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Tripura bureaucrat credited with overseeing refugee crisis in 1971, dies

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AGARTALA, April 26 (PTI): Himangshu Mohan Chowdhury, who was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri for his services during the Bangladesh Liberation war as a civil service officer, passed away due to age-related ailments at a private hospital here.

He is credited with overseeing the housing and feeding of lakhs of refugees from the neighbouring country, who fled to the tiny northeastern state in the aftermath of the brutal crackdown by the Pakistan army from March 1971.

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Chowdhury, 83, breathed his last on Tuesday. He is survived by two daughters, relatives and large numbers of well-wishers. His wife died four years ago.

Chief Minister Manik Saha condoled the passing away of the first Padma Shri awardee from the northeast.

Born in a doctor’s family in Feni district (now in Bangladesh), Chowdhury’s family had migrated to Tripura in 1930. He completed his college days in MBB College in Agartala and then went to Kolkata for higher studies.

After returning from Kolkata, he joined government service as an official.

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When the Liberation war broke out in Bangladesh, he was the SDO of Sonamura subdivision of Tripura’s Sepahijala district.

“Since Sonamura is a bordering subdivision, lakhs of Bangladeshis took shelter there to save their lives from the Pakistan army, and it was Chowdhury who single-handedly oversaw provision of shelter, food and logistics to 2.5 lakh Bangladeshi people,” Sneshangshu Mohan Chowdhury, his younger brother, told PTI.

Sneshangshu said his elder brother worked tirelessly through the months leading up to liberation of Bangladesh and eventual reptriation of refugees, leaving no stone unturned to the needs of the crisis-affected migrants.

“During the war, Bangladesh prime minister in exile Tajuddin Ahmad’s family took shelter in Chowdhury’s official residence at Sonamura. Ahmad’s daughter Semin Hussain Rimi, who is now an MP in Bangladesh, visited him in December 2021 to thank him for providing safe shelter to her family during the bloody liberation war,” he recalled.

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In 1971, the Centre awarded him the Padma Shri, while in 2013, the Bangladesh government recognised his contribution in the liberation war by conferring the ‘Friend of Bangladesh’ medal to Chowdhury, Sneshangshu said.

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