Shaheed Buddhijibi Smriti Pathagar

Samia Sultana Lira writes about a library that has participated in the movement against military regime in Bangladesh, created space for spreading joy for underprivileged children and empowering women with self-defense training. It is a model youth initiative that shows how you can respond to the need of the society at large.

initiative

In 1988, when the country was submerged in floodwater, some youngsters came forward and lent their helping hands to the flood affected people. This group of young people established a library in Nakhalpara area of the capital, which was inaugurated by professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury on March 3, 1989.

The library members were actively involved in the movement against autocratic regime from the very beginning. Immediately after the fall of the military regime in 1990, they published their first publication ‘Ongikar’ (Promise). Prominent cartoonist Rafiqun Nabi designed the cover.

Although, the library was initially named as ‘Shaheed Shahidullah Kaiser Smriti Pathagar,’ in 1990, they changed the name to ‘Shaheed Buddhijibi Smriti Pathagar.’ Now with 171 members, the library is carrying on its activity satisfactorily. Majority members are from nearby schools.

Along with a collection of about 5,000 books on various topics, they have 8 publications till now.

And the most striking feature about the library is that, it hasn’t restrained its activity only within pages of books! It participates in paying tributes to inspirational personalities by arranging programmes such as drawing and essay writing competitions and study circles. Film festivals equipped with educational and humorous materials for children, indoor and outdoor games, study tour are noteworthy parts of the library activities. It works with underprivileged students as well. It comes forward to help them by providing study materials, scholarships and prizes for extraordinary performances.

As a part of society, the library feels the dire need to perform their duty for the welfare of society. Its social engagement includes campaign against drug addiction, women’s oppression, cleanliness, planting trees, voluntary blood donation and many more. It holds free health clinic along with relief for victims of natural disasters.

More importantly, its campaign against gender inequality does not end in awareness campaigns but also include includes self defense training for women.

When I was talking to Ali Mohammad Abu Nayeem and Fahima Kaniz Lava, they recalled their various successes and failures throughout their involvement with library. The chairperson Ali Md. Abu Nayeem says ‘A portion of the children come here are from underprivileged family backgrounds. And to be frank, especially this part of society is going through a cultural degradation. This library is working for bringing about a positive change and enlightenment to their life and in some aspects we are successful, so to say.’

The library has conducted its activity without any donation from the government; rather it is supported by the donation from ex-members, well-wishers and enthusiastic people in the area. Last year it has been enlisted by the government.

Fahima Kaniz Lava says ‘We found out that this generation is not that much interested in patriotic songs as much as they’re in pop culture. So, we planned to uphold some inspirational songs like the songs about Khudiram. It worked like magic, they know the songs now and even want to hear them from us often. So, there’s a spectacular change’.

Several eminent citizens – novelist Akhtaruzzaman Elias and Selina Hossain, activist Anu Muhammad, cartoonist Ahsan Habib, professor Afzal Hossian, recitation artist Shimul Mustafa, actor Golam Mustafa and other renowned active personalities are associated in some ways with the library programmes.

‘But we have some failures too’, regrets Fahima. ‘We couldn’t save a member of ours from early marriage.’

It has been twenty-eight years. With the history of failures and success, the organisation has designed its future plans. It is planning for a more spacious room as a video library with facilities for providing visual education.

General secretary Khadiza Begum Nipa mentioned the study-tours arranged by the library. ‘They [students] read history in books, but when they visit historical places, for example Shaheed Buddhijibi museum or tomb of Kazi Nazrul Islam, they feel like history is taking place before their own eyes. Besides, involvement with singing, drama staging enriches them and gives them joy’, she says.

There exists a friendly environment in the library with caring executives. Mehrab, a student of class VII says, he loves to come here often and read several books. With the slogan ‘A protest against ruin’, Shaheed Buddhijibi Smriti Pathagar is working to spread out the dreams and ideas of the martyred intellectuals.

 

Samia Sultana Lira is a student of University of Dhaka.

 

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