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We recall Manik Mia

01 June 2021
We recall Manik Mia


Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed :
Tafazzal Hossain Manik Mia was born in 1911 in Bhandaria village of Pirojpur district. His father's name is Muslim Uddin Mia. Manik Mia's mother died in infancy. Manik Mia started his education at East Bhandaria Model Primary School in the village. After studying there for some time, he was admitted to Bhandaria High School. Manik Mia studied up to eighth standard in Bhandaria School. Then he went to Pirojpur District Government High School. From there he passed the metric with distinction. In 1935, Manik Mia obtained his BA degree from Barisal BM College with distinction. At this time he got the opportunity to become an intimate associate of the then Muslim League leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. He was given a job by him but he did not continue it.  Later he joined "The Ittehad" of prominent journalist Abul Mansur Ahmed. After that he took the full responsibity of "The Ittefaq". Later, the daily Ittefaq played an important role in the movement against Ayub Khan's military rule. Martial law violation charges were brought against him in 1959 and sent to jail for one year. Again, he was arrested in 1966. This time, the Daily Ittefaq publication was banned and the New Nation Printing Press confiscated. Due to this the other two newspapers he founded, Dhaka Times and Purbani, were shut down. For mass-movement the ban on the Daily Ittefaq was withdrawn.
Tafazzal Hossain Manik Mia was the greatest artist of the political movement in the development of nationalism. The greatest pen fighter made a bridge between politics and journalism. He became a fellow of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's independence movement partner. But he did not join the Awami League directly. He did not take any position in the team. There was a proposal for Manik Mia for his place in the cabinet ministry of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. He did not agree. Rather he had an active role in democratic national politics. As a journalist, Manik Mia was known by another name- ' Mosafir '. Manik Mia and Mosafir were a different identity. Manik Mia saw politics as a well-organized organisation with the participation of the masses. One of the tools of democracy is free media. Daily Ittefaq was established as a tool to propagate the ideology or philosophy of that democracy.
The elections in 1946 and the United Front Election in 1954, demonstrated the commitment of the Bengali people to democracy. Manik Mia remained uncompromisingly committed to the restoration of democracy. As the Editor of the Ittefaq, he, undeterred by martial law, continued to write forcefully in favour of democracy and informed the people of the repressive actions of martial law against political leaders. He, thus, contributed significantly to keep alive the spirit of democracy in those dark days. His columns under his pen-name "Musafir" were read as a source of inspiration. Progressively as the issue of discrimination and disparity to which Bengalis were subjected by the authoritarian government and exploitation by the central ruling coterie gave strength to the growing Bangali nationalism. The Ittefaq under the editorials of Manik Mia attracted young journalists, whose powerful pens contributed to the cause. One of them Ahmedur Rahman was killed tragically in an air crash in Egypt, but Serajuddin Hossain wrote on powerfully for the cause of the Bengali people until he was martyred in 1971.
Between 1966 and 1969, the politics in Eastern wing gathered strength centered around the six-point programme. The Ittefaq's role in articulating the issue of disparity and discrimination from which Bangalis suffered continued to play a vital role in promoting the unity of the Bangali people. Manik Mia's position in this period was a particularly challenging one. Since he enjoyed broad support of political leaders his role was important in sustaining the unity of the Bengali people. Some Bengali leaders who took the view that election and democracy should be given priority within NDF kept up pressure on Manik Mia to support them. Manik Mia while maintaining respectful relations with those leaders continued to give forceful support to the six-point Programme for regional autonomy. June 7, 1966 is a historic date in the six-point Movement since it was a national protest day. Ayub launched his repressive assault on that day, arresting Bangabandhu and his associates and Manik Mia and seizing and forfeiting the Ittefaq newspaper.
It was quite obvious that the anti-autonomy forces had succeeded in shutting the door to negotiations on regional autonomy. Bangabandhu therefore rejected the award. On returning from the conference hall, he sat with his senior colleagues to decide on their next course of action. Before the press conference, Bangabandhu had telephoned Manik Mia in Dhaka, as he was anxious to gauge the popular reaction, which he had correctly assessed would support his decision to reject Ayub's award and to carry forward the political movement. Manik Mia in no uncertain terms said that the movement and the peoples' unity had been strengthened by Bangabandhu's decision which was fully supported by them. The public reaction was to intensify the movement: spontaneous demonstrations in Dhaka denounced Ayub Khan, and pledged support to the Six Points movement. Bangabandhu's position as the authentic spokesperson of the Bangali people was confirmed by these demonstrations. Manik Mia's views thus contributed to the taking of the decision in March 1969 to intensify the six-point movement, which was a key chapter in our liberation struggle.
Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia, editor and owner of Daily Ittefaq and president of International Press Institute's Pakistan unit, was a true benevolent of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. Bangabandhu also respected him like an elder brother. When Manik Mia was arrested, he wrote about him in his Prison Diaries, "The news hurt me a lot. They even didn't spare Manik vai? How far have they stooped! He is at the top among the journalists of Pakistan. A very few writers can stand against his pen. Especially his political analysis is incomparable. The situation of global politics can be understood easily by his column 'Rajnoitik Moncho'. The mass readers find no difficulty in realising his writings. He can be termed as the best wordsmith."
Manik Mia's Ittefaq wasn't an ordinary newspaper. One can't compare today's Ittefaq, or any other newspaper for that matter, to the Ittefaq under the editorship of Manik Mia. It was completely a different era. The golden times of Ittefaq were from 1954 to 1971. When Pakistan had just gotten its independence and when East Pakistan was faced with all kinds of discrimination from the central government, Ittefaq became one of the mediums of protest. He was not a mainstream political person and he was more than just a political mind. He led a life of a statesman where his knowledge formed the foundation of his work - something he was not willing to compromise at any cost. Manik Mia's contribution and the role of Ittefaq in achieving independence are undeniable. Manik Mia is a legend in the history of Bangladesh's media. He is a torchbearer who has paved the way for the true path of journalism. Today on the occasion of his 52nd death anniversary we pay our heartfelt respect and homage to this great man.

(DR. Forqan is former Deputy Director General, Bangladesh Ansar & VDP)

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