Nirmal daby Farooque Chowdhury
NIRMAL Sen, one of the revered journalists of our time, now lives in memory. It’s a memory of days of struggle, days of organising journalists, workers’ and mass movements, days of political discussions and education. It’s a memory of days dreaming for democracy, days dreaming for emancipation of the exploited.
To many readers of Dainik Bangla, the defunct leading Dhaka Bangla daily, Nirmal Sen was Aneeket, a person having no home, his nom de plume. The columns he created in the pages of Dainik Bangla told tales of the underprivileged, professionals facing bureaucratic hurdles on the path of having their rights, people of isolated localities suffering from negligence of development bosses.
Aneeket, one of the successful columnists of his time, was never busy in weaving personal stories in his columns. Aneeket’s Bangla had its characteristics, modern, lucid, flowing with its own rhythm. Its style was of none, but Aneeket’s. His expressions were proportionate, reserved in emotion, free from silly ideas.
Its subjects were Aneeket’s: people, their life, their villages, marketing problems of their products, their transportation troubles, working condition. His short pieces told of history, geography, economy of areas ignored by the powerful. And, a few pieces shook the conscience of wider section of society.
So people facing problems wrote to him. Many of them wrote in post cards, a cheaper mode of communication during those days. They met him with their documents, petitions sent over years to quarters of power but ignored. Nirmal da lent them attention. Then, days after, he penned their pains. Transport workers burdened with long work hours and job insecurity, aggrieved primary school teachers, ‘golden hand shaken’ employees, retrenched wage earners, and many similar unheard common persons came to Nirmal da with their complaints. They, the heavyhearted, unknown persons knew this was the person who would lend them considerate space and fair judgment. Nirmal da talked to them, listened to them, articulated their grievances. It was his one of many relations with the people.
The relation began in his early days, as a school student. Those were the days of rebellion of and heroic sacrifice by many youths in this British colony. That was an era of Khoodeeraam, Baaghaa Jateen, Master da, Preeteelata, Binay, Badal, Dinesh, Matanggeenee Haazraa, and Bhagat Sing, MN Roy, once an associate of Lenin in the Third International, and many immortal souls. Those were the days loaded with British boots, bayonets, bullets. Many of the braves were sent to Kaalaapaanee, the Andaman in the Bay of Bengal. Many of the heroes braced gallows. Those were the days with patriotism, with self-sacrifice. From afar, red flag of Bolshevism brought scientific analysis of colonialism, imperialism and dispossession. A lofty goal of life, a higher moral standard prevailed among many youths. Rise and fall of fascism, the Second World War, INA of Netaji Subhash Bose, famine, rebellion in the warship Khyber, crumbling down of British colonialist rule, share croppers’ movements in Bengal and neocolonialism and reactionary neo-rulers from the Muslim League in this part of the subcontinent followed in that shaped further sociopolitical incidents. This perspective was the backdrop of Nirmal da’s development as a political activist, a student organiser turned labour organiser, sometimes agitator. This perspective influenced forming his philosophy of life and action. His Jananee, Janmabhoomee ..., Mother, Motherland ... told his days of rising.
As a journalist, as one of the leaders of journalists, he took leading role at times of crisis, for journalists’ struggle for freedom, honour and bread. There were moments he stared on faces of authoritarian rulers. No doubt, bright times of audacity were not spared by moments of failure. But, those were not isolated from existing reality and not solely dependent on his personal traits and capacity.
There was Nirmal Sen, a political leader. Responsible activism in movement for democracy made him a revered political personality, endeared him to many, and, obviously, made a few foes.
Nirmal da had to go into hiding for a duration during the movement for democracy in the late-1980s. But, at regular intervals, in the mornings, a person came to the Dainik Bangla news desk and handed over an envelope. A few there knew the origin of the envelope. The envelope was sent to editor’s table. Inside the envelope was product of Nirmal da’s labour made in hiding, an editorial essay, his designated task.
A few memorable headlines were formed by Nirmal da while he was working in the Dainik Bangla news table. That was a time of Vietnam War and Lyndon B Johnson, the then US president.
At times, Nirmal da mentored learners in politics. At times, it was economics. To one such learner he told: Like to learn economics? Go through Capital.
At times, Nirmal da made dictation to a junior colleague. An editorial piece came out.
At times, he entered Dainik Bangla newsroom singing Bhenge mor gharer chaabee neeye jaabee ke aamaare, who’s there to lead me out of my home. At times, there was another song by Tagore.
At times, there was debate on politics. At times, he was telling a younger one: Compromise at this young age!
At times, he composed political pamphlets. One such was Lenin Theke Gorbachev, From Lenin to Gorbachev. He had his political analyses and explanations. Many had scope to differ with those.
But, there is no scope to differ with Nirmal da’s allegiance to people, his lifelong work to uphold people’s cause. This made many hearts Aneeket’s home, home full of love and reverence.
Farooque Chowdhury is a Dhaka-based freelancer.
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