Comrade Juno’s struggle

Haider Juno

Comrade Haider Anwar Khan Juno’s life is full of struggles. Now, he lives in his work and memories of his comrades and friends.

Haider Anwar Khan Juno (b. December 29, 1944) breathed to his last on October 29, 2020 in a Dhaka hospital. He was 76. Comrade Juno was suffering from pneumonia and following complications. He left behind wife, daughter, son and elder brother.

How to identify Haider Anwar Khan Juno? It’s difficult; and it’s easy. He was a son of this soil, son of struggles people in this land waged for decades against the Pakistan neo-colonial rule. Those were struggles for democracy, struggles against imperialism. He was an activist, a propagandist, an agitator, an organizer, a leader, a guerrilla in 1971-Bangladesh – the epochal time the Baangaalees were waging a War for Liberation. The always soft-spoken fighter with a blazing heart was a friend of many – of students, peasants and laborers, of cultural, student, peasant and labor activists and leaders, of the aged and ailing. He was always silently standing by them in their hours of need. That was his one of persistent work, very few including some of his very close kin were aware of it. The illuminating heart carried a lot of love for others.

Haider Juno’s journey began as a student activist in the 1960s. Those were days of organizing students, carrying on relentless agitprop among the students and youths, mobilizing students, organizing processions and strikes. Those were days of democratic struggle. Chhaatra Union, the Maoist student organization Juno belonged to, was, without doubt, staunchly anti-imperialist. His position was always anti-imperialist. His position was always anti-capitalism. He was always standing against semi-feudal relations in the rural economy. A stubborn adherent of class struggle, Haider Juno was always for a radical change of the economy and society. Juno was always for the dispossessed, for the downtrodden, for the trampled, for the exploited – the voiceless, faceless, unorganized multitude in villages and urban slums, toiling in factories and crop fields. This was his fundamental stand, a cornerstone of life. Until his brain was working, he did never relinquish this stand, a lifelong commitment. This activism took him to the leadership of the student organization he was with – Beeplobee Chhatra Union, Revolutionary Students Union. He was its president.

Juno turned into a guerrilla, a communist guerrilla, relying on the poor peasantry. In 1971, as the Pakistan state unleashed its army to carry on genocide to enslave the Baangaalee people forever, Juno had to leave Dhaka, now the capital city of Bangladesh – his central area of student activism. That was late-March-1971, a day after the Pakistan army began its genocidal campaign. Driving the car Zahir Raihan, the untraced creator of the famed films Stop Genocide, Let There Be Light and Jeban Thheke Neya among many, handed over to the revolutionary communist wing Juno belonged to for using in the guerrilla war they were going to organize, Juno reached Shibpur, miles from Dhaka. He was accompanied by Kazi Zafar Ahmad, a firebrand student and labor leader in the 1960s, Haider Akbar Khan Rono, veteran communist leader and Juno’s elder brother, Rashed Khan Menon, a student leader of the 1960s, and a few other comrades.

Upon reaching Shibpur, Juno, Rono, and their comrades began organizing a guerrilla force. While Rono and Menon moved to Tangail to meet Maulana Bhasani, a left-leaning leader of the masses of working people, and then, to meet political and military leaders to Agartala, Tripura, the eastern state of India, and Kolkata, Juno, along with Mannan Bhuiyan, began recruiting would-be guerrillas, setting up training camps, supply depots, field hospitals. They began training of the guerrillas while collecting arms – first it was from a police station, then, from dacoits; and then, it were the arms the Pakistan soldiers used to leave behind while fleeing away from fights with the guerrilla squads Juno, Bhuiyan and others organized.

Juno had to travel to Maulavi Bazaar in the northeastern part of the country to organize guerrilla zones. Those were, at times, 5-7 days walk at a stretch, and, at times, by motorboats and country boats crossing Haors, seasonal water body stretching miles, at times, without food.

Their main base was the Shibpur-Narshingdi area, dotted with small hillocks and girded by rivers including the mighty Meghna. Juno and his comrades organized the guerrilla war based within Bangladesh. A number of military leaders with the Bangladesh War for Liberation extended training facilities and supplied arms and explosives while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) provided shelter and money as comrades of Juno visited Tripura and Kolkata for the purpose of coordination, etc. Juno regularly had to cross the border, which the Pakistan army strictly guarded with a line of fortified bunkers. His purpose of those dangerous border crossings was to take youth to Tripura for training with help from Major Manjur, Captain Mahbub, later promoted to higher ranks including Major General, and Barrister Mansur.

Other than leading in demolition of bridges, etc., Juno was also leading guerrilla fights against the Pakistan army. Those – ambushes, frontal fights, encircling enemy units – were around the Shibpur-Narshingdi area, and in all these fights, the guerrillas won. Martyrs, the felled guerillas, were obviously there, and they were mostly from the ranks of the poor peasantry. His comrades, now with the touch of passing time, still talk about Juno’s valor and the spirit of self-sacrifice – firing at the enemy while the enemy was moving ahead with superior quality of firearms, giving covering fire to help comrades move away, declining to take a safer position. A valiant guerrilla fighter Juno was.

Juno with life-long commitment to Marxism-Leninism moved to the cultural front as he found non-effective debates and useless factionalism taxingly overwhelmed a part of the Left, the part he belonged. He began organizing radical-leaning cultural organizations, united forum of Left cultural organizations, cultural schools and trainings while he authored a number of books including reminiscences of his days of activism and struggle. The cultural work among the urban middle class, rural poor and industrial workers, he used to tell, was part of the ideological struggle essential for organizing struggle of the exploited for a radical change. His work consumed him fully while he was also joining, to his capacity, his wife’s, also his comrade from the days of student activism and guerrilla war, fight with cancer, and seriously ailing daughter.

Haider Anwar Khan Juno’s days of student activism found organizing conferences participated by thousands of students, which the industrial workers of Tongi, an industrial area near Dhaka, assisted in organizing.

Juno, the unsung communist guerilla with a background of physics at graduate and post-graduate levels, left behind his brilliant student days. He was at the top in country-, then a province-, wide competitive examinations, without any feeling of loss of “something valuable”.

The always smiling and soft-spoken Juno never entered into quarrel with his friends and comrades. Rather, always keeping hope on future of people’s struggle for a revolutionary change Juno always actively helped in initiatives for the change.

Humble and modest Juno vaai, brother, to many of students, cultural and political activists in the capital city, towns and rural areas, had plentiful time to meet comrades planning work for organization, bringing out publications, exchanging opinions despite his kidney dialysis for many years.

It’s not possible to forget the smiling Juno vaai giving one of his books as gift or sitting over a cup of tea for long discussions centering the old party-politics, tricks applied to foil surveillance agents, arguments picked over a higher up of establishment, Zahir Raihan handing over a bundle of cash and a few packs of cigarettes while leaving Dhaka for taking part in the War for Liberation.

It’s impossible to forget comrade Juno vaai reiterating his promise to uphold the Red Flag of revolution despite debacles as he was always assisting in organizing people and widening ideological work. Those were parts of his struggle. Thus, his struggle continues with revolutionary work among the masses of people.

Note: Haider Anwar Khan Juno’s life sketch is in Omar Raad Chowdhury, “Communist guerrilla leader of 1971 Bangladesh Haider Juno is in life support”, Countercurrents, September 25, 2020.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.



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