Apurba Sharma, A new generation Bangladesh Liberation War researcher

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Apurba Sharma, A new generation Bangladesh Liberation War researcher: An exclusive interview

By Farzana Naz Shampa (Halifax, Canada)

Translated by Micheal Davidson (Ottawa, Canada)

An essential task for the proper development of a nation is to properly preserve the true history of that nation. Apurba Sharma is a unique truth seeker who is engaged in such a conservation process.He has been working diligently to preserve the history of the outstanding sacrifices, now mainly forgotten, made by the many freedom fighters and birangona women(rape survivors and war heroines / freedom fighters) during the great Liberation War of Bangladesh. He writes in the spirit of true patriotism and with a deep love for the history of Bangladesh and a sense of responsibility to tell its story to its younger generation.  In the clear language of his impeccable writing he tells of our freedom fighters in the War of Liberation, especially those in the Sylhet district of the North East.

Sharma, one of a new generation of freedom fighters, tells the story of the cruelty of war criminals and ‘ Razakars’  (anti-Bangladesh paramilitary , collaborators and traitors), the sacrifices and bravery of the birangona, and the attacks on the tea workers in the northeastern Sylhet region.He has received special honors as one of the leading researchers and writers on the Liberation War. His book, Birangana Kotha, portrays the real life experiences of twelve women through his conversations with them. His historical and realistic field-level research work tells of the hard sacrifices of the noble mothers and sisters, how they unjustly lost their possessions and dignity in the War of Liberation, and their constant struggle for survival in Bangladesh in the present post-independence period. Another great freedom fighter whose story is told is Jagat Jyoti Das of Ajmeriganj near Habiganj.

Those who are diligent in the pursuit of truth, like Sharma, will not diminish their efforts by chasing small distractions; rather they must keep constantly running in the direction of their quest and ignore all misfortunes and obstacles.  He is very good-natured and polite, and his writing style is creative and non-propagandistic.  In this exclusive interview with CBN, he brings out some lesser known details of his far-ranging career. This exclusive interview was conducted by me, Halifax correspondent and advisor to CBN24.

Apurba Sharma Interview

Farzana Naz Shampa:

Apurba Sharma, to begin, we send you all our best wishes.The main focus of your extensive career was the great Liberation War of Bangladesh. So, first of all, I want to know how you got involved in research on the Liberation War.

Apurba Sharma:

The War of Liberation was our best achievement in a thousand years and its freedom fighters were the greatest children of the nation. Under the leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the crimson sun of independence that rose in the sky in 1971 after a long and bloody nine-month war came only from the sacrifices of three lakh martyrs, and the cries of four lakh mothers and sisters. How much of that glory, that achievement, that sacrifice do we know or have known? Just as the scope of our own knowledge is absolutely limited, so we are lagging behind in terms of what information is available! I realized that it is important to spread the story of the liberation struggle through my journalism. If we can highlight a few incidents of heroism and self-sacrifice, then our national history will be richer. I first discovered Jagat Jyoti, the fearless heroic fighter of Bhati-Bangla. After him, my search continued and continues to this day.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

What thoughts and ideals inspired you to start research on unheard and marginalized freedom fighters?

Apurba Sharma:

At the beginning I did not actually start my research on the Liberation War, but rather I have moved in this direction later from my own choice and for the sense of commitment for Bangladesh. One step at a time, as I began to search for new facts and find them, my curiosity grew. It seems that the history of our Liberation War has been burnt to ashes by the self-sacrifice of the common people, especially in the marginalized communities whose people’s unheard narratives of self-sacrifice have been diminished mainly for political reasons. If the genuine story of how they were abandoned and mistreated cannot be preserved now, then on the one hand it will sink into the abyss of time and on the other hand, the history of our glorious liberation struggle will remain incomplete. It was from those ideas that I started writing about the contribution of marginalized people.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

What is your experience of working with women freedom fighters in the Northeast of the country? Tell us about that.

Apurba  Sharma:

Women in the northeast of the country (Sylhet) have always been at the forefront of the movement and struggle. They have never been reluctant to sacrifice in the fight for their rights. But they are always behind in terms of propaganda. They have no ego about their own glory. Impoverished abused women from marginalized, unheard  situations, on the other hand, are very shy, especially those who were brutally tortured and raped in the war.  They went to war against the Pak army but they are reluctant to talk about that horrible time. Finding those women, and first, getting to hear their never spoken stories, and then, presenting it sensitively was a really difficult task for me.  No woman at any level in our society ever feels comfortable telling a man about the cruel things that happened to her. Only after gaining their trust, could I become aware of their hardships and misfortunes. Even so, connecting with one is still beyond the reach of the average person. But I never gave up and that is why I was able to accomplish things in the end. As a result of my perseverance, two separate books, titled ‘ Birangana Kotha’  and ‘ Muktisangrame Nari’  have been produced.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

What is your opinion about the fearless freedom fighter Jagat Jyoti Das?

Apurba  Sharma :

Jagat Jyoti was a unique fighter of our great Liberation War. He was incredibly talented in heroism, courage and war tactics and the commander of the Das Party, a guerrilla force formed to keep Bhati-Bangla free from enemies. He is the foremost among those who fought to free us from the shackles of slavery.  He came from an obscure middle class family in Jalsukha village of Ajmiriganj Upazila, yet happily dedicated his life on the altar of freedom.  Jagat Jyoti is one of those whose names that will be written in gold letters in the history of our great Liberation War.

During the War of Liberation, the Das Party led by Jagatjyoti was a source of terror to the Pakistani invaders and their accomplices in the Bhati region. There was nothing impossible for this brave freedom fighter who conducted his battles on his own terms. Still, he would cross the path of a friend with a smile on his face. Due to the intensity of the Das Party’s attack, the Pakistani government stopped the navigation on the Ajmeriganj-Sherpur route during the War of Liberation. The Das Party was so aggressive on these waterways that they sometimes sank or destroyed even eight or nine cargo-convoys a day. Jagat Jyoti became a legendary hero of living memory by liberating one Bhati district after another.  On 17 November 1971, Jyoti was martyred in a confrontation with the Pak Army at Badalpur in Habiganj and in that battle twelve Pak soldiers lost their lives as targets of his precise shooting.

Still, the way Jagat Jyoti has been represented in the Liberation War is very surprising and reality has cheated this freedom fighter from the respect he deserves.At that time , provisional government of Bangladesh announced he should receive the highest award for gallantry, but the formal granting of this honor has been much delayed, which is very sad.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

We found out that you have researched and are doing some musical talent, can you shed some light on the subject?

Apurba  Sharma:

 If  you want to contribute to building a culture-minded society, you must work with every aspect of culture. I feel the urge to work with music lovers for that purpose. As you expand your cultural horizons, you will see that every music devotee has triumphed over the limitations of their humanity. If we can propagate their words through our writing, then as our consciousness expands, so will our mindset become more liberal and free from narrow prejudice.This will also be helpful for our nation’s overall prosperity. I dedicated myself to this kind of writing based on these thoughts.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

What are some of your findings about war crimes committed during the Liberation War and war criminals?

Apurba Sharma:

Most of my research is being done by me personally, with help from the media; in many cases it remains incomplete. While a lot of writings and books have been published about the Liberation War, most of them are the product of private individuals.  If research on criminality during the Liberation War was done officially, the initiative would have been brought to a higher completion.  In order to bring the perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice, the proper investigative agency for the Crimes Against Humanity Tribunal is conducting administrative investigations with powers beyond the limitations of private persons.  They are able to conduct them as a legally empowered government agency. If this process continues, and if it can manage to rise above partisan politics, then hopefully every one of the anti-humanitarians will be brought to justice.  In that event, the work of private individual writers will also be easier. Since I am working on the War of Liberation, the issue of war crimes has definitely come up in my research. There was no chance of bypassing it.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

What books and articles have you published on the Liberation War? Are you writing through any other medium?

Apurba  Sharma:

So far I have published six books of my research on the Liberation War. These books are:   Unique Freedom Fighter Jagat Jyoti (Sahitya Prakash, 2009), War Crimes and Relevant Documents in Sylhet (Ḍhākā : Ityādi Grantha Prakāśa, 2010), Women in Liberation Struggle (Shuddhasvar 2014), Purbapar of Liberation War (Nagari, 2016), Genocide in the Tea Garden: 1971 (Sahitya Prakash, 2016), and The Sylhet District in Liberation War (Copperplate 2017). Among these, two books have already been translated: Jagat Jyoti, and The Tea Garden Massacre: 1971 These were translated by Rabindra researcher Mihirkanti Chowdhury.  I also write articles and contribute to the leading literary magazines and periodicals of Bangladesh such as Kali O Kalam, Shabdaghar and Dainik Janakantha, Dainik Manabkantha, Dainik Yugaveri, online  news portal BDNEWS24.com, Prothom-Alo North America edition, and other weekly magazines.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

What accolades and honours have come your way in your career and important work?  Can you shed light on this?

Apurba  Sharma:

What I have received is very satisfying.  Many people have talked about wanting prizes and medals, but what I will say is that if you are devoted to action, if you have passion for action, if you do not limit yourself in any aspect of your creativity, if you are 100% honest about your responsibility to your readers, then, today or tomorrow your recognition will come. Neither authors nor researchers, neither poets nor writers write for prizes. An award actually makes the author more accountable to his or her readers. An award reminds the author of the good work that got him to his goal. As I said, in my case, what I have received is very satisfying.

In 2010, I received the HSBC Kali O Kalam ( Ink and Pen ) Young Writer Award for my book War Crimes and Relevant Documents in Sylhet then in 2013 I received the Bazlur Rahman Memorial Medal presented by the Liberation War Museum for Liberation War Journalism for my series of investigative reports on the Genocide in the Tea Gardens.  Both the prizes were worth Rs 1 lakh.  Besides, my research books on the Liberation War a seminar entitled Prantajane Kotha: Apurba Sharma’s research on the Liberation War was held recently at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology.  The seminar was supervised by Dr. Zafar Setu, an associate professor of Shabiprabi. As well as the award, it was also great recognition for my work.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

Do you operate independently?  What do you find are the most important obstacles keeping you from doing your work?

Apurba Sharma:

Yes, I conduct my research activities on my own and the work I do is very laborious. I have to go around to many places to collect my data. Many of these locations are in unfamiliar areas which increases the expense. Basically, having to spend money is an obstacle.  If more research on the Liberation War was conducted by government institutions or if individual researchers were given government support, then the path of those who do research on the Liberation War would be easier and the quantity and quality of work would improve.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

I would like to know your future plans for your Liberation War writing as well as any other topics you are pursuing.

Apurba  Sharma:

The history of the War of Liberation and Independence of Bangladesh is so vast that one cannot master all its details in a single life. There are still countless areas about it that are shrouded in darkness. There are still many stories of self-sacrifice of war, of humanitarian aid that we have not been able to discover and every event of the war is an invaluable part of our patrimony. As I continue my research activities on my own initiative, I have to conduct these activities while overcoming many obstacles. These efforts are needed to investigate the many hidden incidents of self-sacrifice and heroism of the war, and so pursuing them is never a mistake. I believe that if these tragedies of the War of Liberation were unveiled before the nation, the view of our history will be enlarged and enriched. If we can’t spread this history among the students, among the younger next generation, then all this work and trouble will be lost. But if the true history of independence can be passed on to the new generation and never be swallowed up by the darkness, then this loss we fear will never occur.The new generation will keep the course of its life flowing in a stream of light and the knowledge of self-sacrifice.

Farzana Naz Shampa:

Apurba, tell me something about your personal life this time and how do you spend your free time in the middle of a busy life?

Apurba  Sharma:

My father’s name is Atul Sharma and my mother’s name is Radharani Sharma. I was born in Harinakandi village of Srimangal,Bangladesh . We are three brothers and one sister. Big brother Ajay Sharma retired from Grameen Bank and is currently working for a pharmaceutical company. Elder sister Ratna Sharma and younger brother Amrit Sharma are expatriates in Kuwait. I work in the field of journalism and at present I am working as the executive editor of the country’s oldest newspaper, the Dainik Yugaveri, which is published from Sylhet. My wife and I were married on November 21, 2011; her name is Priyanka Sharma, and she is a music artist. We have one son Omm Sharma . I like to read books in my spare time and when I get a chance, I like to watch football and cricket.

Farzana Naz Shampa:  

Thank you very much dada ( Brother). Best wishes to you from CBN, the voice of Bangladesh in Canada.

Apurba  Sharma:

Many thanks to you and CBN24.

Apurba Sharma is a prolific and dedicated Bangladesh Liberation war researcher, journalist and a well-known poet of praiseworthy patriotism.  He has written a total of 20 Bangla poems, including Jago Manush, Shunte Pao Shishur Kanna, Aalo Ashbei, Manush Boro Osohay and Katbe Adhar among others. Fifteen noted Bengali reciters, performers and writers from Bangladesh and India have recited from  his poem “Dekha Hobe Milon Mohonay”, in a presentation which was broadcasted recently on a popular Bangladeshi TV channel.With this poem and by its allusions to Bangladeshi history, Sharma has been trying to encourage hope for the people affected by the pandemic.Sharma’s humanist approach in his research and creative work depicts both people’s sufferings and their heroism.Munira Parveen, a well-known Bengladeshi  reciter and presenter in London England, presents regularly from Sharma’s book Birangona Kotha” rape victim women of Bangladesh liberation war of independence 1971.
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