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Volume 5 Issue 11| November 2011


Original Forum

Readers' Forum

Quasimodo(s) in the Bell Tower:
An apology to the childrenOf Bangladesh
--Shahana Siddiqui

Punishing Victims in the
Name of Rehabilitation

-- Taslima Yasmin

Breaking the Rod

---- Arafat Hossen Khan
The Two-Finger Test:
About Character or Consent?

-- Maimuna Ahmad

Snow on the Equator
-- Wasfia Nazreen
Mothers, Daughters and Sisters Are They Our Equals?
-- Ziauddin Choudhury
Street Harassment is Still Serious:
The violation of women in Dhaka's public realm

-- Olinda Hassan

A Violent Attitude
-- Zoia Tariq

Photo Feature:
A Different Innocence

City Lights

-- Jyoti Rahman

Inconvenient Truths about
Bangladeshi Politics
--Ali Riaz

Parliament and Political Parties:
culture of impasse and way forward

-- Sadrul Hasan Mazumder
The Revolution
Will Be Televised

-- Shahana Siddiqui and Jyoti Rahman

Film policy in Bangladesh:
The Road to Reform

-- Catherine Masud


Forum Home

Readers' FORUM

Dear Ms. Sarmila Bose,

I have read your book Dead Reckoning Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War, first with great eagerness and excitement which slowly turned to sadness as I came to the end of it.

I would not have written to you, but as I found my name mentioned in the book (last paragraph of page 133 of the book that I have), I thought that I would like to take this opportunity to put the records straight once and for all of what actually happened in the night of August 25, 1971, when we carried out the operations against the Pakistanis, and the subsequent events that followed.

You write that this was the first and last opportunistic attack by Rumi. It was not. When our group was selected to blow up Siddergonj Power Station, we were specially trained by Captain Haider (later Lt. Col) on the use of explosives, Anerga gun and Rocket launchers. We were already trained in grenade attack and CQB (close quarter battle) weapons. Finally we were split into two groups and sent to the front line for a week. This was done according to Captain Haider's order so that we have some front line experience. Rumi was not in my group. Later when we met we compared notes. Rumi had teamed up with Doc Akther and had ambushed and killed two Pakistani soldiers at a BOP (border out post) in the early morning when they had come out to respond to nature's call. This was, as far as I can recall was near the Kasbah border. For me, I had fired two rockets from a rocket launcher in another front; one shot went wild and the next one was a direct hit on a bunker of Pakistani soldiers, casualties unknown.

Later, when we had set up camp at a village called “Perulia” on the outskirts of Dacca, we always were on guard in shifts of 24/7. This way we could ensure the safety of all, including the families that had given us shelter. As it was monsoon, we also had two country boats made for ease of movements. We had some encounters with the West Pakistani Police and local Razakars in which Rumi took part and the casualty on the other side was four of the West Pakistani police killed, along with two Razakars, and on our side it was nil. This was due to careful planning of the ambush which was a great success.

So Madam, I hope you realize that we were not exactly “Green Horns” when we took part in the operation of August 25, 1971. We have shot at the enemy, been fired upon, killed some of them, seen dead bodies and buried them. Admittedly we were not battle hardened soldiers, but we have enough nerve and experience to take the Pakistanis' head on.

Let me now explain what happened of that night and in the following days. We did not kill policemen, (as you mentioned in your book); they were Pakistani soldiers. West Pakistani policemen did not carry AK 47 or G-3 rifles with them when they are on duty; only soldiers did. There were a bunch of them around 10 or 12 soldiers, in fact about a section of a platoon of them armed with AK 47's and G-3 guns . . .

You mention in your book that we had “amateurish attitude which do not match the stories of their having received training as 'guerrillas' ”. This is far from being true. While undergoing training at Malaghar, we were drilled on the notion of secrecy and on a “need to know” basis, which we followed to the letter. For example I knew the address of Rumi in Dhaka and vice versa, but I had no idea where others had put up while in Dhaka. The idea was that if one was captured by the Pakistani Army, then he could not reveal the address of others even if he wanted to, as he simply did not know it. This is far from being amateurish, wouldn't you agree? . . .

The way Rumi and others were captured reminds me of the betrayal of the last Independent Nawab of Bengal in 1757. The Pakistani army went hopping mad after such an action in Dhaka on August 25. They put all their efforts to capture us. The local collaborators were put into active service by the intelligence branch of the Pakistani, now famous or infamous ISI. It paid off . . .

After the war ended I had a discussion with Jami (Rumi's younger brother) about what had happened after they were taken to the MP Hostel where the Pakistani's had set up interrogation cells. The Pakistani's kept torturing Rumi and kept shouting “Where is Salim?” under the false notion that I had done most of the shooting. Rumi kept shut. Had he opened his mouth, I would not be writing this letter to you, I would probably be dead along with some members of my family.

You also pose a question in your book “How did this 'action' contribute to the goal of Bangladesh's independence?” Well this is a difficult question to answer. With all due respect, he was no Bina Das who had shot the Governor of Bengal at a convocation ceremony in Calcutta University and MISSED. The one that we and Rumi had shot may only have been foot soldiers of the Pakistani Army, but we did not miss, they remained dead. Unlike Kudiram, we did not get the wrong guy, we targeted the soldiers and we got them . . .

You have in your book said that the Pakistani force was not an occupying force, but the national army of Pakistan. To a certain point your assessment is true. But on March 25-26, 1971, when this army turned their weapons on their own citizens, killing thousands in the one night, and we had declared our independence after that, then they became the occupying force. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

Madam, I don't think that you have ever faced war, and indeed I pray that you never do. But those of us who went to war willingly in 1971 (I was only 16 then, a candidate for SSC examination) later in groups formed a “Band of Brotherhood” that can only be experienced but cannot be described fully. Ask any combat veteran in any country and I am sure that he or she will come up with the same answer. There were 12 of us initially from Malaghar (later it increased in size) and out of that eight were tortured and killed by the Pakistani Army. Only four survived, and so far only Tayeb Ali died naturally. I am saying this that the sacrifice made by the others did not go in vain, but counted for something in the overall liberation war.

You had made a thorough research of the incident that took place in Joydevpur to make your point that many incidents in the war was either fabricated or blown out of proportion. I sincerely wish that you had taken a similar approach while describing the incident of August 25, 1971, instead of making it some kind of a cowboy adventure on the part of the Muktibahni.

Salim Akbar
Gulshan 1, Dhaka

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