|LOOKING BACK TO BURMA
By Arya Rudra ( Times News Network )
KOLKATA : Kamal Kumar Dass, middle-aged Secretary at an engineering
firm on Park Street, could well have been the protagonist of a sequel
to Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace. Unlike most Calcuttans
of his generation, he has been watching the political developments
in neighbouring Myanmar with more than an academic interest. Dass
fervently hoped that someday the forces of democracy symbolised
by Aung Sann Suu Kyi will prevail over the military junta.
Why should a present day Bengali, caught in his mortal coils, be
nvolved in the fortunes of another country ? The reason is simple.
Born in Rangoon in 1951, Dass and his family were repatriated by
the military regime of General Ne Win in 1969. Kamal’s father
Khagendra Chandra Dass was with the British Royal Navy during World
War II and subsequently settled down in Myanmar in the late 1940s.
Till 1961, it was smooth sailing, but the military takeover in 1962
changed all that. "I remember listening to radio with my friends
when this abrupt announcement –the military regime had over-thrown
the existing government—came through. The carnage on July
07, 1962 when the army entered the Rangoon University Compound and
butchered thousands of
students for raising their voice against the junta still makes
Said Dass. The new government was highly repressive. There was
press censorship, nationalisation of industries and no Indian could
study beyond Tenth Standard, he informed.
The Dass family was heard-hit. Khagendra was the owner of a dye
& chemical factory doing roaring business. The military took
over their factory/shop and their property, recalled Dass. "We
returned to India in 1969".
For the last decade or so, Dass has made it his life’s mission
to get compensation from the Myanmarese government for all that
they lost in 1969.
"I’ve petitioned the United Nations, the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International without
much success. All the agencies agree that ours is a fit case for
receiving compensation, but plead their helplessness". It’s
a matter between the governments of India and Myanmar, is the common
refrain, rued Dass. He spends his pastime surfing the net, trying
to reach out to the exiled Myanmarese worldwide and even re-establish
contact with old friends and acquaintances. "I can’t
help feeling a bit nostalgic when we make Khow Suey and Mohinga,,"
My name is Kamal Das (Tin Win), born in Rangoon in 1951, passed
my matric exam in 1967 from St Michael School (124th St, Rangoon).
Since the Indians were not allowed to pursue further studies, my
academic career ends there. On the other hand my father’s
business in Dyes & Chemicals was nationalised and overnight
he became jobless. He owns a shop at Burabazar (Theingyi Zay) at
that time. We were compelled to leave Burma in 1969 as a Refugee.
After reaching Calcutta we were put up in a Refugee Barrack near
erstwhile East Pakistan border. Fortune turns like a wheel.
In the absence of matric passed certificate (not provided by Education
Authority in Burma), I could not obtain a small job. Verily misfortunes
never come alone, they always come in battalions. It was difficult
to bear up when one is beset with difficulties on all sides. From
Calcutta, I proceeded to Delhi in 1971 to appear for an interview
as Burmese Interpreter but not successful in getting the job. After
that I struggled a lot to establish myself first as a Stenographer
and then to the position of Secretary. Ultimately I have been able
to purchase a MIG flat at AG1/173 B Vikaspuri, New Delhi in 1982
and stayed there till September 1994 when my services was transferred
to Calcutta Office.
All throughout the above period, I could not find time to get in
touch with my relatives, childhood friends and Burmese freedom fighters
spread over the world. You can understand how difficult to start
the life again from scratch. I have forgotten much in my past life
but the memory of those days continues to linger in my mind. I am
now thankful to BurmaNet, PD Burma, Free Burma, Burma Mission and
Mizzima for keeping me posted with the latest news on Burma over
E mail. From these news, at times, it seems to me that some change
will definitely take place in the near future. Inspite of my numerous
introductory E mails (address obtained from different WEB sites
& BDMC) sent to Burmese colleagues, I have been able to establish
come contacts over E mail with few of them.