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Press Report on CPD dialogue titled The Struggle for Bangladesh

CPD Dialogue on The Struggle for Bangladesh held at BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka, on Saturday, 30 January 2016., the discussion was based on Professor Rehman Sobhan’s recently published memoir “Untranquil Recollections: The Years of Fulfilment”

View more news reports on the event


Published in The Daily Star on Sunday, 31 January 2016

Lessons from 60s could aid progress

Speakers tell discussion on Prof Rehman Sobhan’s book

Staff Correspondent

Dr Rehman Sobhan, chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), discusses his memoir titled “Untranquil Recollections: The Years of Fulfilment” at the capital’s Brac Centre yesterday. Syed Manzoorul Islam, professor of English at Dhaka University; Dr Kamal Hossain, a jurist; Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of CPD, and Gowher Rizvi, prime minister’s international affairs adviser, took part in the discussion, among others. Photo: Star

Lessons from the glorious movement of the 1960s could have helped Bangladesh move forward, speakers told a dialogue yesterday.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) organised the event to hold a discussion on Prof Rehman Sobhan’s latest book, “Untranquil Recollections: The Years of Fulfilment”, at Brac Centre Inn in the capital.

The speakers said there was great consensus and unity among politicians, academics, the civil society and students in the 60s that led to the independence of Bangladesh.

“Youths had protested against the social injustice in the 1960s. They had mobilised public opinion and built up consensus in favour of democracy,” said eminent lawyer Dr Kamal Hossain.

He said Prof Rehman stood firm against the social injustice at that time even though he was just in his mid-20s.

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow at the CPD, said the 60s was the golden decade in Bangladesh’s history when tolerance prevailed amidst social injustice.

“There was a great combination of thoughts, thinkers and politicians in the 1960s and this combination helped the creation of Bangladesh,” he said.

The discussants hailed Prof Rehman for his works in exposing the economic disparity between West Pakistan and East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh. They termed him a public intellectual who specialised on a myriad of issues, especially politics, economics, history and philosophy.

Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the prime minister, said, “The role he played was quite phenomenal.”

Senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmed said he was the real motivator in unearthing the disparity. “Two economic theories in two parts of Pakistan were his brainchild,” he said.

Prof Manzoorul Islam of Dhaka University said Prof Rehman was inseparable from the history of Bangladesh. “As I read the book, I felt like meditating. It is a revisit to history,” he said.

Sultan Hafeez Rahman said the book contained elements of politics, history, economics and philosophy.

MM Akash, who teaches economics at Jahangirnagar University, said it was a complete book which narrated the history of Bangladesh from 1957 to 1971.

Mujahidul Islam Selim, president of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, said Prof Rehman acted as a bridge between academics and political activists in the 60s. “We used to take elements from him and make people understand,” he said.

The speakers also talked on Prof Rehman’s humour and his capacity to narrate history in a simple way.

Replying to questions from some of the speakers, Prof Rehman said he and others were able to put the idea of socialism in the election manifesto of 1970 and movement for freedom not because they had influence over Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

“He (Bangabandhu) was a person who had a need for such ideas as he was mobilising people for greater wars. He responded to his need, otherwise our ideas would have ended up in the waste basket,” he said.


Published in Dhaka Tribune on Sunday, 31 January 2016

‘It was really our story’

Tribune Report

Untranquil Recollection the years of fulfillmen
Eminent economist Prof Rehman Sobhan discusses his book “Untranquil Recollection: the years of fulfillment” at an event organised by CPD at Brac Centre Inn in the capital

Eminent economist Professor Rehman Sobhan described the independence movement and Liberation War as the story of an entire generation of young men and women, who saw their dreams fulfilled with the independence of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971.

“The narrative which provides the background for our presence here was written as my story in the book. What I refer to as the years of fulfillment were really a sense of fulfillment achieved by a generation. My personal narration has been put together in the book, which is presented for the next generation and those who want to know where Bangladesh originated from and to understand how we came into existence.”

Prof Sobhan was making his introductory remarks at a discussion on his memoir “Untranquil Recollections: The Years of Fulfillment” at Brac Centre Inn in Dhaka yesterday.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) organised the event, moderated by CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya. The book was launched in Dhaka at the Dhaka Lit Fest in November 2015, and has recently been launched in Delhi and Kolkata.

“I do not flatter myself in regarding my story, as I tell it here, as history, because so many other renowned persons have also written stories of that period. The issue, of course, is I was not in a position to do that. So, I see my presentation as a personal rumination on our times, our hopes, and our dreams,” Prof Sobhan explained at the discussion.

He pointed out that even though “we are now almost 50 years into our independence, we are still left with little more than a series of ‘my stories.’ There is no definitive history of Bangladesh, which could bring together the personal narratives of the many who participated in it into one comprehensive account.”

Taking part at the discussion, eminent lawyer and president of Gano Forum Dr Kamal Hossain said that a discussion should be organised at an open place so that the young generation could learn about the true history of the nation and the role played by the youth of the time and that which could be played by the youth of today.

Dr Kamal said that the book was very precious for the nation as it could play an exceptional role for forging unity among the people.

“National unity was established during the turbulent time of the nation, as students, politicians and teachers of that time were united for the cause of the people – the centre of the power,” he said.

Senior BNP leader and lawyer Moudud Ahmed pointed out that Prof Rehman Sobhan came from an elite family but settled in Dhaka and worked for the national aspirations of the people. “This is the reflection of his high mentality and deep love towards the people of the country. He has set an example for others by settling in Bangladesh.”

Moudud said that the writer was a political economist as he was very much involved in politics, but did want not to become a politician. “I think this is an unfinished book. I hope that there will be another to describe the events of the post-independent Bangladesh. Let us know why a party which did not believe in social transformation relied on socialism,” he added.

Dhaka University teacher Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam was intrigued as to how a man with Prof Sobhan’s ancestral heritage should come to make the choices he did and end up where he had ended up, as a teacher at Dhaka University and architect of the economic case for Bangali self-determination. “But it is not fate that brought him to Dhaka but his personal choice, which is very important as his choice led him to create a personal history, which is also a nation’s history.”

Brac Institute of Governance and Development Executive Director Dr Sultan Hafeez Rahman said that the book was not just about politics and economics.

“It was a very human story, told in a profoundly human way. It was about injustice. It was really a story of the national struggle of the Bangalis to free themselves from colonial domination and supremacy.”

“So much of the book was about Prof Rehman Sobhan, the man,” he added.

Prime Minister’s Adviser Prof Dr Gowher Rizvi described the book as an extraordinary one. “In total reality, the book provides us with a very authentic picture of the critical time of Bangladesh.”

CPD Distinguished Fellow Prof Rounaq Jahan said: “When we teach students in a foreign country, we have to show them documentaries that help them in becoming attentive as they often remain indifferent to mere statistics and data. From this point of view, I think this book will work well if it is included in the curriculum of the universities as it gives a political picture and social picture as well.”

Prof Mustafizur Rahman, the CPD executive director, Dhaka University teacher MM Akash, former finance minister M Syeduzzaman, and former foreign secretary and BNP vice-chairman Shamsher Mubin Chowdhury were among others who took part in the discussion.


Published in The Financial Express on Sunday, 31 January 2016

Accolade for an economic messiah of Liberation War

He inspired leaders, say speakers about Rehman

FE Report

Professor Rehman Sobhan’s poignant write-ups projecting the economic disparity between the two halves of Pakistan inspired young generation to stand to the inequality-a spirit that eventually led them to the struggle for liberation.

Such high note of accolade for the economist came from intellectuals, economists and members of civil society at a discussion entitled ‘The Struggle for Bangladesh’ Saturday in Dhaka.

The speakers, mostly students and friends of the octogenarian, during discussion on his book titled ‘Untranquil Recollections: The Years of Fulfilment’, also lauded his contribution to creating world opinion in favour of Bangladesh during the liberation war and introducing Bangladesh to the global arena through his writings.

Prof Sobhan’s writings on economic disparity between then East and West Pakistan, they noted, helped the political leaders in formulating policy positions and paving the way for the liberation war.

He was one of the first Bangladeshis to have irked the former West Pakistan rulers by pointing fingers at the regional economic disparity existing then between the two sides of the divide, said the speakers.

“Rehman Sobhan’s write-ups focusing deprivation and inequality in East Pakistan inspired the young students and many of us attended the class only to listen to his lecture,” said CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim.

Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi also praised the role of Prof Rehman Sobhan, saying that he first brought to light the economic disparities between the two parts of Pakistan.

“Rehman contributed a lot to mobilizing public opinion in favour of Bangladesh, especially among the non-resident East-Pakistanis abroad, persuaded the diplomats into working in favour of Bangladesh,” also said the  adviser to the prime minister.

Acclaiming him as a personality of outstanding intellectuality, BNP Standing Committee Member Barrister Moudud Ahmed thanked Prof Rehman for not joining in politics. “Despite being a political economist and introducer of 2-economy theory, Rehman did not join politics. Thanks for his integrity,” he said.

The BNP leader, however, criticised the role of Rehman Sobhan as part of government after the liberation for massive nationalisation. He was also critical of the “one-party rule”.

Private think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) organised the discussion session on the book at the BRAC Centre Inn Auditorium.  Moderated by CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, the programme was also addressed, among others, by Dr. Kamal Hossain, a close associate of Professor Rehman Sobhan, former caretaker government advisers Dr. Akbar Ali Khan and Rasheda K Chowdhury, former ambassador Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Dr Rounaq Jahan, Dr. MM Akash, Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) Executive Director Dr Sultan Hafeez Rahman.

Dr Kamal Hossain narrated how he became well-known for his newspaper writings on the economic disparity between East and West Pakistan in the early 1960s. Prof Sobhan also made a short description on his book-a memoir.

Most of the speakers, including Dr Kamal, lauded the role of Dhaka University during the liberation period and lamented over its present predicament. They said Prof Sobhan’s role as teacher of DU was quite appreciated as most of his writings were against exploitation, communalism and corruption.

The book provides a sequential narrative which blends economic analysis with journalistic reportage of important historical events, and can be read both as a history of events as well as of ideas, which culminated in the emergence of an independent Bangladesh.

The book provides an intellectual history of Prof Sobhan’s participation in the debates on what was then defined as two economies dividing Pakistan and the consequential economic deprivation of the Bengalis.

These writings of his were influential in shaping political debates of the time, which culminated in the presentation of the 6-point agenda of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the ensuing movement for independence.


Published in New Age on Sunday, 31 January 2016

REHMAN SOBHAN’S MEMOIR : ‘A testament of the national struggle for independence’

Staff Correspondent

Guests attend a roundtable conference titled ‘The Struggle for Bangladesh’ organised by Centre for Policy Dialogue at BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka on Saturday. — New Age photo

Guests attend a roundtable conference titled ‘The Struggle for Bangladesh’ organised by Centre for Policy Dialogue at BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka on Saturday. — New Age photo

Speakers on Saturday termed the ‘Untranquil Recollections: the Years of Fulfillment’ a memoir by professor Rehman Sobhan, as a testament of the national struggle for independence and national identity within the historical events of Bangladesh.

At a discussion on the book titled ‘the struggle for Bangladesh’, they also stressed on spreading the essence and history behind the independence of the country among the young generations to create national consensus on important issues like democracy, secularism, nationalism and social justice, the major driving forces of the liberation war.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue organised the discussion on the book published in November last year at BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka where politicians, academics, economists and civil society members gave their opinion on the book.

Gana Forum president Kamal Hossain said that the young generation must be informed about the unfulfilled expectations of the liberation war and past movements.

He said that the core expectation was the empowerment of the people, democracy, secularism, nationalism and socialism for removing injustice.

‘We need to build a consensus on the issues,’ he said.

At the programme, Rehman Sobhan said we are now almost 50 years into our independence but still there is no definitive history of Bangladesh, including narratives of people who participated in the historical events, to present to the next generation who want to know about the history of Bangladesh.

Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the prime minister, said the reader of the book will get near to the insights of Bangabandu on the historical events as Rehman Sobhan was very close to Bangabandu and his envoy entrusted with campaigning in favour of Bangladesh’s demand for independence.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party standing committee member Moudud Ahmed hoped the writer would include details about the nationalisation of the industries, banks and other businesses, in a bid to establish socialism, though the party ruling the country had no orientation in socialism.

He said Bangabandu would not have been killed if one party system had not been introduced.

‘It was an error of judgment on his part to try to achieve socialism through democracy,’ he said.

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development executive director Sultan Hafeez Rahman said the book is not just a memoir but accumulated stories of national struggle.

Dhaka University professor of English Syed Manzoorul Islam, economist MM Akash, CPD executive director Mustafizur Rahman, President of Communist Party of Bangladesh Mujahidul Islam Selim,  former adviser to the caretaker government Akbar Ali Khan, professor Rownaq Jahan, among others, spoke at the programme moderated by CPD distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya.




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