Vol. 4 Num 293 Wed. March 24, 2004  
Star Chittagong

Swat Siege Day today

Today is the historic Swat Siege Day.

On this day in 1971, over 300 people were killed as Pakistani occupation forces fired indiscriminately on a procession protesting against unloading of arms and ammunition from the ship Swat at Jetty No-17.

On hearing the news of unloading of arms from the ship, students, labour leaders and freedom fighters began organising the people with the help of political leaders to resist the evil design of the occupation forces.

An action committee was formed in this regard and they vowed not to allow the unloading of arms, even at the cost of their lives.

The action committee called a public meeting at the New Mooring Colony at 3.00pm on March 24, 1971.

Thousands of people armed with lathi, bamboo sticks and iron rods started pouring in at the meeting venue from early morning and the venue turned into a human sea at around 4.00pm.

Awami League leader MA Hannan presided over the meeting. The leaders, including one Majid Meah, addressed the meeting. They called on the people to lay siege to the Swat and resist, at any cost, the unloading of arms.

As a militant procession started marching towards the Jetty No-17 where the ship was anchored, the Pakistani forces deployed near the meeting venue fired on the demonstrators indiscriminately without any provocation, leaving over 300 dead.

The Swat loaded with 5630-tonnage of arms and ammunitions, meant to be used for crackdown on the people and freedom fighters, had arrived at the outer anchorage of Bay of Bengal from Karachi port at around 2.30pm on February 28 in 1971. It moved towards Chittagong port at around 4.30pm. The ship, whose draft was 21-feet, berthed at Jetty No-17 at night.

Soon after the ship had its unhindered berthing, the occupation forces started unloading the cargoes of the arms and ammunitions under the cover of darkness amidst stiff security cordon.

Pakistani occupation forces stopped the unloading midway after the incident. But by then, they unloaded 630-tonnage of arms and ammunition from the ship.

According to the berthing sheet, the master of Swat was captain S. Alam Chowdhury, whose nationality could not be known, and the pilot during berthing was Mokaddam, a non-Bengali.

The Swat left Chittagong port for Karachi with the remaining 5000-tonnage of arms and ammunition at around 3.30pm on April 18 in 1971. During the departure, one S Bokhari, a non-Bengali officer, was the port pilot.

The military activities at the Chittagong port area spanning from Jetty No-1 to New Mooring Naval Base were coordinated by Lt. Col. Abdur Rob of Pakistan Armed Forces from the Navy Fleet Club near Barik Meah High School.

Different socio-cultural and political organisations have taken up programmes in the city today in observance of the day.

The tragic incident that occurred 33 years ago still haunts many with pains and pangs. It also reminds us of heroism by the valiant freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the motherland.