Thank you Mohiuddin Ahmed, for advancing the story of Bangladesh
On 22 June 2021, our nation was faced with an insurmountable loss.
Mohiuddin Ahmed, the founding editor of University Press Limited (UPL) -- a leading, if not the leading, publisher in Bangladesh -- left this world.
I did not have the pleasure of knowing Mohiuddin Ahmed personally, but like any researcher from or on Bangladesh, I have and will continue to benefit immensely from his life's work i.e. the 800 or so books that UPL has published since its founding in 1974—books that not only enlighten us as a nation but also transport the story of Bangladesh to the rest of the world.
UPL's "Road to Bangladesh" series, in particular, was among the first concerted efforts to give our Liberation struggle the authenticity and academically rigorous narrative it deserved (and needed)—by telling the story of 1971, one meticulously authenticated book at a time.
Academic publishing in English, especially in a newly emerged country like Bangladesh, was certainly not a profitable venture. In an interview with The Independent in 2016, Mohiuddin Ahmed explained how, as a publisher, it was a "constant struggle to keep your head above water each year of your existence". He described the two most difficult tasks he had as an editor were "questioning every sentence" and to "say no to authors" when a manuscript was not up to the mark.
Yet, his life could have been very different. In 1969, he had the option to pursue a PhD at Stanford University with a scholarship, and a job offer to become the Editor for Oxford University Press (OUP) in (West) Pakistan. He could only take up one, and he opted for the latter. In 1972, he returned to Dhaka as the Chief Executive of OUP's Dhaka Branch.
However, in 1975, OUP decided to close down its Dhaka Branch and offered Mohiuddin Ahmed the option of resuming working as an editor from the OUP's Karachi Branch. Nevertheless, he refused to leave his motherland and instead decided to establish UPL to fill the academic vacuum OUP's departure would inevitably create in Bangladesh. As a result, UPL would go on to emerge as a publishing powerhouse, closely collaborating with OUP and other international publishers, such as Cambridge University Press, Sage, MacMillan, etc.
Thank you Mohiuddin Ahmed, for being a vanguard of Bangladeshi intelligentsia—especially as it faced a threat of extermination in 1971 and its aftermath.
Thank you for waging the battle of the ink, after our nation bled from the war of weapons—so Bangladeshi academics not only had a viable platform to publish their work, but more importantly, for curating a plethora of scholarship that will tell the story of Bangladesh and help generate informed readership for the many decades to come.
Sincerely, a reader, a researcher and a Bangladeshi.
Taqbir Huda is a socio-legal researcher and coordinates Justice for All Now (JANO), Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org