“Tajuddin, I wish to bow to you, but I cannot as you are much younger than me. In the field of historical study of Murshidabad you are the last name (invincible authority). Our country, our people will remember you.”
Soumendra Kumar Gupta, author of Murshidabad Itibrita: Vol-I & II
I would not have written a single sentence unless Tajuddin Biswas (1946—2021) was a good man.
A man with a mission; his each step on earth was marked by hard work, reliability, sincerity, honesty, and above all frankness. He worked as if he was driven by some inner urges. Not hankering after name or fame, his dedication to his work and his obligation to the soil made him a great person as he was. Doubtless, he left a historical legacy to the posterity. He was a haloed path to scholars across continents in general and especially to Bangla speaking history scholars of West Bengal. People should be familiar with the man and his work. Yes, he is a rural historian of the district Murshidabad, but as noted historian Akshay Kumar Maitreya said, to write regional history is the obligation of a genuine historian; regional history is the bedrock of world history.
Tajuddin Biswas was born on May 13 in 1946 in a peasant family at Fatehpur village under Dumkol police station in Murshidabad. His father was Samiruddin Biswas and mother Aklima Khatun. His grandfather, Raisuddin Biswas, popularly known as ‘pandit’ as he knew Sanskrit, Bangla and Parsi, was a famous name in the history of 1924 Murshidabad Indigo movement. It started from Fathepur village, 46 Vaghirathpur Mouza under Dumkol police station under the leadership of Raisuddin Pandit and his two active followers, Sabir Ali Mondal and Abdul Bari Biswas.
Tajuddin Biswas was a versatile man. We buried him at Romna Eitbar Nagar burial ground, Dumkol, on 3rd April’ 2021. He was a poet, storyteller, novelist, essayist, scholar, historian, an authority on land survey, deeds, records, maps, coins, etc, human rights activist, and a Naxalite. He was the president of Purba Bharat Bangla Sahityo o Sanskriti Parishad. He was an active member of Nazrul Academy for Humanity, Nadia Loksanskriti Parishad. He also co-edited a local journal, Murshidabad Arshi. In 1988, during the Katra Masjid Massacre in Murshidabad, he founded Hindu—Muslim Samannoy Mancha at Dumkol to douse the flame of communalism, as his long time friend Kartik Das cited. He was deeply influenced by the ideals of great orator cum talented politician Syed Badruddaja (1900-1974), revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and Naxal leader of Murshidabad, Anantya Bhattacharjee. He had a checkered life. In spite of extreme poverty in family he had been able to get degrees and diplomas from a host of higher institutions such as Berhampore K N College, Bhagalpur University, Jadavpur University and Hyderabad University.
His two major works, Murshidabder Eithihas: Pargana Goas (2016) and Murshidabader Eithihas: Gram o Goron (2018) have earned acclaims and accolades from the researchers of Bangladesh and America. These works are the direct result of his forty years of field research. Not a single village exists in Murshidabad where his footprints cannot be found. Such a dedicated, tireless, honest scholar he was. His 660 pages Pargana Goas is a testimony to his historical leanings. It minutely records the history of Goas, a locality between Berhampore and Sagarpara High Road, 3 kms away from Islampur. In 1582 during land reforms initiated by Todormol, Goas was first recognised as a pargana. However, basically it was a wealthy locality crucial for its canals, rivers, streets. It was mainly a commercial centre. Dumkol, Azimgaj, Beldanga haats were famous for betel leaves and cotton materials. Doulatabad haat was also famous for betel leaves. Out of cotton materials, weavers used to make sari, lungi, gamcha, etc. and made a living. They mainly lived at villages –Harurpara, Raipur, Jalangi, Nabipur, Sagarpara, Nowdapara, Dhanirampur. Paragana Goas is a testimony of the living legacy of Goas and includes data, land maps, land records, photos of masjids, mandirs, and ancient trees. Today’s Goas has changed. The book also focused on its gradual changes in terms of its shapes, sizes and textures and structures.
His 800 pages book, Murshidabader Eithihas: Gram o Garan is basically an analytical look through history on villages of Murshidabad and their composition. It records, as the title suggests, the history of 2289 villages of the district Murshidabad. It minutely details their individualistic structure, causes of formation, the origin of their name, area, boundary, population, livelihood, mandir, masjid, canals, ponds, water bodies, water ways, trees, food habits, culture, festivals, administration, etc. It is a living history sincerely and boldly penned by a man who used to trot tirelessly from dawn to dusk in and around the villages of Murshidabad in almost all the days of the year.
His other noted books to be published include Murshidabader Eithihas: Gram o Manush, Murshidabader Eithihas: baekti o Baektitto, Murshidabader Eithihas: Gram o Sanskriti, Murshidabader Eithihas: Jol o Jangal, etc.
As the chronicler of fictional Yoknapatawpha, Southern American writer William Faulkner (1897-1962) emphatically put in his fiction Requiem for a Nun (1938) ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ The same can be said about Tajuddin Biswas, the chronicler of the villages of Murshidabad. In many ways, he is one of the pioneers of living rural history of Murshidabad. He was awarded Dr Ambedkar Fellowship (2019) by Bharatiya Dalit Sahitya Academy for his book Gram o Garan.
We pay homage to this learned, humble son of Murshidabad soil.
With inputs from Hasibur Rahaman
Featured photo- Tajuddin Biswas (left) and the writer.