Death of an icon
THE passing away of Nirmal Sen makes January 8, 2013 a sad day for both journalism and politics in Bangladesh. His nephew was quoted in a report-front-paged in New Age on Wednesday that the octogenarian had breathed his last around 6:30pm at a hospital in the capital Dhaka where he had been under treatment for lung infection. Sen had been in and out of hospital, both at home and abroad, since suffering a cerebral infarction in 2003. True to his character, he had donated his body to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University; as such, as Mushrefa Mishu, general secretary of the left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party, of which Sen was president, told New Age, there would be no funeral.
Born on August 3, 1930, Sen had initiation in politics very early in life, fighting as a teenage member of the Kolkata-based left-wing Revolutionary Socialist Party against the British imperialist regime. He was a language movement hero and one of the organisers of Bangladesh’s war of independence. Until he was debilitated by cerebral infarction in 2003, he had fought for people at large, against the exploitation of the many by the few. He actively led different labour and popular movements at different times. He was part of the socialist political movement, remaining steadfast in his commitment through his life while many in the left camp compromised on and deviated from their political ideology, for mere self-aggrandisement.
It is important to note that Sen belonged to that rare group of journalists who refused to divorce journalism from political activism. A reasonably late entrant into the world of journalism, he started his journalistic career in his early 30s at the vernacular daily Jihad in 1961, he used his pen to speak for his political belief and did so relentlessly. His columns for the Bangla daily Ittefaq, where he joined as an assistant editor, under the penname Aniket, which include the widely acclaimed Swabhabik Mrityur Guarantee Chai, bear testimony to this effect. Just as his politics, his pen was also dedicated to the cause of people and the creation of society and the state premised on the principle of equity — political, economic and otherwise.
A lifelong bachelor, Sen upheld the ideals he believed in, in his work and activism. Most importantly, he believed in leading by examples, which he did throughout his life. In his passing away, both politics and journalism lost an ardent and self-less warrior. His death may have left a vacuum that will never be filled; however, his life and works will continue to be a source of inspiration for generations to come.
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