Taramon Bibi: A folktale of a country

--Sqn. Ldr. Ahsanullah (Retd)

11. Ahsanullah

Taramon Bibi is a native colloquial Bangla name for a woman in Bangladesh. Tara means star Mon means soul or mind and Bibi means respectable Muslim lady. So Taramon Bibi means a respectable Muslim lady with a brilliant soul twinkling like a star from a distant place. Why she was named so, her parents only know.

During the war of liberation of Bangladesh a Freedom Fighter (a Bangali soldier deported Pak Army), named Havildar (Sergeant) Muhit of infantry regiment in Sector number 11 was deployed in an area named Kodalkathi. He was in charge of a Muktijoddha Camp and Taramon Bibi was employed there as a maid servant. She was a maiden of sixteen. While working in the camp one day she expressed a desire to her god-father, Muhit. He was happy to notice and trained her secretly so that she could fulfill her noble desire. She learnt how to operate a 303 Rifle & SMC and soon attained and showed enough skill in operating arms. Then, she participated actively in different battles at Shaghata and Fulchori areas in Gaibandha district under Sector 11.In a fierce battle against an offensive attack by the Pakistani occupation army to Kodalkathi, she herself killed at least five of the enemy forces. This was her remarkable achievement in the war. She also worked as a spy and took lots of risks in collecting enemy information.

After independence, she was honored for her brave deeds. She was awarded ‘BIR PROTIK’ -a gallantry award (for her heroic actions) in 1972 by the state. The award includes a gallantry certificate; a lump sum amount of TK. 10,000 and a monthly grant @TK.100.Taramon Bibi was one of the recipients of 151civilian freedom fighters, honored with this gallantry award. And as a woman, she was the second in the country. But she herself knew nothing about it.

As time passed she, as well as, the govt. authority forgot the contributions & images of freedom fighting. In October/ November, 1995 (Kartick 1402 Bangabda) for the first time she came to know the fact that she’s being honored by the state.

After twenty four years of the war of independence, the war heroine has been traced by a researcher, Bimal Kanti Dey. He traced and identified her and her family while collecting information/data for his research work.

Taramon, with her third husband and two children lives in a small old hut of the village Shankar Madhab Pur, PS. Char Rajab Pur. The village is about forty three Kilometers away from the Kurigram district and on the bank of the river Brahmaputra. She was then forty and had been suffering from TB for ten years. Her husband, Abdul Majid was a landless day laborer. Her two teenager children were also day laborers having no education. Her forefathers were poor and obviously illiterate. She is also poor and illiterate and couldn’t provide education for her children due to the same reason, poverty.

However, non-govt. women organizations collected and brought her to Dhaka on 5th December 1995. They showed her to the public on 14th December 1995. Then, everybody showed honor and respect to her.

She was unknown and unidentified for 24 years. But she doesn’t mind that. She has no complaints against anybody. She is firm that she fought for peace and progress of the country. She declared these facts to the public in her colloquial language at the Shaheed Meenar (A monument in honor of martyrs of the Language Movement, 1952 AD) in Dhaka on 14th December 1995.

The irony of fate is that she won fierce battles in the War of Independence in 1971 for her motherland but she couldn’t win over the only battle of her own livelihood in her independent state.

A government is there in the country whose responsibility is to protect fundamental human rights and respect for the dignity and worth of the human person (Article 2/11) and that no person shall be deprived of life (Article 3/32) as guaranteed by the constitution of the state. But, is there any initiative of the governmental machinery to protect Taramons or the citizens like her?

There is a big welfare organization (Muktijoddha Kalyan Trust) for freedom fighters backed by the govt.having one of the highest sky scrapper building in the heart of the Capital City, Dhaka and a large amount of money has been investing in different production sectors. Besides, there are also many organizations for freedom fighters in the country. Did they take any initiative to know the whereabouts of their comrades like Taramons?

A detailed history of the war of liberation has already been published in 15 volumes. Hundreds of books have also been published by the renowned writers of the country. The war heroes/commanders also have written their memoirs & heroic experiences. Almost all the newspapers/magazines of the country have their investigative reporters and also kept columns reserved to publish the episodes & documents of the liberation war. But, do they try or think of about Taramons?

The answer to the above three questions is no, no & no. Otherwise Taramon Bibi would have never been unknown & unidentified for the last 24 years, since the end of the liberation war of Bangladesh.

But why?

Because, Taramon Bibi represents those, who, neither have educational qualifications, nor any money, land or property. They live on hand to mouth by physical labor in the farmer’s field, in the houses of the rich, in the hotels and restaurants, in the factories and industries, in the buildings and construction sights/sides, in rowing boats of the owners and fishing in the rivers and oceans etc. They have nothing other than their body and soul. They are the menial workers of this country.

They become the victims of natural calamities, like: flood, cyclone, tornado, drought and its aftermaths. They are the victims of human misdeeds and mischief, like: diseases, political upsurges, revolts and turmoil. In such situations they die like insects and winter grasses. They are the funny puppets of the haves of the society.

They themselves too, are not conscious of their potentials and strength. They have the blind faith that God punishes them by imposing poverty as a consequence of their and their forefathers’ sins & bad deeds in this world. So, they take poverty as a penance for their sins and wait for rewards in the eternal life.

They also believe in the human gods (the riches and elite of society) because they are always dependent upon them for work and food for their living. So, all their sacrifices are for the divine god as well as for the human gods.

Eventually they always remained unknown, unidentified, uncharted and unlamented. They live in nature. They dwell in their huts made of mud and other natural things like straw, bamboo and wood etc. They live in the plains, bushes, river sides, beside the paddy fields, in the valleys and hills and in the slums of the semi urban and urban areas. As such, they develop a sense of strong belongingness for the soil or the place they live in. So, when their peaceful living is threatened, they try utmost to resist the enemy or the threat even at the peril of their life. This passion and tender but obstinate nature of the common people sometimes provide scope for the rich and the cunning intelligentsia, so called elite of the society, to exploit them for their self interest.

They become very important during elections. The hypocritical vote-beggars, at that time contact them visiting door to door; talk to them politely, bribe them with lungis (a kind of loin cloth for men’s wear), saris etc; entertain them in their houses and tea stalls and make commitments to provide them with jobs and financial help. But being elected, they forget them (the poor) and keep themselves busy in personal gains and benefits from the state machinery.

But it is historical fact that these Taramons dominate all the movements and upheavals against invaders, feudal lords, autocratic rulers and all other evil forces. From the Buddhist times to the present, they sacrificed in masse to the political upsurges, revolts and wars. But their dedicated role was never recognized and appreciated. They made kings and queens in this kingless (republic) country but they have no history. They sowed seeds, tended them but have no right to harvest. Innumerous Taramons are there still unknown, unidentified and undefined.

Bir Protik Taramon has been located after 24 years of independence. They are shining from the distant places without having their minimum living rights. It reminds me of the nostalgic memory of a rhyme, learned and recited in my early boyhood, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder, what you are!’.

To Whom It May Concern, should be alarmed that when these twinkling stars shall flash out and flare up together, all the luxurious and deluxe sky scrapper buildings, installations and other infrastructures may be blazed up, tormented down and ruined in. History repeats itself, whether one recognizes or not. Still there’s time to realize. The powerful human gods who play the power games should be aware of that they must play their role sincerely, honestly and appropriately for the common people. They must keep in mind that this land is ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’. Their active participation must be ensured in society and state affairs.