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A poet, writer, musician, revolutionary. His poetry and music espoused Indo-Islamic renaissance and intense spiritual rebellion against fascism and oppression.

Born on 24 May 1988 into a Bengali Muslim family, he received religious education and worked as a muezzin at a local mosque. He learned of poetry, drama, and literature while working with theatrical groups. After serving in the British Indian Army, he established himself as a journalist in Calcutta. He assailed the British Raj in India and preached revolution through his poetic works, such as Bidrohi (The Rebel) and Bhangar Gaan (The Song of Destruction), as well as his publication Dhumketu (The Comet). His nationalist activism in the Indian independence movement often led to his imprisonment by British authorities. While in prison, he wrote the Rajbandir Jabanbandi (Deposition of a Political Prisoner). Exploring the life and conditions of the downtrodden masses of the Indian subcontinent, he worked for their emancipation. He fiercely inspired Bengalis during the Bangladesh Liberation War.

His writings explore themes such as love, freedom, and revolution; he opposed all bigotry, including religious and gender. Throughout his career, he wrote short stories, novels, and essays but is best known for his poems, in which he pioneered new forms such as Bengali ghazals. He wrote and composed music for his nearly 4,000 songs, which are widely popular today in Bangladesh. In 1942 at the age of 43 he began suffering from an unknown disease, losing his voice and memory. It is often said, the reason was slow poisoning by British Government but later a medical team in Vienna diagnosed the disease as Morbus Pick, a rare incurable neurodegenerative disease. It caused his health to decline steadily and forced him to live in isolation for many years. Invited by the Government of Bangladesh, he and his family moved to Dhaka in 1972. Later, he was accorded Bangladeshi citizenship. he is officially recognised as the National Poet of Bangladesh and is highly commemorated and revered in India, especially in West Bengal. He died four years later on 29 August 1976. [Text and photo:]

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Kazi Nazrul Islam

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2015 on page no. 22

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