Railway Worker Migrant: Nizam Chacha

Nizam Chacha (also known as Md Nizamuddin) is a very popular character in Syedpur. He is 73 years old. He used to work for the railways. His father used to work in Bihar – at the Mungher cigarette factory. Nizam Chacha came to Bangladesh on 17 August 1947 as a twelve year old with his maternal uncle. His uncle used to work at the rail workshop of Jamalpur and was given an option to move to Pakistan. Seeing the state of riots, he left. Nizam was a child but he decided to leave with his maternal uncle because he was very close to him.

My maternal uncle and his wife, a brother, a sister and my mother [came over]. My father refused to come because he had a job in Bihar and didn't want to lose it. Besides, the family owned a biscuit factory. My father used to visit us every two or three years for a month or two.

Nizam Chacha told us about his experience of working for the railways:

I used to be a rail power operator – my first port of call was Khulna which I joined in 1963. After that I was transferred to Santahar – it used to be a big junction in those days. From there I was posted to the Paxi Rail Office and then to Amnura, then Bonoharpara, then TNG Ghat in Gaibandha district and from there in 1971 back to Santahar. I got to see the whole of Bangladesh this way.

He spoke of his experience of 1971:

Map showing estimate of units involved in Liberation War.Then 1971 [civil war] happened. I did not eat anything for a week – human corpses were being devoured by dogs. I trusted in Allah – if my time's up then I'm going to die. There used to be 40,000 Urdu-speakers there. There are none left; most were killed, some managed to run away. I hid in the burner of an abandoned steam-engine for two days and two nights. After that, on 21 September the Pakistani army came and I continued working there.

On 14 December there was the surrender of Niyazi. The Indian army went to Santahar and I worked there until 17 December. On 17 December one of my Bengali friends' father warned me saying, 'The Indian army's now here, the Mukti Bahinis [freedom fighters] are going to arrive anytime soon and are going to kill you, so please leave.' He went with me to Ramnagar rail station.

Sal treesI arrived at Atraye station around 9.00pm. The station was near the river. A Hindu boatman gave me some chire [flattened dry rice] and after eating it I went to sleep in a wood of sal trees. Early next morning I walked from there to Ishurdi – about 60 kilometres away – it took me two days to reach. I was crying and felt the Bengalis had turned me into a bakri [goat].

By a stroke of luck and because my boss liked me I got my job again. It was 1972 and I had a job [implying amazement that in 1972 he, a Bihari, had a job] in the railways in Paxi. On 1 July I was transferred to Rangpur where I lived for the next ten years. After that in 1982 I was transferred to Dinajpur and then in 1983 I was transferred back to Rangpur. I lived in Rangpur until 1991 and after that I was transferred to Syedpur and retired on 2 November 2003.

The railway company gives me a pension of 2350 takas every month, free hospital treatment and three rail passes to travel all over Bangladesh each year. I believe in 'no foorti, no chinta' ['no fun, no worries'].

Nizam Chacha spoke of his family connection to India:

My uncle worked in a railway foundry workshop. He retired in 1990. He married two of his three daughters to Indians because his wife's father still lived there and he wanted to retire there. His father-in-law was a captain on Indian ships and lived in Khiddirpur. My maternal uncle married one of his daughters to a connection through his father-in-law with a businessman. I never returned to India in all these 61 years.

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