A Muktijoddha's Story
There are countless stories that we hear about the Liberation War from our elders. However, it is not everyday that one gets to meet a Muktijoddha, recalling the endless days and sleepless nights, preparing for the Liberation War. Tara Miyah, one such freedom fighter, talks of the days when he was strong and dependable, the way he and his team fought the Pakistani army and finally how, more than three decades later, he and his family are trying to survive in a free Bangladesh.
Mohammad Tara Miyah was in his late twenties during the Liberation War, Back then, young men were always in danger of being picked up by the Pakistani army and tortured to death. "Many of my friends would go missing for days together," says Tara Miyah. "Some would turn up after weeks, bruised, physically and mentally deranged, but most of them could never be found. That's why it had become a trend for young men to join the team of Muktijoddhas." Popular in his hometown, Gaibanda, for his strength and a good athlete back in the days, Tara Miyah had been the target for the local collaborators and the army for a long time.
Mohammad Tara Miyah
Finally, Tara Miyah joined the team of Muktijoddhas. "As soon as I joined the team, we crossed the border over to India," he says. "We were training in Darjeeling for over a month. There were young boys from all over the country. We were taught to use the rifles and also ways to camouflage ourselves from the enemy."
Meanwhile, back home, the sufferings and the mass murders had begun. "It was extremely painful for us," Tara Miyah reminisces. "We were away from our home, family and friends. All we could do was hope for our loved ones to be safe from the brutal Pakistani forces. I remember wishing at one point, to do something more than what I was doing. I wanted to fight these people who were inflicting so much pain on us!"
Soon after, a few army officers visited the training programme in Darjeeling and selected a few Muktijoddhas to join the army. "I was also selected for the army and almost immediately we travelled to Sylhet to fight the war. After camping out in Tengratilla for a few hours, we attacked a Pakistani army base at 4:00 in the morning."
Tara Miyah, now in his 60s, still remembers the battle like it happened only yesterday; the bombs, bloodshed and the poisonous gas that seemed to choke him and his comrades to death. "It was terrifying," he admits. "Despite all the training that I had received, the first actual experience was frightening, but satisfying at the same time."
He remembers the time when he heard the news of hundreds of innocent human beings being tortured, raped and slaughtered in his homeland. "My brothers and sisters were simply trying to protect themselves from the atrocities," he says. "What had they done to deserve such a horrifying fate in the hands of the Pakistani army? That they were proud Bangalis was reason enough."
For nine long months, Tara Miyah trained and fought the army until an independent Bangladesh was declared. "It was like grabbing hold of a dream!" he cries. "You can't touch your dream, but back then, it seemed like we could feel it. In a nutshell, we were all ecstatic. We were hoping for something big to happen now. We had driven away the oppressors. Now we had a land of our own! I would walk around with my head held high."
That was 37 years ago. Today, the scenario has changed for Tara Miyah. After retiring from the army as a sepoy, he and his family have been leading a pitiful life. It has only been a couple of months now that Tara Miyah has been receiving a stipend of tk 500 from the Government. "My elder son lost his sight when he was a child," says Tara Miyah. "Even at this old age, my wife and I have to look out for him." Sharing a small quarter with several others in Tongi, Tara Miyah's elder son earns around tk 100 every day. "I am not sure what he does for a living exactly," says Tara Miyah. "He sits near the Tongi railway lines from early morning to late evening. People who walk by help out by giving him something or the other. But he is still a proud young man. After all, he is the son of a freedom fighter." Tara Miyah's younger son is studying his Bachelors at local college in Gaibanda.
Tara Miyah spends his time now, moving from one place to another asking for help. When survival becomes almost unbearable, he comes down to Dhaka for a few days at a stretch, contacting his seniors from the army, for food or books for his younger son. "I fought for my country with courage and pride," he says. "If I need help, why would it be disrespectful for me to ask my friends? I would do so with pride and courage, even today."
Photo: Shafique Alam
(R) thedailystar.net 2008