how she watched her mother mourn the loss of her son martyred in 1971, and now sees her sister mourn the loss of her son in 2015. What comes through is not her grief, but her genuine surprise at such an end for her nephew, and that too, in a nation that is now free
Prof Emeritus Sirajul Islam Choudhury starts off the first chapter by calling the attack against Dipan a calculated strike against secularism and the ideologies Bangladesh is built on. His views are echoed by writer Hasan Azizul Huq who stress the need for writers and publishers to rally together and protest. Versatile writer Syed Shamsul Haque, who passed away last year, also call on writers to be vigilant but carry on, saying that if militants want to stop writers by killing them, then the best way to protest is to continue writing.
In the book, what really shines through is not just Dipan's many professional achievements, but the very personal impact he had on many people, and the shock experienced by those who knew him best. Professor Emeritus Anisuzzaman gives an emotional account of how he saw Dipan grow up as a child, and writes of Dipan’s impassioned love for freedom of speech, as well as his lesser-known drive to produce worthy literature for children and young people.
One of the more poignant moments in the book are the reflections by Dipan's aunt, who writes of how she watched her mother mourn the loss of her son martyred in 1971, and now sees her sister mourn the loss of her son in 2015. What comes through is not her grief, but her genuine surprise at such an end for her nephew, and that too, in a nation that is now free.
The book ends with a series of pictures from Dipan’s life, as well as letters written to his wife and son, heart-rending in its simplicity and optimism. It also contains poems written in Dipan’s hand, including Jibananda Das’ words - “prithibir shob golpo ekdin phurabe jokhon manush robey na ar, robey shudhu manusher shopno tokhon.”
Faisal Arefin Dipan: Sharangrantha is not only a fitting tribute to the publisher, but a heartfelt appeal to not let Dipan’s dreams of an enlightened and free Bangladesh die out.
Shuprova Tasneem is deputy mazagine editor, Dhaka Tribune.