The Santal warrior | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 01, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:30 AM, March 01, 2021

Indomitable March

The Santal warrior

Freedom fighter Shyam Murmu who makes his community proud

At the age of only 20, Shyam Murmu joined the Liberation War to free the motherland, reportedly as the only Santal freedom fighter from Chapainawabganj's Sadar upazila.

Around 15 kilometres from the upazila, Shyam lives in the village of Jalahar Uttarpara with his family.

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Now 69, he is hard of hearing and has breathing difficulties, one of his daughters said. His condition has visibly deteriorated since this correspondent's last visit to his home a couple of years ago.

Last Wednesday afternoon, Shyam was reminiscing about the war, sitting on a stool in front of his dilapidated mud house.

After the war broke out, he and his family members, like others in the village, left for Singabad in Malda district of West Bengal where they took shelter in a refugee camp.

Before leaving their homes, Razakars had sexually assaulted two Santal girls in their village and that is what triggered his desire to fight for his people and for the country, he told this newspaper.

When some Awami League leaders of his home district visited the refugee camp he was in at the time, he said he wished to join the Liberation War. As per their advice, he went to Malda's Dak Bunglow and got listed as a freedom fighter.

Shyam first trained at Gour Banga of Malda and then at Siliguri. At the end of his training, under sector 7, he went to the Mahadipur camp in Malda, near the Sonamasjid border.

In that camp, Shyam met Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir, under whose leadership he took part in the war.

They fought in several places including Argarahat in Shibganj upazila, Poragaon and Amnura in Sadar upazila, and Daldali in Bholahat upazila until just before victory was declared.

Freedom fighter Serajul Islam, former publicity secretary of the Sadar upazila unit of the Muktijoddha Sangsad, said he took part in several battles alongside Shyam in 1971.

Hingu Murmu, president of Uttarbanga Adibasi Parishad's central committee, said, "We are proud of him and his participation in the Liberation War is a source of pride for Santals and other ethnic communities."

Even though Shyam helped the country to a victory, the wheel of fortune has not yet turned for him personally. The Santal community in the Barind region continues to live in abject poverty.

Aside from his small monthly allowance as a freedom fighter, Shyam has had to work as a day labourer to provide for his family of nine. However, his deteriorating physical condition makes it difficult for him to move around now.

Of his three sons, two also work as day labourers in the fields, the dominant source of work in the area.

Despite suffering ailments and living a poverty-stricken life, the war hero said all he wishes is that the country he helped liberate runs well and that social harmony is maintained.



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