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18th Feb demanded as ‘National Teacher Day’
RU, BdChronicle Special Feature:
…please, don't open fire; my students will go back now". This request did not work. Then he said, "Your bullets will pierce my heart first before they hit students."
This is Dr. Shamsuzzoha who sacrificed his life for the cause of the nation in the struggle of democracy on February 18, 1969.
That day was a red-letter day not only in the history of Rajshahi University (RU) but also in the historical movement for democracy in 1969, in the memory of the entire teachers' community in Bangladesh as well.
On that very turbulent day of mass upsurge in 1969, a respectable teacher of RU sacrificed himself for democracy as Pakistani autocratic rulers were trying to bow down people’s voice.
Dr. Shamsuzzoha is considered to be the 1st martyr of Bangladeshi teacher who embraced martyrdom for the sake of the nation struggling for being freed from Pakistani oppression and exploitation specially to uphold democracy, human rights and equality.
Though Dr Zoha is called the first intellectual martyr, the recognition by the state to uphold the outstanding contribution of this hero has not come yet. The demand for 18 February as the National Teacher Day is a sacred demand. Thousands of students and teachers of RU have been demanding for a long time to have a declaration of 18th February as the National Teacher Day.
On that historic day, the Pak military junta killed Dr. Shamsuzzoha, the Proctor and Associate Professor of RU Chemistry Department, in front RU main gate as he had tried to protect students demonstrating against the despotic ruler, President Ayub Khan in 1969.
Rajshahi University like other parts of the country turned one of the protest centers against General Ayub khan’s autocracy and Agartala conspiracy case.
Infamous Agartala conspiracy case was filed against 35 Bangalee civil and military officers over treason and conspiracy against Pakistan statehood. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was made the principal accused and the case itself was officially styled, “State vs Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Others.”
President Ayub formed a special tribunal to try the accused. The case caused a great turbulence in East Pakistan. The student community started a united movement against the Ayub regime. They defied the section 144 imposed by the police, broke the barricades put by the East Pakistan Rifles and came out to the streets in thousands. A mass-upsurge took place; the Pakistani rulers ordered shooting in different places. During this movement, a lot of people were killed: Asad, a student leader of Dhaka University, Dr. Shamsuzzoha, the associate professor of Chemistry Department and the proctor of Rajshahi University and Matiur, a school student of Dhaka and Sgt Zahurul Huq, an accused of the Agartala Conspiracy Case were among them. On February 22, Pakistan Government was forced to grant unconditional release to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and withdraw the Agartala Conspiracy Case.
The movement for the democracy that was started shortly after Asad was killed on 20 January 1969, the movement got momentum throughout the country after the killing of teenage Motiur Rahman and others two on 24 January. The most notable killing that provoked the nation in the quest of democracy was the killing of Sergeant Zohurul Haque.
On 15 February 1969, following the killing of Sergeant Zahurul Haque, the so-called accused in the Agartala conspiracy, the flame of protest and wave of turbulence spread everywhere including Rajshahi University.
Sergeant Zahurul Haq served as a sergeant of the Pakistan Air Force, killed in jail when he was under trial. Haq was one of the 35 persons accused in the agartala conspiracy case officially called State vs Sheikh Mujibur Rahman & Others.
In the morning of February 18, tension mounted on the campus as the enraged students were preparing to infringe the section 144 imposed by the Pak military rulers. At one stage, the East Pakistan Regiment armed forces got prepared to open fire on the students. Zoha urged Pak cops "please, don't open fire; my students will go back now. After being refused, he said, "Your bullets will pierce my heart first before they hit even a single student".
Dr. Zoha tried to protect his beloved students but the junta did not hesitate to fire at him. Not only that, they bayoneted the great teacher to death at last.
Former RU Vice Chancellor and a witness to the incident, Prof Abdul Khaleque told this correspondent that Zoha was requesting to two Pakistani Army officers, Captain Hadi and Lt. Khadem Shah not to open fire on the students. At one stage, Lt. Khadem ordered Bangali Army to shoot him, but he refused to comply with his order. Agitated Shah then using his own revolver gunned down Dr. Zoha.
Shortly after the news was broadcast on Radio, the whole nation took to the streets on that night violating the ongoing curfew. The movement for the democracy with the blood of Dr Zoha flattered over the whole country.
The mausoleum of Dr Zoha was set in front of RU main administrative building. A Hall was named after Dr Shamsuzzoha Zoha at RU. Sculpture “Sfulingo” (spark) was set in front of Zoha hall to remember Dr Zoha.
This great teacher will not come back but his unforgettable sacrifice still encourages and inspires the entire nation. In memory of this great soul is being observed as the ‘Teacher Day’ at RU every year. The Teachers and Students of RU have long been demanding to have a declaration of the day 18th February from government as the National Teacher Day so that the spirits of Dr. Zoha inspires the teachers all over the country to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the nation.
Dr Zoha was born on 1st May, 1934 at Bakura under East Bengal. He attained his Matriculation from Bakura Zilla School and Intermediate from Bakura Christian College in the year 1948 and 1950 respectably. In 1950 family of Zoha shifted to the then East Pakistan. He got admitted into the Department of Chemistry of Dhaka University. After achieving graduation and post graduation from the same University in 1953 and 1955 respectively, he joined Rajshahi University on February 23, 1961 as the lecturer of chemistry department.
He got PhD degree from Imperial College, London. He took the charge of Proctor in the 15 April 1968. Dr Zoha stopped an ongoing annual sports function of RU on 16 February after the news of Sergeant Johurul Haque killing.