Vol. 5 Num 648 Sat. March 25, 2006  

Azam Khan
Rock star looks back with nostalgia

Pioneering rock star of the country, Azam Khan is known as a guru amongst the rock 'n rollers of the country for his contribution to band music in Bangladesh. However, many of us have little idea about his heroic deeds during our Liberation War in 1971. He is one of the few cultural activists who had taken part in the front line war against the Pakistani Army.

Reminiscing on those glorious days, Azam Khan said, "We were active participants in the movement against the Pakistani oppression from 1969. In those days I was an active member of Kranti Shilpi Goshthi and performed gono sangeet (songs of the masses) to spread consciousness amongst the masses on the Pakistani oppression of Bangalees.

"In 1971, when the Liberation War began, I left for Agartala, India to join Sector 2, under the leadership of Khaled Mosharraf. I still remember the day when I went to take permission from my father. He just said, 'Don't come back without victory'. Then, along with two of my friends Shafi and Kachie we started for Agartala on foot."

Reaching the destination, he along with his comrades took military training and were sent to the front line in Comilla to fight against the Pakistani Army. "Each day was like doomsday. I was totally alienated from my family and friends. I had no idea when I would be killed. During the nights we sang to boost our morale. My songs were much appreciated by the freedom fighters. In those days I used to sing Bangla, Hindi and improvised songs to lighten the mood of the freedom fighters in the battle ground," continues Azam Khan, "I still remember the 'Salda Battle' near Salda river, Comilla. We set an ambush to destroy the supply line of the Pakistani Army. We had only two machine guns while our enemy-- over 400 Pakistani Army personnel-- had nine machine guns. However, we won the battle-- about 20 Pakistani supply boats were destroyed and 81soldiers were killed."

After a few days, Azam Khan was called back to Agartala. He said, "This time I got Rs 75 as salary. My friends and I made merry with the money. Once again we were sent to Dhaka region to take part in the guerilla warfare. I was appointed as the 'section commander' of the guerilla troop."

Azam Khan led the guerilla fighters in Jatrabari-Gulshan belt. Recalling the maneuvers, Khan said, "Under the title Titash Operation, I planned to destroy the gas pipeline of Dhaka City. We went to Konapara near Demra by two boats and destroyed the gas pipeline. It was such a huge explosion that I saw the inferno in front of my eyes. Seeing the flame, the Pakistani Army became so frightened that they did not carry out counter attacks. However, during the escape, one of our boats sank. Swimming in the marshy bil (low land), we had to cross about a mile. And suddenly I lost consciousness. The following morning, I found myself lying on a haystack. During that war I suffered an injury on my left ear. Even today I am hard of hearing."

Khan and his comrades entered Dhaka in mid- December, 1971 after defeating the Pakistani Army in the war at Treemohoni near Madartek. Azam Khan said, "Pakistani Army went there to set anti-aircraft post. We attacked them from three corners and won the battle."

As he had pledged his father, a victorious Khan returned home. He thinks that the genesis of his musical talent is the Liberation War. To quote him, "I could have never been in this position, if Bangladesh had not come into being."

Khan's musical talents have not gone unrecognised. He is the recipient of the 'Life Time Achievement' award for his contribution to band music in Bangladesh.

Azam Khan