By Talukdar Shaheb
The month of August is a very eventful month in the Indian subcontinent. It all began with the division of the subcontinent after more than 200 years of British rule in the year 1947. The newly formed countries of Pakistan and India both got their independence in this month, on the 14th and 15th of August 1947 respectively. After the breakup of Pakistan and the formation of Bangladesh, August in Bangladesh has become associated with another event, the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation on the 15th of August, 1975. Almost everyone one asks in Bangladesh will associate the 15th of August with the assassination of Sheikh Mujib, more so now that the Awami League has held on to power for the past six years. Few know the fact that 15th of August is also called ‘Islamic Education Day’, which is associated with another notably sad event in this part of the world, back in 1969, in erstwhile East Pakistan.
On the 15th of August, 1969, a student by the name of Abdul Malek passed away around the time of Maghrib at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, after being victim to a vicious attack by fellow students at Suhrawardy Uddyan, erstwhile Racecourse Maidan on 12th August, 1969 in Dhaka. The attackers had spared no opportunity, as was evidenced by the fact that his head was bludgeoned with blow after blow from hockey sticks and iron rods. Not even the best doctors of erstwhile Pakistan, who had been flown into Dhaka after the attack to provide him with life saving treatment, were able to save him from succumbing to the gruesome injuries inflicted by the attackers. He was no normal student, as evidenced by his feat of being top of his class at the Department of Biochemistry for three consecutive years, at one of the most prestigious faculties of Dhaka University, the Oxford of the East. Adding this to the fact that he was also a prominent student leader of the Islami Chatra Sangha; the Dhaka City president of the organization and a member of its central executive committee, meant that this was no ordinary death resulting from a mere ‘clash’, but perhaps a well planned killing.
And a well planned killing it was. On the 12th of August, Abdul Malek, being a notable student leader, gave a rousing speech at a discussion seminar on “Education System of Pakistan suggested by Mr. Noor Khan” at TSC auditorium in Dhaka University. Organised by leftist and secular student organizations who opposed the Noor Khan Committee Education Policy Report of 1969, Abdul Malek bravely stood up to speak in favour of an upheaval of the education system in light of Islam and the restructuring of the prevalent education policy to reflect the Islamic values of the populace of erstwhile East and West Pakistan, something which the Noor Khan Education Committee Policy Report had proposed, similar to the ones proposed earlier by the 1947 Mawlana Akram Khan Committee, 1952 Ataur Rahman Khan Committee, 1958 Sharif Khan Committee and 1963 Islamic Arabic University Commission. Despite the fact that his speech lasted only about 5 minutes as a result of the verbal and physical objections of the other participants, it resulted in an uproar of approval from amongst the attending students. Seemingly, this act of valor of speaking up against the erstwhile prevalent line of thought influenced by communism (in light of the sweeping influence of the communist ideology during those days) and standing to the powerful left and secular student organizations cost Abdul Malek his life.
A tribute to that act of bravery in speaking up for what he believed in, the anniversary of Abdul Malek’s death is commemorated every year as “Islamic Education Day”. Although we are still a long way from the visualization of Abdul Malek’s dream of a system of education in conformance with the vision and mission of Islam in Bangladesh, the foresight of Abdul Malek and his contemporaries in identifying a secular based education policy devoid of the flavor of religion and morality as being a curse to future generations and a hindrance to development seems to be getting proved again and again beyond measure. It is sad that the only way we can associate ourselves with the developed world is on an increase in the scale of degeneration of the social fabric and the unraveling of our morally accordant cultural identity along with associated customs and values. A true leader, Abdul Malek not only possessed foresight, but had an exemplary quality to lead by example and spirit. It is high time we wake up and act to save a drowning society before all hope is lost.