Another unsung hero of our independence struggle Badrun Nesa Pasha no more
Ansar Ahmed Ullah
Contributing Editor, Shottobani
London: Mrs Badrun Nesa Pasha, an activist in Birmingham, UK, during the Liberation War of Bangladesh, passed away on 8 July in Birmingham. She had been undergoing treatment for cancer for a while at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where she died in the early morning of 8 July.
During the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, many Bengalis in the UK played a vital role, especially in creating awareness and lobbying the world community. In 1971, though small, there was a sizeable Bengali community in the UK and many places, such as London, Luton, Birmingham, Oldham, Coventry, Bradford, Sheffield and Manchester.
In 1971, the UK Bengali community, including women, played an essential role in highlighting the atrocities taking place in Bangladesh, lobbying the British government and the international community and raising funds for refugees and the Mukti Bahini. Bengali community across the UK formed Action Committees in support of the liberation in Bangladesh.
Mrs Pasha was one of the founding members of the Birmingham Action Committee during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. She came to fame following donating her entire matrimonial jewellery to the Bangladesh fund following a passionate speech in front of a gathering of thousands where the flag of Bangladesh was raised in Small Heath Park.
She became involved with the Bangladesh liberation movement from the very beginning. Following the 1970s general election, when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won and the National Assembly was postponed, the news travelled to the UK via BBC World Service when she got involved in the movement. Like her, those from East Pakistan in the late 1960s were very concerned about the future.
When Badrun Nesa Pasha came to Birmingham, there was an existing organisation called the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA), which she joined. When the liberation war started, it soon became the Bangladesh Women’s Association of Midlands. The Association carried out many activities, including collecting money for the Bangladesh fund and creating awareness to get the support of the British people. They held exhibitions of photographs and screenings of films of the atrocities. Mrs Pasha and her colleagues visited different cities to show the pictures and the documentaries. They screened films in Leicester, Northampton and Nottingham and other cities. The films were collected from BBC journalist Simon Dring.
They organised mina bazaars in various places when there were mass gatherings. They would prepare food and sell them to the people coming to the gatherings. She worked with British MPs, including John Stonehouse and Peter Shore. She worked closely with Roger Gwynn, a teacher and social worker. In 1971 he joined the Birmingham Action Committee. He was fluent in Bangla, and he could also write Bangla very well.
One of the memorable incidents she described in an interview with the Swadhinata Trust in 2006 was when the Bangladesh cricket team came to Edgbaston Cricket Ground. She went to the cricket ground dressed in a red blouse and a green sari, wearing Bangladesh’s flag. She said, ‘This is the first time I have come to the Edgbaston Cricket Ground since 1971. I came here in 1971 with our women’s group and other people in the demonstration against Pakistan’s cricket team. And this year, it is so nice and so happy that I am supporting the Bangladeshi cricketers as an independent country.’
In the same interview she said, ‘People were willing to go and fight in Bangladesh. We organised a demonstration and a camp to recruit volunteer fighters for the liberation of Bangladesh because the war was becoming quite heavy. Some people in Birmingham started recruiting young people who wanted to be volunteers to go on the battlefield. There were queues for the selection and recruitment. An English bartender came and said, I want to fight for the Bangladesh liberation movement. That was quite interesting for us, and we couldn’t believe that white people were ready to fight for Bangladesh.’
She came to the UK in 1963 and lived in Leicester. She studied at Swansea University from 1967-1968. Then she came to Birmingham in 1969. Her husband Jaglul Pasha, also an activist in 1971 and part of the Bangladesh Action Committee, died in 1983. Mrs Pasha leaves behind a daughter who is a doctor and a son who works for the welfare of migrants. With her children, she set up Sarkar Pasha Welfare Trust in Bangladesh in October 2002 to support disadvantaged people. In 2022 she received honour from the Queen for her services to the West Midlands Bengali community through the Bangladeshi Women’s Association which she co-founded.