Abdur Rashid Bhuya
Question: How was your journey from your childhood to 1971? How did you come (to England)? And how was your journey?
Abdur: I finished my education in Bangladesh. I gained my certificate in textile technology from Surma Valley, Sylhet. From there I actually came for higher studies, but I couldn’t continue the higher studies. And then I looked for a job, there were our countrymen in Small Heath, Somerville Road. About 6 of us used to stay in the same house. Some of them found me a job in the factory they were working in, so I joined the workforce at Clifford Covering Factory in Haymills. I started work in that factory, and I supported my family. I sent remittance money to support my siblings’ education over there (Bangladesh).
I brought a house on Banks Road. I used to do community work, completing forms - passport forms, social security forms, advising people, taking them to the job centre -that was the early stage of my life in this country. I came here in 1963, I went home in 1969 got married, and brought my wife here to Banks Road. My first daughter Nilufa was born in Banks Road. Gradually I moved from Small Heath to Warden, Sladeville Road. I lived at that address for quite a while. My 3 children were born there and educated from Warden. All of them luckily managed to go to university and qualify for various degrees. I had a good job at Clifford, operating a machine. I worked there for quite a while. I earned a lot of money. I had a quite reasonable life in this country. I am fortunate to come to this country, have a good job, and earn a good salary. I was lucky.
Question: What was happening in Bangladesh in 1969 -1970? How was it affecting people here?
Abdur: There used to be two Pakistanis together, East and West. India was in the middle. East Pakistan was never safe enough to be ruled by somebody else, whose language was different, and culture was different, therefore we gradually demanded our rights. We wanted the Bengali language to become our national language. We struggled to set up essential things our way. Therefore we started to demand our rights. So the ‘West Pakistani leaders didn’t like it, they opposed us. So we fought and campaigned for our rights and luckily we got our independence in 1971 from the West Pakistani ruler.
Question: What was happening here in Birmingham? Have you seen anything?
Abdur: In Birmingham, we campaigned and demonstrated our rights. We used slogans to demonstrate in Hyde Park, London and other parts of the country. We demanded our right to have our mother tongue as Bengali. We wanted East Pakistan to be established our way, not the way West Pakistanis want.
Question: Can you remember any activities in Small Heath Park because you used to live near?
We had a variety of gatherings, meetings, and demonstrations in Small Heath Park, at the corner of Waverley Road. We always used to gather there.
Question: Can you remember any of the people from around that time?
Abdur: Yes, Joglu Pasha, Mr Afruz Miah, another Afruz Miah from Aston, Mr Tozammel Tony Haq, Mrs Pasha, Mrs Rashid, Mrs Mahmuda, lots of other people.
Question: Can you remember your campaign, the fundraising? What did people do? Where did you go? How did you go because it wasn’t easy at that time?
Abdur: We actually gave priority to our independence because we wanted to be free from the West Pakistani Ruler. So we used to have gatherings every week at Small Heath Park and take our campaign up to Hyde Park. My responsibility was to arrange the coach, and look after the coaches, 1-5 coaches every weekend.
Question: How many weekends did you do this?
Abdur: We did this for almost 6/7 weekends.
Question: Were there lots of people?
Abdur: There were lots of people because we wanted our independence, and to establish our rights.
Question: How was Birmingham? Was it a hub?
Abdur: Birmingham used to always be the focus city. We used to campaign together, and arrange meetings together, all decisions were made at Small Heath Park.
Question: Can you remember fundraising?
Abdur: In the meeting we used to declare that we would collect money from door to door, and shopkeepers and other big organisations. People used to be very happy to support them at that time.
Question: Can you remember Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came to Bangladesh?
Abdur: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came to the Digbeth Civic Hall – my wife and I, Toni Haq, Afruz Miah and other many people – we luckily managed to visit him there. His message was, ‘Yes I’m out now, you can establish a campaign here as well in England.’
Question: What was happening while things were worsening in East Pakistan? Did you have family back home? Were you worried at all?
Abdur: My house was burnt down because they spread the rumour that I was in England and I was supporting the Mukti Bahini.
Question: Were any of your family members affected?
Abdur: They left the house as the house was being burnt down. Luckily they escaped.
Question: On 25th March there was a track down in Bangladesh, and on 28th March there was a gathering at Small Heath Park. How did that many people gather in a short period of time?
Abdur: The main reason is that we used to watch the television every day, almost every evening the 10 o’clock news. And we gathered (information) whatever we could. We could see they were shooting from the planes in my own area. We used to gather the sad news and then started to campaign for our rights for independence. We were inspired by BBC News.
Question: When the crackdown happened, how did you communicate with other people to tell them to come to Small Heath Park?
Abdur: We used to by telephone, and then arrange a meeting in a house, then we gathered in the park and went to Hyde Park to spread the news of our demand for our independence.
Question: When the independence happened on 16th December, can you remember how you heard the news? How did you feel?
Abdur: We always used to watch the BBC news, especially the 10 o’clock one. We always eagerly sat in front of the television to get the news. And whatever news we got we used straight away telephone each other to arrange the meeting/gathering.
Question: How do you feel now after 52 years? You were part of it and saw this incident very closely.. How do you feel now?
Abdur: First of all, I should say we feel we are free, we are independent, we have our own country and we feel free. We are not sharing with anybody it is our own free country.