and Shajib had not met any freedom fighters before. Students
of Class V in a school in Badda, the closest they have come
to know about the country's Liberation War have been through
text books and story books, which gives account of "The
seven Bir Sreshthas, their heroic deeds and a few
other exciting stories of struggle against the Pakistani armed
forces, the martyred intellectuals." But interacting
with and listening to their stories first hand was indeed
a novel experience. So, when the two young boys started recounting
this memorable meeting they were beside themselves with excitement.
"I felt that I could also have fought so courageously
if I had been there at the time of the Liberation War!"
said an inspired Shajib.
earlier, the two along with more than a hundred others had
ushered the heroes of our Liberation War into the BIAM auditorium,
each holding the hands of the freedom fighters. The occasion
was a unique congregation of the urban guerrilla fighters
and the young generation. Organised by Spectra Group, the
event featured some 150 members of the different guerrilla
platoons that had operated in Dhaka during the nine-month-long
war and taken in many remarkable missions in Dhaka city and
its adjacent areas during the Liberation War. The war heroes
shared some of their unforgettable memories with about 300
students from six schools of the capital.
reminiscences of the freedom fighters were punctuated by cultural
performances by the artistes of the Swadhin Bangla Betar
Kendro (SBBK) and young performers of Tona Tuni. Especially
dance pieces with the songs “Shei rail liner dharey"
and “Amar shonar chand Altaf" brought
tears to one's eyes. Swapan Dutta, Mini Kader and Shahin Samad
of SBBK performed patriotic songs that drew huge inspiration
for the freedom fighters. A few video clips also helped the
young audience realise the horror of the brutality carried
out by the Pakistani military especially on the night of March
26 night and December 14--the our intellectuals were picked
up from their houses to be brutally killed. Later their bodies
were dumped on the outskirts of the city.
few months into the Liberation War, many places across the
country were gradually liberated from the grips of the occupation
forces. But Dhaka remained a stronghold of enemies,"
said Ishtiaq Aziz Ulfat, a member of the famous 'Crack Platoon'
that carried out a couple of blasts on the then Hotel Intercontinental.
"Many of us, who were all spirited youths, felt that
independence was impossible unless Dhaka was liberated. So,
we decided to execute our war inside this city," he added.
it was not an easy task for anyone from the resistance at
that time to move about the city with weapons and ammunition.
"Moreover, the Pakistani military and the Razakars
(collaborators) always kept eyes on the young boys--they would
pick up anyone if they sensed any suspicious movements,"
explains Ulfat. "So, we had to work very cautiously--most
often under cover, and we used to frequently change our shelters
to avoid arrest of our selves as well as harassment of those
who provided us shelter."
about 30 guerrillas started operating in Dhaka, but the number
soon rose to about 300. These guerrillas worked in 30-40 groups
known by the names of their leaders, informed Ulfat. "Brave
leaders like Shajib, Aziz, Liakat, Baki, Nazmul, Manik, Erfan,
Tipu, Nazmul and Asad successfully led their own groups. And,
of course, there was our Crack Platoon," proudly said
Fighter Shahidullah Khan Badal threw light upon the life at
the training camps. "There were no such formal camps
actually. The young boys, who had come to join the Liberation
War, themselves built the camps. One such camp was named Mela
Ghar," Badal recalled. There was not much supply
of food, water and medication. The trainee freedom fighters
used to dig wells for the water supply.
many days would one training-course last? 'Hardly 15 days',
informed Badal. And this naturally astonished young Touhid,
another schoolboy: "It is amazing that all those youths
fought so courageously and successfully with so little training!"
he said. And within that short period the freedom fighters
had to learn how to operate weapons like SMG and SLR, how
to charge grenades and prepare a bomb, how to swim across
rivers without getting the weapons wet and many other aspects
of a guerrilla warfare.
Ahsan Sohel went to the war with some of his friends. "I
knew that it cost about Taka 250 to reach the training camps
from Dhaka. I also knew that my father used to hide some money
for emergencies inside a ventilator of our house. So, one
day I stole all the money and set off with my friends for
the borders," Sohel reminisced. "Later I realised
that the amount was not less than 10,000 taka, but my father
never asked me anything about the money!" At the training
camp Captain Haider formed the Young Platoon--Y Platoon, in
short--with these boys.
from the training, Sohel's group set up their camp at Savar
under the leadership of Manik. Later, Manik was martyred during
an operation on the Dhaka-Aricha highway and the charge was
given to now-renowned theatre personality Nasiruddin Yousuff
Rahman was one of those brave guerrillas who planned to destroy
the petrol pump at Kakrail. While planning the details of
the operation, the group noted the post-operation escape as
the hardest part of the mission. "It was the month of
Ramadan then, so we decided to operate just before iftar
when the whole city would be busy in the ritual," said
Rahman. "Our timing was never better in any other missions,"
he added. Just at the time of iftar the whole city
jolted with the tremendous sound of the blast. "One of
my friends named Nehal helped us escape from the scene in
his car," Rahman gratefully recalled.
Golam Dostagir was one of those brave guerrillas who planned
to destroy the five power stations in Dhaka. But, why destroy
the important establishments of a country which the freedom
fighters were struggling to liberate, the innocent minds of
the young boys and girls must have questioned. "We reckoned
that blowing up the power stations would create real terror
amongst the Pakistani military. Moreover, such a massive operation
would help us alert the international bodies that had been
kept in the dark with false information about the war by the
Pakistani rulers," explained Rahman. So, according to
the plan, at 8:30 one night all five power stations were blown
no other operations could perhaps make the western world realise
the gravity of the situation better than the bombing of the
Hotel Intercontinental. For, the hotel was always under heavy
security as many foreigners including a delegation of the
World Bank and the Chairman of the consortium that helped
Pakistan were staying at the hotel at that time. Freedom fighter
Abdus Samad had a small business of neon signs and glow signs.
The office of Pakistan International Airlines was being shifted
from its position to the east corner of the hotel arcade.
Samad took the opportunity and managed the contract of fitting
neon signs of the new office. This facilitated him with free
entrance to the hotel and observing to keep constant vigil,
which was crucial for a bombing operation. The group--also
comprising Baker, Ulfat, Gazi and Dulal--decided to set up
the bomb in the men's toilet just opposite the Saki Bar.
blast was so powerful that the lounge and the arcade of the
hotel and its adjacent rooms were almost completely destroyed.
Zillur Rahman Dulal took a lot of photographs of the mission
despite the high risk of getting caught. Unfortunately, these
photographs have been lost. A World Bank representative later
informed the international concerns that "We found that
no more peace prevails in East Pakistan and it shows guerrillas
can move in Dhaka at their will."
Raisul Islam Asad's mission was one of the most heart stopping
one. "We had to execute our plans twice: on the first
occasion, the bomb did not go off due to a wet fuse,"
Asad narrated. "About ten pounds of explosives were set
up inside a car parked near the Baitul Mukarram Mosque market.
But I was very desperate about not wasting the explosives--ten
pounds of which was so invaluable to us at that time. So,
we executed our plan again in the afternoon and this time
with absolute success," Asad said.
of Class VII felt that women's contribution in the Liberation
War has not been evaluated properly. "I have always heard
about how inhumanly our women were tortured by the Pakistani
military and the Razakars. But nobody has ever told me that
we also had brave warriors like Mini Kader," she complained.
"The stories of Mini Kader helping our freedom fighters
by hiding caches of arms and ammunition or accompanying them
while going on a mission are very thrilling and inspiring."
only the stories of heroic missions, that of Masud Sadek Chullu's
being tortured by the Pakistani military also touched the
young souls. "I cannot imagine how painful it would be
to insert a needle through one's fingers but I know that would
be beyond endurance," said an apparently shocked Limon,
a boy of Class IV.
heroic operations by these brave young men and women helped
the Liberation War progress towards its victorious end. "But
none of these important operations would have been possible
if there had not been the help of freedom fighter Abdus Samad,"
commented Ulfat. "He (Samad) maintained the coordination
among different groups of the freedom fighters. He would also
help us in planning the missions," he added. However,
after the Hotel Intercon mission, the coordination in Dhaka
collapsed and a number of freedom fighters were arrested by
the Pakistani army. Among them were the fathers of Ulfat and
Kamrul Haque Swapan, Azad, Chullu, Rumi, Abdus Samad, Altaf
Mahmud and others. "Only Samad and Chullu came back--the
rest were martyred," said a solemn Ulfat.
reminiscences of these guerrilla freedom fighters throw light
upon different phases and aspects of the Liberation War: days
at the training camps, the risky guerrilla operations in Dhaka
and their significance, torture by the Pakistani army and
their Razakar accomplices, contribution of general
people by providing shelter to the freedom fighters or hiding
arms for them, risking their own lives. Legend has it that
Sector I started the war and the urban guerrilla fighters
of Sector II kept the war alive. These guerrillas also included
day-labourers, rickshaw-pullers, motor-mechanic, bus-drivers
and many other ordinary people who continue to remain unrecognised.
Shetu Bandhan certainly could not gather all the fighters
but it was surely the first event to acknowledge the contributions
of these unsung heroes of our Liberation War. It was also
a unique occasion to bring members of the younger generation
face to face with real life heroes.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004