Images for the future
Text and images: Sarita Manu
Freedom Fighter, journalist and writer Haroon Habib’s house is akin to a photo gallery. The walls of his rooms tell stories and bring alive the history of Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971.
As a young fighter, Haroon joined the war forces; during the war he was recruited by the Mujib Nagar Government as a war journalist. When the Bangladesh Forces were organised into eleven sectors, Haroon went to Sector 11. This is when the Sector Commander Major Abu Taher gave him a Yashica camera. This camera captured most of the images we see with him today (his first camera belonged to Dr. Humayun Hai). Buying film was difficult and printing it was an even bigger task: one had to travel 60 km inside the Indian border to get to a printing studio. Haroon printed most of his pictures at a studio in the Tuha Hills of Meghalaya.
Despite the difficulties he endured, Haroon kept clicking pictures wherever he was. The majority of the participants of the war were young Bengali peasants and students. Armed with his simple camera, Haroon Habib captured nearly 100 rare images of these freedom fighters, the countless refugees, the Indian army officers and many others. Looking at photographs of some children from the war, he fondly tells me that two of them grew up to be medical doctors.
It is only in recent years that Haroon’s photographs were made public at various exhibitions. Since then, many have also found place as permanent exhibits on his walls. Each photo is neatly captioned, dated (when the date is known) and now, also digitised. When young children from the neighbourhood drop in to look at the pictures and hear the stories he has to share, Haroon is happy that the photographs can serve as living pieces of history for current and future generations.