How this unsung hero inspired many in Bangladesh

August 15 is celebrated widely as India’s Independence Day, and it is needless to talk of the importance the day holds in the hearts of Indians, and Modern history. But this particular date is also of relevance to India’s neighbour Bangladesh. It is the death anniversary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the ‘Father of the Nation’ in Bangladesh. This day is commemorated across the country without fail as people express their gratitude to their first President. This day is also heavy on the heart of Abu Ehsaan Siddique, who lost his father Abu Bakker Siddique five years ago.

Late Abu Bakker Siddique was a freedom fighter back in the ’60s and ’70s, but after Bangladesh became an independent country in 1971 he continued to do his part for the nation by working on developing education in his village Delpara Narayangonj. Abu Bakker firmly believed that education was the only way to develop the newly independent country.

During 1970, Abu Bakker’s house served as a base camp of the Mukti Bahini. He sheltered 25 to 30 Mukti Bahini members who were devoted to fighting the Paksitinis and liberating Bangladesh.

But during the tough times of war, the Bangladeshi National Liberation Army often ran out of food and armament supplies. Abu Bakker stepped up to supply chicken and vegetables cooked by his wife and helped his camaraderie.

Abu Bakker Siddique with his wife Sultana Begum

Not only did he contribute food and intelligence, but also arms during the Bengalis’ battle for freedom. Bakker’s almirah used to be loaded with heavy guns and the grandest of weapons to retaliate against the Pakistani forces.

Once, due to his strategic planning, the Pakistani forces tried and failed miserably to enter the Mukti Bahini base camp at his residence.

When the forces armed with heavy artillery and tanks tried to enter the base camp, Abu’s idea of digging a canal and dense plantation of trees and bushes in the area thoroughly prevented them from entering the camp. The enemy forces never set foot again near the base camp despite learning of the presence of the Mukti Bahini there.

“I always wanted my husband to spend more time with our children just like anyone would expect from their spouce. But when I saw the blessings and prayers coming from honest souls, I never regereted the decision of being by his side,” his wife, Sultana Begum recalls.

After the war, Abu Bakker witnessed famine and several other social problems but he was confident that education was the best medium to free his nation from such problems.

He convinced people that an educational institute was necessary to develop Delpara Narayangonj. And soon after getting permission he managed to build a tin-shed college in land donated to him by his mother and uncle. The college finally started classes with very few students in 1994, four years since he first planned it.

Initially, it was tough to provide the teachers with their due salary as tuition fees of the students were highly discounted to encourage them to pursue higher education. But the determined Abu Bakker did not give up – neither did he ask the teachers to compromise with their earnings nor did he request the students to pay more tuition fees. Instead, he sold his poultry and cattle and even parts of his land to pay the teachers.

Kobori Sawrar, former Member of Parliament and Bangladeshi actress, along with professors of Haji Misir Ali University, and Abu Bakker (extreme right)

The college, recently recognized as a university, stands to be one of the best in the district of Narayangonj in Bangladesh. Hajir Misir Ali University has produced doctors, engineers, and government employees over these years.

The Hindu community members there addressed him as Guru for his eager enthusiasm and participation in organizing any Hindu festival in the area.

“My father has always been a role model for me. He taught me a very important lesson that money is nothing if you can help and earn respect but if you walk away from your morals and ethics you will be long gone. His teachings is the secret sauce to my success,” expressed his grateful son Abu Eahsan Siddiqui.

Although Abu Bakker passed away on August 15, 2015, the purpose he dedicated his life to is still serving people. A true ambassador of peace, Abu Bakker, is remembered for his decades of good deeds.

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