Rano’s relentless battle

Haidar Akbar Khan Rano

Rano, Haidar Akbar Khan Rano, lives not in memory only. It’s his path to battles in the field of class war that enlivens every day, every moment. His is a living memory, diagonally opposite to death.

Haidar Akbar Khan Rano (August 1942) breathed his last on May 11, 2024 in a Dhaka hospital. Survived by daughter, niece and grand children, host of relatives and thousands of his friends and comrades, he was Rano vaai, elder brother, to the younger generation eager to organize people’s struggle for emancipation. This signal – eager to organize people’s struggle for emancipation – pulled younger generation with a radical dream to gather around him, to connect with him, to share moves to reach a turning point in social struggle, to dream to be brightly brave.

A fighter for the cause of the toilers, Rano began his journey through the alleys and highways of class struggle in his early-youth. First, as a student activist, he actively took part in all the struggles the student community in then-East Pakistan, now independent Bangladesh, waged for a democratic education system. Inequality dominated the education system in the neo-colonial land under the clutch of the comprador-bureaucratic-semi-feudal ruling regime. That formal education system was actually a segregated system under a segregated socio-economic-political system – a few rich ensured quality education for their off springs while the sons of the soil, the toilers, the poor, failed to access education for a fair life for their younger generation. Those were days of a military ruler, Ayub Khan, a self-decorated Field Marshal. Haidar Akbar Khan Rano, was main leader of the first student protest against the Field Marshal’s military rule. A then-leading Dhaka Baanglaa daily penned an editorial on one of the firebrand student leader’s address among a largely attended students’ protest meeting. The lean and thin student leader not only made such fire spewing addresses in student meetings in different parts of Bangladesh, then-eastern province of Pakistan; he also moved through towns and far-flung corners of the country to organize the student community. These moves took him to Kulaura in Sylhet, to Barisal, to Santosh in Tangail, from the northeast to the south, to the far tips of the country. The bright student of physics was an epitome of student activists of the time – dedicated, self-sacrificing, principled, having high moral values, uncompromising, humble, plain living, hardworking, tireless, studious, brilliant, sharp, respectful to the toilers and the exploited, ever active to reach the humiliated and the working classes, and void of lumpen attitudes and practices.

His love for humanity took him to the battlefront the downtrodden build up, although he was coming from a well off family. Renouncing pursuit of private property and career, he embraced the Communist ideology, an ideology of the exploited, an ideology based on scientific analysis.

Rano loved science and particularly physics. He dwelt with the subject whenever opportunity emerged. One of the books he authored was related to physics, explaining complexities of and questions related to quantum physics. That was his effort to spread science among the commoners, especially for the activists working among the common people.

As a communist activist, Haidar Akbar Khan Rano immersed into the politics of the exploited – the communist politics. He never gave up that fundamental ideological-political position.

Rano, the name derived from Baanglaa Ran, war, loved and engaged in class war. He plunged into class struggle by joining the ranks of the fighting the toilers, organizing class organizations.    

 His brightest moments were the months he was organizing the industrial laborers at Tongi, scores of miles from the capital city, and organizing of guerrilla warfare as part of the glorious War for Liberation.

He had to pass days in the Tongi laborer quarters – barrack-like shades. Those low-height jack quarters were so low that he couldn’t stand straight. He had to keep his neck bent and head lowered. For months, he was away from paternal home. He had to guide a number of unions, and conduct scores of study circles, which the laborers formed. Bargaining, negotiations, publicity and agitation were daily parts of his life. In this period, 1969-’70, gheraao, laborers encircling mills authority till demands are not realized, was a powerful tool the workers utilized; and Rano was one of the active planners and organizers of these gheraaos, called by Maulaanaa Bhaashaani, the left leaning fire-brand leader of the masses of people.

The communist revolutionary took active part in organizing armed struggle against the Pakistan army during the War for Liberation. Those days of organizing a guerrilla force in Narshingdi, the area of activity of the communist faction he belonged to, found him planning and setting up of guerrilla zone, field hospitals, training center and arms depots, coordinating with national level political leadership and military commanders, collecting arms and ammunition, drafting declaration that told about allegiance to the Provisional Government of Bangladesh and steps to emancipation of the exploited. Narshingdi was one of the areas where the Communists organized armed struggle against the Pakistan army in 1971. Nashingdi was kept liberated all through the armed struggle phase in 1971. The Pakistan army couldn’t enter and occupy the area. He was one of the leaders of the political stream that in the late 1960s issued the call kreeshak-srameek astro dharo, shaadheen janoganotaantreek Poorbo Baanglaa kaayem karo, peasants and workers, rise with arms for establishing independent, people’s democratic Bangladesh.               

Haidar Akbar Khan Rano’s principled stand for political power of the exploited people pushed him to the line that went against the revisionists of that time – Khrushchevites. As an unhesitant follower of Stalin, Rano edited a book on Stalin, while he was seriously sick and bedridden. That was not his single effort to straighten facts about Stalin. To publicize falsification of facts by Khrushchev, Rano regularly procured copies of Professor Grover’s famous book on Stalin – Khrushchev Lied – from publisher from abroad and distributed those copies free of cost among his comrades. 

Eagerness to build up a new generation of radicals led him to author about 20 books that covered Marxism, history, capitalism and imperialism, bourgeois and proletarian revolutions, socialism and the Soviet system, polemics in the Communist camp, organizing the poor, the Left’s role in the War for Liberation, Tagore, Manik Bandopadhay and progressive trend in Baanglaa literature. Sometimes, he encouraged one of his juniors to write on China since Deng; and at times, he was searching Hinton’s The Great Reversal. Highly praising Frontier, the independent radical weekly from Kolkata, Rano was very happy when Frontier carried one of his interviews.  He used to say, “Here, in Dhaka, we don’t have a weekly like Frontier, sad!” On a number of occasions while discussing the working class in Bangladesh, Rano highly praised Sukomol Sen’s works on the working class: Working Class of India: Its History of Emergence and Rise, and International Working Class Movement. One of the booklets he authored had to print in thousands of copies as the booklet explaining path to emancipation of the exploited was widely in demand among the laborers, peasantry and political activists. Very often, Rano, with a restless tone, used to say: “We need to study more; a lot of socio-political questions remain without study.”

Comrade, the periodical he edited, was part of his initiative to carry on political fight. The journal carried write-ups on the issues of democracy and imperialism. He continued to find out contributors to Comrade, and denied sectarian practice while accommodating contributors.      

For Haidar Akbar Khan Rano, it was usual to make a telephone call to a person, junior to him, to find out answers to a few questions he was exercising with or to search a few facts relevant to the area he was dealing, or check a single word he was going to quote in his planned book. That approach was of a humble learner. Sometimes, with a junior, he repeatedly discussed the question of Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Mao’s dictum – Revolution is not an embroidery work, or Tarik Ali as a student leader, or Mao’s report on the peasant movement in Hunan; and, at times, Rano frankly used to say, “Oh, I didn’t know the fact”. With humbleness of a learner, sometimes he used to say, “I have read nothing, a lot to learn and study”. At times, he planned a book with a junior, or sought opinion of the junior on outline of a planned book. At times, he was discussing industrial workers’ life, the exploitation they face, the humiliation they experience all through their life. At times, it was Samar Sen, the Frontier editor, or Bishnu Dey or Tolstoy that was his subject of discussion. At times, while discussing administrative-political issues, he sarcastically referred to bureaucrats: “Those dumb, cruel minds!”. He found people’s suffering and humiliation by bureaucracy as one of the contradictions in society that has to be handled faithfully and uncompromisingly.           

His steadfastness on the question of the cause of the exploited entangled him into political and ideological debates. At least on one such occasion of political debate, Rano found him alone. But, he didn’t relinquish his political position.

But, despite political loneliness at times, despite walking in political wilderness at times, Rano, the fighter, never forgot the clarion call of class struggle – Arise, O, the exploited, tear down chains of bondage, throw away the mountain of humiliation, smash down the palace of exploitation. That was comrade Rano’ relentless fight; and that made comrade Rano’s position with the Red Flag unwavering.

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh

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