India has never had the dearth of great social activists and reformers. While our history boasts of bravehearts who freed India from British rule, our present sees a confident, progressive army of reformers who are pulling us out of dark alleys like superstition and communal conflicts.
One such new age social reformer of modern India was Barun Biswas. A school teacher by professional, Barun was known in and around his village for being brave and kind. He was also a staunch supporter of justice and had no toleration for crime.
The man did not bat an eyelash before slinging an anti-terror drive against a sinister gang who were stirring troubles in many villages of West Bengal, including his own.
Barun was assassinated in a parking lot outside the Gobardanga Railway Station, West Bengal, on July 5, 2012.
Raping left, right, and center
Barun was born in 1972 to Bangladeshi immigrants in a small village in north of West Bengal. They had to leave their homeland after the Liberation War of 1971. His father was laborer by day and singer at a local theatre by night. He has had a tough childhood, to say the least. Those tumultuous times, however, made him very kind because he knew the pains of poverty and struggle.
Barun was known to be a philanthropist. He gave away all his belongings to those who needed it. He even gave away his bed to his neighbor and would sleep on plastic sheets.
His village (Sutia) and a few nearby villages were often terrorized by Sushanta Choudhary’s criminal gang. The gang would break into anyone’s house, take hostages, rob them in daylight and rape their women. They would not hesitate in raping anyone, regardless of their age just to instil fear among the villagers. People lived in constant fear but couldn’t raise a finger.
Although the official stats say there had been 33 cases of rape and 12 cases of murder, but the number in real were much higher. What deepened their miseries was police’s silence and apathy.
Takes a brave man to stand up
One evening, a group of villagers gathered to protest against Sushanta and his gang. Gathered though they had, none of them could muster courage to give voice to their frustration. They were whispering about their campaign while secretly distributing pamphlets.
When everyone admitted their inability to challenge the goons, Barun marched towards the stage, took hold of mic, and blew everyone away with his speech.
“If we can’t protect our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers, then we shouldn’t be living in a civilized society. If we lack the courage to take on the rapists, we deserve more severe punishment than they do. So come and join us to protect the honor of our women.”
And just as he finished his speech, there was a thunderous applause. People drew courage from seeing him shun all fears and raise voice. Thereafter, he formed a strong organization dedicated to foil the gang’s malicious actions.
Plotting and killing the protector
Barun’s group helped the rape victims to raise their voice. They rehabilitated them, counselled them and helped them regain their status. They were the ones to encourage victims to file reports against their perpetrators.
With Barun and his group in the scene, the police were forced to act, and with their help five members of the gang, including the leader, were sent behind the bars. When Sushanta was caught, Barun handed him a book by Ramakrishna and said, “Jele boshe porish,” which translates to ‘read this in jail’. This only shows his compassion for human beings of every kind.
As Sushanta served his life sentence he kept an evil eye open for Barun. Sitting behind the bars, he plotted to kill his nemesis. He hired a a professional killer to do the job, who was later arrested.
“Even the man who pointed out Barun to the assassins had received rice from him a week back,” says Asit Biswas, Barun’s elder brother.
Not in vain
Barun had achieved what he had set out for; but at the cost of his life. Loss of a great social activist shook the nation and the news spread like wildfire. He knew people were plotting to kill him but chose not to dwell on the information and instead he lived his life just as he would. He had nerves of steel.
“I am a proud mother who has lost her son. Barun, my youngest, never went on the back foot despite knowing there was a threat to his life,” said his mother proudly in an interview.
In 2013, a movie was made about his life, work and achievements. The movie was named ‘Proloy’, which means storm in Bengali. Considering the changes he brought in the lives of so many people, the movie couldn’t have been named better.