Behind The Scene
Freedom Fighter Pankuj Rema
Pankuj Rema was born in Baghaitala, a village in Haluaghat. He led a small ambush group in the War of Liberation in 1971. Unfortunately, he is struggling even today to earn a minimum standard of life.
Pankuj Rema, 69, is an indigenous freedom fighter who fought for the country braving death. Unfortunately, his struggle did not end in 1971 as he is still struggling hard to make ends meet. Rema, a leader of a small ambush group during the Liberation War, now works on others' crop lands as a day labour to earn his bread. According to Rema when the Liberation War broke out in 1971, like many other indigenous youths of his locality he joined the war and took training at Tura in India. Prodip Chesim of Askipara, a neighbouring village led him and others in his village to join the war. After completion of his training for over a month, he came back to Bangladesh and took part in his first face-to-face fight at Purakaishya in Jhenaigati of Sherpur district. Later he took part in several fights at Kashiganj, West Baromari in Nalitabari of Sherpur and Telikhali in Haluaghat upazila. He has fought for almost the entire duration of the war's nine-months. Rema has always been proud of the fact that he has made a contribution in setting his motherland free.
“Near the end of the war, I visited Jatrakona Camp in India. When we heard the news of victory through radio, our joy knew no bounds. Although, thinking of the many co-fighters who we lost in battle at West Baromari saddens me even today,” said Rema. He could still remember some of those names: Suruj Rema, his elder brother, Harang Rechil, Abdus Shaheed, Mohammad Janali of village Baghaitala and Porimal Drang of Monikura in Haluaghat.
A married man, who is a father of two sons and two daughters, leads a difficult and unfulfilled life. He feels bad that the country did not do sufficiently enough for him despite him being a freedom fighter. “We fought with the hope of establishing a country free from foreign domination,” says Rema, “A country free from want, oppression, repression, corruption and crime. But what we have received in return is very poor.” A freedom fighter is given Tk. 2,000 as monthly allowance which is a very meagre amount to begin with, and it fetches even fewer necessities now that the prices of commodities have gone up sharply.
Prodip Chesim, Rema's co-fighter, now works for an NGO. He said that Rema and many other freedom fighters, including indigenous ones, do many odd jobs to run their family. Some freedom fighters even took up begging as a last resort! After the liberation of the country, the state did not take sufficient steps to improve the socio-economic condition of the Garo people in Haluaghat, informed Prodip. “We never want to see valiant freedom fighters like Rema to search for a job at local bazars to earn his daily bread,” Prodip said.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009