Noted French author and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has urged the government, and people of Bangladesh to make a list of 1971 Liberation War martyrs, considering it to be of utmost priority.
Without doing so, Bangladesh’s recognition towards the martyrs will not be fulfilled, he opined while addressing a public lecture on « Bangladesh: From Despair to Hope » at Liberation War Museum in Dhaka yesterday.
Lévy, who is also a filmmaker, suggested that the authorities and historians of Bangladesh should join hands in this regard, which should be the « number one job » for the country’s people and government.
« Being deprived of recognition after being killed is like being assassinated twice ….At least the martyrs will be given symbolic graves as a sign of honour to their lives.
« Or else, they will haunt you [Bangladeshis] till the end of times, » he added.
Claiming that a clash of civilisations is underway in the Muslim world between those supporting radicalism and those backing liberal ideologies, equality, secularism and democracy, he said: « Bangladesh being a Muslim majority country can emerge as an example.
« Thus Bangladesh has a special role to play in the future. »
Mentioning Bangladesh’s economic growth, he warned not to make the women here « slaves » of the big Western companies.
Moreover, expressing his deep concerns over the « threatened » cultural arena and freedom of expression in Bangladesh, Lévy said that writers, poets and intellectuals here receive repeated death threats.
« Many bloggers and free-thinkers have been killed here and some were even forced to leave the country for speaking their minds, » he said, adding, that the fight against the evil forces responsible for this is ongoing.
Reflecting on the Rohingya issue, he said that Bangladesh has become an example of humanity, compassion and brotherhood in the world by providing shelter to the persecuted refugees from Myanmar.
« Despite not being so economically powerful, Bangladesh has done it [sheltering Rohingyas] — something which could have been much easier for the US or even France, » he added hoping that Bangladesh will remain a role model for future generations.
Lévy specially thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for making this happen in a time when Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite being a Nobel Peace Prize winner, failed miserably to help stop the crackdown on Rohingyas.
Since Bangladesh also experienced genocide in 1971 similar to that in Rakhine, it extended its helping hand to the Rohingyas, he stated.
Recalling his days during Bangladesh’s Liberation War, Lévy termed the interaction between him and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as different from others.
« He was such a great leader and an encouraging figure since not everybody goes into war and manages to win it, » said Lévy.
The event was also addressed by French Ambassador to Bangladesh Jean-Marin Schuh, the museum’s Trustee Mofidul Haque and Member Secretary Sara Zaker as well as Abdul Majid Chowdhury, president of Alliance Française de Dhaka.
Born on November 5, 1948, and often referred to in France simply as BHL, Lévy was one of the leaders of the « Nouveaux Philosophes » (New Philosophers) movement in 1976.
Notably, The Boston Globe, an American daily newspaper, in 2015, said that he is « perhaps the most prominent intellectual in France today. »
The French intellectual is also one of the most esteemed and bestselling writers in Europe as he has penned more than 30 books which include works of philosophy, fiction, and biography.
He had moved to Dhaka in late 1971 to take part in the Liberation War and was a key member of an international brigade that was formed comprising of the then western intellectuals in 1971.
After the country’s independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave Lévy a job in the ministry of finance and planning.
Photo : Noted French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy speaks at the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka on Friday, March 13, 2020 Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune