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Remembering Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia

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Manik Mia seen talking with a guest at a family function while late Zahur Hossain Chowdhury (sitting), another renowned journalist, keenly following the conversation.

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01st-Jun-2016       
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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque and Dr. M. Abul Kashem Mozumder :
The name Manik Mia  is very popular in our country. Manik Mia is a symbol of protest against conspiracy against democracy and palace intrigue. He used to be in the opposition staging movement against nefarious design of the ruling regime.  He was associated with Ittefaq, once very popular Bangla daily as the Chief Editor.  We remember Manik Mia with a deep sense of respect. He was a person rising to the occasion scathing any act of misgovernance  and repression on the part of the government.  
Manik Mia was not only journalist . He was politician too. He was born in Bhandaria thana of Pirozpur in 1911. He attended Pirojpur High School upon passing his Entrance Examination and earned his B. A. degree from Barisal Brajamohan College. He started working under Sub-divisional officer of Pirojpur as an assistant. Subsequently he became Barisal's district Public Relation Officer. Manik Mia was an outspoken person. Therefore, he resigned from government job and took up journalism as a profession. He died in June 1 1969. It was a premature death  of the great man-an irreparable loss to the country. He was  honoured with Ekushey Padak.
Manik Mia played a vital role in  the development  of Bengali nationalism in 1960s. His editorial 'Rajnoitik Moncho' or 'The political stage' was immensely popular and influential at that time. Most of his journalists were considered pro-Awami League as Manik Miah followed the pattern of Awami League. "The discussion of Jinnah with the student representatives could not bear any fruit but blurred the difference between the student group led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his associates and the student group led by Shah Azizur Rahman. The National leadership resorted to repressive policies in order to crush the Bengali language and put its supporters behind bars." - Md. Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan
So the seed of Bengali nationalism was anchored in the Language Movement. "The Language Movement added a new dimension to politics in Pakistan. It left deep impression on the minds of the younger generation of Bengalis and imbued them with the spirit of Bengali nationalism. The passion of Bengali nationalism which was aroused by the Language Movement shall kindle in the hearts of the Bengalis forever … Perhaps very few people realised then that with the bloodshed in 1952 the new-born state of Pakistan had in fact started to bleed to death." - Rafiqul Islam.
To mention vernacular elites backed by Bengali intelligentsia became proactive in organizing the movement for cultural rights and subsequently the movement for autonomy based on Six Point.  Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman directed the movements from the front being a jailed leader.  All such movement coalesced to develop a sense of alienation in the clear manifestation of a racial and linguistic nationalism like Bengali nationalism. Imbued with Bengali nationalism we fought Liberation War under the leadership of Babgabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1971 to create a new state of nation.
According to journalist and editor of Shongbad Bozlur Rahman, Awami activists followed his editorial more than any actual decision of a meeting.
Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia was famous for his powerful pen  preparing   political write-ups in Bengali. As columnist he was prolific in writtings in Bengali.  "He was equally prolific in his English renderings." Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and Yar Mohammed Khan contributed largely to the birth of Ittefaq that became a Bengali daily in wider circulation   Being deeply entrenced in expansion of Ittefaq all with powerful columns and editorial  Manik Mia  used his mighty pen as a "weapon of struggle being inspired by patriotism, love for humanity and social responsibility. He was turned into an institution during his lifetime."
Manik Mia was a close companion of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardi and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Keeping in close touch with them he fought against military rule, autocracy and stark violation of political rights of the people. So his activism in the movement for democratic rights is clear-cut.
Bangabandhu was his admirer appreciating his intellectual involvement in the mass movements with Eleven Points and Six Point and 1969 upheaval. Six-Point Movement is observed as a milestone in our history of Liberation. On this day srike was called to press home demand for provincial autonomy based on Six and Eleven Points.
East Pakistanis did not feel they had a proportional share of political power and economic benefits within Pakistan. East Pakistan was facing a critical situation after being subjected to continuous discrimination on a regional basis, year after year. As a result, the economists, intelligentsia and the politicians of East Pakistan started to raise questions about this discrimination, giving rise to the historic Six Point Movement.
As Bangabandhu revealed (printed from The New Nation, June 1, 1999 for wider dissemination)  :  
"Many, perhaps, are not aware of the contribution of Manik Bhai to the country's freedom struggle. On the other hand, it is difficult to express in language how deep was the influence of Manik Bhai on me. We first met in 1943. Since then, we two, like brothers, worked and struggled, together for the rights of the people. In doing so, we could not always be pleased with each other during our long course of movement. But that had momentary effect only. We had one common objective before us where we agreed. And that was independence of Bengal. There was no hesitation or confusion among us that there could be no emancipation of Bengalees without achieving freedom. So we two could work from two fronts despite many odds. I worked in the field while Manik Bhai worked through his sharp writings. Manik Bhai is no more with us in physical terms but his memory remains bright like an eternal flame. It pains me deeply on the occasion of his death to ponder over the hurdles that both of us had to undertake in uniting the opposition in Bangladesh politics. All of us are aware how the then Pakistani rulers and vested quarters had conspired through a blueprint to destory industry, culture, language and literature and tried to pollute everything with the venom of communalism here in this country. Manik Bhai through his writing created awareness among the people of this country against these evil designs. None can forget all these unless one is betrayed by his memories.
Manik Bhai had discharged the difficult task of responsibilities through his writing at the time when there was no right of expression of thoughts and speech for people as well as for projecting ideas and thoughts of the opposition parties in this country. And he had to undergo sufferings in various ways and forms in discharging his responsibilities. It is rare in the world history that a journalist had to go to jail on political reasons so many a time as in the case of Manik Bhai as an editor and for longer period.Manik Bhai had a clear vision about politics.  We used to discuss day after day and night after night about the rights of the people. Manik Bhai's love for the people and the country that I found in him,  impressed me tremendously. He could have easily realised what the people used to think and want due to his deep love and strong sense of feeling and his writings had those reflections.After Ayub Khan's martial law in 1958, Manik Bhai was detained under martial law regulations.
The charges brought against him had the provision of awarding the highest 14 years of rigorous imprisonment. I was also in jail during that time. I was kept confined in a solitary cell. I was spending difficult days of loneliness there. Suddenly I came to know that Manik Bhai was arrested and kept confined in the room next to mine. We, two brothers, stayed in two rooms side by side in the same jail. But there was no scope of meeting each other. The authorities issued a stern warning that under no circumstances we could meet each other. Despite those orders, we managed to meet each other.
 One day during such a meeting, Manik Bhai said the government side requested him to compromise. I asked : what was your answer? Manik Bhai replied : 'Ready to suffer 14 years imprisonment. But there can be no compromise on the question of principle, and that I conveyed'. After a pause he said : 'What lies in fact is that they would continue repression on you as they think people of Bengal repose their confidence in you. So if they can finish you, they can get rid of all problems." Later, he reassured me : "You have nothing to worry. You must succeed.' Many such incidents and pictures crowd in my mind on this sad occasion of his death anniversary. It was in 1962. After a few days of the arrest of beloved leader Shaheed Suhrawardy, we, the two brothers were also sent to jail. But the consolation was that both of us were kept in the same room unlike the previous occasion. So we could talk and that provided us the opportunity of exchanging views. We discussed most of the time about the country and its future. During our conversations, a certain firm determination that I found in him, impressed and influenced me overwhelmingly.
I also felt clearly the deep love and strong confidence he had in me during that time. Many were not aware of it, however. When there was apparently any conflict-like situation between us, some went to Manik Bhai with an ulterior motive to instigate him. And they had to get frustrated. Those who went to Manik Bhai to tell against me with a view to becoming dear to him, Manik Bhai did not hesitate to turn them out of his room. All are aware that I used to be sent to jail frequently during the Ayub regime. As a result, at one stage the situation reached such a pass that many of my friends lost the courage of keeping contacts, even with my family out of fear. But it was Manik Bhai who had the courage to stand by my family in my absence under any circumstance and without any fear. So I used to feel certain about my family during my detention in jail if Manik Bhai had remained outside.For that reason, when I talk about him, many more episodes become vivid in my memory. It was in 1949, I had been in jail for two and half years. Manik Bhai had also bad days as he came from Calcutta after losing almost everything. Both of us were followers of Shaheed Suhrawardy. The authorities were very angry with us. The situation was such that no house-owner in Dhaka would let us any house on rent.  
During that time, one day I was produced before the court. Manik Bhai came to the court. He said : 'I had plan to bring out a weekly but resource remains as a constraint.' Manik Bhai was then made Deputy Secretary at the Information Directorate of the Central Government. He had the appointment letter in his pocket. Apparently in an emotionless mood, he said: "Let me go to Karachi. Is it alright." "Would not that disrupt our efforts?" I gave him the reply. Manik Bhai said : "Alright,  I shall not go. It's better for me and my family to pull on with a vendor's shop but not to serve under them". The firmness that he had demonstrated on the question of principle could not easily be found.
Many a time, I found the same firmness of Manik Bhai later so far the question of principle is concerned. It was in 1966, the Ayub regime detained me when it failed to face the strong movement built on the Six-Point programme. Manik Bhai also joined me in the jail few days later. He was also detained in the face of Six-Point Movement and the Ittefaq Printing Press also was confiscated. I had to remain behind the bars for long three years since my arrest in 1966. The Agartala case was framed against me. Many may not be aware of the ploy to implicate Manik Bhai in that case.That Manik Bhai is no more with us now, though still I am sceptic about his death. Still I remember the mysterious letter in which he wrote :
"Don't come to Pindi or Karachi. You would be killed." Almost every morning I used to go to Manik Bhai's residence wearing 'Lungi' after leaving the bed and had tea there. On one such occasion, I was having tea and discussing country's political situation. Suddenly Manik Bhai said : "I received a letter from Pindi. There was no mention of the sender. In the letter it was written that you and I should not go to Pindi or Karachi. If we go, we would be killed."
He then laughed and said to himself : "Who would kill me? And Why ? Rather you can be killed if they want." I said : 'What's the urgency of going there ? Can't you avoid going, Manik Bhai?" Manik Bhai said: "Let me go and see what for they summoned me. I'll be back within a couple of days, Insha-Allah."  Manik Bhai went. But he returned dead. Whenever I think of Manik Bhai,  the mysterious letter comes to my mind very often.
The way Shaheed Shaheb was killed, Manik Bhai was also mysteriously killed the same way by being invited there at the Pindi's Inter-Continental Hotel. Manik Bhai had strong feelings for the soil of Bengal and its nature including its air, water and fruits. He had all the love for the grief-stricken of this country deeply from the core of his heart. And for that he struggled till his death. Bangladesh has become independent today at the cost of supreme sacrifice of three million people. After the demise of Shaheed Shaheb, when everything appeared to be bleak to me, Manik Bhai used to enthuse inspiration and courage in me. If he were alive today in this free country, he could have rendered help in many ways.
The question comes obviously whether the Yahya bahini would have kept him alive. The question comes as because the way intellectuals like Siraj, Shahid (Shahidullah Kaisar) were killed in order to create a void intellectually in a free country, it is doubtful whether Manik Bhai would have been spared.Though Manik Bhai is no more present amidst us but he remains immortal."
He would remain alive all the time to come through his principles and ideals. It would be befitting for us to show honour to his memory if two square meals could be ensured to the people of this country, if democracy could be possibly restored and if people could be protected from injustice and repression. That is why though physically he would not exist, but his ideals and principles would make him immortal. His soul moves from door to door in every home here as Bangladesh is now independent.  Manik Mia is thus a journalist with a difference. His Bengali newspaper Ittefaq once was most popular identified with popular hopes and aspirations.  
(The writers are Professor of Public Administration, Chittagong University and Member Public Service Commission (PSC) respectively.)

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