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    Volume 9 Issue 10| March 5, 2010|

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Unknown Heroes of ’69

Kailash Sarkar

In a remote area, hundred miles off the capital, on the bank of Madhumoti River in Gopalganj district on February 1 during the mass upsurge of 1969, Class IX student Mahananda Sarkar was killed in police firing. He was leading a procession brought out protesting against Pakistani rule. Hailing from Palita village under Rajoir upazila in Madaripur district, Mahananda joined the agitation from his school Ullabari United High School.

He along with other students of different schools in the area joined the anti-Pakistani demonstration staged on the riverbank. Students clashed with the police and looted Jalirpar Police outpost. At one stage, police fired gunshots and took away Mahananda’s body and never returned it to his family. The nation pays homage to the heroes of the Mass Upsurge of '69, heroes Asad, Matiur, Sergeant Zahurul Huq, Shamsuzzoha. But an upsurge hero called Mahananda has remained unknown to the nation, leaving the history of the movement incomplete.

Professor Sirajul Islam, chairman of Asiatic Society, that published the Banglapedia, says, "The history of the mass upsurge of 1969 is still incomplete and we have been informed that battles also took place in the remote areas outside the capital where some others were also killed. But their names are not mentioned in the Banglapedia, the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh." Banglapedia's chief editor Professor Sirajul Islam also says that his organisation has been trying to collect those names who are yet to be included in the Banglapedia in the second edition in 2011.

Paying their respects to the martyr.

Mahananda's comrades, friends, students, teachers and locals in Rajoir upazila in Madaripur and Muksudpur in Gopalganj districts have not forgotten him. They consider Mahananda a national hero. To commemorate his sacrifice, on his 41st death anniversary, a rally was held at his village home Palita on February 1. All the students and teachers of Ullabari United High school joined the rally, walking on foot from the school.

The then headmaster of the school, Nirmal Kanti Halder led the rally, which was attended by former teachers and students of the school, fellow fighters of Mahananda and his friends and local people.

Principal Kanai Lal Sarkar, a nephew of Mahananda was given the responsibility to make sure that the masters memory would be kept alive.

Mahananda's family gave a piece of land in this regard while Rajoir Upazila Parishad vice-chairman Dhirendranath Barury, who was also a teacher of Mahananda, also assured of doing anything in this connection.

Former headmaster Nirmal Halder in his speech says, "I feel proud of my student Mahananda who is a martyr, a national hero. Heroes never die.”

The Shaheed Minar was built years ago on the bank of the river Madhumoti where Mahananda was killed.

"Although history remains incomplete and the nation has forgotten Mahananda, the country must know about him and honour his sacrifice", says the former headmaster.

According to the locals and friends of Mahananda Sarkar, he was known as Gama Paucha for his-gigantic physique and for his bravery.

Speakers at the commemorative meeting said he joined the procession on February 1 to foil a rally at Jalirpar Bazar. The rally had been called by the then Muslim League leader Wahiduzzaman alias Thanda Miah, who was also the commerce minister.

Neighbouring Chowaribari Highschool former headmaster Niranjan Majumder, who also took part in the procession along with Mahananda, says, "We joined the procession crossing the river and clashed with policemen who charged batons and fired indiscriminate bullets."

"After Mahananda was shot, the police took away his body and made public that police resorted to firing gunshots when Mahananda tried to loot firearms from Jalirpar Police Outpost", says Majumder.

Around 600 students, including girl students from different schools joined the rally at Jalirpar that is about three miles away from the schools.

According to locals, students teachers of different locals educational institutions also paid their homage to Mahananda on February 1. But for the last several years, it seems that people have started to forget him.

Mahananda's elder brother Juran Sarkar says that they never got back the body of his brother. The state, moveover , has never taken any initiative to remember his heroic acts.

Senior journalist Rabindranath Adhikari of Gopalganj recalls that Mahananda led one of the processions brought out in favour of the students' movement on 11-point.

To remember Mahananda, a park was named after him in Gopalganj town for his heroic sacrifice, but the park is now occupied by traders and his name is no longer visible, says Adhikar.

Talking to The Daily Star, lawmaker Rashed Khan Menon, one of those leaders who led the students' movement in '69, says that he was not aware of whether anybody like Mahananda and Harun were killed in the mass upsurge.

"There is no move to collect the names of those who were killed out of the cities and information about the mass upsurge", says the former students' leader.

The National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) also has never mentioned the names of school student Mahananda, who hailed from Madaripur district and killed in Gopalganj, and college student Abdul Aziz alias Harun of Nandail upazila in Mymensingh district is another forgotten hero of the Mass Upsurge.

BA second year student Harun of Nandail in Mymensingh remain is also absent in the list of the heroes of '69.

He was identified as Abdul Aziz alias Harun who was killed on January 27 when police opened firing at a procession brought out by the students who burst into fierce action against the Pakistani rulers.

As Harun was meritorious among his brothers and sisters, he was admitted to Gauripur College and was studying his BA second year staying at the house of one of his relatives.

Journalist Aminul Islam of Mymensingh says Harun died on the spot when police fired in a procession against the government.

He also said a park named after Harun still exists in the town that was named after him. In another battle in Mymensingh on January 27, Gauripur College student Abdul Aziz was killed when police fired a procession.

There are probably many other nameless heroes who took part in this historic event and lost their lives. The government should make an effort to collect and document the names of each and every one of them to honour their sacrifice and give them the respect they well deserve.



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