Of honour and Biranganas | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 26, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:54 AM, March 26, 2020

Of honour and Biranganas

An expatriate Bangladeshi in the UK fills hearts of post-Liberation War generation with tales of atrocities that the Pakistani occupation forces unleashed on women during the Liberation War in 1971

The atrocities unfolded on women by Pakistani occupation forces during the War of Liberation in 1971 have left an indelible scar in the psyche of the nation. While the nation moves on leaving behind the trauma, it holds dear the glorious sacrifices the heroines and heroes of the country made during the nine-month-long struggle.  

In a foreign land thousands of miles away, Munira Parvin, a news presenter at a television channel in the United Kingdom, has taken on the task of telling the harrowing tales of Biranganas, the war heroines of Bangladesh, to the post-Liberation War generation living in that country and elsewhere. 

Originally from Sylhet city, Munira recites various forms of literature including stories and poems written about the 1971 war heroines and victims of genocide in Bangladesh.

She recites from Nilima Ibrahim's 'Ami Birangana Bolchhi', interviews of Ferdousi Priyabhashini-Rama Chowdhury, Jahanara Imam's 'Ekattorer Dinguli', Anisul Hoque's 'Maa', Apurba Sharma's 'Birangana Katha' and 'Cha Baganey Gonohotya', Arafat Tanim's 'Ramjan Mashey Gonohotya' and many other books, research publications and interviews.

Besides in the UK, Munira performed recitals in Bangladesh's Dhaka and Sylhet, and in India's Kolkata.

On how it all started, Munira said, "During [my] maternity leave in 2014, I suddenly realised that I am reciting from many poets only to promote myself. But to spread the Bangalee culture, I have to spread the glories of our Liberation War... I started reciting the stories from home."

She said she decided to recite from literatures on Biranganas at different programmes as "this generation has no time to read books, not even those about the Biranganas."

"I started with Nilima Ibrahim's. Every story in her book is long. So I created shorter versions, keeping the original language intact. And when I heard the audience sobbing during the programme, I realised that everyone was feeling it within themselves."

It is that sort of a feeling that sends shivers down your spine, she said, explaining, "Maybe it's because I'm a woman; I can relate to the torture they endured. And that gives me the strength to carry on and recite the tales of the war heroines."

In December 2008, Munira formed a recital organisation named 'Chhandashik', which is based in the UK.

In London city, Chhandashik organised the first 'International Bangla Recitation Festival' in September of 2019 and in 2018, the organisation staged a play depicting life stories of eight Biranganas. 

"But the journey wasn't easy. Many people issued threats on me after my second show as they didn't want me to continue such recitations. But I was resolute and I told them that I will recite at least one tale of a Birangana in every programme that I get a chance to perform," Munira said.

"There lives a Birangana by the name Prova Rani, whom the locals call 'Punjabir Bou [wife of the Punjabis]' -- just to insult her. What are we doing for them [the Biranganas]? I felt the stigma they faced all their lives and that drives me do my work," Munira said in a firm voice.

Munira started learning recitation from her mother at an early age. In 1984, when she was only five, she was admitted to Shishu Academy in a recitation course.

By the time she passed secondary school exams, in 1995, she took recitation lessons from Guru Hemchandra Bhattacharjee and she later on joined the Shishu Academy as a junior instructor.

After studying Bangla Literature in Bangladesh, Munira moved to the UK in 2003 to study Media Culture and Technology at University of Bedfordshire. She married in 2004 and she is mother of two children.

Munira currently works as care coordinator at Apasen, a provider of social and community services in the UK. She also works as a senior news presenter at Channel-S, a television channel there. Besides presenting news, she also anchors a programme on art and culture at the TV channel.

Till date, Munira performed about a hundred recitals on the Liberation War and the Biranganas. She also conducts live recitals on Facebook.

"My vision is to ignite the light of the Liberation War of 1971 in every heart of the post-Liberation War generation in Britain and all around the world. Embodying that spirit, I will do my part till the end," Munira said. 

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