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Shruti Sylhet: Leading from the front in the cultural war

How important is the role of culture in taking a country forward towards a desired stage of prosperity and development? It is hard to measure but for a country like Bangladesh, it has immense importance.

Five decades ago, Bangladesh fought a bloody war. While guerilla fighters fought with guns on the field, a second group fought with their own weapons – harmoniums, flutes, tablas. They played the crucial role of keeping up the morale of their fellow freedom fighters and also the 70 million countrymen.

Shukanta Gupta, winner of the Joy Bangla Youth Award 2015 and founder of renowned cultural group “Shruti Sylhet”, believes that the military war might have ended in 1971, but the cultural war will have to be fought as long as Bangladesh exists.

There are many mighty oppositions in this war – the biggest of them is the anti-liberation force that has been trying relentlessly for the past five decades to shroud the spirit with which the great War of Liberation was fought and won.

In his fight against religious bigotry, Shukanta’s ultimate source of inspiration is Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of independent Bangladesh.

Shukanta and a bunch of like-minded young men and women formed Shurti back in 2000. What was once a small cultural band of a group, Shruti is now the leading cultural organization in Sylhet that plays the frontal role in the cultural movement.

Shruti mainly works with children because the members believe children must be taught and made to understand the spirit of the War of Liberation at an early age, so that they can mold their lives accordingly, so that they do not get derailed, so that they don’t indulge in religious fanaticism, extremism and terrorism.

“The young generation must be groomed as quality citizen so that they can represent the country at local, national and global stages. Hence it is important to introduce them to the Bangali culture,” said Shukanta, who is a banker by profession.

Shurti has never enjoyed the benefit of a healthy flow of finance – quite understandably because cultural troops feature right at the bottom of corporate financiers’ preference list. Hence, the organization has always somehow survived on members’ subscription and small donations here and there.

Despite the monetary hardships and the obstacles posed by a largely conservative society of Sylhet, Shruti has never drifted from its core mission – upholding the culture of the nation. “We have faced many threats in the past from religious bigots. But, we knew our duty and we didn’t back off,” said Shukanta.

Today, everyone in Sylhet knows Shruti, even many know them from around the country and Shukanta says the credit goes to Young Bangla for the latter.

Shruti grew slowly and steadily over the last one and half decades. Today, new batches of children are getting enrolled every year. Experienced teachers give them regular lessons on music, recitation and painting. They organize cultural programs round the year where children play key roles.

Shruti’s Victory Day special program “Alor Michhil” (meaning a procession of light) on December 16, International Mother Language Day special program “Bornomalar Michhil” (meaning a procession of alphabets) on February 21 and the special 7th-March program have become parts of the cultural calendar in Sylhet.

Their flagship cultural functions on the Bangla New Year’s Day and on the first day of Spring are the most popular programs of their kind in the city.

“Our association with Young Bangla has been a turning point for Shruti and its members,” says Shukanta.

“Winning the Joy Bangla Youth Award in 2015 provided the organization with the necessary boost and also the respectability that was so needed for us to be known to all.”

Sruti has been giving young children the opportunity to pursue their vocations. Shruti’s children regularly participate in regional and national competitions and bring back home many prestigious awards. Many of former Shruti’s former graduates are currently active in educational institutions and the country’s cultural arena.

Shukanto and his fellow cultural activists dream to build a progressive society by giving children the proper opportunity so that they can realize their potentials. They want to keep telling as many children as possible about the spirit of independence and work for the welfare of disadvantaged children. Their ultimate goal is to establish the Shruti Shangskriti Bikash Kendra, a comprehensive center for promotion of culture.