This photo was taken on February 2007 when I was in Dhaka. Every time I visit the national monuments in Bangladesh I come home with mixed feelings. Although I have visited numerous other national historic national monuments all over the globe, very few of them emotionally jolt me so much.
It was almost 25 years since I last visited the Savar Shaheed Smriti Soudha (The mausoleum of the martyred in Savar). Like before, the enormous campus, the greenery and water body surrounding the mausoleum impressed me. Compared to Bangladesh standard and definitely compared to other national mausoleums like Shaheed Minar or Rayer Bazar intellectual mausoleum, the Savar mausoleum was much better maintained. However, despite all the beautiful landscaping work, well maintained water bodies, the sanctity of the mausoleum itself was in a relatively sad state. People are sitting, sleeping on the pillars, badam/ ice cream/fruit vendors are selling their products, young couples are busy with themselves, gangs of young men are loitering–all on the alter of the mausoleum. Then at the base of the mausoleum, the floors are covered with excreta of the birds sitting on those seven pillars.
Shahid Minar’s condition is much worse. Once February is past, until next February, It kind of turns into a loitering garbage disposal site of a rundown block. Once I recommended a tourist to go visit Shaheed Minar and on returning he avoided talking to me about his Shaheed Minar experience although he was ecstatic about everything else he saw in Bangladesh. Rayer bazar Badhdhya Bhumi (Rayer bazar Killing Ground intellectuals Mausoleum) is another beautiful monument with poor access and shabby maintenance. And soon after December 14, it gets one degree worse. It becomes unsafe to be there even in daylight, forget visiting the mausoleum after dusk.
Having explained the current state of our national monuments, on the eve of 37th victory day, let me share my dream about the monuments with you all. Let’s talk about Shaheed Minar. No other monument could be as wonderfully located as the Shaheed Minar. It is at the watershed of New and old Dhaka and it is at the center of the academic hub of Dhaka, Conveniently located between Dhaka University, Dhaka Medical College and BUET. This monument could be our museum of Language movement and language Bangla. The museum has to be underground below Shaheed Minar as any additional structure will ruin the landscape. There may be a nominal fee to enter the site except for the month of February. There will be guided tour throughout the day covering the museum and the monument. Round the year school kids will have their field day at this museum learning about the origin of Bangla language, about the history of language movement etc.
Similarly Rayer bazar mausoleum could be the museum of genocide 1971. Still there is enough land surrounding the mausoleum to build a 71 Bangladesh genocide museum.
These monuments are our assets. These are of equal if not more importance than any of the artifacts those are being sent to Musee Guimet. Protecting those artifacts or hanging the war criminal Jamaatis must not be the ONLY mean of protecting our history and pride. We need passion to protect, present and promote our national treasures. These are our monuments for 365 days of the years 24 hours a day. Not for several hours of a single day of the year. These should be the places where all our school children will come and learn our history from. These will have to be the showcases of Bangladesh and her history for visiting foreigners.