Doreswami Naidu was born in a humble family in Kaium Betur, a village in South Tamil Nadu, India. His father, Arekum Naidu, was a cultivator and was also involved in the collection and disposal of animal bones.
Doreswami Naidu was married to Rosemary Naidu belonging to the same village. In search of a fortune, Doreswami along with his wife came to Calcutta in 1948. He received training in a leather factory in Calcutta. At that time, he received information that leather factories were being set up in Dhaka. He decided to come to Dhaka for better employment facilities. In 1952, he along with his wife and two children Rosina Naidu and Marselina Naidu came to Dhaka. He joined SN Tannery in the Hazaribag area in Dhaka as a leather technician. In 1963, he purchased two kathas of land (mark no. 436) in Sialbari area of Mirpur and built a small house. Slowly his family members grew in number and they became parents of seven children.
With the passage of time, Doreswami Naidu was able to build a small house on his land. He was a very polite and kind person. Belonging to Christian faith, he used to attend all religious celebrations of Muslims and Hindus of the area. His house was in a poor neighbourhood. He was known to support poor families. He was friendly with his neighbours and was always prepared to assist them in the time of need. He learned how to speak Bangla fluently.
During the political movement of 1970 and in the early days of 1971, Doreswami Naidu used to engage in discussions with the people of his area on the situation. He supported and financed the ongoing democratic movement. From the beginning of March, the Bengalis of Sialbari area were being humiliated and tortured by non-Bengali population. These people were unhappy with Doreswami Naidu as he was seen to be friendly with the Bengalis in the area.
From March 1, 1971, a large number of armed non-Bengali population in Mirpur area totally surrounded the Bengali population. It became very difficult and dangerous for the Bengalis to go to the market to purchase food. They were living in a state of fear and uncertainty. At that time, Doreswami Naidu was seen carrying food and distributing them among the poor Bengali population. His effort was noticed by the Pakistan Army and their collaborators.
After the crackdown by the Pakistan Army on March 26, 1971, the condition of Bengalis in Sialbari area further deteriorated. Genocide was being conducted against them. The helpless Bengalis were isolated and for many of them Naidu was the only source of support. He was being watched by the non-Bengalis in the area.
On March 29, around 1 p.m., when Naidu was carrying some food for a neighbour, he was surrounded by a number of non-Bengalis armed with weapons. The people in the area watched in silence but no one dared to come to his rescue as the gangs which surrounded him belonged to the infamous Aktar Gunda and Jumman Kasai. Both of these antisocial elements were patronised by Pakistani army and they were slaughtering people in Mirpur and its surrounding areas. The gangs dragged him to a distance. Some people in the area saw that the savages cut his hand first and then slaughter him on the road before taking away his dead body. His family received the message of the brutal murder from some neighbours who had witnessed it. The members of the Naidu family saw in horror as a few non-Bengalis with weapons entered their house. They ordered the family members to go with them and they were taken to a two-storied building on the northeast side of Prince Iron Factory of Sialbari and locked up there. After the departure of the non-Bengalis that night, Rosemary Naidu tied her sari with the railing of the balcony and with its help she and her children were able to escape. The family came running to their home but the neighbours advised them not to stay in their house as the non-Bengali gangs, who were animals in human form, would return again looking for them. By this time, the green fields of Sialbari were filled with rolling corps. The Naidu family never found the dead body of Shaheed Doreswami Naidu.
Having no other alternative, the Naidu family took shelter in the house of a family who had come from Bombay many years back and were living on plot 2/7/40 in Sialbari. Rosemary thought this family being non-Bengali would give them protection. Next day a number of young people were slaughtered in the area. The family from Bombay told Rosemary that it was not safe for them to stay in their house. After discussing with Naidu's family, they took them to the jungle on the northern side of Sialbari area. They hid in the jungle for a few days and then moved to another jungle on the eastern side of Dhaka Zoo. It was impossible to stay longer in the jungle as the children were getting sick and there was no food available. After a few days, she along with her children went to an adjacent village inhabited by Bengalis and begged for assistance. There she and her family members worked as house maid and servants until the country was liberated. Throughout these nine months, every night the family fervently prayed for the liberation of Bangladesh like any other Bengali family. They had to deal with very difficult situations but they were brave enough to face the odds. It is not hard to fathom the pain they had endured during the period but with the spirit of their soul they mastered courage and struggled to survive.
After the surrender of the Pakistani Army on December 16, 1971, the non-Bengalis and collaborators did not surrender and built up resistance in the Mirpur area. Finally on January 31, 1972, the collaborators of the Pakistan Army were forced to surrender by the Mukti Bahini, and Mirpur was liberated. The Naidu family returned to their home to find their house completely destroyed. They heard the tragic stories of their neighbours who had escaped from Sialbari and like the Naidus, every family was subjected to inhumane atrocities.
Many friends of the family advised Rosemary Naidu to go back to India, to her motherland but the family decided to stay in Bangladesh, the land where Doreswami Naidu was killed, the land in which he died. They have never gone back to Tamil Nadu since then. Their life has become inseparable from the people of Bangladesh. The bonding they had with Bangladesh was never severed. They made a choice to identify themselves as Bangladeshis.
The writer is a Freedom Fighter, recipient of the Swadhinata Padak and a researcher on The Liberation War.
reedom fighter, recipient of the Swadhinata Padak and a researcher on The Liberation War.