Amar Ekushey Book Fair bears the brunt of fire

Some new stalls have been thrown up at the Amar Ekushey Book Fair on the Bangla Academy premises for those publishing houses that lost their allotted stalls to the fire early on Monday. 

Some of those new makeshift stalls were installed on the open space at the fair’s ‘Shishu Chattar’ on Tuesday. Some other stalls were set up around the ‘Nazrul Mancha’ and in front of the Academy’s book store.

Bangla Academy arranged these stalls for these publishers. They moved to the stalls as they saw fit since these were not specifically allotted to any publishers.

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One of them, Kashbon Prokashona’s Aminul Islam told “We set up with the books from stock. We also sold some. But I am in pain. We didn’t sell much since the beginning of the fair. I thought we could make up for loss in the last few days. But the fire has destroyed that hope.”

“Our loss is irrecoverable. This loss won’t be recovered even if the fair is extended by three months. Now the government and Bangla Academy are saying there will be compensation. We are waiting for something good to happen,” he added.

Pathak Samabesh had one of the new makeshift stalls, but their sale was unaffected.

Its representative ‘Shubhro’ said, “Our ‘Franz Kafka Golpo Somogro’ was selling like a hot cake. Four hundred copies of this book have burned. We also lost some Lalon Samagra and 30 sets of Rabindra Samagra to the fire. But even after that, we have set up our stall and the sale is good today.”

Chanchal Akter, owner of Gati Prakashani, set up a shop under the open sky.

He said, “These books were the last ones in our stock. Hoping to sell some, but the loss is irreversible.”

At least 30 stalls were gutted after a fire that broke out at around 12:50am raged through one part of the book fair.

The fire-fighters initially suspected that the fire originated from electric short-circuits. But most of the publishers alleged acts of sabotage carried out by Jamaat-e-Islami.

Press Briefing

The publishers held a press briefing in front of the fair’s information centre at 5:30pm.

Publishing house Palal Prokashoni’s owner and Gyan O Srijonshil Prakashak Samiti Director (organising) Khan Mahbub read a written statement on behalf of the publishers.

He said the total loss of 27 publishing houses from the fire was more than Tk 20 million.

Three committees have been also formed to investigate the motives behind the fire, ascertain the total loss and decide how the publishing houses would be compensated.

Mahbub said, “We demand the report of those committees as soon as possible. Those responsible for the incident must be identified and punished. Measures also must be taken against those whose negligence to duty has caused the incident.”

The publishers demanded fast implementation of the Cultural Affairs Minister’s promise to compensate them. “Government’s favour is also needed to keep this creative business running.”

Meanwhile, Bangla Academy Director General Shamsuzzaman Khan said the investigation team of the Academy will report the figure of losses on Wednesday.

“They will be able to decide about compensating them [publishers] in the inter-ministry meeting.”

Bangladesh Book Publishers and Sellers Association President Alamgir Shikder also spoke at the press conference.

He said, “If there is no written assurance of compensation for the publishers within Wednesday, the sale at the fair will be suspended for two hours starting from 3pm. If that doesn’t move the authorities, we won’t take part on the last day of the fair [Thursday]. The fair will closed for the whole day.”

However, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, Commerce Minister GM Quader and National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman visited the fair on Tuesday.

They extended sympathy to the publishers and said the publishers must be duly compensated.