Editor, Poet


Rafiq Azad
(Bangladeshi Poet & Editor )

(14 February  1942 –12 March  2016)

Bangla literature lovers from late 1970s can very remember the line “ভাত দে হারামজাদা, নইলে মানচিত্র খাবো” (Give me food, bastard, or else I will eat up the map). The writer of such a powerful yet controversial statement was also considered to be a lover and full of romance. He had patriotism in his poems since he was also one of the freedom fighters of Bangladesh. A poet who can write about love and war simultaneously, is praised greatly in the world of literature. In Bangladesh, we are lucky to have such a poet. Because of him, Bangla poetry had seen a new turnover. The concept of surrealism was introduced because of him. He is none other than, one of the most modern, prolific and dynamic poets of Bangladesh, Rafiq Azad. 


The poet, whose original name Rafiqul Islam Khan, was born on  February 14, 1941 in a village named Guni of Tangail district of Bangladesh. He belonged to a Muslim family and his parents were Salimuddin Khan, and Rabeya Khan. Rafiq was the youngest among his 2 siblings. He passed his early days in Tangail, teenage days in Netrokona and later moved to Dhaka for further education. He then settled there. 


He did his intermediate from Netrokona College, Netrokona and then got admitted to University of Dhaka. From there, he obtained both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Bengali Literature. So we can understand how he was so proficient with the language and structure in his poems.  


Even though he was popularly known as a poet, he had many other roles in his life. Besides working professionally, he kept on writing and publishing books. He has a record of 45 books. Many of his poems were used by the media in Bangladesh. 


He was a lover of nature, humans and their sufferings. He got into controversy due to his poem ভাত দে হারামজাদা, নইলে মানচিত্র খাবো. In personal life, through his love poems, he had motivated many young new lovers to express their feelings to their loved ones. However, in his own marital life, Rafiq Azad got divorced from his first wife and married again for the second time. From his both marriages, he had a total of 6 children. 


He had achieved many awards, especially the title of Freedom fighter due to his participation in the liberation war of Bangladesh. He also got Ekushe Padak, the second highest prestigious award given by the Bangladeshi government. 


Rafiq Azad left us leaving behind his zestful poems on March 12, 2016  at the age of 75. He was suffering for a long time from brain stroke due to diabetes and other organ complications.

Life of “Rafiq Azad” at a glance:

Real Name: Rafiqul Islam Khan

Date of Birth: February 14, 1941 

Birth Place: Guni, Tangail, the then Bengal Presidency, British India, now Bangladesh

Date of Death: March 12, 2016

Age: 75

Place of Death: Dhaka, Bangladesh

Cause of Death: Brain Stroke 

Buried in: Martyred Intellectuals’ Cemetery, Mirpur, Dhaka

Father’s Name: Salimuddin Khan 

Mother’s Name: Rabeya Khan

Siblings: 2

  Matriculation, Tangail 

Intermediate, Netrokona College, Netrokona

Bachelor’s degree, in Bengali literature, University of Dhaka in 1965   

Master’s degree, in Bengali literature, University of Dhaka in 1967



Lecturer, in Kagmari College, (now Govt. Maulna Mohammad Ali College), Tangail, in the late 1960s


Executive Editor, Uttaradhikar, Bangla Academy, from 1972 to 1984

Editor, Robbaar, in 1980s

Director, National Book Center

Deputy General Manager of BJMC (Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation)

Director, Upajati Sanskriti Kendra, Birishiri, Netrokona, in the 1990s

Poetics Instructor, Bangla Academy, in 1995

Visiting Professor, Literature, at Jahangirnagar University 

Journalist, Amader Shomoy

Married to: 

Adila Bakul

Dilara Hafiz


4 with Adila Bakul: Lopa, Rahul, Deepita and Rajeev

2 sons with  Dilara Hafiz : Ovinna and Obyoy

Religion: Muslim

Nationality: Bangladeshi

Awards and Achievements:

Kobitalap Award (1979)

Alaol Literary Award (1981)

Bangla Academy Literary Award (1981)

Suhrit Literary Award (1989)

Poet Ahsan Habib Award (1991)

Poet Hasan Hafizur Rahman Award (1996)

Notable Freedom Fighter Award (1997)

Ekushey Padak (2013)

Most well known for: the poem “Bhaat De Haramjada”

Early life:

The prolific writer and poet, Rafiq Azad, was born on  February 14, 1941 in a quite remote area in the village named Guni of Tangail, a nearby district from Dhaka. His original or birth name was Rafiqul Islam Khan. He belonged to a Muslim aristocrat family. His father’s name was Salimuddin Khan, and he was a social worker. Rafiq’s mother’s name was Rabeya Khan, who was a housewife. Rafiq had 2 siblings (1 brother and 1 sister) and he was the youngest member of the family. 


He spent his early childhood days at Tangail and later shifted to Netrokona, which was his elder brother’s workplace. From there, for further education, he moved to Dhaka after getting admitted to the University of Dhaka. 


A person who knows a language so well that he can even do experiments with it, that person has an official, formal background knowledge on that language right? Also, someone who knows how to experiment different poetic forms, he is supposed to know basic literature and poetry or poetic structures right? The answer to both the questions is Yes, in the case of Rafiq Azad. 


He had both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Bengali literature. He completed his Bachelors in 1965 and 2 years later he obtained his specialization that is the Masters degree in 1967. From the University of Dhaka, he had achieved these qualifications. 


Before his university degrees, in his childhood, he passed his matriculation from a local school of Tangail. After he moved to Netrokona, he did his intermediate from Netrokona College


While studying in the line of literature, perhaps he had developed a passion for writing, especially poetry. However, his career was interestingly not limited to being only a writer and poet; he was involved with many different sectors too. 


After completion of his studies, Rafiq Azad had a career spanning for 50 long years where he played many roles. 


He started off his career in the late 1960s as a lecturer in Kagmari College, which is presently known as Government Maulana Mohammad Ali College. This is situated in Tangail.  After that, the liberation war of Bangladesh began and he shifted his focus there. 


After the independence of Bangladesh, in 1972, he served at the Bangla Academy as the Executive Editor of a monthly magazine named Uttaradhikar. The magazine was the first quality literary magazine of the independent Bangladesh.He worked there for 12 years, till 1984. While working there, in the 1980s, he also served as the editor of another popular weekly magazine named Robbaar. He did not use his original name while working in this magazine. In the last days before his death, he was working in a daily called Amader Shomoy. So we can somewhat see the journalist side of Rafiq Azad. 


As a person who was master in literature, he of course loved to be surrounded by books. Perhaps that is why he chose to work in a library. He worked as the director of National Book Center (Jatiyo Grontho Kendro) of Bangladesh for several years. 

He was also a successful director, in the 1990s, of the Upajati Sanskriti Kendra, located in Birishiri, Netrokona. 

For a short period of time, Rafiq returned to Bangla Academy in 1995 to serve as a poetics instructor and support the “Young Writers Project.”


Again for a short period of time, he took the role of deputy general manager of BJMC (Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation). 


Just like he started his career with a teaching profession, many years after doing many other jobs away from teaching, he returned to this profession as a visiting professor of literature at Jahangirnagar University, situated in Savar.


Apart from doing all these professional works, he kept on writing and publishing different books.

Writing Style:

He began writing and publishing his poems from a very young age. During his college days, a half monthly literary magazine named ‘Uttor Akash’ was regularly published from Netrakona. Rafiq Azad’s poem Jonoiko Keranir Robibar was published in that magazine. Besides, his poems were published in monthly Shomokal (poetry issue) and in the daily newspaper Ittefaq during that time. Gradually, his poems continued to be published in different leading newspapers of the country. What made him a popular poet among other poets was his rebellious tone in poems. Also, he used both romanticism and patriotism in his poems. His romantic poetry captivated young people and inspired them to pursue romantic relationships. On the other hand his rebellious poems constantly reflected the voice of the helpless mass people of this country. 


Thanks to his participation in the liberation war, from Rafiq Azad’s poetry, readers could get to see the real experiences and essence of what it is like to fight for one’s own country. He himself agreed that as a post-liberation young poet, the ability to explore new thought patterns, which were reflected in his poetry, was made possible because of the spirit of the Liberation War. That is why, boldness and patriotism were found to be the focal point in his poems. After that period, his poems became more personal, lyrical and romantic.


However, he had always described himself as a ‘lover of humans, nature and romance’. He had depicted love, romance, humanity, poverty, sufferings, injustice, political turmoil, social and economic crises, and urban and rural life through his poems. 


He was seen to be experimenting on the language and poetic form, which resulted in introducing a surrealistic approach in Bengali literature. Due to his expertise in the Bengali language and literature, as literature is connected to language, he could use the knowledge in his writings.


It is said that using his writing styles and especially his love poems, many common readers wrote love letters and expressed their feelings to their loved ones. Also, his romantic-love poems were used and quoted many times in movies, TV dramas and other media in Bangladesh.


As we already got to know about Rafiq’s writing style and the fact that he was a young but bold, prolific writer and poet, he could write about things that people were usually afraid of even uttering them.  

Just 3 years after the independence of Bangladesh, in 1974, our country had faced the worst case of famine. At that time, Bangladeshi commoners were hardly able to get a meal for once a day. 

At such a crucial time, Rafiq Azad bravely took a step to protest against this case. He wrote a poem named “ “Bhat De Haramzada, Noile Manchitro Khabo”, which translates to ‘Give me food, bastard! Or else I will engulf your map and/or your geography!’. The main intention behind writing this poem was to lash out his impotent rage as an angry and starving man. He talked on behalf of all the commoners in that poem. The analysis of the poem revealed the poet meant if the newly independent country cannot even feed its own people, then what is the point or benefit of this liberation? Rafiq expressed his hatred for those in charge of the famine through the poem’s powerful and intense verses.


So what was the aftermath or result of writing such a poem? The answer is, of course the poem inevitably quickly got widely viral and also became controversial. Rafiq became the center of controversy. While his fans and other poetry readers applauded the poem as a brave and rebellious outpouring, the “Sheikh Mujib Administration” regarded it to be inflammatory and an attack on the ruling party. Despite being a follower of Sheikh Mujibor Rahman, how could Rafiq Azad indirectly talk against Mujib? 


Finally, in order to settle the debate, Rafiq explained to the Administration, by writing and explaining a long analysis of how his poem only reflected the great literary tradition of Bengal and the poem intended no (strong) hostility towards the government. In this way Rafiq could save himself from getting himself into further trouble. Later, this same Rafiq Azad achieved several acknowledgements and rewards from the government.

Participation and Contribution in the Liberation War:

The year 1971, was a year that had changed the course of the life of people from all streams in Bangladesh. Undoubtedly, the life of Rafiq Azad had changed too. Many people had left their usual jobs and took weapons in their hands to fight for the country. Rafiq was no exception either. As a young man of 30 years old, who had just started writing and did not even publish his first book yet, he chose to trade his pen with a wooden rifle. As he was a protester poet, he chose to protest against the oppressions that his country was going through at that time. Therefore, he did not fight by writing, but rather by actually fighting with his physical strength. Definitely, one needs to be mentally and emotionally strong too to take up such a big and risky step.


Following the Pakistani military’s operation on March 25, 1971, Rafiq got himself enlisted with Abdul Kader Siddique’s (Bangladeshi politician and the organizer of the Bangladesh Liberation War) “Kaderia Bahini,” which was a civilian guerrilla group, to fight in the Liberation War against the Pakistani occupying army. Soon after, under the direction of Khondokar Asaduzzaman, who was the finance secretary at that time, Rafiq obtained the weapons and supplies necessary from the treasury. With all these instruments in hand, like many other brave Bangladeshis, he kept his life at stake and fought for the independence of his motherland. 


His contribution to the war was not forgotten by the independent government of Bangladesh and so Rafiq was later awarded with the Freedom Fighter title. 

Awards and Achievements:

Beside Rafiq’s names, there are numerous official awards. He received them all while being still alive. He earned both government and private rewards. 


Some of the non government awards are:  Kobitalap Award in 1979, Alaol Literary Award in 1981, Suhrit Literary Award in 1989, Poet Ahsan Habib Award in 1991, and Poet Hasan Hafizur Rahman Award in 1996. 


Among the government awards, at first, in 1981, he received the Bangla Academy Literary Award, which was presented by the Bangla Academy, in recognition of the creative genius like Rafiq Azad in advancement and overall contribution in the field of Bengali language and literature. After that, in 1997, he was awarded with the Notable Freedom Fighter Award due to his participation and contribution in the Liberation War in 1971 against Pakistani forces. Finally, before his death, in 2013, he received the prestigious ‘Ekushey Padak’ award, the second highest civilian award in Bangladesh, for his contribution to Bangla language and literature.


Apart from these formal awards and recognitions, the fame and respect that Rafiq Azad got as a poet and writer during his lifetime were seen after he died. People from all walks of life, including different common readers, media people, literary and cultural figures etc. flocked to pay a rich tribute to the late poet’s dead body. However, while he was alive, he had got support, love and respect from his fans and well-wishers. 


2 months prior to his death, in the month of January 2016, Rafiq Azad was taken and admitted to BIRDEM hospital first due to a stroke. It is said that the poet was suffering from diabetes and other organs like kidney and lung complications for a long time. After that, he was shifted to Anwar Khan Modern Medical College Hospital. He had a brain hemorrhage and stroke there. Then lastly he was  moved to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) hospital. He was under life support in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In total, he remained hospitalized for almost 8 weeks.  


On  March 12, Rafiq Azad, at the age of 75 years, lost the battle of his life and breathed his last at 2:10 pm. The news of his death brought a shock for all. Different cultural organizers expressed grief at the demise of such a great personality. Even the political figures like the then President Abdul Hamid, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia expressed condolences. They remembered the contributions of Rafiq Azad, especially during the Liberation War of Bangladesh. They agreed that the loss in the Bengali literary world created due to his demise will be irreparable forever. 


One day after his demise, on March 13, the body of the poet was kept on Central Shaheed Minar premises from 10 am to 12pm for the people to pay their last tribute and respect. At 10 am, he was given the guard of honor from the government as he was a freedom fighter. Later, his body was taken to Bangla Academy for other notable Bengali poets and writers to pay respect. His namaz-e-janaza was held at Dhaka University Central Mosque after the Zuhr prayer. At the end of the day, he was buried at Mirpur Shaheed Buddhijibi Graveyard. 

Personal Life:

It is said that from his early teenage years, Rafiq was into writing poems. He was a known poet even before he came to Dhaka for education. This proves how much he and his poems were loved by his fans.  


He had a keen interest in the culture and traditions of tribal ethnicities of Bangladesh. That is why he was involved with Upajati Shangishkriti Kendro. 


In marital life, Rafiq Azad was married twice. First, in 1969, he was married to Adila Bakul. The couple together had 4 children – Lopa, Rahul, Deepita and Rajeev. Unfortunately, 14 years later, in 1983, though Rafiq was a poet of love and romance, he did not have a long lasting marriage. The couple got separated and divorced. 

In the same year, Rafiq got married for the second time. He married Dilara Hafiz. With this wife, he had two sons – Ovinna and Obyoy.  


Rafiq Azad’s contribution to the world of Bangla poetry will be cherished forever. His vivid imagination, deep observation and unique expression made him an incomparable poet. His brave movements towards Bengali literature as well as in the country’s political situations had given us a lesson to stand strongly towards the wrongdoings. The way he experimented with language and poetic forms has inspired many new writers and poets to express their feelings and emotions in enchanted ways. Bangladesh might never find another poet like Rafiq, but people similar to him in terms of writing or legacy are stepping out in the literary world in recent times. 

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