Comilla activists call for better preservation of Nazrul memorials

Yasmin Reema
Nazrul memorials

A trunk of an ancient tree located at Doulatpur in Comilla. Locals say Nazrul used to play flute sitting underneath the tree. — New Age photo

Cultural activists in Comilla say despite the historical significance of the places linked to the National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam in the district, these and the plaques and memorials set up around them are being neglected.
Comilla is one of the areas in Bangladesh known for their associations with Kazi Nazrul Islam, who made at least five visits to the district between 1921 and 1924.
He married or came close to marriage a total of two times, both in Comilla, and was also arrested twice there – developments that proved to be life-changing for him with huge ramifications in his creativity in the later years.
Of the places with known connection to Nazrul are the house of Pramila Devi, the west bank of Dharma Sagor, Basanta Smrity Pathagar, Jhoutola, Nanua Dighir Par, Daroga Bari, Yousuf School Road, Mohesangon, Comilla Birchandra Nagar Milonayoton Field, Dakkhin Chortha Nabab Bari, Kandirpar Rail Station, Kotowali Thana, Comilla Central Jail, and Doulatpur.
Local activists say plaques and memorials set up around these places are in a poor state, needing regular care and maintenance.
It has been learnt from local researchers that cultural activities revolving around Kazi Nazrul Islam began in Comilla from mid-1940s. After the partition in 1947, the activities began with new vigour.
In 1962, the road stretching from Kandirpar, the heart of the town, to Farida Bidyaoton was named Nazrul Avenue. In 1983, under the supervision of then deputy commissioner Syed Aminur Rahman, several memorials to Nazrul were set up.
In 1992, deputy commissioner Md. Hedayetul Islam Chowdhury again took an initiative to erect concrete memorials with descriptive signboards in Nazrul-related places.
Recently, two of the memorials, one situated on the north side of Nazrul Avenue and another situated on the south-west side of Ranir Dighi, adjacent to Comilla Victoria College, were repaired by the Comilla City Corporation.
But most of the memorials in general remain neglected and un-cared-for, while the view of some is blocked by adjoining multi-storey buildings under construction. Some have no corresponding photos to make them meaningful.
There was a memorial plaque in front of the house of legendary musician Sachin Dev Burman, on the Rajganj road of the town, where Nazrul was first arrested, but it does not exist any longer.
‘If informative signboards are set up with the photograph of Nazrul, tourists visiting the places would benefit from them,’ said Shahjahan Chowdhury, a theatre activist.
‘It is also important that the plaques remain in plain view, and are taken care of on a regular basis. Students, scholars and researchers want to know about and visit these places. These plaques would also help them know better,’ he added.
While talking to New Age, cultural activists demanded steps from the government to set up new memorials and preserve those existing.
They insisted that taking care of old memorials is as important as setting up new but most importantly, there should be coordinated efforts to make sure that Nazrul’s legacy in the district is well-preserved and promoted.
On the bright side, Nazrul Institute opened a branch on the north bank of Dharma Sagor in Comilla to promote activities related to Nazrul. It was inaugurated by prime minister Sheikh Hasina on April 20, 2013.
‘The new generation has been benefited from this initiative,’ said Basirul Anwar, an official of Comilla Shilpakala Academy. ‘There are library, museum, sales centre, and air-conditioned conference room, where music and recitation training courses are held and research programs are undertaken.’
But activists say preserving Nazrul’s legacy requires more than just a structure, adding there should be initiatives to promote and preserve his legacy on a regular basis and take it to the general people.

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