Julian Bhai, pal of Bangladesh (Half 2)

Julian Bhai, friend of Bangladesh (Part 2)

On this unique, expansive interview, Rezwan Hussain talks to Julian Francis, OBE, about his outstanding life and profession. That is the second instalment

That should have been an eye-opening expertise.

Sure, it was. I had no concept this little object on the bottom was a serious impediment to my efforts to enhance animal husbandry. If you come from one other tradition, you might have no concept how native individuals truly suppose. 

One other time, we had been digging wells, and our civil engineer had an concept: Wedge formed bricks would match snugly, and also you wouldn’t want to make use of any mortar. The wells may very well be larger. We thought this was an amazing concept. However a number of days later, once we got here again to examine, the work had stopped. The landowner was in control of the employees constructing the nicely, and he didn’t suppose it was an amazing concept in any respect. We had been puzzled. Why not construct an even bigger nicely, if there was a selection? As a result of, he defined to me, if I’ve an argument with my spouse, it’s going to be simpler for her to throw herself down the nicely if it’s larger. I used to be speechless. 

Typically it’s mentality and beliefs; at different instances its simply habits that current obstacles. A cow will make extra milk if water is on the market when they need it. However it was a wrestle to get villagers to maintain a bowl of water subsequent to the cows. So far as they had been involved, cows drink water when they’re dropped at the water. Why? As a result of that was the best way it had all the time been!

Have been you in Bihar when the Liberation Battle broke out? 

Sure. Oxfam’s workplace in Ranchi in Bihar, which then coated Japanese India and East Pakistan, acquired information of 1000’s of refugees coming throughout the border. In April 1971, it was clear there was an enormous refugee disaster in West Bengal, so Oxfam requested me to go to Calcutta and help aid operations. So I received in one of many Oxfam famine aid jeeps, and drove down from Bihar to Calcutta. 

We arrange an workplace in a lodge on Little Russell Road. The lodge had three cellphone strains, which was very helpful, and it was minutes away from a  24-hour telegram workplace, a Grindlays Financial institution department, and a Catholic Aid Providers workplace, that had a telex machine we might use. 

Additionally Learn- Julian Bhai, pal of Bangladesh (Half 1)

A lot of the different international assist organizations had been flying in international personnel, however we consulted our Gandhian associates and determined that extra expats weren’t required. This proved to be an excellent resolution as, shortly afterwards, the Indian authorities prohibited foreigners from going to the border areas. We employed younger Bengalis as employees. Lots of them had been former pupils of St Placid’s faculty in Chittagong. That they had realized that their former principal, Raymond Cournoyer, was with Oxfam in Calcutta to assist the refugees. They didn’t have any contact info for him; they only turned up in Calcutta, to search for him!

Raymond Cournoyer should have been a charismatic determine to encourage such loyalty.

Sure, he was. Raymond Bhai, as everybody known as him, was a French Canadian, Catholic Brother of the Holy Cross Order. He had taught in numerous colleges in East Pakistan from 1958 to 1965, earlier than becoming a member of Oxfam. By the point the refugee disaster erupted, Raymond was liable for all Oxfam operations in Japanese India and East Pakistan, out of the Bihar regional workplace. It was Raymond who despatched me all the way down to Calcutta to assist arrange the aid operations. Oxfam’s head workplace protested that I is likely to be too younger, however Raymond Bhai insisted. 

When Oxfam head workplace wished to fly in additional expats from the UK, the higher to generate publicity and donations, it was Raymond who led the resistance. He instructed them we might handle with out. Personnel who couldn’t communicate the language had been merely not that helpful. One in every of Raymond’s former pupils that we employed was Uday Sankar Das, who went on to have a profitable profession in journalism.

What are a few of your recollections from the refugee camps?

November 1971 stands proud in my thoughts. That was when the 2 sides began shelling one another, throughout the border. The refugees had been very near the border, so it turned harmful for them. A whole lot might need been killed within the shelling. Not that the Pakistan navy command cared, in fact. 

I keep in mind as soon as I used to be speaking to the officer commanding in an enormous tented compound, close to Hili, in West Dinajpur, when there was an explosion close by. No one batted an eyelid. However after the assembly, I noticed the jeep I used to be sitting in simply a short time in the past had taken a direct hit!

The Indian navy determined to maneuver the camps farther away from the border. That was partly for security, and partly as a result of they wished to put landmines alongside the border. So the camps had been moved. 

The official association was that the Indian authorities present shelter and primary meals rations. All else was to be offered by assist businesses. Nonetheless, unofficially, the Indian military medical corps tended to the refugees close to that individual border, and Oxfam typically offered primary well being look after Indian troopers.

Rezwan Hussain is a author and researcher in Dhaka. That is the second instalment of a multi-part interview with Julian Francis.

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