The map above shows the number of intellectuals that were martyred in Bangladesh in 1971,
most of them on two days: 25 March 1971 and 14 December 1971. Illustration by Zahidul Naim Zakaria.
(Source: Victory Day Memento published by the Government of People's Republic of Bangladesh on 16 December 1972)
It's been four decades since the blackest of nights. Forty years have passed since the Pakistani occupying forces murdered 989 school and university teachers throughout Bangladesh in an attempt to cripple the country and dampen its spirit of liberation. But it could not rein the uprising. A free and independent Bangladesh was declared only the next day, on 26 March 1971. To commemorate our Independence Day, 40 years on, Star Insight presents the profiles of three individuals who have contributed to the Language Movement and the Liberation War. They are Osman Gani of Chapainawabganj, a language movement veteran and also a former President and advocate of the Bar Association, Nosimuddin Miah of Lalmonirhat, a freedom fighter who used to collect information about movement of Pakistani soldiers and their camps, and drew maps on them to help form battle plans, Khoka Miah and of Sunamganj, a freedom fighter who looks after the Dolura Shahid Smriti Soudha.
A Hero of the Language Movement
81 Year old Osman Gani - a language movement veteran, former President and advocate of the Bar Association, and also a member of several other organizations in the district of Chapainawabganj - spends his time fulfilling his dream of having Bangla being used in every sphere of life Bangladesh.
Osman used to be one of the few student leaders of the language movement and the only man in the district, who took part in the movement at The University of Dhaka. Osman says, “I firmly believe that the youth of Bangladesh has the potential to free the country from illiteracy, poverty, corruption, anarchy, communalism, militancy and exploitation.” Now in his old age, he feels as though his contributions might be going in vain – looking at the state of anarchy in the political arena of Bangladesh. He believes in the youth and in their ability to bring about positive change and steer the society in a better direction.
On 21st of February 1952, Osman was in Dhaka. He was a member of the committee led by Language Veteran Abdul Matin. He was also a student of Political Science at Dhaka University. When the police arrested Shamsul Haque - the Vice President from Fazlul Haque Hall of The Dhaka University campus, the Student Union appointed him the post of Acting VP when they rallied up a procession from the campus and defied Section 144.
They started to mobilize support in favor of the movement to establish Bangla as the state language of East Pakistan in 1950. During which time, the committee decided that all their leaders would go to their own districts to mobilize their students in favor of the language movement. The Committee put Osman Gani in charge of the Rajshahi and Dinajpur districts. And so, he came to Rajshahi from Dhaka and got the students of his district excited about the movement. After few months he returned to Dhaka and participated in the language movement from its beginning to its end. When the police started a drive to arrest the leaders of the movement Osman went back to Chapainawabganj, in order to avoid arrest. Back in Chapainawabganj he did whatever he could to support the movement from there.
He is proud of his efforts during the Language Movement. It is this movement that has culminated in February 21 being observed as the International Mother Language Day. Osman also said, “Every year when February 21 is observed, people who stood up for the dignity of our mother tongue should be sought out and their experiences should be shared. There is a need to make the new generation aware about the glorious history of our nation”.
After completing his B.A (Honors) in Political Science from Dhaka University, Osman Gani became the Headmaster at Binodpur High School of Shibgonj in Rajshahi district. He served nine years there, and then joined the Chapainawabganj Bar as a lawyer. Later, with the help of the locals, he founded several educational institutions and social organizations in his district.
According to Osman Gani, “Students should fight against each and every crisis the country faces, only they will they be able to change the country's picture. We fought against Pakistan and ended this chapter 40 years ago but the fighting didn't just stop there. There is still a struggle, the struggle of building the country. My generation has done what was needed from them, and I hope that the current and the next generation will do the rest.”
A Liberation War Hero
S Dilip Roy
Being a freedom fighter, Nosimuddin Miah braves each day with pride despite not being able to afford a modest life. “I don't know what I will eat tomorrow, but I have dream. I have no fear for losing anything,” says he.
Nosimuddin Miah fought for Bangldesh's freedom mainly at the village Karnopur Majhatari of Mogholhat union in Lalmonirhat sadar upazila. He also fought against Pakistani forces at at Mogholhat, Jaridhorla, Karnopur, Etapota, Vatibari, Kulaghat and Fulgachh villages. But, unfortunately, he is yet to receive recognition as a freedom fighter from the authorities. At the age of 86, knowing he doesn't have too many years left to live, he wishes to receive recognition from the from the government before passing away. The war veteran passes his days in a sorrowful condition with his wife Rabeya Begum, 68, and their physically challenged son Noymul Islam, 40.
“Nosimuddin Miah used to collect information about movement of Pakistani soldiers and their camps, and drew maps on them which helped in forming battle plans. He submitted his maps to the commander,” recalled his co-fighter Amol Chandro Roy, 70, who lives in the same village. “The maps drawn by him helped freedom fighters to conduct operations against the occupation forces. You can think of him as the 'guiding light' of his unit,” he added.
“I fought against Pakistani forces in Sector 6 under the command of the then Wing Commander AKM Bashar,” Nosimuddin Miah said wistfully. “Other freedom fighters tell their stories to the new generation on various occasions, especially on Independence Day and Victory Day. But I remain silent with my stories locked within me. My co-fighters receive benefits from the government, but my name is not included in the list of freedom fighters,” he lamented. Nosimuddin submitted five applications to be listed since 2004, with the latest being on 20 June 2011 to the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs, with the recommendation of the local commanders. He still waits for a response.
He isn't fit for physical labour, so is dependent on his wife's earnings. His wife is also an aged woman, so she can't continue her work outside home, she works as a day labour earning Tk 40 to 50 a day, which is hardly enough for their family. They cannot afford to even eat properly. According to freedom fighter Osman Ali, 65, of the same village, “Nosimuddin fought alongside me and others. I wonder why his name is not in the list.” Families of freedom fighters are well respected in the society, but Nosiumddin and his family are deprived of that respect.
Ayesha Begum, 58, wife of Hazrot Ali who lives at Mogholhat village in Lalmonirhat sadar upzila spoke of Nosimuddin's heroics. “Noismuddin rescued me and my younger sister Sayma Begum from Pakistani forces. He threw a grenade at the Pakistani forces who were trying to abduct us from our home in Mogholhat village. Without Nosimuddin, we would be dead today.”
The Lalmonirhat Sadar Upazila commander of freedom fighters unit Abu Bakor Siddique informs that Nosimuddin Miah's name was not included in the list due to his absence from his native village for a long time. After the liberation, Nosimuddin left his native village Karnopur Majhatari village and went to different parts of the country looking for jobs. He returned back in 2000. Abu bakor also added that Nosimuddin is a real fighter and that other freedom fighters try to help him at times of desperate need. Both sadar upazila and the district's Freedom Fighters' Unit are trying to include his name in the list.
According to the commander of Lalmonirhat district Freedom Fighters Unit Alhaz Usuf Ali, Nosimuddin's application letter was sent to the ministry for inclusion of Nosimuddin Miah's name in the freedom fighters list twice, once in October 2010 and then in June 2011 but they are yet to get any response. They are hopeful that Nosimuddin Miah will receive official recognition as a freedom fighter by June 2012.
Freedom fighter Khoka Miah still recalls the bloody days of 1971. “It is my priviledge, everyday for some time I remain close to the martyrs,” says the 65-year old man, “We fought together.” He is the caretaker of the Dolura Smriti Soudha, which stands at remote Dolura border in Sunamganj district. Sunamganj Mukti Sangram Trust employed him there 11 years ago. Later, the Sunamganj Zila Parishad took it over and built a statue of a freedom fighter nearby.
As he had a a brief training as an Ansar, Khoka Miah did not face much difficulty in joining the Muktibahini in 1971. He was easily selected. “I was only 24 at that time,” Khoka Mia narrates, “I crossed the border at the very beginning of the war along with some other fighters. Soon after, I was attached with one of the groups, which entered into the Bangladesh for facing the occupation forces.”
I get a small remuneration to look after the Dolura Shahid Smriti Soudha, which stands on a plot close to the frontier at Dolura in Sunamganj-Meghalaya border. In fact it is a mass grave of at least 48 freedom fighters, who laid down their lives during the liberation war. The names of 28 freedom fighters are inscribed separately. They were from different areas such as Kishoreganj, Netrokona, Sunamganj, Sylhet, Habiganj etc.
Khoka Miah is emotionally attached to the monument. Every day, many people come to visit the site and pay their homage to the martyrs. On holidays, especially on national days like the International Mother Language Day, Independence Day and Victory day, the number of visitors go up. Often groups of students and professionals visit the memorial and pass their time at the calm area close to the foothills of hilly Meghalaya.
Khoka Miah still remembers the sector commander Major General Mir Shaokat Ali, Sub-Sector Commander Major MA Muttalib and his Company Commander Abdur Razzaque - none of whom are alive anymore. Khoka Miah joined battles against the Pakistani Army at different places. He remembers his companions: Kader Miah, Moksud Ali, Lotu Havilder and Hashim Miah. But Khoka Miah is quite old now, and to his regret, he has forgotten the names of many of the freedom fighters he stood beside in 1971.
(R) thedailystar.net 2012