The Prometheus of DU will become a Phoenix

The removal of Raju’s graffiti painted on the wall of Dhaka University Central Library has unsettled many including present students and alumni of DU. Nahid Riyasad looks critically on the motives behind this unexpected removal of such invaluable graffiti.
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Jibananda Das is a prominent modern Bengali poet; from his poems it is understandable that he had an obsession about death. He was the favourite poet of Raju, who had had quotations from Das’s poem on his notebook during his untimely death by a tyrant bullet. Who knew, poetry from a death-obsessive poet would bring Raju, a young student activist of University of Dhaka, a tad bit closer to death?

Prometheus was a titan in Greek mythology. He was hung from the side of Mount Olympus by Zeus and tormented by an eagle for eternity. What was his fault? He brought fire to the humankind. Prometheus has, since then, come upon earth in so many forms, countless of times, in disguise of regular human beings. Moin Hossain Raju, is such a name and is known as the Prometheus of University of Dhaka, for his strong stand against the armd student’s politics on campus. Raju, a prominent voice against the anti-dictatorship movement during the late 80s’, was an active member and top-leader of the leftist student politics of the early 90s’. It was a lazy Friday afternoon of 1991, 13th March, when DU campus was rocked by two colliding forces- student wing of both Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Raju saw this as the perfect opportunity to demonstrate against the power hungry corrupt student’s politics on campus. He organised his teammates and took the road, suddenly a bullet entered his temple and pierced through. He lost his life later that night at hospital. His body died, however, his spirit of standing against forces of oppression and violence has erupted. His essence has emerged from the ruins and ashes of destruction, as seen by one of our most prominent poets, Shamsur Rahman. Raju rises like the mythical Phoenix bird from the fire and acts like the giver of fire, Prometheus, and triumph amongst those who choose to raise voice against irregularities of the state and society.

Raju’s sacrifice has been garlanded in the September of 1997 with one of the most iconic sculptures of Bangladesh. Raju Vashkarja is situated on the round-about of TSC, right in the heart of University of Dhaka. This statue certainly gives goosebumps to those who are familiar with the story and sacrifice of Raju. Similar to that, near the DU central library, there has been another graffiti dedicated to Raju. The graffiti was a rather large one, drawn on a bright yellow background. Left side of the graffiti was adorned with a nearly 30 feet portrait of Moin Hossain Raju, on the other side there were broken chains and free birds to illustrate the free spirit of Raju and revolution. The graffiti was drawn during the 2010; main artist of the piece was Sabyasachi Hazra. While talking to him, he gives some insight on behind the scene. ‘The major aspect of this graffiti is that it was a communal effort. A group of young artists and activists stayed overnights with me to get the job done and more or less everyone contributed on the art piece’, he said.

On a very sad note, ruling party student wing, Bangladesh Chatra League, as an agenda of their 70th anniversary, bleached the wall white. Top authority of the student party has confirmed this matter and justified their action as proper. However, they have not decided on what to paint on the vacant wall, yet. This indicates towards a very serious question. Does the university hold any democratic practice? Is democratic practice advocated and appreciated in the university campus? The ruling party student wing has forcefully removed a valuable graffiti from the walls which has been known to uphold the spirit of a great revolutionary of our time. What are these tendencies pointing us to?

In the first version of this graffiti, it was inscribed, ‘Come Cross the Line’, apparently someone has crossed the line. However, this line crossing certainly was not the intention of the graffiti. Hazra expresses his melancholia on this issue but sees the bright side too. ‘This is an act of maintaining dominance on the campus by the ruling party of student wing. It is really sad that they have chosen such an important piece to practice their muscle power on’ he said, adding that this is not the end. ‘Every time the powerful forces try to erase the history, try to muzzle a revolutionary, the spirit of uprising gets accentuated and this time it will be no different’, he hopes for the resurrection of the spirit of Raju.

On December 24, 2017, New Age Youth has published a report on the ongoing demand of students’ union election. The scenario would have been a lot different should there be students’ union. On this case, instead of forcefully bleaching the graffiti, there would be dialogues and conversations, on formal level. The decision might not change but the practice of tolerance and co-existence of multi-vocal discourses would have been launched.

From different news reports, it is understandable that Bangladesh Chatra Union has opposed the move by Chatra League and urged them not to remove it. However, the ruling party activists have done their job anyway. Chatra League current president has backed the decision to media and said that this graffiti has been removed by other student parties as well. As if, someone else’s misconduct is sufficient enough to legitimise others’ wrongdoing! From common students to the former students, a sense of resentment has been recorded on this issue.

At core, this is a simple act of corrupt politics, which also consists of dominating certain areas, walls of the university. In the campus scenario, where most of the walls are dominated by writings promoting the ruling party student wing, there are very minimal space left for the progressive thinking. On their recent decision, Chatra League seems to be very intolerant to spare even such a graffiti, which speaks of freedom and emancipation. This, in fact, exposes the ugly face of any ruling party and their student wing. Another question might rise here, which is not a very comforting one of course. Even if DUCSU polls get rolling, what kind of election will it be, given the intolerant and autocratic mentality of Chatra League?

The graffiti of Raju has been erased, who knows we are not heading to a time when Chatra League might label the Raju Vashkarja as ‘ugly’ and demand its removal too, to construct one of their own? This might be the best time for the general students’ of DU to raise their voice in demand of the students’ parliament election, in order to bring back democracy to the campus. Otherwise, these practices of muscle power will prevail, justice and democracy will decay.

The hands of the powerful have removed the vibrant graffiti of Raju with white ink; this holds a symbolic meaning too. The white canvas means there is chance for something new and creative to come up on that place, but the nihilistic time tells us that it’s nothing but a day-dream. However, the removed graffiti means that the spirit of Raju is still thriving among the resisting force he belonged to, it is still very much alive. A common tendency of history is that whenever a voice is stopped by the powerful, that voice immediately becomes the voice of many, a deceased revolutionary is the strongest force to fuel the revolution. The Prometheus of University of Dhaka, the bearer of revolutionary spirit of DU is nothing meek and mild that removal of the graffiti means his end. Rather, we hope and believe Raju’s spirit will reincarnate once again, from the ashes of the burnt history, like the Phoenix bird.


“To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy power which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates”

― Percy Bysshe Shelley (Prometheus Unbound)


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