A tribute: Justice Debesh Chandra Bhattacharya Passed away Peacefully

By Ajoy Roy

 

Attention mukto-mona@yahoogroups.com

Dear Muktomonas,

Justice Debesh Bhattacharya breathed his last peacefully yesterday (2nd February, 04) evening in a Gulshan clinic quietly while the nation was celebrating Eid ul Azha. I am sure you will join me paying our due respect to yet another great son of Bangladesh. I pay my deep respect through this posting.

Ajoy Roy

Dhaka
3. 02. 04

 

Justice Debesh Chandra Bhattacharya Passed away Peacefully

Justice Debesh Bhattacharya, an well respected personality of the Bangladesh Supreme court and Bar, a veteran humanist and human right leader, a well reputed lawyer and really most honoured Justice (retired) the Supreme court passed away peacefully yesterday, 2nd February, 2004 on the day of Eid ul Azha. He was more than 85, when he breathed his last in a Gulshan clinic.

To common people like me he was a famous lawyer and a constitutional expert, a most respectful Justice of the Supreme Court, a relentless fighter against fanaticism & communalism and a guide-philosopher in need, but to his comrades and co-fighters he was lovingly called as ‘Debesh da’.

The retired justice has been suffering from various illnesses for past several years following severe brain stroke. He has been leading an invalid life, unable to move, talk freely, and even do his personal things. A terrible life indeed. His wife, we call as per Bengali tradition ‘ardhangini ’, meaning half of the body, has been looking after him alone for these few years. According to Hindu cultural and religious tradition, a man is incomplete until a marriage is solemnized with a woman. The marriage brings two half units a complete union, Yaya o Pati, dampati. Mrs. Chitra Devi on her own right a well known social worker. She was an MP in the last jatiya sansad. His eldest son Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, a well known economist of the country works in Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dhaka as its Executive director, another son Dipen Bhattacharya, a Physicist is in University of California, USA.

This great son of Bangladesh, a firm believer of liberal democracy was associated with many human rights activities, a father figure of Hindu-Boudha-Christian Oikya Parisad, President of Ramkrishna Math, Dhaka, Pravartak, Chittagong etc. etc.. His loud voice was always heard whenever a women or a minority were exposed to repression. He led the movement for repeal of the infamous vested property act that reduced the members of the minority community to second grade citizens. He also initiated a movement for enacting Hindu code bill for Bangladeshi Hindus with a aim to abolish castes and equality of women in the social order of Hinduism with their male counter parts. I saw many of his writings on the issue. But unfortunately, this made him controversial; many orthodox Hindu leaders criticized his opinions.

I read his two excellent articles on vested property act shading light how this discriminatory act made minorities to second class status in national life and how the old and traditional elite minority families were being harassed by the government servants and local influential quarters:

1. Enemy Property (vested) Property Law in Bangladesh – D. C. Bhattacharya, (published by Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya, 1991) 2. Nature and Character of Enemy (vested) Properties – D. C. Bhattacharya, (Paper presented in a meeting organized by Sampradayik Sampriti Parisad, 1994)

I vividly remember his courageous and undaunted role criticizing the then government, which failed to stop repression, and torture let loose by the fundamentalist forces on the minorities following the destruction of Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh (India). I remember under the auspicious of Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council a press conference was held on 4th January, 1993 in the Press Club to protest the atrocities committed on the minority communities as a consequence of Babri Masjid fall out. Justice Bhattacharya was the key figure in the press conference. And I am sure, the well written press statement, couched with facts and figures, restrained from emotion and agony, must had been drafted by him. The statement began with,

“Dear Journalists friends,

We are assembled here with a heavy heart full of sorrow and pain. We are utterly aggrieved and compounded now. The recent act of barbarism unleashed by a section of communal forces on the minority groups had once again not only hurt the spirit of the great Liberation War and national unity, but also forced us to face cruel reality.

....... ...

It was unprecedented that raising the issue of another country the repeated attack and atrocities indulged on the minority groups had opened a shameful chapter in the history of mankind. You are the conscious community of the nation. So, we want to inform the world community about our distress through your objective writings. .....

..... .....

According to available information, thousands of temples, places of worships, commercial establishments and houses were badly damaged, valuables looted and set ablaze by the said fanatic group. ......

Thousands of people are living under open sky without food, shelter and clothings for days together. Businessmen are moving empty handed loosing their asset. Hundreds of women have become mum losing chastity as they were violated. A sense of insecurity is prevailing among the people of the minority community. The people belonging to the fanatic groups are threatening the minority groups of serious consequences and extorting money what they have, occupying their lands and properties and even forcing them to convert into Islam. “

The statement ended with a 7-point charter of demand, which are as follows: 1. Immediate reconstruction of the damaged temples, places of worship and religious institutions. 2. adequate compensation to the affected people; 3. providing relief materials to the distressed people ensuring their rehabilitation; 4. examplary punishment to those responsible for the incidents; 5. proper measures against the willful silence and inactiveness of the administration; 6. ban on politics of the communal forces and 7. amicable and permanent solution to the problems of the minority groups in the greater interest of the nation.

...... The sense of insecurity and uncertainty that engulfed the minority groups would not be eliminated only through speeches and assurances but through pragmatic constitutional and political steps. Otherwise we fear, the national unity and integrity would be at stake. “

What the late justice feared a decade ago, the situation in BD as regards the peril of minority people worsening with geometric progression in today’s Bangladesh although we have received certificate of being a Moderate Moslem State, whatever that means.

Although, personally I was never very close to him, I had always deep regards and profound respects for this humanist dhrambatar, we lovingly used to call Bicharpati Debesh Bhattacharya. Let me pay my humble homage by paying tribute at the feet of this beloved son of Bangladesh.

Ps: I hurriedly wrote this tribute. If I could collect more information, I would surely write up an obituary fairly in detail for you, the freethinkers.

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