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23 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 March, 2018 12:02:49 AM
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Tale of an unsung freedom fighter

By Bipul K Debnath
Tale of an unsung freedom fighter

During our great Liberation War of 1971, people from all walks of life fought not only in the battlefields, but many worked in their respective fields to help our independence cause. In the nine months of fierce fighting, about 10 million people were forced to flee their homes and take shelter across the border in India, where many young Bangladeshi volunteers, both men and women, played an important role to help the war refugees with relief goods and much-needed care. Suchitra Roy from Narail was one such young volunteer; she led a team of other courageous young women to help out at the refugee camps. Their duties included taking care of women, children and the elderly, and distributing relief materials properly. As a team leader, she had to monitor the service activities of different charity organisations, like Bharat Sevashram Sangha and Ananda Marga.

Suchitra Roy, however, is not listed as a freedom fighter. She has applied for registration, but officials of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad (BMS), a welfare association of war veterans, never responded to her. When contacted, Dulal Chandra Shil, assistant commander (information) of Narail sadar upazila command of BMS, told this correspondent over telephone: “It is good to know about her contributions to serving the people during our great Liberation War. Like her, many other brave women of our area worked in the West Bengal refugee camps, and now they have been listed as freedom fighters. If she meets us, along with the relevant information, we will be happy to add her name to the list.”

Suchitra Roy, now aged 71, recently talked to The Weekend Independent about her role in the Liberation War and her ongoing social activities.

Please tell us about yourself.

I was born on January 1, 1947, at Ramnagarchor village in sadar upazila of Narail (then Jessore) district in an affluent farming family. My father’s name is Sarat Chandra Roy and my mother is Lalita Roy. I have 11 siblings, seven sisters and four brothers. Most of them are established in their respective professions.

Did you receive a formal education?

It was difficult to think of a girl’s education at that time. But I made all the difference with the help of my family and of course, my own determination.

How was your university life?

I became a student of Dhaka University in 1966 and stayed at Rokeya Hall. During my student life, I used to take part in social and cultural activities. I was an active member of DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students’ Union). Ayesha Khanom, (then secretary general of Rokeya Hall students’ union and now president of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad), Maleka Begum (founder secretary of Mahila Parishad) and Mahfuja Khanom (then vice president of DUCSU) guided us at every political event. Being a political activist, I had a direct connection to the movements for establishing the rights of our people.

How did you become involved in social work?

After completing my master’s degree in economics, I went back to my village in 1970 and stayed there for a couple of months. Being an educated person, I formed a women’s group in my village and we started creating social awareness about the ongoing political situation at the time. It is important to note that the condition of women and children in our country was vulnerable and they went through untold sufferings. Later on, I went to Jessore town and joined Keshabpur Pilot Girls’ High School as an assistant headmistress. That year (in November), a devastated cyclone hit our coast and vast areas became flooded. I, with the help of Kofil Uddin, a local chairman, monitored the distribution of relief goods in our area.

Later that year, the Pakistan general election was held on December 7. At that time, Suvodh Mitra, who was elected MNA (member of national assembly) from Jessore sent me to Dhaka to get nomination as a candidate for MPA (member of  provincial assembly) election.

When did you go to the refugee camp?

I went to India in July 1971 with people from my village and we took shelter at Maslandapur camp in Bongaon area of West Bengal.

What did you do at the camp?

I was a volunteer with Bangladesh Volunteer Services Corps at the refugee camp.  I cooperated with the camp authorities and got a special card with which I could visit any refugee camp in India. My duty was to visit and monitor the health and sanitation programmes. During the rainy season, poor sanitation conditions created health hazards. Besides that, the supply of pure drinking water was another problem. Each day was a challenge for us to serve so many people with our limited resources.

 What did you do after the war?

After coming back from India, I went to Chittagong with my husband and worked as a teacher at Banshkhali Degree College from 1974 to 2006. Meanwhile, I was also a member of the relief committee of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society following the devastating cyclone of 1991. After retirement, I continued doing social work with a local women’s association.

In 2016, I joined Banshkhali Mohila College as the principal. I left the post last year, and now I am a member of the governing body of the college. At present, I am running a school called Banshkhali Collegiate Government Primary School for underprivileged children. I have also started an NGO (non-government organisation), named Begum Rokeya Mohila Samity, which is working for the development of women and children in our society.

 

Who or what is your inspiration?

My entire life, I have always done my duties as required. I can say one important inspiration of my life is a message of Swami Vivekananda: “Service to man is service to God.” n

Photos: Courtesy.

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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