Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
July 29th when the flight number 021 of Virgin Atlantic Airways was touching the ground of Dulls Airport, it was heavy rain in Washington. There had been ongoing construction at various part of Dulls International Airport.
We were taken to the immigration desk, where information on formalities
for the arriving passengers was on display at many large television
sets. Officers were vigorously helping everyone in completing
formalities as quick as possible. Possibly, in less than half an hour,
most of the passengers were already outside the airport. My Jewish
brother Dr. Richard Benkin, who arrived at the same airport from Chicago,
was waiting at the exit gate for me. As we saw each other, we hugged.
This was the second time of our meeting. Earlier, Dr. Benkin visited Bangladesh in January this year on a 10-day tour. Both of us went outside and rode on a luxurious Lincoln sedan car to reach Capitol Hill Suite, where we decided to stay. In Washington,
Capitol Hill is the most important area, where the Capitol Hill, White
House and many of the offices are located. This is rather comparatively
a quite area, with few numbers of vehicles. In fact, Washington is not over trafficked or over crowded like New York.
On my arrival, while we both were on the car, Brother Richard told me
about several important engagements that I was having during this 7-day
24 hours on board, naturally human being might feel a somewhat tired.
However, possibly, seeing Dr. Benkin and the wonderful Washington, I
forgot the fact of the long trip. We became active right from the first
morning we met HRCBM chief Amalendu Chatterjee at a hotel over
breakfast. Although couple of hours later, his organization were
scheduled to hold a program in Washington,
Mr. Amalendu was not showing any sign of hurries while talking to us.
This is no doubt, the best example of Bengali hospitality. The other
person who also joined us at the breakfast was Bangladeshi columnist
Shahriar Kabir. Interim government in Bangladesh
had recently dropped the sedition charge against Kabir, brought against
by the previous BNP-Jamaat Coalition government. Kabir told us that
68,000 acres of Hindu properties had been so far grabbed by Jamaat men
in past five years. As evidence to his statement, Shahriar Kabir
refereed to a study by eminent economist Abul Barakat. I asked him,
what about grabbing of Hindu properties by Awami League leaders. He was
showing a kind of unwillingness to say a single word on that, although
I knew for sure that Vested Property Act has given the opportunity to a
large number of influential people from most of the political parties
in grabbing properties of religious minorities in Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, intellectuals in Bangladesh
are extremely political biased. They never want to tell the truth by
taking a non-partisan stand. It is always that most of the statements
regarding repression of minorities or grabbing their properties had
been dirtied with nasty political bias.
after meeting HRCBM leader Amalendu Chatterjee, we went to New York
Hilton Hotel to meet my counsel and internationally acclaimed lawyer
Professor Irwin Cotler, MP. Earlier, Mr. Cotler has defended figures
like Nelson Mandela or Andrei Sakharov. When I reached Hilton Hotel, I
saw Professor Cotler waiting for me at the hotel lobby.
the afternoon, we went to the exhibition and conference of HRCBM. A
number of Congress members attended the conference as guest speakers.
But, Dr. Benkin and I had not that much of time to seat and listen to
lengthy lectures. We had to meet some of the Congressman. So I went to
see Congressman Steve Rothman. Washington
traffic stopped him from seeing me on time. Rather he was late by 40
minutes. But, each of the members in his office were busy in attending
us with all their hearts. Mr. Rothman saw me and held my hands to lead
me to his private room. I found an excellent human being in Mr. Steve
Rothman. Right after the meeting, we went back downstairs to HRCBM
event. In several minutes, Congressman Mark Steven Kirk and his aide
Andrea Hoffman arrived. He hugged me strong and almost shouted with all
his joy and excitement. As if, he saw his own brother after so many
years. Should there be no Congressman Kirk, I was not in Washington
for sure, but inside the solitary confinement in Bangladeshi prison.
Mr. Kirk championed in getting me released of prison being approached
by his own constituent Dr. Benkin. HRCBM leader Kanchan Bannerjee
approached the Congressman to deliver his lecture in HRCBM program.
However, he said, “no I have come here to meet Shoaib, not to give
as I requested him, he agreed and went inside the hall room to say
something. At one stage, he called me to the speaker’s dais and asked
me to say something. I had nothing inside to say, except to express my
gratitude to this angel of salvation. To me Mark Steven Kirk is the
angel, who saved my life. This write up shall continue for 12 consecutive issues.