Well-Connected Migrant: Abdul Rahman Biswas
Abdul Rahman Biswas is about 95 years old. He is respected and educated. He used to hold a political office, was a notable person and a social worker.
He spoke about how he sees the partition of India:
When Lord Mountbatten was the big lat [corrupt form of 'lord'] of this place, when the harassment/oppression [otyachar] started, people rebelled against him. He complained to Churchill about this when he traveled to London. So Churchill called an Indian, Gandhi, and told him, 'Ok, I'll give you back your country,' but he thought to himself, 'I'll divide the place so that they're forever consumed in fire'. So people started to fight because of this curse of Churchill's and the fire has never been extinguished since then. Nehru and Jinnah started to fight… Radcliff was summoned to divide the country. Radcliff started cutting up countries, he cut up Punjab into two and then Bengal and five thanas of Malda ended up in Pakistan: Bholahat, Shibganj, Chapai-Nowabganj, Nachol and Gomosthapur. My land was divided into two, I had some in Pakistan but most of it was in India. I stayed in India.
He recalled the riots:
The Hindus started to fear that they would be converted to Islam so they said, 'Run, let's run,' but the Muslims didn't want to leave. Then these Hindus who had arrived started burning houses and cutting off our paddy. We went to the District Commissioner [DC], he didn't do a thing. We went to the Superintendent of Police, he just said, 'Who are those people disturbing our peace?' and didn't do a thing. So I took the law in my own hands and decided to give them a thrashing if they tried again. The police came, but these goalas [cow-herders] kept at it.
Finally I went to Court and called the Minister of Commerce and Business… and he sent some people who came and took a look at what was happening – they saw my burnt fields, my burnt heap of paddy. Then they saw the cow-herders who were busy eating our fruits and saw how their cows were grazing in my paddy fields. I turned to the Superintendent of Police and said, 'You have eyes, but can you see?'
But even after this investigation they refused to register his complaint. The cow-herders came again - two of them were in the Congress Party - in the dead of night. They did not care about the order the Court had passed. Abdul Rahman Biswas was very angry and went to Calcutta to meet the three Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs)– this was sometime between 1948 and 1950.
I blasted at the three MLAs when I saw them at Writer's Building, 'Where's your Chief Minister? I'll go to him, tell me his room number.' Somebody gave me the room number and I went to see Bidhan Chandra Ray and told him everything. Kalipada Mukherjee was then the Home Minister and he came over too and they sent the police to my place. I organized a huge meeting at Kumorpor Bazar and about 20,000 people came and when the police arrived I hopped into their car and took them to the meeting.
…We were all given assurances. But the police were scared and they sought me out and came over to my place and caught my legs pleading, 'Save our jobs, stop complaining about us.'
But I had barely returned to my village that the cowherders had started again. Two people from the IB Dept [Intelligence Branch] came and told me, 'If you want to keep your hide, you should leave this place.' That really scared me. To think I had people stalking me to try to kill me was the final blow. There is no law and order for us. But the people of my land wouldn't let me leave [desher lokera amay aste debe na] because I was somebody who had political connections and we had thought also state protection. But I finally left, in the dead of night, so that nobody could prevent me. I was about 50 when I came here. I had married my two daughters there, do you think I wanted to come? I still have my three paternal cousins there and 40 bighas of land. But I was too scared I'd be killed. I never returned. They would have killed me… I had shaken the whole system, I needed to be eliminated. When I arrived here I had no jobs and lived in utter poverty for 12 years. Then I became a deed writer at the Land Registry office.
He spoke of his life in Bangladesh:
I stood for elections here but I failed. 'He's a migrant,' people said. I was beaten by a local. Now I must be nearly 100 years old.
My brother came to see me from India and just left about 10 days ago. Another brother lives in Sweden, he too visited. It cost him 90 lakhs to build his house there, he has a garden and twenty bighas; he's an engineer. Now those relatives are all wealthy and happy and there are no fights between Hindus and Muslims. In India things are now fine but we're still burning in that fire Churchill lit.
India, however much it may have progressed, turned its back on us. I cannot be positive about it. We've come here and built this country and I don't want to dwell on the memory of India.
Abdul Rahman Biswas spoke of his experiences of '71:
Had I not been in Shibganj the place would have been razed to the ground, become a burning field. I was the only one who spoke Hindi so was the only one to counter the Punjabis. I used to mix with all kinds of people, that's how I learnt my Urdu. I was the only one to stand up to them when they were killing people. I started shouting in Urdu at them saying they should be ashamed and that we were all Pakistanis; the Captain hung his head in humiliation. The people I had saved started believing I was God himself.