A Touch of Difference: Professor Dr. Mamun Al Mahtab (Shwapnil)

A Touch of Difference

Writer: Professor Dr. Mamun Al Mahtab (Shwapnil), Chairman, Department of Hepatology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University & Member Secretary, Sampritee Bangladesh.
The evening was no different. An usual winter evening in bustling Dhaka with all it’s characters and charms. My destination was a program organized to celebrate the 49th Victory Day of Bangladesh. During the entire month of December, such programs are plentiful in Bangladesh, specially given the fact that the pro-liberation Awami League is enjoying uninterrupted tenure in office for over a decade now. This is a unique phenomenon that this country has never experienced throughout it’s history either under occupation or liberation. No wonder the practice of 1971 has flourished with state patronization with resultant rise of such celebrations and those who know me personally, would not be surprised that despite primarily being a physician who is supposed to be overwhelmed with patients and clinical practice round the clock, I do somehow manage time to be visible in many such events. It was therefore no deviation for me from my routine to be attending yet another event related to our liberation and victory during my chamber hours, nor was it unusual to have yet another event on 1971 in Dhaka in December.
The program was still different. It was different because it was organized by a foreign diplomatic mission. Having said so, it is also not unusual for a diplomatic mission in Dhaka to hold an event commemorating an occasion of our national glory, but this particular event surely was. This was unique by all definitions. It was unique because it was organized by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka. It was unique not because our two neighboring nations share a common history dating back thousands of years. The event was unique as it was organized by the diplomatic mission of a country, the blood and sweat of whose fallen heroes merged with that of ours in 1971 in the green vastness of Bangladesh to secure our liberation from the Pakistanis.
The event had other dimensions that added to it’s uniqueness. One of the focus of discussion was the contribution of the foreigners, who contributed in different ways to the cause of Bengalis and Bangladesh during those gruesome nine months. Mr. Julian Farncis, British-Bangladeshi civil rights activist and recipient of Friends of Liberation War Honour from Bangladesh and Order of the British Empire from the British Monarchy had contributed immensely to alleviate the sufferings of the Bangladeshi refugees in the refugee camps inside India in 1971 as an official of Oxfam. In fact he had then overseen the biggest ever humanitarian campaign by this British organization for the benefit of the ill-fated Bangladeshi refugees. His physical presence added a different ambiance to the event, not to mention the emotional roller coaster ride that I once again went through listening to Professor Muntassir Mamoon’s experience of documenting the unprecedented genocide committed by the Pakistanis and their local collaborators in occupied Bangladesh in 1971 or to the personal testimonies of Professor Nuzhat Choudhury and Mrs. Aroma Dutta MP of sacrificing their loved ones for the country and the subsequent harassments by the successive regimes that succeeded Bangabandhu following his brutal assassination in 1975. They were victimized and not recognized, with no question of being rewarded for their blood relationship to the bloody birth of Bangladesh by these ‘Pakistanis in power in Bangladesh in disguise’ after the fall of Mujib government. Narrations by freedom fighter Mr. Nasiruddin Yousuff who had secured the route to Dhaka for the victorious joint Indian-Bangladeshi forces in December 1971 with his homegrown guerillas and Mr. Shahriar Kabir, another gallant freedom fighter who lost his two cousins martyred intellectuals Shahidullah Kaiser and Zahir Raihan in 1971, I am sure was immensely inspiring to the segment of Bangladeshi youth also present at the event, like these were to a middle aged person like me.
It is therefore no wonder that I decided it was important for me to select my unique experience of an unique event as the topic of one of my handful writings this December. It is a pity that I could do minimum justice to share the ambiance and the depth of the event with my readers. Having said so, I still thought it was important as the event that I attended recently at the Indian High Commission was different. After all the core essence of Indo-Bangla relationship is that this comes with a touch of difference!