Mostafa Kamal Majumder
It was a matter of sheer luck that I joined The Bangladesh Times at the start of my career in journalism. The paper was the most dynamic among four English dailies of Dhaka City at that time and was full of luminaries of English journalism in Bangladesh. The paper also had a solid foundation. Renowned editor of The Bangladesh Observer, Abdus Salam; pioneer of education in journalism in the country and founder head of the Department of Journalism, Dhaka University, Atiquzzaman Khan were among its commentators. It had two full-time feature writers and an entertainment section with the most experienced cine writer in its fold. Famous journalist Shahidul Huq, who was known as the finest writer in English Journalism in the country was its executive editor, Mahbubul Alam a sweet writing hand was the Associate Editor. Chief Reporter was Matiur Rahman who was known for his simple writings. A M Mufazzal who made his mark for news editing and make-up was its News Editor. Alamgir Mohiuddin was the Diplomatic Correspondent to become Chief Reporter soon after when Matiur Rahman joined the Bangladesh Biman as Public Relations Director. There were a number of university teachers who used to write regularly on economic, social and cultural issues. Fazlul Huq Moni, the Awami League stalwart was its editor. Three other English dailies of Dhaka City then were the nationalised The Bangladesh Observer with Obaidul Huq as its editor, The Morning News under a government owned trust and privately owned The People. The Bangladesh Times attracted the good hands from the Morning News and The people to make a formidable team. Owner and editor Fazlul Huq Moni ran the paper professionally giving the journalists by and large freedom. And the paper made its mark within the first year of its publication. Two examples will suffice to narrate the professionalism promoted in the paper. Eminent reporter of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha Ferdous Alam Dulal was nice to me and used to share with me his feelings on different issues. We used to meet at the National Press Club. One day I invited him to come to our office at 83 Motijheel Madhumati Mudranalaya. He said in reply being a man from the central committee of the Awami Juba League, the Bangladesh Times was made off-limit for him by Fazlul Huq Moni who was the chairman of Juba league. Dulal quoted Moni Bhai as saying, ‘As a member of AL your limit is up to the first floor of the building where the office of Banglar Bani, a mouthpiece of the Awami League, was located. The Bangladesh Times is manned by big journalists and party workers have no entrance to the second floor (its office) of the building. The life of this promising economic reporter was cut short when he along with Awami League’s labour front leader Abdur Rahman was killed in firing by some unidentified miscreants at Bijoynagar in Dhaka City in May 1980.
The second instance was when The Bangladesh Chhatra Union and the Bangladesh Biplabi Chhatra Union clashed at the Dhaka University Arts Faculty Building area most probably in December 1974. I covered the incident. In the evening Moni Bhai wanted to know from me the details of the clash at the office room of Executive Editor Shahidul Huq and suggested the headline should be like ‘the two factions of Bangladesh Chhatra Union met on… Day after 22 years but in a clash’. Shahid Bhai was in favour of giving a simple description of the incident under a simple headline and strongly stood by his opinion. Moni Bhai gave up and left it to the opinion of Shahid Bhai. The paper accommodated legendary journalist Abdus Salam although he was dismissed from the Bangladesh Observer for writing an editorial headlined ‘The supreme test’ urging Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to rely on the law enforcing agencies and stop undesirable interference of other elements with the maintaining law and order.
Another reason why I was lucky to be in The Bangladesh Times was that it did not close down when all newspapers except four dailies and two weeklies were closed down in 1975 following the setting up of the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League. Bangladesh Times was one of the four newspapers which were brought under the government owned newspaper management board. Being on its pay roll I did not lose job like hundreds of others of different newspapers which were closed down. I recall one day before the nationalisation of the paper I approached Shahidul Huq Bhai for a short leave of absence. He joked and said, ‘wait you may have a permanent leave of absence.’ Luckily it did not happen to me. During the eight months of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League my duty was mostly to cover the activities of the Jaitya Chhatra League of which Sheikh Shahidul Islam was the president. Its central office was located near the Chittagong Hotel opposite to the Dhaka College in the Dhanmandi area. I was somehow spared from joining the party. Being a junior member of the team I did not carry much importance to be pursued to become a member. I was absent from office when one evening the journalists of The Bangladesh Times in a group went and joined BKSAL. I was left out and remained so all along. On the morning of 15 August 1975 my duty was to take note of what Bangabandhu might speak at the different places in the Dhaka University campus he was scheduled to visit after a central meeting at the Dhaka University Teacher-students centre at 10 am. Our Chief Reporter Alamgir Mohiuddin was to cover the TSC meeting. I woke up that morning to noise made by JSD-backed Chhatra League members at the Surja Sen Hall. They were talking and shouting about the coup d’état in which Bangabandhu along with the members of his family was killed. I saw Tanks moving towards the Bangladesh Betar (Radio) office at Shah Bagh. I left for the residence of my uncle Tajul Islam Majumder at the Jagannath Shaha Road at Lalbagh. And that was the last day of my student life in the Surja Sen Hall.
Mostafa Kamal Majumder