It is saddening that the building that once housed East Bengal's first art and craft school, Maheshwarpasha Art School, is set to be demolished and replaced by a new structure. While the identity and location of the school itself changed a few times since its establishment in 1904, the building where it was first located is recognized by art historians for its cultural significance.
In a statement dated March 14, 1975, poet Jasimuddin and artists Quamrul Hasan and Nilima Ibrahim had also stressed the need to preserve the school for posterity. So, despite this, why is it that the Khulna City Corporation (KCC) is considering demolishing it?
It should be noted that the building currently houses a school named Shashibhushan Shishu Vidya Niketan. Even if a similar building is erected in its place for the students, it is not going to be the same, and over a century of history will have been lost simply because we didn't appreciate the importance of preserving buildings and sites of historical significance.
The move to construct a new building after the demolition drive also reeks of poor planning at best and historical amnesia at worst, as the present school could easily be moved elsewhere. The bottom line is, nothing justifies the demolition or alteration of such a significant structure.
We would like to urge local authorities to investigate how this outcome can be avoided, and to find out the best possible way to preserve its rich cultural history. As experts have said, turning the building into an art gallery could be one way of engaging tourists with local heritage, as well as the school's own history.
At the same time, we also need to see the bigger picture here: this is not an isolated incident. Such buildings and sites are, after all, being sacrificed at the altar of development on a regular basis. Therefore, we would urge the government to stop this onslaught and identify more such vulnerable buildings and take immediate steps to preserve them. With a proper plan, these can then be transformed into tourist destinations giving local tourism a much-needed boost. We need to understand that buildings such as these are more than brick and mortar. It's time we accepted this with the sobriety it deserves.
Every year, thousands of people gather at the Bangla Academy premises to visit the Ekushey Book fair. However, very few know that in a secluded part of Bangla Academy, the relics of Bangladesh's language movement are preserved, mostly unguarded.
On February 1, 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated this museum to preserve the history of Bangladesh's language movement. Bengalis, if not the only, are among the very few people in the world who sacrificed their lives to earn due recognition for their mother tongue. In this regard, the Language Movement Museum preserves artifacts of a very unique and significant historical event.