Recalling Dr. Zoha – Kazi Ashfick Rasel


“Your bullets will pierce my heart first before they hit any student.” – In today’s vicious social system, when education is merely a business product, when a teacher engages in controversial activities without morals, corrupting the noble profession with the shameless flattery of the self-interest politics, this immortal phrase is historically quite instructive for any teacher name holders.
Yes, I am talking about martyr Dr Mohammad Shamsuzzoha, a former proctor and professor of Rajshahi University who was not limited to speech, but actually he gave his students security in exchange for his breath.

On 18 February 1969, Professor Dr Shamsuzzoha, the first martyred intellectual in the country, laid down his life in an attempt to protect his students from the Pakistani military force. For the murder of Sergeant Zahurul haque, one of the accused convicts of Agartala Conspiracy Case on 15 February, the students of Rajshahi University became furious and started staging demonstration. The students were injured by the then Pakistani police on February 18. On that day, local administration imposed section 144 on Natore-Rajshahi Highway near to Rajshahi University. When the enraged students violated the section, the Pakistani army was deployed to shoot the students, But Prof Shamsuzzoha talked with them and urged them not to fire. He said, “Don’t fire! I said don’t fire! my students will go back now. Your bullets will pierce my heart first before they hit students.” But his request did not work. When the tension grew the army fired on Shamsuzzoha. The injured Dr Zoha was later taken to the Rajshahi municipal office and there he was brutally ruined with a bayonet. Afterwards, His death sparked violent protests across the then East Pakistan finally leading to fall of the Ayub regime. The 1969 uprising in East Pakistan was the basis for the Independence struggle of Bangladesh. On Dr Zoha’s eyes the heart’s-blood of his students was much larger than his own. So he sacrificed his breath to conserve the lives of his beloved students. This great pedagogue is a source of pride and inspiration for the entire teacher community; His teaching is instructive for teachers all over the world. The second instance of such occurrence is not available in the history of the world.  A student hall of the University of Rajshahi is named as Shaheed Shamsuzzoha Hall to keep the memory of Zoha’s memorable. At the same university there is a memorial sculpture of Zoha’s called ”Sfulingo” (spark), The Zoha memory blade has been erected on the site where the firing took place and the grave of Dr Zoha is exist in front of the administrative building. 

Dr Zoha was the first martyred intellectual in the history of the Bangladesh Liberation War. He was also directly involved in the Bangla language movement in 1952. Although sacrificing his life for the country in the national movement, his history of heroism is still confined within a certain boundary, i.e., the University of Rajshahi. Dr Mohammad Shamsuzzoha’s martyrdom has passed a long time, but he is still neglected nationally. So far, no effective initiative has been taken to observe this day nationally. Prof Zoha was different from other martyred intellectuals in that he was the only one who sacrificed his life for his students.

The sacrifice of one Shamsuzzoha’s or that February 18 is not only rare in Bangladesh but also in the history of the world. To retain the memory of this great teacher of history, it is now demand of time to include the story of his renunciation in textbook. Dr Zoha is the name of a consciousness and an ideal; By national recognition of Zoha day, this great teacher will be respected to some extent and the memory and ideals of Zoha’s will never-fading before the nation. 

Kazi Ashfick Rasel is a student of Rajshahi University.