Language Movement veteran Dr Rokaiya Anis passes away

Courier Correspondent
Thursday, February 1st, 2018


The sad demise of Doctor Colonel Rokaiya Anis poured in waves of tributes, as she is known to be an innovator in her position as a doctor of gynaecology and obstetrics, as well as being the senior-most female officer in Bangladesh Army right after Independence in 1971 – an unprecedented feat well before the army began inducting female officers from 2002.


Born on April 18, 1935, she was one of the students who were arrested near Dhaka Medical College on February 21, 1952, making her a Language Movement activist. Upon completion of her education, she went on to join the Pakistan Army as a civilian medical officer. Her dedication to her work was recognised by the authorities and they had bestowed upon her one of the highest civilian honours at that time, the Taghma-Eh-Khidmat.


After Bangladesh gained Independence, she further went on to become the senior-most female officer in the Bangladesh Army, promoted as Full Colonel and was placed in charge of the gynaecology and obstetrics department at Combined Medical Hospital (CMH), Dhaka.


During her last days, she was admitted to the city’s Labaid Hospital after suffering a stroke. The valiant lady breathed her last in the morning of January 29, at the age of 83. She left behind 2 sons, a daughter and a host of relatives and well-wishers to mourn her death.


Her son Dr Aslam Anis informed that Dr Colonel Rokaiya’s first namaz-e-janaza was held on the same day at Dhaka Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Mosque, and a second one was held at the city’s Navy Mosque, after which she was buried at the Bangladesh Army Graveyard.


A trailblazer long before our time, her legacy and her achievements are inspirational in shaping the future for the female officers who followed in the Army Medical Corps in Bangladesh Army.


Her legacy could also be spotted on social media, where one of her nephews, Sameed Quasem, had posted about his grandmother’s demise, which poured in countless of tributes. “Her contributions to my life, the lives of others and the history of this nation will never ever be forgotten,” Sameed wrote as her eulogy, “please pray that the extraordinary soul of Colonel Rokaiya Anis forever rests in peace.”


Tashfique Mirza, a friend of Sameed’s, had recollected that he was delivered as a baby by Dr Col Rokaiya Anis. A few others also mentioned how they were delivered by her as well. Akku Chowdhury, a war veteran, friend and peer of Dr Col Rokaiya’s, wrote about how “awesome of a person she was, apart from being a strong and incredible achiever.”


In his remembrance of her, Enayetullah Khan, Editor-in-Chief of UNB, spoke of his emotional attachment to her. “She loved me like a son,” he recalled. “As a matter of fact, she was always there when my children were born.” Khan paid tribute to her sophistication which, he noted, came through her work and interaction with others.


Such tributes only consolidate her legacy as a torchbearer for women empowerment in Bangladesh. She had risen to the top at a time when the concept of women empowerment was not even contemplated. She deserves the highest state accolades for being a trailblazer and role-model for the modern women, as an icon of inspiration for the generations to come.

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