Sheikh Hasina's Achievement of DLitt from Kazi Nazrul Islam University
On 26th May, 2018, I participated at the119th birth anniversary of our national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam in Asansol. The Nazrul Academy of Churulia and Kazi Nazrul Islam University at Asansol in West Bengal jointly organized a week-long festival and invited a few of us from Bangladesh to attend the programme. It was on the same day that Kazi Nazrul Islam University of Asansol was holding a special convocation to confer an honorary Doctor o Literature (DLitt) to Sheikh Hasina, the Hon'ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
The Asansol town took on a festive look, and the atmosphere seemed to be vibrating with excitement and enthusiasm. The weather was sizzling but jubilant crowds of onlookers defied the scorching sun and were milling around. Their beaming faces and shouts of joy clearly indicated that the arrival of Sheikh Hasina at their town to receive the DLitt degree was a momentous occasion for them -- one that boosted their self-esteem as they appeared to consider it a great honour.
Obviously, such emotionally charged situations can influence anyone, and as a Bangladeshi citizen it was impossible for me not to be swayed by this tide of emotion. The sincere expression of people's love and respect for our Prime Minister at Asansol, which was a far-flung subdivision of undivided Bengal and is now a part of a different country, filled me with joy and pride.
Though we went there to join a different programme, we could not resist the temptation of witnessing this heart-warming event in which our Prime Minister would be accorded a prestigious degree by a university named after Kazi Nazrul Islam in his birthplace. Our hosts arranged for us to enter the convocation hall, and at the appointed time we took our seats there. The last-minute preparations for the actual event were still afoot. Everybody was agog with the expectation to witness and hear something enlightening that they would be able to cherish as a fond memory. Finally, when our Prime Minister entered the hall, she was given a one-minute standing ovation. Then the convocation rituals were performed one by one.
All this done, Sheikh Hasina was invited to deliver her acceptance speech, and she walked steadily to the podium. When she started her speech, there was again a standing ovation and a rapturous applause for quite a few minutes. She stood firm and confident at the podium, bubbling over with vitality and ideas. As her speech gradually progressed, our attention was completely held by what we were watching and listening to. Everybody soon realised that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is a wonderful story-teller who can hold the audience spellbound.
The speech amply demonstrated her extraordinary public speaking skills that won her many accolades both within and outside Bangladesh. She candidly stated that she had the honour of receiving many awards in different countries but she would consider this DLitt degree from Kazi Nazrul Islam University at Asansol to be the highest of all the awards she had received before.
In her 20-minute speech, Sheikh Hasina dwelt extensively on different aspects of Kazi Nazrul Islam's literary and musical works which account for their enduring appeal and immense contemporary relevance. She pointed out that Nazrul's birthday provides both the Hindu and Muslim communities with an opportunity of coming together as her poetry and music draw on the common heritage of all people of the then Bengal.
One the one hand, he conveyed Islam's progressive and democratic messages in a simple and inspiring language and, on the other, he wrote beautiful Shyama-sangeet and Vaishnava songs that would always resonate with the Hindus. The great variety in Nazrul's works vouches for his versatile genius. He had a magic touch with poetry, music, fiction and journalistic and literary essays and whatever he laid his hands on became a repository of beauty and truth.
Expressing her deep admiration for Kazi Nazrul Islam, Sheikh Hasina shed light on how our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman adopted the slogan 'Joy Bangla' from a poem by Nazrul. The Father of the Nation immensely loved and adored the poet and greatly enjoyed his songs and poems. Sheikh Hasina also pointed out the role of Nazrul's works in kindling and sustaining our spirit of liberation, describing how our freedom fighters marched to the battle-field to the tune of his blood-stirring songs.
There were lots of pleasant surprises in her speech. We in the audience held our breath when she changed the content of her speech and started reciting from the great poem 'The Rebel.' The brief recitation in a deep, sonorous and solemn voice was only too exciting and spellbinding. It created a dramatic effect on the psyche of the audience and enchanted them in such a way that they were now ready to hear anything from her. When the recitation ended, the audience broke into a thunderous applause that seemed endless.
The way she recited the poem with a clear awareness of the meaning, sounds and beats showed her deep appreciation of poetry as well as of the art of recitation. A university professor from West Bengal who was sitting beside me became ecstatic. As soon as she finished, I heard him mutter out: 'I enjoyed the recitation tremendously! It's superb, really! She recited the poem very professionally. Her pronunciation of every word and the modulation of voice was excellent.' As a matter of fact, this side of Sheikh Hasina's personality was unknown to me and my friends.
We knew that she was a student of the Department of Bengali at Dhaka University and has an excellent command of language as reflected in the number of good books she has authored. Her love for literature and music is also well-known. But it was only on that occasion that I came to know about her skills in recitation. It came as a great revelation to me.
The DLitt citation gives a snapshot of her towering personality and succinctly presents her admirable qualities. From our experience, we know how richly she deserves the accolades given to her. Indeed, her life is an illustration of patriotism, courage, compassion and hard work. She has emerged as one of the world's most humanitarian, dynamic and development-oriented leader now. She has been giving hope and voice to the down-trodden people of Bangladesh.
Her biggest achievement is that she has been able to ensure two square meals for the poor people of Bangladesh. Though Bangladesh was once termed as a 'bottomless basket', it has now progressed immensely in the socio-economic and cultural arena under her visionary leadership. She has a vision of a new world in which there would be no war and only peace so that all nations can prosper equally together. She envisions an equal society free of hunger, poverty and disease. Ably stewarded by her, Bangladesh is well on the road to Bangabandhu's Sonar Bangla.
Professor Dr Sadhan Chakraborti, Vice-Chancellor of Kazi Nazrul Islam University, rightly observed in his felicitation speech that 'The height of the personality of Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina is beyond our measure.'
Masud Siddiqui , Former Secretary