the SCI Archives the SCI Archives
Salam Alhaj M.A.

(The following is an extract from a booklet containing memorial tributes to Mohammed Ataur Rahman, self published by Roger Gwynn following Ataur’s death in 2003. Parts relevant to the development of SCI in Bangladesh are included in order to give a first-person snapshot view of early work there. It is illustrative of the cooperation with groups such as the Pakistan Workcamp Association or the Friends Centre, that led eventually to the formation of an SCI branch, receiving long-term volunteers.)

Origin of the text
Olivier Bertrand: Breaking down barriers 1945-1975, 30 years of voluntary service for peace with Service Civil International.
Paris (2008)

see Table of Content

  

Alhaj Salam M.A.

In 1959 I participated as a volunteer in the 4th South-East Asia Training Workcamp which was held at Dolairpar High School in Dhaka. Volunteers representing twelve different countries attended that camp, which was led by the Secretary General of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Mr. Alec Dickson. One day, while this workcamp was in progress, the General Officer commanding of what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Major General Umrao Khan, came to work alongside us. I would like to mention that our dear departed brother Anowar Hussain (founding member of the Branch) attended the training workcamp together with me. The volunteers from India, Japan and Sri Lanka were members of Service Civil International (SCI). It was from them that Anowar Bhai and I heard about SCI and came to know that it was an international volunteer organization whose Asian Secretariat was situated in New Delhi. That training camp, like all previous workcamps held in our country up to then, had been organized by the Pakistan Workcamp Association.
In 1960 Anowar Bhai himself went to Delhi and made arrangements for the opening of a branch of SCI in Dhaka. We adopted an SCI coat-pin or badge bearing the word PAX (peace). At that point, Ataur Rahman, myself, and other SCI volunteers started to hold weekend workcamps in the Lalbagh and Azimpur areas of Dhaka city. Our temporary office was at the Friends Centre in Murfatah Lane (south-east of the Daily Azad office).
Towards the end of 1960 the East Pakistan Red Cross Society organized a Red Cross Training camp at the Muslim High School, Dhaka, which I attended. Soon after that a devastating cyclone and tidal wave of unprecedented severity hit the coastal belt of our country. The Pakistan Workcamp Association sent a team of thirteen volunteers, under my leadership, to work in Ramgati, Bibirhat and Char Alexander. It should be noted that by order of the then Governor of East Pakistan, Azam Khan, only the Army , East Pakistan Rifles, police and government officials were allowed to work in the affected areas, while non-government organizations were banned from entering those areas or performing voluntary work there. In his capacity as Secretary to the Relief and Rehabilitation Ministry, Mr. Kafil Uddin, Chairman of the Pakistan Workcamp Association, granted our team special permission to proceed.
Towards the end of 1961 the Asian Secretariat of SCI invited four members of the Dhaka SCI group to attend the 7th Orient-Occident Training Camp in Ceylon (nowadays Sri Lanka). Mashudul Haque and I went to Ceylon on this occasion. After the Orient-Occident camp was over I participated in another twelve workcamps, returning to East Pakistan three months later.
In 1964 SCI East Pakistan organized an international workcamp on the island of Sandwip. Ataur and I took part, along with others. The British volunteer, Roger Gwynn, who had recently arrived in East Pakistan for the first time, was another participant. Also attending was the Asian Secretary of SCI, Hiroatsu Sato. He had to return to Delhi while the camp was still going on so I was given the responsibility of escorting him from Sandwip to Dhaka by train.
In 1965 once again a severe cyclone and tidal wave hit the south of the country, affecting Galachipa, Bhola and Barguna in particular, At the same time, a devastating tornado scoured several thanas of Madaripur Subdivision in Faridpur District. Many homes were destroyed and people lost their lives. So Ataur and I along with other volunteers went to Madaripur taking used clothing and medicines provided by the Red Cross.
Refer to Thedy von Fellenberg 1961-1962 in India.

 




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