121st Birth Day of National Poet Nazrul
Nazrul : The dreamer Poet of Bangladesh
Professor Dr. Anwarul Karim
Kazi Nazrul Islam, the Rebel Poet of all ages to come, is our National Poet. He was the dreamer of Bangla and Bangladesh during the British rule. He deserved this position because of the fact that he could foresee the victory to Bangalis and the land of Bangla over the enemies in coming years. Nazrul thought of an independent 'Bangla' during the freedom struggle against the British and he called for all Bangalis to stand united under one 'montro' to drive the outsiders out of the country, be they were the British or the others. He declared, 'Victory to Bangla and Bangali'. And this became the slogan of all freedom loving Bangali during the War of Liberation against the Pakistani Army Junta.
Kazi Nazrul Islam was brought to Bangladesh along with the members of his family and this noble work was done by the greatest son of the soil, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who founded Bangladesh as a separate and strong nation after the country was liberated from the rule of Pakistan. Bangabandhu did a great job when he brought him to Bangladesh and accepted as the 'National Poet' of Bangladesh. Dhaka University honored him with honorary Degree of D.litt. He was awarded with Ekushe Padak by the government. It was the initiative of Bangabandhu, who, as the founding father of Bangladesh, did a great job in honoring a poet who fought against all odds and injustice that existed in the society and upheld the non-communal and secular culture of Bangladesh.
Bangabandhu's association with Nazrul in British India
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came very close to the Rebel Poet Nazrul Islam when he was a student in Calcutta during the British. He was then a student leader. He met the poet several times as a student associate of H.S. Suhrawardy and Sher-e-Bangla A. K. Fazlul Haque. when both were the Chief Ministers of Bengal. Nazrul was the Editor of Nabajug owned by Sher-e-Bangla Fazlul Hague. Nazrul upheld Bangla and the Bengali people. In India, the direct fight against the British was done by the Bangali freedom fighters like Khudiram, Bagha Jatin, Master Da' Surya Sen, Pritilata, Titumir, Fakir Majnu Shah and Kazi Meazan. In a poem Nazrul said,
"Let every Bangali teach their sons and daughters one 'montro' :
This sacred Bangladesh
Is ours and it belongs to all Bangali
We shall drive them out by giving them a good beating
such as 'prohareno dhononjoy'
We are fearless and brave against those outsiders
who came to suck our blood as robbers
Bangla will belong to Bangali
We pray Bangla will come out victorious
And victory to Bangali."
It is also a matter of strange coincidence that Bangabandhu also made such kind of triumphant utterance 'Joi Bangla'. He might be foreseeing a united Bengal which his leader H.S. Suhrawardy, Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Haq, Sree Sarat Chandra Bose and many others during the British India had well thought of.
Kazi Nazrul Islam always fought against communalism and racism. He married Hindu girl Promila Debi. This was strongly criticized and condemned by a section of Hindu community who could not tolerate him. These people intended to wipe out his name from Bengal and India for reasons known only to them. I was tremendously shocked when I attended an International seminar held at the Calcutta University and to my utter surprise, I did not find the name and picture of Kazi Nazrul Islam on the banner or anywhere in the program. The program was about Bangla literature. Names of Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra, Madhusudan Dutta, Sarat Chandra, Manik Bandhopaddhaya, Jibananda, Jasimuddin , Shamsur Rahman and others were there excepting Nazrul. I enquired after this but none responded positively. I wonder that Calcutta University honored the poet by publishing his 'Daridryo' (Poverty) during the British rule in a book meant for Secondary and Intermediate students. And it was thus not intelligible,how his name could be omitted in the seminar on Bangla literature at the University program.
In fact, Kazi Nazrul Islam was ignored by a section of his own men in and Bangladesh and India. The most disappointing thing is that we have not been able to present the Great Poet to the people of the world through his translated works. We have Nazrul Institute by the Government. Little effort has been made to introduce Nazrul. Nazrul Academy has limited resource. More efforts should be made to introduce the Poet to the world people.
We, however, thank the government for setting up a University in the name of Kazi Nazrul Islam at Trishal, Mymensing where Nazrul once lived in his young age.
Bangabandhu had all the intention to introduce him to the world. He, it was, who paid glowing tributes to the Poet and took all arrangement for his treatment. Unfortunately, Bangabandhu was killed by his own men who were misled by others. and it was the darkest chapter in the history of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu died on August 15, 1975 and Nazrul died one year after him in 1976 on August 29. He was buried by the side of a mosque as desired by the poet The mosque is at the Dhaka University. The Poet is no more. Yet he survives and will continue to leave his mark as a Great Poet second only to Rabindranath as long as the Bangla literature exists.
Public reception to Nazrul in Calcutta during the British rule
We express our heartfelt gratitude to Muhammad Nasiruddin, the Editor of 'Saogat' and many others in Bengal who accorded Nazrul with a massive public reception at the Albert Hall in Calcutta in 1929. The program was chaired by a no less personality than Profulla Chandra Roy and it was attended among others by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Nazrul was honored as the Poet of Bangali Nation. In his lecture, Netaji Subhash Bose declared in the reception meeting that the song 'Durgom giri kantar moru dustor parabar' has the quality of becoming the National song of Bangla and elsewhere in India. Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was one of the admirers of Nazrul's songs and poetry. Tears rolled down his cheeks occasionally when he used to listen to the songs of Nazrul. The popularity of Nazrul was all time great even when Rabindranath Tagore lived. In fact, Rabindrnath himself admired him and held him in high esteem. He appreciated him and called him as the savior of the oppressed and the downtrodden when he wrote the Preface of Nazrul's journal, 'Dhumketu' Tagore eulogized him for his revolutionary spirit. He offered his notable romantic play, ' Basanta' to him. He went forward to tell him that he should give up hunger strike as our literature claims him. Nazrul all through his life admired Tagore and took him as his guide and guardian.
Nazrul earned name and fame for writing an all time revolutionary poem, 'Bidrohi', ('The Rebel'). The poet rebels against all inhuman chains and oppressions of the world. He wrote 'Bisher Banshi'. (Poisonous flute) which caught the attention of the British as works of treason. A section of Muslims and Hindus condemned him for using anti religious words in the poem. In fact, these people failed to understand him totally. These exposed their follies. The poem, Bidrohi ('The Rebel') was directed towards the British and the wealthy people who became the 'Lord' or 'Master' of the suffering humanity. The British government considered this poem as highly seditious. Nazrul was jailed a number of times for his publication of several anti British writings. His 'Rajbondir Jobanbondi' or 'The deposition of political prisoner' was the most impassioned and epoch making speech and is treated as unrivalled and unparalleled in the history, not only of Bangla literature but as of other literature also. This he wrote when he was a political prisoner and his imprisonment caused unprecedented protest throughout Bengal and India. As the Editor of 'Nabajug' and 'Dhumketu', he made the life of the British as of Hell in India. Nazrul's work, 'Proloy Shikha', 'Chandrabindu' was proscribed by the British. In fact, Nazrul became a terror to the British empire. His poem. 'Anondomoyir Agomone' was directed towards the destruction of the British empire using the name of Hindu goddess, 'Durga' as the Mother goddess to rise up against the British oppressive rule and to save her people.
The poems of Kazi Nazrul Islam speak of the downtrodden and the oppressed throughout the world. He represented the common and ordinary people of the world. His poems include themes which are universal in nature and ever living. He is a modern poet and his poems have the greatness comparable to all the classic poems of the world. It might be because of his involvement with the Communistic ideals and some other reasons, he was not considered for Nobel Prize. There are English poets of modern times like Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes, who were awarded Nobel Prize. These poets fall far below of Nazrul in literature. The Award Committee might be biased. Nazrul is for the suffering humanity and stood firm against the enemies to humanity.
Nazrul was out and out a nationalist. He strongly protested while a group of Indian leaders including M.K Gandhi were accepting Dominion status of India instead of full Independence. He made satirical remarks about those who decided to accept such kind of plan with the British.
Uncrowned World Poet
Nazrul could be taken as the Uncrowned World Poet for his role as the poet of suffering humanity. It was for reasons of his strong anti-Capitalistic approach in his poems and songs, he was denied the right to become the World Poet formally. His poems speak of internationalism and universalism. As Fedal Castro of Cuba recognized Bangabandhu as the Great Leader of the world, similarly the Cubans, the Russians and the Africans and many other countries considered him as the greatest Rebel Poet of the world. His revolutionary poems and songs helped the third world countries unite against the Capitalist world. The Caribean Marxist CLR James held Kazi Nazrul Islam as the only major Bangali Poet to have come from the rural proletariat to fight back the bourgeois and communalism and racialism.
Nazrul was inspired by the Sufi and Bauls like the one as of Lalon Shah of Bangladesh whose songs speak of a caste and classless society. Nazrul was a source of inspiration to many contemporary writers. He was more powerful in his songs and poetry than those of his contemporaries.
Kazi Nazrul Islam was born in a religious Muslim family and thus he was all through non-communal. He took up the profession of a writer not for the Muslims only, but for all irrespective of caste and creed. Principal Ebrahim Khan, when he wrote a letter to Nazrul to uphold Muslim views in his writings and to become a poet of the Muslim community, he disagreed to some extent. He told him that literature represented life and not particularly any religion. The writer must not reflect sentiments of one community only. Thus his writings covered both the Muslim and other communities so much so that the Hindus proclaimed him as one of the best producers of 'Shyama songeet'. But the Editor of Monthly Probasi stopped publication of his writings. The monthly 'Sanibarer Chithi' (Saturday Letter) made him the principal target of its parodies. Nazrul remained a target of attack by some people. But his writings were so powerful and all embracing that he was recognized a World Poet. A section of Muslims too did not accept him as a poet of Muslim community. But his writings on Islam and Muslim creed endeared him to all and sundry. Nazrul however continued to be a non-conformist and secular all through his life.
Kazi Nazrul Islam's dream has been materialised through the great Liberation War in 1971. His literature should be translated and presented internationally so that our Great Poet receives his due appreciation from the literary world.
(The writer was formerly a Visiting Scholar, Divinity School, Harvard University (1985) and Founder Director, Lalon Academy, Kushtia. E -mail: dranwar. karim@ gmail.com)