Memories of the Bangladesh Liberation War: An Untold Story

This article is about a letter I wrote during the Liberation War. I will also talk about a little-known hero of the war of liberation, Danesh, who carried the letter.

Freedom Fighter, Zainul Abedin, Ink and wash.

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Freedom Fighter, Zainul Abedin, Ink and wash.

I had written this letter to my friend Hafiz who was then a Lieutenant of the 1st Bengal Regiment and was on winter exercise at Chowgacha Police Station in the then Jashore District adjacent to Jhenaidah Subdivision where I was affected.

The letter is reproduced below:

“My dear Hafiz,

I am told that your Bn [Battalion] camped at Chowgacha for exercise. Please tell your CO [Commanding Officer] that the Pakistani army suppressed us. In Dhaka, EPR [East Pakistan Rifles] HQ was attacked. In Chittagong, the 8th Bengal Bn revolted against the government. Rajarbagh police lines fought tooth and nail against tanks and mortars with 303 guns. In Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Kustia, Pabna, Rangpur and many other places the army was overpowered by Bengali army personnel, police and PRT. At Comilla and Joydevpur the cantonments are reported to have fallen to the Bengal regiments. A Major Zia from Chittagong took over Radio Chittagong and announced Muktibahini’s spectacular successes nationwide. It is reported by Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro that Tikka Khan was killed in Dhaka.

Danesh Sarder, freedom fighter

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Danesh Sarder, freedom fighter

In our sector at Chuadanga, a Major Osman Chowdhury disarmed all non-Bengali officers and men of the 4-Wing EPR. A Captain Sadek was killed trying to be funny. All EPR men were recalled to Chuadanga HQ on leaving the BOPs [Border Outposts] unguarded.

I distributed all my weapons to the Ansars, mujahids, students and volunteers. I have nearly two hundred policemen armed with 303 rifles and twenty cartridges per rifle. Another 800 ansars with an equal number of guns volunteered to fight the Pakistani hordes. I think you, with your Bn, your weapons and your equipment, should join me. This is the nation’s most crucial hour. Please tell your commander that East Pakistan is dead and we are at war. We need you.”

The letter was written on March 27, 1971. I sent the letter through my special messenger, Danesh. He came back the next morning and said, “Sir, I reached the camp with great difficulty. But the sentries wouldn’t let me in. I asked them to deliver the letter to one of their Bengali officers. They did not accept. “

I was upset, but nothing could be done. I sent another letter addressed to Colonel Jalil by the same messenger. This time the letter was forwarded, but no response came.

On March 29, to my dismay, I was told that Lt. Col. Jalil and his battalion were returning to Jashore Cantonment, as ordered by Brig. Durani. I felt like a paralyzed person. Is the CO out of its head? Does he know nothing? Has he lost all communication with the world? Did my cry fall on deaf ears? Have my letters reached them? These questions and hundreds of others crossed my mind.

Around noon on March 30, I received the first news of the massacre of the 1st Bengal Regiment at Jashore Cantonment. People from Jashore telephoned me to inform me that a serious fight was taking place inside the cantonment. The 1st Bengal eventually revolted, but no one could tell who won. For five hours, in Jhenaidah, we counted the moments of great anxiety. From time to time, the Kaliganj telephone exchange gave me first-hand reports of the exchange of fires and shelling. I was terrified. How could the only Bengal Bn fight against the 55 FD Regiment, nine Punjab and 11 Baluch?

Draft of Mahbub Uddin Ahmed’s letter to Lieutenant Hafiz

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Draft of Mahbub Uddin Ahmed’s letter to Lieutenant Hafiz

My apprehension was proven right when the fleeing Bengali soldiers started pouring into my HQ in Jhenaidah with horrifying tales of the massacre the next day.

During these critical days, what moved me the most was the spontaneous influx of people. It is impossible to describe how the whole rural population was transformed into a single force throbbing with life and ready to bathe in a flood of blood to emancipate themselves from a barbarian tyrant. To an impartial observer, it was the will of a nation to establish truth and justice by crushing brute force. It was a historic moment for the world.

Why am I writing this untold story now?

I always thought that if the 1st Bengal had joined us with their arsenal of weapons, 27 Baluch, the enemy’s strongest motorized column, would have been maimed and destroyed, and all their arsenal and vehicles were in our possession. As most of the Muktibahini contingents had settled around the Jashore cantonment, it would have been a matter of time and planning to scour the cantonment and capture it. As a result, our movement into Indian Territory would have been delayed or not necessary at all. The story of the bravery of the people of Bangladesh would have been written differently.

A single blunder by a commander has cost so much in the annals of our war of liberation. I’m sure historians would look at it that way too. In this context, it is pertinent to state here that before we launch their most serious thrust on three fronts from the cantonment of Jashore, with the Dhaka-Goalundo axis and the air force and the bombardments centered on the bridge of Kushtia and Hardinge, Pakistani troops at Jashore had raised the white flag in a deceptive move to escape the anticipated wrath of being crushed by the Muktibahini. By then, most of the sources of regular rations and other survival items for the troops in the Jashore Cantonment had been closed by the Bengali vendors, and the regular troops were attempting to leave the cantonment.

We can remember that this brutal action on our stronghold at Paksey around the Hardinge Bridge was carried out by Pakistan after suffering a severe loss and debacle at Goalundo. It was undertaken only after heavy reinforcements brought in from Pakistan.

A TRIBUTE TO DANESH

He was an auto mechanic. He ran his car shop in the city of Jhenaidah with his brothers, Yunus, the eldest, Anis, Sanis and his cousin Malek. Originally, they were from Sreenagar of Munshiganj subdivision. In the early hours of the liberation war and in the very first phase of resistance from midnight March 25, 1971, he began to help the war efforts in his humble way. He had a motorcycle, which was extremely useful for making quick movements to exchange information. It was very useful because when the roads were blocked by felling trees, cutting trenches and the presence of obstructing objects, his motorcycle navigated through farmland under his very expert and skilled hands. On my very first move to Chuadanga from Jhenaidah (March 27, 1971) on a mission to meet Major Abu Osman Chaudhry at his hastily assembled headquarters at Chuadanga Dak Bungalow, I was driven by Danesh on his motorbike because my jeep would take hours to navigate through cultivated and swampy land. This was the beginning of Muktijoddha Danesh Sarder, my car mechanic, an expert driver for any vehicle, light or heavy, and my lifelong friend.

It was the Danesh Sarder that I sent to Lieutenant Colonel Jalil, Commander of the 1st Bengal Regiment. He was a burly young man with thick straight black hair falling to his neck, dark for any young Bengali, muscular, average height of around 5’10”, full of life, fun-loving, carefree and mostly dressed in white pants and a shirt.

On the road to the theater where the Mujibnagar government had its office, his large, long-bodied, Cadillac-like vehicle was ready to transport any of the bigwigs who needed him as a driver on the spot. Such was his frankness and his availability throughout the nine months we went, in his transport. It was a Joy Bangla car in Kolkata and would be looked at, even by the Kolkata police, with a degree of awe and respect.

Danesh and his brothers had moved like our shadow since the beginning of the war of liberation. When we withdrew to a safer position at Meherpur with our troops and soldiers, they continued with us. They witnessed the swearing-in ceremony of Bangladesh’s first independent government in Mujibnagar.

Bangladesh Mukti Fouj in Jessore. April 4, 1971

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Bangladesh Mukti Fouj in Jessore. April 4, 1971

My last major war zone destination was Satkhira with Itinda in the backyard near the Indian border, 24 Parganas next to the northwest corner of the Sundarbans. As a matter of routine, a few contingents of squad strength would go on guerrilla missions every night there, and Danesh and his brothers would always be on those expeditions. In one of these expeditions, during a fight with Rajakars, his elder brother Yunus was wounded with a javelin thrown at his companions by the Rajakar band. He was hit in the right side of the chest and received first aid. Later, he was treated by a local doctor. Luckily, it wasn’t such a dangerous injury.

On April 24, while our troops were stationed at Benapole and we were under shelling from Pakistani artillery, Danesh drove my companions and I in my jeep through the shelling to a safe area of ​​Benapole on the road. of Benapole Petrapole. It was a life-threatening ride through fire and peril and required a daredevil to speed up the fall of artillery shells. He clung to the wheel of our jeep without a trace of fear in his bones. Such was his courage in the face of danger on the battlefield.

Long story short, he returned to Dhaka with me victorious, began his search for a better life, took some form of leadership in the transportation labor sector, especially taxi drivers and baby laborers, usually got away with it as long as Bangabandhu was alive. I held a powerful position in the government hierarchy. With the sudden death of Bangabandhu when I was imprisoned for being a threat to the then military government, his fortunes declined.

Danesh left us all on an eternal journey on Monday, December 20, 2021, virtually unattended in an intensive care unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. A tragic end to a brave freedom fighter.

Mahbub Uddin Ahmed Bir Bikram was the Jhenaidah sub-division police officer during the liberation war. He was in charge of presenting the guard of honor to the acting president of the government-in-exile of Bangladesh, Syed Nazrul Islam, during the swearing-in ceremony on April 17, 1971.

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