A man who was an elected lawmaker not once but twice is now living like a pauper.
In a twist of fate, Md Enamul Haque Zoj has to seek shelter from the government for himself and his three-member family in Mymensingh's Gafargaon upazila.
An elected lawmaker from Mymensingh-10 (Gafargaon constituency) in 1986 and 1988, Zoj is one of 200 people who received a house as prime minister's gift at a programme in Gafargaon on January 23.
He used to own vast property in Gafargaon and Dhaka but he registered the land for his two wives 15 years ago and since then, none of them have taken care of him, said locals.
Speaking to this correspondent, Zoj said he studied at the Cadet College in Islamabad, completed his graduation in Lahore University and joined the Pakistan Army in 1968 as secretary of the Cumilla Armed Services Board. He resigned from the service in 1969.
Zoj's father late Abdus Salam did his post-graduation from Calcutta University in 1918 and later he studied law at Aligarh Muslim University. Salam served his teaching profession as headmaster at different schools including at Gafargaon Islamia Govt High School for 36 years, said Judge.
Zoj also said he fought for country's independence in 1971. When he and his co-fighter Mohammad Firoz were carrying a Light Machine Gun from Meghalaya in India to Dhaka, they were caught by the Pakistan Army in Gafargaon and taken to a camp and were tortured brutally for three days. They were able to flee one day due to heavy rain.
"After liberation, I tried to get the freedom fighter's certificate but could not manage it," he said.
He is now demanding his recognition as freedom fighter.
"I faced serious losses as I took part in four national elections including in 1986 and 1988 when I was elected lawmaker for two times from Mymensingh-10", said Zoj.
"When I was the lawmaker, I managed land for many poor and distressed people in Gafargaon municipality. Now I have to depend on others' mercy because I never thought of making money illegally."
Iqbal Hossain Sumon, mayor of Gafargaon municipality, said he was informed four months ago about how much Zoj's family had to endure due to Covid-19 pandemic. He immediately managed Tk 50,000 for them.
Zoj also requested for a house as he lives in a rented room of the municipality's Shaltia area.
Sumon said, "I shared the matter with local lawmaker Fahmi Golandaz Babel and on an emergency basis, his name was enlisted for a house as part of the government's campaign to bring all landless and homeless families under a housing facility."
Zoj has 12-decimal of land in the municipality, which he had donated for a mosque some eight years ago. Since then, he has been living in a rented room with his third wife Ruma Haque and eight-year-old son Noor Elahi.
Ruma said there is no furniture in the room and they have to sleep on the floor.
"We get financial support of Tk 10,000 from Jatiya Party leader Rawshan Ershad MP every month and the generous people also support us on different occasions."
Thanking the prime minister for the house gifted to them, she said it will be uneasy for them to live with so many families and would be better if they were given a separate lodge.
Contacted, Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Tajul Islam said they are doing what they can to help Zoj maintain his social status.
"On an emergency basis, the house was allotted for him but following the direction of the local lawmaker, we are looking for a suitable piece of land in the municipality to construct a building where Zoj can live with dignity," said the UNO, adding that furniture will also be provided to them.
About the freedom fighter's certificate, he said said they have considered including him in the freedom fighters' list so that the helpless family could enjoy the state honour in all respects.