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Shah Abid Ali

Question:  Before 1971, what was your journey?  How did you come to the UK?  How did you settle in Birmingham?

Answer:  Thank you Murad Khan for inviting me to talk about my country.  Today, I will talk about my motherland, the liberation. I will only talk about what I saw during the libation war.

I came from Bangladesh, my village is in Mukam Para, Inathgonj Nabiganj.  I was 13 years old, I had just started secondary school.  I came on 10th February 1969 with my parents and my two brothers.  We have always lived in Birmingham.  We lived in our own house on Bolton Street.  I have a medical card to show my address.  I enrolled at Oakley Secondary School.  In 1970, when the flooding occurred, I raised some funds and handed them to the Welfare Association.  Since then, I have always been homesick.  After coming to the UK, I went to London High Commission with my paternal uncle.  From there I brought a copy of the Bangla newspaper ‘Jonomoth.’  Since then I used to keep in contact with them sometimes.  Since then I’ve always read their paper.  Without any financial interest in the paper, I used to keep in touch.  They also used to trust me.  I was involved with this.  There was no television, or telephone in those days.  But the people loved their homeland.  Some had left their families behind.  After the election when Bongho Bondhu did not get power, everybody was wondering what would happen.  Some were saying why doesn’t Bongho Bondhu declare independence.  It was going like this.

Then in March 1971…

Question:  So before 1971, in 1969 you came with your family.  Tell me about yourself.  Where did you spend your time?  The situation in Birmingham.

Answer:  There was an English auntie in Edmonton.  There were lots of people who had English wives.  So because of their husband, they were also against Pakistan.  I used to go to Edmonton school for a while, then when we brought our house (in Small Heath) we moved here.  I had a part-time job in the city centre. I used to go around with my friends around Small Heath Park, especially with my friend Kazi Enam. He was a very close friend.  I used to hang around the city centre where the restaurants were mainly.  I also had another Pakistani friend, he was 3 years older than me.  He helped me with the 1970s fundraising (flood funds). 

When I was 15 and a half years old, I got a job in a restaurant in the city centre.  When Bongho Bondhu came in 1969, I was at Digbeth Hall too.  For whatever reason, I don’t know why my elders used to show me a lot of love. 


Question:  Were you there at Digbeth Hall when Bongho Bondhu came?  Do you remember that day?  Who was there?  What happened that day?

Answer:  Yes, I was there.  When Bongho Bondhu came to Birmingham, he first came to the Taj Mahal restaurant. 

Question:  Who owned the Taj Mahal?

Answer:  Hathim Thai Afroj Miah Shaheb. 

Question:  What else happened?

Answer:  When we got together at the Taj Mahal restaurant all leaders from England joined there. Some Pakistani people were also there. Tosodduk Ahmod, Zakaria Choudhury secretary of the action committee, were also there. I went to Digbeth then. Hatem Tai asked, ‘is everything okay there’. Sobur Choudhury went there. A group of people grabbed the stage. Sobur Choudhury asked them to leave the stage and they left. Then Bangabandhu went there. Some people were against the fact that Bangabandhu was going to negotiate an election with Pakistan. Some Pakistanis also asked, why did you accept the government, no election can occur under this government. Tarek Ali the leader of the worker association was also there. 


Question: A speech was held at Digbeth and Birmingham was the centre and all leaders came there. What happened next?

Answer: Bangabandhu got out of prison for election. His only intention was that if he fell in any danger only foreign Bangladeshis would be my friend. Then Bangabandhu gave his speech. Then someone ( from Golden Hillock Road)  asked Bangabandhu, if Bangladesh became independent would he give currency like Scotland and separate the country declaring independence? Bangabandhu replied everything will happen at the right time. Then Bangabandhu was supposed to go to Manchester, however, there was some kind of disruption in Bangladesh between Biharis, Bengalis and Punjabis.  So Bangabandhu left for Bangladesh as quickly as he could. Everyone was waiting for the election.


Question: What happened in Birmingham then?  Were there any meetings in England?  Was there any activism going on in England at that time? 

Answer: At that time everyone was waiting for the election. The meeting wasn’t held in each city then but there was networking amongst all.


Question: How was the networking and who participated there?

Answer: There was an East Pakistan federation, and welfares leaders (from Birmingham, Manchester, London) had their group of networking. From this network everyone came to know the news.


Question: What was the situation in Birmingham after the 1971 election result was published?

Answer: On 25th March when Bengalis were attacked and Bangabandhu was arrested, everyone got restless to know what was happening and what they should do.  On 27th March, Azizul Haque Bhuiya, Mrs Pasha and all other leaders from welfare and liberation fronts sat at Mrs Pasha’s house. They were planning what they could do. They decided to call everyone and do something.


Question: Who was involved in welfare?

Answer: Hatem Tai Afruj Miah was the leader of Birmingham welfare but he had a team. Mr. and Mrs. Pasha were close to him. Hatem Tai Afruj Miah, A.K.M. A. Haque , Sobur Choudhury, Jamshed Miah shaheb, Kunu Miah were involved in the welfare.


Question: How was the relationship between the action committee and welfare?

Answer: The welfare committee turned into an action committee after 28th March. On 27th March all leaders sat together and planned what to do. They called for a meeting at Small Health to make a promise that they will no longer have any relationship with Pakistan. At Small Health Park many Bengalis got together. People entered through the gate near Golden Hillock Road side corner gate.  I came a little late and heard Pakistani attacked at this meeting. Then police came and controlled the situation. I didn’t hear any of the speeches.  Then all Bengali met again at welfare in Stratford Road. The action committee was built up and spread all over the UK. Funding was raised via the action committee and the highest contribution was from Birmingham. Birmingham was an industrial city and most of the Bengalis lived there.


Question: How was your connection with the action committee?

Answer: I was younger then and wasn’t a leader. All the seniors loved me. I am just saying what I witnessed and as a witness, I am promoting history. Seniors raised the fund and I went with them. No responsibility was given to me. I didn’t see what went on in the park because I arrived late.  I just saw some kind of altercation and so I left and went back home.  Some people went back to Mrs Pasha’s house, and other’s to the welfare committee house. I know an action committee was formed. I have the list of who was involved in the action committee.

You asked the question who made losses?  In the city centre many Bengalis had stalls selling curtains.  Due to the weekend demonstrations, they used to close their shops and leave to attend the demonstrations. Many business owners had financial losses from joining the meeting. Slowly the Indians and Pakistanis took over the shops.  Many businesses made financial losses.  Mr Pasha and Mrs Pasha had a good relationship with the leaders and they were trustworthy. Mr Pasha was made the chairman of the action committee.


Question: What happened after 28th March? 

Answer:  I used to mainly distribute leaflets. I also sold ties (with logos of Bangladesh) to raise money which was passed to the action committee.


Question: Did you involve in any activities that occurred after 28th March? 

Answer: I was not involved actually. We just heard what Mukol Fouj told. On 29th March Indian High Commissioner contacted Afruj Miah and informed that they can’t do anything like that, you have to involve Abu Shaheed Choudhury who was going to the Geneva conference. The Indian High Commissioner asked to meet up with five people when he was staying at a hotel in the city centre (Birmingham) Gous Khan Shaheb came from London, Motin Shaheb, Hathim Tai Afruj Miah, Jagirdar Shaheb were there. Afruj Miah told us about it and it wasn’t published. Everyone knows I had a very close relationship with the leaders after the independence. When all responsibilities were handed over to Abu Shaheed Choudhury then a conference was held at Coventry and Azizul Haque Bhuiya was the secretary and Abu Shaheed Choudhury was the chairman. I was mainly involved in fundraising and campaign. I also attended the Coventry conference.


Question: Did you attend any conferences in London?

Answer: I went with them in their car but didn’t go to the Hyde Park Corner event.


Question: What happened when the Pakistani cricket team reached Birmingham?

Answer: When the Pakistani cricket team came to Birmingham I was also there. Actually all Bengali mainly protested there.  Our main goal (for protest) was so that our campaign would reach the mainstream.  We didn’t want to stop the cricket.


Question: Tell me about yourself. What did you do there and how was the day?  Were you with anyone?

Answer: I went there by bus. I wasn’t at frontline. Mainly I was involved in distributing leaflets and selling ties to raise funds.


Question: Did anyone from your family get affected in 1971?

Answer: No. Nobody was affected.


Question: On 16th December when Bangladesh achieved independence do you remember how you came to know that news?

Answer: I knew from BBC news and then all Bengali were spreading that news. 


Question: Do you remember any other activities or event?

Answer: All worked at factory. They would wait for the weekend.


Question: Tell me about your experience.

Answer: I went to my relative and saw that he had money in a brown envelope. He said that he had no relative alive so what could he do with this money? He gave all money to the fundraising. I also raised funds from others. I tried to help as much as possible. I was very young, but others had lots of families who were affected.  It was very upsetting for me.  Mainly I went to the city centre restaurant to know what was happening, during the weekends after 5pm.


Question: How do you feel now about your activities in 1971? 

Answer: We did everything to protect our country. But now I feel that nowadays everyone is taking advantage of the liberation war.  If I give false statement I will be the sinner also and who left the world their soul will get hurt too. Everyone fought for our country. It is painful to hear that everyone is divided into teams with liberation war also. Some people also say wrong words about Bangabandhu also. Only Bangabandhu appreciated foreign Bengalis. Foreign Bengalis did a lot for Bangladesh.


Question: How do you see your activities in 1971?

Answer: The liberation movement is not assessed and party assessment is happening, now that’s what I didn’t want. Liberation war wasn’t done by any part, it was done altogether.


Question: Do you want to say anything more?

Answer: I want to say that I appreciate the liberation war and the freedom fighters. We achieved Bangladesh by liberation war and so we can address ourselves as Bengali, not any particular party. I said what I saw. I wasn’t any leader and I didn’t say anything to promote myself. Thank you.

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