Tell it as it was -- Afsan Chowdhury


Bir Farid: The only son of a mother - Shamsul Hossain


Journey to victory - Major Genral Shafiullah spoke to Kaushik Sankar Das

'I would rather die than sign any false statement' - An interview with 'Weekly Bichitra'

'I would rather die than sign any false statement' - Arnold Zeitlin


A terrifying victory day -- Shamsher Chowdhury


'Our past has become unpredicatable' - Major General Moin-ul Hussain Choudhury speaks


Streets of Dhaka on 16 December - Nilufar Begum


The ecstasy of victory -- Nurul Islam Anu


Through the eyes
of a diplomat - MM Rezaul Karim


A boy's memory of the war - Ekram Kabir


Fall of 'Dacca'- Siddiq Salik


Towards nation's prosperity -- Ashraf
Al Deen


The story of six brothers -- Akbar Hossain


As I look back -- A
M M Shawkat Ali


on Kalachara -- Lieutenant
General M Harun-Ar-Rashid, BP


assemblages -- Major
Qamrul Hassan Bhuiyan


memories -- Mustafa Zaman


of the tortured


Fearless Female Fighters -- Manisha


Following the path of freedom -- Fayza Huq


Passion for independence -- Novera Deepita


Depicting the actual massacre -- Afsar Ahmed


Missing links of history- Brigadier General M. Sakhawat Hussain


Looking the past in the eye - Habibul Haque Khondker


Following the path
of freedom

Fayza Haq

People were working in TV on the subject of liberation before the Liberation War,' says Mustafa Manwar, recounting his experiences of the liberation movement. 'There was the Jagorini Gan. We had no means of special effects and used a mirror or a camera to produce the effect of 1,000 people. This went hand in hand with songs like Songram, songram cholbey. I was then the programme manager. We had worked with Shukanto's poetry, Deshlai and Runner, a small boy being included in every procession in the city. We used to be ready with the child in a car, and every time we heard that there was a procession, we went to it, with the boy. This portrayed how this child was calling the people to join the forces of liberation, the child being the symbol of freedom. We could not directly spell out that this was the call for freedom. There was a sound of gunfire but the child would pick himself up and continue with his struggle. This proved to be effective.

'There was then the recitation of poems of rebellion taken from Tagore and Nazrul, like Nai nai bhoey , Hobey hobey joey, Sikander Abu Jaffer's Jonotar shangram cholbey, and Ektara tui desher kotha bol. These used to be illustrated and I did the drawing and painting for this.'

On 23rd March, they realised that there was no flying of the national flag in the city of Dhaka, and they were compelled to fly it on the TV. They had a plan. Normally the TV then went on till 10pm. They decided to have patriotic songs till the end. There were about 50 Pak soldiers camped in the TV station and the major in charge asked at 11pm why the programmes were not finishing. Finally, there was only a handful of TV workers, and Masuma Khatun said that she would make the final announcement. At two minutes past midnight, she announced that it was the 24th March and that the programmes had ended. Thus the TV authorities had defied the regulation of flying the flag on the national day. After that we all went into hiding. This was followed by the crackdown on the 25th.

'At Agartala, we did some recordings of songs and went onward to Kolkata. We formed a cultural team, that I headed, and went to different parts of India. Waheedul Haque looked after the musical section,' Mustafa Manwar said. The artists who had gathered there from Bangladesh presented an exhibition, under the banner of the Liberation War. Shug Dev did a documentary of the time and included the works of the different artists. Mustafa Manwar's own painting was that of a mother holding a wounded and dying freedom fighter on her lap. She was seen sitting on a 'char'. Dev Dulal Bandy-opaddhaya praised this effort. They held a large function on TV in Delhi.

Visiting the camp of the refugees from Bangladesh, Mustafa Manwar found all the inmates often grim and depressed. To change their mood he decided to introduce puppets. Among the puppets were the characters of Yahya Khan and an ordinary farmer. This brought fun and frolic. 'After a long time we laughed,' people said, and this gave Mustafa Manwar a lot of satisfaction. A visiting American documentary maker made a film of these puppets. Later, Tarik Masud added many shots to those taken by a foreign film maker and called it Muktir Gaan. Artists often made posters under the guidance of Quamrul Hassan and took out processions with them. Thus, cultural teams worked in Kolkata and different parts of India in praise of the liberation movement. Someone from UK collected the paintings of Bangladeshi artists and printed them overseas.

Mustafa Manwar came back on December 18, 1971, being among the first group of civilians to return to Bangladesh from India by plane, and with the return of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, they presented TV in a different way. Now the Bangl-adeshi culture was no longer to be muffled. Meanwhile, at this time, Shawkat Osman wrote a long article on the Liberation War in the newspaper Desh, and Mustafa Manwar did all its illustrations in six issues. Renowned filmaker Satyajit Ray, on seeing these drawings, was very impressed.

Passion for independence

Novera Deepita

The station of Shwadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (SBBK), situated at Ballygunge Road of Kolkata came to be recognised soon as Mujibnagar. Buoyed by the spirit of the Liberation War, Rothin joined the radio and his voice was his weapon for the war.

SBBK started its journey in May right after the formation of the Mujibnagar Government in April 17, 1971.'My songs O Biral rui machher matha khaiona, Joy Bangla boila re, Amar neta tomar neta were already being aired even before I joined SBBK,' says a nostalgic Rothin.

In April eminent filmmaker Subhash Dutta first told Rothin about SBBK. However, it was not until June that Rothin could join the radio. 'Although I passionately wanted to join the Liberation War, I never wanted to leave the country,' says Rothin. However, the situation soon grew hostile, 'especially for the Bangalee minority.'

So, one night in mid-May, Rothin and his family set out for the Indian border. Rothin still remembers the horror of that journey. 'About 500 rickshaws were moving very slowly along the Dhaka-Chittagong highway. What was most amazing was that there was dead silence every where-- even the children forgot to cry!

Rothin left his family safely at Jalpaiguri and came to Kolkata by train to locate the office of SBBK. 'I didn't need a ticket on the train. The Indian trains at that time were free for anyone who would say "Joy Bangla",' fondly reminisces Rothin.

However, Rothin's entry to the SBBK office was not easy. 'I only knew that it was in Ballygunge Road but didn't know the exact location. When, I finally found the Bangladeshi High Commission at Balu Hakkak Lane,' Rothin says, 'the guards would not let me in.' 'I was in deep trouble since I had burnt all my papers and documents to avoid identification. Somehow, I was lucky enough to find my certificate of being an enlisted artiste,' recalls Rothin.

The guard finally showed Rothin the nearby office of Joy Bangla, a newspaper brought out by Bangalees. Here I met Shah Ali Sarkar, who is one of the founding members of the SBBK He was overwhelmed when he learnt my identity. The next morning I met my friends Abdul Jabbar and Apel Mahmud. There were other people from Bangladesh Betar including Ashfaqur Rahman Khan, Motahar TH Shikdar, Shahidul Islam and Kamal Lohani. I was greeted warmly by all of them,' reminisces Rothin.

On the very first night of Rothin's arrival at SBBK, Apel Mahmud said that he had tuned a song for him. Rothin's first song with SBBK was Tir hara ei dheuer shagar, written by Gobinda Haldar. 'In the evening we recorded the song and it was aired the next day. It became very popular instantly,' recalls Rothin.

'The recording machine was a very ordinary compared to the facilities of today. Our only duty was to record the programmes and keep the tapes in a safe place. We were not told from where the songs were transmitted,' says Rothin.

'After a few days, eminent musicians Samar Das, Ajit Roy and Shujeo Shyam came to SBBK. Their arrival added a new dimension to the productions. For, these artistes composed innumerable inspirational songs with passion and patriotism,' comments Rothin.

Rothin says, 'Songs like Purba digantey shurjo uthechhe, Nongor tolo tolo, Tara e desher shabuj dhaner, Swadhin swadhin dikey dikey had been composed then. Joy Bangla Banglar joy was the signature tune of the station. It was actually a song composed for a film. Gazi Mazharul Anwar was the lyricist. Composers like Shahidul Islam and TH Shikdar did many inspirational songs. I have recorded more than 50 songs during the Liberation War. Among my other popular songs are Chashader muteder majurer, O bhai khati shonar cheye, O bogilarey, Poraner bandhu re, Amar desher shonar dhan, O bhai mor bangalee re.'

The artistes of SBBK used to go to the camps of freedom fighters in the Muktanchal and in the refugee camps to inspire them. Rothin vividly recalls many emotional incidents of that time. A team had come to recruit freedom fighters. A boy who sought membership in the team was adamant about going, against his mother's will. The boy got into the truck while the mother desperately ran after it and pleaded with her son to have his last meal from her. Can you tell me how I can forget that moment?' says an overcome Rothindra Nath Roy.

'Stop Genocide'

Depicting the actual

Afsar Ahmed

An old lady is journeying towards an unknown destination leaving everything behind--her motherland, her home, her blood relations and her dreams. The toils and travails, the agonies depicted in her face are enough to touch anyone's heart. This scene from the documentary Stop Genocide is so moving that anyone can feel the horror of the brutality and genocide going on in the then East Pakistan. Stop Genocide was the perfect depiction of that time,' says a nostalgic MA Khayer, who was the in-charge of the Film Division of the Mujibnagar Government's Information Ministry in 1971.

'The film was completely Zahir Raihan's concept. He firmly believed that a film projecting the true picture of brutal human rights violation by the then Pakistani government could create world opinion against those acts more effectively than meetings and processions. It was during April-May 1971 when he came up with the concept of making a film on the genocide, but the Motion Picture Association of Bengal didn't take it seriously at first. Finally, however, Zahir Raihan convinced them and the rest is history.'

Directed by Zahir Raihan with the assistance of Alamgir Kabir, Stop Genocide faced a lot of obstacles especially regarding its finance, says Khayer. 'The Motion Picture Association of Bengal helped a lot for financing the film. Dr AR Mallick, the Chairman of the Liberation Council of Intelligentsia, also provided the financial help for the film,' he informs.

Abul Khayer also came forward to promote the film on behalf of the Mujibnagar Government. 'But the path wasn't that easy. The inside story was different. The then Mujibnagar Government wished to produce film on the Liberation War and its leadership rather than the genocide. The principal reason of their objection was a missing link in the film: the absence of our great leader Bangabandhu,' says Khayer. 'But, Zahir Raihan wanted to earn recognition of our war of independence. He firmly believed that the whole war was by the name of Bangabandhu and, at the same time he also believed that the whole world knew it. Even, all the slogans contained his name and the freedom fighters used to take oath by his name. Raihan felt that it wasn't necessary to highlight Bangabandhu again and again and intentionally left out his name from his film.

'But Zahir Raihan had a completely neutral angle in this regard: he was more willing to project the real picture of the genocide than the political affiliations of the war for creating more effective opinion,' says Khayer. The brutality of the genocide and the apathy and the struggle of the migrated general people were the main theme projected in this subtle documentary. The language was simple and appealing. And that's why, Stop Genocide acclaimed the emblem of the true picture of that time, as Khayer perceives.

'On its first screening at a secret place in India, the cabinet of Mujibnagar Government including Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam, Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed, AHM Kamruzzaman and the politicians present there became totally emotional. The film also helped us gain the Indian support in the Liberation War,' recalls Khayer.

'It was the middle of the war and we were in Kolkata. The cabinet of the Mujibnagar Government decided to make another film on the Liberation War by Zahir Raihan. Tajuddin Ahmed himself asked me to tell Raihan about the project. I contacted Raihan and he didn't refuse. He made four films out of the budget sanctioned for him! The films were Birth of a Nation, Children of Bangladesh, Surrender and the other one I can't recall now. The films were very well-made but we are so unfortunate that we couldn't be able to preserve these films.

The films were sent from India and Khayer is sure that the films reached the soil of Bangladesh. But he cannot tell how they have lost forever. 'We can't preserve our heritage--our past achievements, those glorious events and people behind them,' regrets MA Khayer.


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