past has become unpredicatable'
General Moin-ul Hussain Choudhury, was the
Company Commander of Second East Bengal
Regiment and eventually became a Battallion
Commander of the same regiment that captured
Akhaora from the clutches of Pakistan Army
early December 1971. A valiant freedom fighter
and passinate patriot, he speaks to Kaushik
Sankar Das of The Daily Star.
How do you feel about the country as a freedom
fighter after 33 years of independence?
I feel I have contributed my fare share
in the making of this nation. At that time
victory was not a destination, it's just
a beginning of a journey. But now after
so many years of the freedom struggle, I
have to say that the state of affairs in
Bangladesh, in my opinion, is in a stage
of decay and it's unfortunate that I have
no option but to watch from the sidelines.
May be you could have done something for
the country from the position you held over
Well, as a government servant I couldn't
do much. But I have done whatever I could
with a clear conscience. If there were any
errors in my judgement, it occurred not
because of my dishonesty or self interest.
Because to me, my country always came first.
I have been loyal to it all along, wherever
I served, whether in the armed forces or
as an ambassador for sixteen years and various
positions. At the end of the day my conscience
after more than three decades of independence,
we have lawlessness, brutalities and developed
a feeling of simply grabbing whatever we
want. We are loosing all the habits of a
civilised living. People of Bangladesh have
been accustomed to lawless conditions for
so long that they are no longer law abiding.
Only gun is feared today. Terrorism, corruption,
injustice, poverty, inequality and uncertainty
has become a way of life for people in Bangladesh.
So do you the regret fighting for your country's
I don't regret it at all. as such. Till
today it was the best phase of my entire
life. I spent nine months in the battle
field fighting for my country that brought
me more prode, satisfaction and enjoyment
than any other of my duties. I have had
a lot of important assignments in my career,
but nothing could ever match the days of
fighting for my country. And if the need
arises, I would fight again.
the question is whether those in the leadership
have failed the people of Bangladesh. I
agree that like others I am also responsible
to a certain extent, but others were more
responsible because they decided the destiny
of the country.
But you were in the armed forces when martial
law took over the power and stayed there
for a long time. May be you could have done
something in that undemocratic, uncertain
What could I have done? May be carry out
another coup? That was something I did not
believe in. I never believed in conspiracy
or unethical activities. I believed in people's
participation in forming governance. And
they toppled the martial law government
with a popular movement in 1990. But remember
all these situations arose because of lack
of responsible political leadership. When
a country is well managed and the constitution
is truly respected, no captain, colonel,
major or general can come out of the barracks
and stage a coup. The vaccination against
military coup is good governance.
During your tenure as an ambassador, the
country was under military rule. How did
you cope with the situation?
I admit that it was a sorry state and I
had to answer a lot of questions. I represented
my country under two democratic governments
too. But honestly there was not much difference.
The country's image in the world, I would
say, was nothing much to talk about. We
have had three democratic governments since
the nineties, but you tell me what's the
state of the country now.
Why are we still trying to find true stories
of the liberation was from those who were
actively involved in it?
We are living in a country where our past
has become unpredictable more than the future.
History is being written in loose leafs;
with the change of each government, new
pages are being added and old ones are being
taken out. To tell you honestly, I am really
amazed at our immaturity, the national culture
of immaturity and unpredictability. After
33 years of independence, we are still making
list of freedom fighters, the number in
that list is getting bigger and bigger by
the war, I had problems recruiting new members
for my regular battalion, and now you hear
thousands and thousands have certificates.
Yes there were organisers and passive supporters,
I do not want to undermine their contributions,
but who were fighting in the fields, who
took up arms, who were willing to sacrifice
of our recruits were farmers and young boys.
You would be amazed to know that I had as
young as 14 year old boys in the battalion
fighting. I do not see many of them cueing
up for certificates? And who are issuing
these certificates? They might have legal
authority, but what moral authority do they
me tell you a story. Once I received an
official letter that said if I wanted to
get certificate of a being a freedom fighter,
I had to be recommended by my Thana Commander.
I laughed because I myself was commander
of a battalion. It was ridiculous!
Is that the reason you do not mention the
gallantry award after your name given to
you for your contribution in the war?
I think the gallantry awards were given
indiscriminately and without much investigation.
Gallantry means fighting in the battlefields.
So I thought it was appropriate for me to
accept it, since I fought in the battle.
But I think the award was also given to
people who never fired a shot in anger.
am, not angry about it, but to me it doesn't
mean anything any more. That's why I do
not use it after my name. The mere fact
I arrived in Dhaka on December 16 in a uniform
with my 800 troops should be enough. I got
my recognition from the people who fought
along with me for my own satisfaction.
How do you feel about the politics surrounding
the liberation war?
Every year when March and December comes,
we say that Muktijudhho is our pride, the
rest of the ten months it remains an ornament.
We Bangalees love myths. There are lots
of myths surrounding the liberation war.
Children are being taught those myths, which
may not be true, but fascinating stories.
It's unfortunate that we are still quarreling
over this. As a nation we remain immature.
must know our past. We can only build our
future based on the values and spirit of
the past. But definitely not based on falsehood
and lies. Truth must be known to people.
The efforts should be to separate the facts
political party used freedom fight and the
fighters for political mileage instead of
genuinely respect the sacrifice and courage
of the fighters. They all tried to monopolise
the war of independence. It should not have
been. Many people like me fought for certain
values. We fought because we thought people
wanted freedom from Pakistan. Life is full
of risks. I was not afraid of death, but
I was afraid of my life on my knees under
the Pakistanis. I revolted though I had
oath of allegiance to Pakistan and its constitution.
But I was more loyal to my sense of honour
accepted certain political leadership because
they were elected representatives. But whether
the political leaders have been able to
uphold that pride, honour and dignity is
a million dollar question.
Do you see any lights of hope at the end
of the tunnel?
MHC: I don't really know. I would say that
the disease has spread, like cancer, to
all parts of our society. We are so foolish
that we behave like beggars. Give a beggar
a horse, he will ride it till death. Let's
not do that.
have stopped believing what I hear from
our leaders. I only believe what I see.
Celebrating independence has become a ritual.
But I would ask our leaders who celebrate
the day to search their souls. They should
ask themselves what have they done to celebrate
the victory day, what have they done for
the country. They should ask their conscience.
of Dhaka on 16 December
we heard about the offer to surrender of
the Pak Army from General Manekshaw of the
combined forces we were contemplating over
the reaction of General Niazi to it. Our
utmost concern was whether the Pakistani
General would accept the offer or not. We
were very much terrified over the consequence
of rejecting the offer by Niazi.
the day passed, our anxiety and restlessness
increased. With the passage of every minute
we became desperate to know about the latest
position. The transistor and particularly
the news broadcast of the foreign Radio
stations were the only sources of information
for us. It however did not help us much.
migs, obviously Indian ones flew in the
morning over the sky of Dhaka. We still
could not conclude about the fate of the
surrender offer though the deadline for
accepting it was already over. As there
was no other visible sign of the surrender,
anxiety turned into great apprehension.
We started thinking perhaps the last battle
is going to be fought very soon.
was noon. The elders were pale and terrified.
It had its repercussion on the younger lot
too. This could not, however, stop their
war-play. Occasionally they asked -- why
the flocks of Migs don't play in the sky
to-day? Why there is no sound of firing?
Naturally there were very few responses
to their queries.
was about 2.30 pm, just after having lunch,
all on a sudden a very known horn and engine
sound surprised us. It was my elder brother
who just parked his car outside the gate
of our house and knocked at the door. He
was smiling, beaming with joy -- and triumphantly
broke the news of victory to us. 'Don't
you know Niazi has declared to surrender?
Very soon he will formally surrendezr to
Lt. Gen. Aurora at the Race Course.'
hurriedly got into my younger brother's
car and started for the Race Course.
our way we saw a group of men assembled
in the Nimtali Rail crossing and seemed
to be whispering with each other. They were
at first surprised to see us in a car out
to move around in the city. Then suddenly
one or two of them greeted us with the slogan,
'Joy Bangla'. Instantaneously we all reciprocated
quite vigorously, for a moment we were carried
away by a sentiment of oneness and victory.
the Railway Hospital we proceeded to the
direction of the then DPI office. There
was hardly anyone on the street. Unexpectedly
we saw a small procession of ten to fifteen
men at best in the corner of the old High
Court building. A few kids were also among
them. They were carrying triumphantly the
new flag of the newly born country. We waved
at them and they replied in chorus with
thundering slogan 'Joy Bangla'.
we reached near the Engineers' Institute,
we were stopped suddenly by the soldiers
in a truck. They forbade us to proceed further.
We could not exactly recognise them to which
side they belonged. We had to turn back.
Keeping the Ramna Garden to our left we
then started for Tenement Road where Mr.
Mahammad Ali, my younger brother's friend
and a co-fighter in the liberation struggle
used to reside. He was completely taken
aback to see us. Until then he was unaware
of the surrender of the Pakistani Army and
the consequent liberation of our country.
On getting the information from us he was
choked with emotion and delighted in joy.
there we started again for the Race Course
by a different road. After proceeding a
while a pickup with a few non-Bengaless
suddenly overtook us in a menacing way.
Immediately after that a jeep arrived on
the scene. It came just behind us. It seemed
the jeep had been following the earlier
pick-up. Suddenly they started exchanging
fire. We were caught between them. Fortunately
we managed to save ourselves and got a way-out.
Quickly we entered into an empty house to
the exchange of fire stopped we hurriedly
came out of our temporary hide-out and tried
to return to safety in Tenement Road. We
were told that it was not yet safe to move
in the street as many Pakistani soldiers
were unaware of the surrender till then
and as such could fire at anybody they saw
in their way. At this stage we became really
nervous and desperately wished to reach
our way-back we saw in few places non-Bengalees
lying in position with their machine guns
in ditches, bushes and behind walls and
bearded Mukhti Bahinis in batches to wipe
out the remnants of the Pakistani resistance.
our route we came in front of the Gulistan
Cinema Hall. Here again we were intercepted
by two Bengali patriots. Greeting us 'Joy
Bangla' they asked us not to go towards
the then Fulbaria Station. Pakistani soldiers
were still on guard there. Expressing our
gratitude to them we changed our direction
and came in front of the then DPI Office
through the Secretariat road. Suddenly our
attention was drawn to dead body lying on
the other side of the road just in front
of the former BNR office. We were simply
thunder-struck at the sight. Oh God! It's
that young man who was carrying the flag
of new nation; who was at the head of the
small procession, we saw an hour ago; who
shouted 'Joy Bangla', at us and whom we
saluted in respect. But the murderers have
not been able to snatch away the flag form
his hand. He has lost his life but he has
not given up the honour of the nation.
then turned to the FH Hall and thought to
be completely safe but all on a sudden quite
unexpectedly we were in the midst of a large
number of soldiers who were passing through
were in two rows and we found ourselves
between their rows. At first we considered
them as Indian soldiers and as such we greeted
them by waving our hands. Soon we realised
our mistake and shuddered in fear. They
were Pakistanis, damn-tired, dispirited
and demoralised -- marching towards the
Race Course for their formal surrender.
such a situation our car came to almost
a dead stop. We took about ten minutes to
cover a distance of two seconds -- from
Curzan Hall corner to the Railway Hospital
(present Karmachari Hospital) turning. When
we were passing through the rows of Pakistani
soldiers we were apprehending death at any
moment. We were perhaps counting moment
of our final end.
we reached Railway Hospital turning we saw
two fresh dead-bodies lumped together on
the street. We thought they had been killed
by the same Pakistani soldiers through whom
we passed a few moment's ago. Seeing these
dead-bodies we pondered why they had not
killed us? Until today I have not got the
answer to this query.