A tribute to Professor Dr Anisuzzaman

Abu Tayeb Mohammed Anisuzzaman was born on February 18, 1937 at Calcutta. His paternal house is at Mohammadpur village in Barishal subdivision of 24 Chobbish Pargana District of West Bengal. His grandfather Sheikh Abdur Rahim (1859-1931) was a writer and journalist. He is the son of father Abu Tahel Mohammad Moazzam (1897-1975). He is the fourth among his siblings. In the year 1943, he was enrolled to Park Circus High School in Kolkata, where he studied up to the seventh grade.
In 1947, he came to Khulna with his parents from Calcutta. In 1948, he got admitted to the eight grade in Khulna Zilla School. At the end of the year, his father’s residence was moved from Khulna to Dhaka. In 1949, he was admitted to ninth grade at the Priyanath High School (presently known as Nababpur Govt High School) in Dhaka, from where he passed matriculation in 1951. He secured his IA degree from Jagannath College in 1956. He received the highest numbers in the Faculty of Arts in Honours examination and received the ‘Nilkanto Sarkar Gold Medal’ of Dhaka University.

He secured the first position in first class in M.A. examination in 1957. On February 1, 1958, he received Bangla Academy Scholarship as a Ph.D. researcher. In February the next year, he joined the PhD research under Dhaka University. The subject of research was “Thoughts of the Bengali Muslims as reflected in Bengali literature During the British period” (1757-1918). His research guide was Prof. Muhammad Abdul Hai (1919-1969). He got Ph.D. in 1962.
He went to the University of Chicago for field research on “cultural history of 19th century Bengal: Young Bengal and Samakal”. In 1974-1975, he was engaged for research as commonwealth academic staff fellow in school oriental and African Studies department in London University. Subject of research was “Pre-19th century Bengali Prose”.
On January 19, 1959, he joined as a lecturer in Bengali Department of Dhaka University. In 1969, he was promoted as a senior Lecturer. On June 3, 1969, he joined the Bengali Dept. at Chittagong University. In August 1972, he was promoted to the post of professor. In 1985, he joined the University of Dhaka as Bangla professor, finally, retiring on 30 June.
He was awarded the Nilkanto Sarkar Gold medal in 1956, Stanley Maron award in 1958, Dawood Literary award in 1965, Bangla Academy Award (Article-Research) in 1971, Ekushey Padak (Edu) in 1985, Ashok Kumar Smriti Ananda Award in 1994.
Anisuzzaman is a great personality of Bengali Literature. He is the brightest and brilliant student of Dhaka University. He is one of the affectionate of Muhammud Shahidullah. Mohammad Abdul Hye, Munir Chowdhury, Ahmed Sharif, Syed Ali Ahsan had remarked him as their best student. His teacher Dr. Kazi Din Mohammad’s comment was the same.

Anisuzzaman’s academic education ended 50 yrs ago, but virtually there is no end in his learning line of such a big man. In his journey as a teacher, he is engaged imparting knowledge and teachings to thousands of students and the student again are in a process of teaching their new students. Actually, Anisuzzaman is a teacher of few generations. He is still teaching and surely, his teaching will not end forever. Anisuzzaman’s fame spread, throughout his young age not only because of his brilliant and meritorious result in the examination but for the scholarship and research activities. Under the leadership of Mohammad Abdul Hye, Bengali Dept. has been called the golden age of his time. In that golden age, there were many others, but Anisuzzaman could prove himself as extra-ordinary through his meritorious performance. His glory and fame are increasing magnificently day by day. Anisuzzaman is representing the country through seminar, symposium, and meetings in many countries.

He is not only known as a scholar in Bengali speaking areas, but also across the world. In 1967, the ruling regimes banned Rabindranath Tagore on radio-television. The predecessors of professor Anisuzzaman at that time had protested through statements. Anisuzzaman played a significant role and was one of the pioneers in collecting those statements. In 1966, he went to Chittagong University. However, he was not disconnected from Dhaka or he was not detached from his colleagues. At that time, he was playing a very significant role in the cultural sector.

As he grew up, during those tumultuous years of the newly carved out country, he actively campaigned for the recognition of Bangla as a state language, and shortly afterwards, became involved in left-leaning politics which played a vital role in shaping his progressive worldview. This was evident in the subsequent years when he fought against Pakistan’s sinister campaign against indigenous culture, took part in the 1969 mass uprising, the post-war movements against the war criminals, the 1990 anti-autocracy movement, and pretty much all the major sociopolitical developments in between.

After liberation, he worked with Bangabandhu’s government and was intimately involved in writing of the Bangla version of our constitution. He was a part of several education commissions and contributed to the formulating of education policies in the post-liberation era. He worked tirelessly for the reinstatement of the values and ideology of our Liberation War, actively supported the trial of the war criminals started by Sheikh Hasina’s government and personally testified in the trials. These are but a very small sample of his many achievements.
Professor Anisuzzaman was a student’s dream of a teacher. His openness was so welcoming and reassuring for anyone who would approach him with either a new idea or an interpretation of a literary text that she or he may have read. No opinion was for him unworthy of a discussion and no student was for him undeserving of his personal time. He would always welcome each and every student who ever sought his guidance.

He was a national professor. Despite that he was a professor emeritus, Bengali Deptt. of Dhaka University. He used to come to the Bengali Department on Wednesday in every week. As I add my personal affiliation with professor Anisuzzaman, I managed time to meet him on that very day. But today I missed him. It is a matter of great pain to say good-bye to such a great man. It is equally applicable for all who were involved with him. During his life time, the earned a lot of name and fame from home and abroad. He was awarded with the civilian honor ‘Padma Bhushan’ by the Indian government. As a distinguish scholar, he educated us. We got inspiration and courage from him. He was admirable and loveable.

Above all, he was a towering man with humanity, a pillar and a lighthouse to a nation. His departure indeed and irreparable lose to a nation. The whole nation mourns for him.  No languages console us. Only we pray for him and express our sympathy for the bereaved family. Finally, we say our heartfelt love, feeling and respect for this great man. He will be ever memorable in the history of our nation.

Dr Forqan Uddin Ahmed

The writer is columnist
and researcher