Tuesday, March 25

Kill one teacher and you murder thousands

The influence of a teacher stops at eternity so if you kill a teacher, you stopped human development and killed thousands.

A tribute to Dr. G. C. Dev

Mohammad Abdur Rashid
THE government of Bangladesh has awarded the Independence Day Award 2008 posthumously to the late Professor Govinda Chandra Dev, popularly known as Dr. G. C. Dev or Dr. Dev, of Dhaka University. Dr.G. C. Dev, one of the most learned philosophers and intellectuals of Bangladesh, was brutally murdered by the Pakistan army on the fateful night of March 25, 1971.
Dr. Dev was born on January 1, 1907 in the village of Lauta in Biyani
Bazar, Sylhet. He passed Matriculation with first class in 1925 and
Intermediate with first class in 1927 (with letter mark in logic)
from the Pancakhanda Horo Govinda High School in Biyani Bazar.
He completed his BA (Hons) in philosophy with first class from the
Calcutta Sanskrit College in 1929, and MA in philosophy with first
class first from Calcutta University. Dr. Dev completed his PhD in
philosophy from Calcutta University in 1944.
His PhD thesis titled "Reason, Intuition and Reality" was later
published as a book named Idealism and Progress. He carried out his
PhD research under the late Dr. Savapalli Radhakrishnan, one of the
most learned philosophers of India, who later became vice president
and president of India.
Dr. Dev started his academic career as a lecturer in philosophy in
Ripon College, Calcutta. He founded the Dinajpur Surendra Nath
College by collecting donations from the people, and became its
founder principal.
In 1953, Dr. Dev became reader (now known as associate professor) in the Department of Philosophy and Psychology, Dhaka University. He was appointed provost of Jagannath Hall in 1957, and continued in this position till 1970. He was appointed head of the department in 1963 and became professor in 1967. During this period, Dr. Dev became known as a highly-reputed scholar of philosophy and eastern
religions, including Islam, through his writings and publications.
Dr. Dev had in-depth understanding of many branches of knowledge. He was an avid reader and great thinker. He was very good at public
speaking, and gave scholarly and enlightening speeches, often
extempore, on a range of topics that included Sufism and Muslim
He was an idealist, and wrote a number of books on idealism. He used
to call his philosophy "synthetic idealism," combining idealism,
spiritualism and materialism. Some of his books are Idealism &
Progress, Idealism: A New Defence and New Applications, Aspiration of the Common Man, Buddha-the Humanist, Parables of the East and My American Experience (the last two were published posthumously from Dhaka University). His way of writing articles and books was very fascinating. He would walk in his room from one corner to another while framing his thoughts and giving dictation.
His understanding and thinking skills were incredibly high. He was
also able to do lengthy and complex calculations without paper and
pencil. We were often amazed at how quickly he was able to grasp what we had written, point out our mistakes and give his learned comments on what had taken us hours and days to write.
He used to narrate real life experiences to illustrate theory. Some
of these narrations were often humorous, and contained practical
lessons that I still remember today. He never belittled or ridiculed
anyone, and was always respectful of others, irrespective of
religion, ethnicity and social status. This was itself a critical
value for us to learn and uphold for the rest of our lives.
I will always remember Dr. Dev for his simple, modest and self-
effacing nature. I remember how he humorously commented on his own unassuming appearance while giving us an example of how appearance and reality may not always be the same.
During an official trip from Dinajpur to Dhaka, as the principal of
the Dinajpur Surendra Nath College, he was travelling in a first
class compartment. He had, as usual, put on a dhuti, punjabi and
shawl made of simple material. The ticket checker thought he did not have a first class ticket and complained that he was sitting in the wrong compartment. Dr. Dev showed him the first class ticket and humbly replied: "Although my appearance is third class, in reality, my ticket is first class." The ticket checker felt embarrassed and apologised to him.
Dr. Dev used to lead a simple life, residing in the small one-story
official residence of the provost of Jagannath Hall. He was a life-
long bachelor and lived with his adopted son Jyoti Prakash Datta. He
also adopted a Muslim girl as his daughter. Dr. Dev was very non-
communal in his outlook and used to love all of us very much. We
benefited greatly from his affection and guidance. We never needed
prior permission to see him at his office or residence, and could
meet him anytime to discuss any matter. He always welcomed us warmly.
As far as I remember, he was a vegetarian. As the provost of
Jagannath Hall, he used to be regularly invited to the monthly feasts
and dinners in all the halls. I had the privilege of accompanying him
to some of the feasts in my hall, Dhaka Hall. As he could not eat
many items, he normally had a meal of muri mixed with mustard oil and onion before going to the official dinners. Often, he would make
enlightening and humorous after-dinner speeches. The students and
teachers of the department used to celebrate his birthday annually,
when we used to have a cultural function in which we all
participated. He enjoyed spending time with students and teachers
very much. He was very much a man of the people -- always there for us.
Like many other teachers of Dhaka University at that time, he did not have a car. He would walk from his house to Dhaka Hall, and was always accompanied by students discussing various topics and issues with him. If he was in a rush, he would take a rickshaw.
Occasionally, he used to visit some of his colleagues, and loved to
have home-cooked meals at the house of one of our teachers, Dr. Abdur Rab.
He was very particular about physical exercise. He used to a walk lot
in the university area, and in the open space in front of his
residence. We would often walk with him in this place and discuss our thoughts with him. He remained a mentor and guide for me till his untimely death.
Dr. Dev was a very selfless man, who dedicated his life to his
university, colleagues and students. He was least interested in
wealth. He founded the Bangladesh Philosophical Society and donated the only piece of land that he had in Dhaka city to this
organisation. He was also elected general secretary of the All
Pakistan Philosophical Congress.
Most importantly, Dr. Dev was a man of great human qualities. He had always treated students and colleagues in a spirit of equality. He never discriminated against anyone, whether they were from East
Pakistan or West Pakistan, or whether they were Muslim, Hindu, or
Buddhist. One of our colleagues, Mr. Kazi Abdul Kader, was from
Karachi. Mr. Kader joined the Department of Philosophy at the
University of Karachi around 1966. Dr. Dev appreciated his ability as
a scholar and teacher, and took him as a PhD student under his
supervision. Dr. Dev went to the United States to give some lectures
on philosophy in late 1970, and stopped by in Karachi to finalise his
thesis on mathematical logic and conduct his oral examination for the PhD degree.
Dr. Kazi Kader worked at the University of Karachi for many years and became a professor of philosophy in that university. I was then
serving as additional deputy commissioner of Karachi. Dr. Dev visited
me at my official residence in Karachi. I was happy that my eight-
month old daughter Ripa was able to meet my beloved teacher. He
returned to Dhaka in January 1971. I did not know at that time that
this would be the last time that I would meet the great man who had
an everlasting impact in so many people's lives.
Dr. Dev, my teacher, was a man of simple living and high thinking. He neither had any political involvement nor political ambition. He was a humanist who concentrated on the pursuit and spread of knowledge.
The Pakistani forces killed many great intellectuals of Bangladesh in
1971 to cripple us permanently, along with weakening our physical and economic resources. Dr. Dev was one of the unfortunate victims of this unforgivable war crime. He was brutally killed on the night of
March 25, 1971. How could such a saint-like person who loved all be
killed so ruthlessly?
The government's decision to award Dr. Dev the Independence Award
posthumously is a praiseworthy and laudable decision. We mourn his
death and celebrate the award today to a selfless man who contributed so much to our lives as well academic discipline. It is most unfortunate that he met an untimely death, but the knowledge, values and human qualities that he taught us remain relevant not only in our lives but also for our successive generations. May Allah grant eternal peace to his departed soul.

The author is Professor of Human Resource Management, Independent University Bangladesh, Member of the Board of Governors, Civil Service College, and former Secretary to the Government of Bangladesh.


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