I put high hopes in Shuddhashar. Not only because it has given me a platform to write, to discuss issues that I think are needed to be out there, to think critically and analyze our surroundings and realities, but also because it has given that chance to many others, without the restrictions of geographic borders, language barriers, and ideological boundaries. Such an amalgamation of thoughts and ideas could have easily become a cacophony. But has it?
My first meeting with Shuddhashar was not a pleasant one. As a researcher of violent extremism in Bangladesh, we met online through news reports as the editor of this publication house was yet another victim of violent extremism that swept through the country. Shuddhashar, like its editor, was a victim of hate from an extremist ideology. Even at that moment between life and death, the extremists had the attention of the day, as we poured in to understand their motives, reasons, modus operandi, and countless other matters. Shuddhashar remained on the list of terrorist incidents and victims in my book.
The second meeting with Shuddhashar was akin to a second coming. It was yet another meeting, but this time it took place in real life, when Tutul bhai was visiting Stockholm and was very kind to meet with us. That meeting was an emotional one. I was looking at a survivor of the darkness that is violent extremism, but who with the greatest of courage and commitment to his passion and profession, had risen again. The mark of our previous meeting was still there – Tutul bhai’s life had been irrevocably altered. But not his determination about his work. Shuddhashar was well alive.
He had asked me to write at that meeting. And I had agreed.
For how could I not? He had embodied what we all needed the most at this dark time – a passion for knowledge and understanding, a dedication to provide voice and space to the many, and an awareness that critical thinking is the guiding light for our world. In the age of live shouting under the limelight on issues someone has hardly ever thought of, short writing can still provide the calm and composed voice of reasoning – at least that of the author. It requires time – time to think, to assess, to analyze, to discuss. But also, it requires time to re-look, re-assess, and re-analyze one’s understanding.
He could have chosen to change his occupation. Something that caused him so much pain could have been easily thrown aside. He could have decided to start anew. Shuddhashar could have remained on the list of incidents and victims of violent extremism in Bangladesh. But that would not be the case, and this wonderful occasion of the 30thanniversary of Shuddhashar stands as the testament to that fact. Shuddhashar has gone through ups and downs unlike any other. From a “Little Magazine” to a publishing house, to starting it up all again, Shuddhashar has remained true to its purpose – to inspire, not to impress.
On its 30th birthday, Shuddhashar embraces writings of various kinds in multiple languages. It covers discussions of multifaceted topics from renowned writers to newly minted ones. Shuddhashar is not shy to evolve and venture into the digital media world, beyond the boundaries of paper and ink, with podcasts. The diversity in all these aspects gives strength to the platform and keeps it relevant. But it could also become a burden if quantity overtakes quality. That is a cacophony that Shuddhashar does not need. And the best way to avoid it is to think critically about the ways to publish critical thinking. I am confident of that thinking taking place regularly.
Going back to my hope, wish, and expectation of Shuddhashar having a role in the global revival of critical thinking, it is easy to dismiss this as over-ambitious and grandiose imagination. But I am sincere in my wish because I believe Shuddhashar sets an example to many other small writing platforms around the world. Fate has brought it in a position where it can reach and engage with many from its new home in Norway. It can inspire with its content, but it can also inspire with its commitment to publishing.
And to the person who embodies Shuddhashar, to Tutul bhai, I present my heartiest congratulations and gratitude. May Shuddhashar continue to inspire us for years to come.
Asheque Haque is a political and security researcher. His interests include societal change, identity politics, global security, and violent extremism. He can be reached on Twitter: @Ashequeh