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BADV: A Short History

 Our organization, BADV as we call it, came into existence at the same time as the political struggle for our expression of democratic rights as Bangalees suddenly evolved into an armed struggle for our existence in early 1971, following the sudden, brutal, genocidal attack by the Pakistan Army on the night of the 25th of March, 1971 on an unarmed sleeping populace.  Moved by the scenes of the daily carnage and the plight of the resulting refugees, the peace loving citizens of the Delaware Valley area and the few Bangladeshis residing here took up the cause of the nascent nation.  A decision to form two parallel organizations, Friends of East Bengal (FEB) and the Bangladesh Association of Delaware Valley (BADV) allowed the non-Bangladeshis to pursue the cause on diplomatic and political fronts open to citizens of this country, while the latter allowed the expatriate Bangladeshis to join the struggle in more appropriate ways like providing direct material help to their suffering brethren and the freedom fighters half a world away as well as working directly with FEB.

The first organizational meeting of BADV took place in early May 1971 at the residence of A.M. Mozharul Hoque, then working as an electrical engineer and living in Willingboro, New Jersey.  More than two dozen people attended this meeting and chose three officers—Mr. Hoque as President, Mr. Monayem Chowdhury, then a graduate student, as Vice President, and Mr. Nurul Huq as Treasurer—to run the organization.  Many others who were very active in the organization and its activities included Farida Hoque, Sultan and Sufiya Ahmed, Rawshan Chowdhury, Jyoti Prakash and Purobi Dutta,   Nurul Islam and Salma Bhuiyan, Rabeya Sarker, Sultana Krippendorf, Nazma Davis, Raihan and Afroza Ali, Fakhruddin and Nina Ahmed, Rezaul and Rahima Karim, Momtaz and Mahmuda Ali, Azhar and Lily Ali, and Aziz and Surayah Mia.  Most of these people have moved away from the local area and become leading Bangladeshis wherever they settled.

Friends of East Bengal under the leadership of Charles Henry Kahn, then Professor of Philosophy at University of Pennsylvania and the person originally responsible for inspiring Mozharul Hoque to take action, was able to increase the awareness of the struggle taking place nearly 12,0000 miles away to Philadelphians through effective use of local media.  Others, among many, include Dr. Claus Krippendorf, then Professor of Communications, whose posters, buttons and pamphlets were extremely effective in fund raising, Dick Taylor and Bill Moyer of the Non-violence Action Committee of the American Friends Service Committee, well-known architects of the effective organized blockades of Pakistani ships at all mid-Atlantic sea-ports.  Sultana Krippendorf’s appeal to the longshoremen’s union helped persuade its membership to the cause of Bangladesh and their support proved instrumental in effectively stopping the loading and unloading of Pakistani ships at all US ports.

While FEB was involved in lobbying efforts in Washington DC, campus teach-ins, and media activities, BADV members organized fund-raising events thus helping to provide material support to the independence struggle.  When the six-person Pakistani delegation that included, Speaker Hamidul Huq Chowdhury, Professor Sajjad Hussein and historian Mohar Ali came to the US Congress to lobby for aid to Pakistan, FEB and BADV members dispersed leaflets at the hearings and met with senators and congressmen speaking about the real situation in Bangladesh.  Their concerted efforts along with Bangladesh supporters from other regions helped to turn the tide of public opinion favorable to the cause of Bangladesh.

Following the independence of Bangladesh, the name of the association was changed to the Bangladesh Students Association of Delaware Valley in 1972 to enable the members, now primarily students, to take full advantage of the opportunities available only to student organizations.  Two years later with dwindling of the student population as they graduated, the name was changed to the original.  During the next eight years a small population of local Bangladeshis kept the organization running but activities were limited primarily to gatherings at the annual picnic.   One must mention here, Dr. Salam Mian, president of the organization for five straight years, and his wife.  Everyone present then fondly remembers the generosity of this couple as many of these picnics were held in their backyard and Mrs. Salaam would do most of the cooking.

With coming of the eighties a younger population once again grew in numbers and the organization became more active.  It began with the organization of the first commemoration of Ekushe February in 1984 in the basement of Barnard Hall, residence hall for the medical residents of Fitzgerald Mercy hospital.  The second commemoration was organized at the World Culture Center of Cheney State University with then Bangladesh Ambassador, Obaidullah Khan, as chief guest.   During the summer of 1985, Dr. Monayem Chowdhury, then BADV president and one of the founding members, presented the Constitution that was passed unanimously at the annual general meeting at Ridley State Park in Delaware County.  In 1986 under the Presidency of Abu Aminur Rahman, BADV participated in the first North American Bangladesh Conference organized at Washington DC.  By1989-90, BADV now recognized as one of the more active associations on the East Coast organized or participated in six major events under the leadership of Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed.

In 1991, BADV celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its founding in a fitting manner at the Lang Performing Arts Center on the campus of Swarthmore College.  An awards ceremony recognizing the more than fifteen individuals of the 1971 blockade efforts and the founding of BADV was followed by a well-choreographed musical drama of the struggle for independence or Mukti Juddha on-stage performed by the members of BADV.   Nearly 200 guests enjoyed the show as well as the food that was provided and the printed souvenir magazine, the first for BADV.  That year BADV also organized a fund-raising effort to aid the victims of the 1991 cyclone.  In the mid-nineties, BADV gained status as a non-profit corporation fulfilling a long felt need to enable itself to function more fully and effectively in the local community.

The tremendous increase in the population of Bangladeshis in Delaware Valley has resulted in the formation of new organizations catering more to the local needs of the Bangladeshis in their respective neighborhoods.  BADV as the oldest and with a wider membership over the entire area now plays more of a leadership role cooperating with these organizations to enable them to meet their own as well as the broader goals of BADV more effectively.

[This short history represents a work-in-progress and we expect to update it with each newer edition of the BADV Directory.]

Contribution for this article: Professor Faruq Siddiqui, Riza Quabili