Thousands of Bangalis, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, showed unprecedented heroism embracing martyrdoms while attempting to capture the Rangpur cantonment giving a clear signal of achieving independence
Rangpur people started the War of Liberation decisively on March 28 in 1971, only three days after the Pakistani crackdown on innocent Bangalis, turning the day into a red-letter one in history.
Sacrificing three brave sons Sangku Samajhder, Abul Kalam Azad and Omar Ali on March 3 in the beginning of the volatile month in 1971, the Rangpur people started a decisive fight for independence.
According to freedom fighters, the Rangpur people under the leadership of the Awami League (AL) and students’ leaders started preparing to launch stiff resistance against the occupation army as per Bangabandhu’s call in his historic March 7 speech.
On March 28, thousands of Bangalis, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, showed unprecedented heroism embracing martyrdoms while attempting to capture the Rangpur cantonment giving a clear signal of achieving independence. According to books ‘Juddhe Juddhe Swadhinota’ written by Major Nasir Uddin and ‘Mukitjuddhe Rangpur’ written by freedom fighter Mukul Mostafizur Rahman, thousands of Bangalis assembled at Nisbetganj near Rangpur cantonment to capture it on the day.
The Bangali Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Oraon, Santal and other ethnic communities equipped with indigenous and lethal weapons like spears, sharp weapons, arrows, bows, clubs planned to capture the Rangpur cantonment.
“The 23rd Brigade Headquarters of Pakistan Army was then stationed at Rangpur Cantonment and Third Bengal, 26th FF Regiment at Syedpur, 23rd Cavalry Regiment and its associate forces and 29th Tank Bahini were under its command,” the books wrote.
Pakistani Brigadier General Abdullah Malik was the then Brigade Commander of the 23rd Brigade Headquarters and the Cantonment was equipped with huge Pakistani forces, modern automatic heavy arms, artilleries, tanks and ammunition.
The independence-seeker Bangalis, thousands in number, continued advancing towards the cantonment from the south and southwestern directions in the afternoon when the Pakistani occupation forces had been preparing to commit genocide.
“The military jeeps started showering automatic gunfire that continued for about five minutes killing around 600 Bangalis and injuring hundreds more,” the books wrote. Later, Pakistani Colonel Sagir, who always maintained links with the local non-Bengali Biharis, told under commands that he had taught proper lessons to the Bangalis by killing them as ‘they crossed all limits’.
He also ordered his soldiers to collect the bodies. Under the commands of Colonel Sagir and Captain Shajed Mahmud, most of the bodies of martyred Bangalis were collected, burnt by putting petrol and some bodies buried at Nisbetganj mass grave.
After scarifying their heroic sons on March 28 while attempting to capture the Rangpur cantonment, Rangpur people, Bangali Army officers, members of EPR, students, farmers, teachers, youths, lawyers, socio-cultural activists vowed to liberate the nation.
As the message reached faster to Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Thakurgaon, Dinajpur, Panchagarh and other areas of the Rangpur region, thousands of students, youths, police and Ansar started fleeing homes to join the Mukti Bahini.
Former District Muktijoddha Commander Mosaddek Hossain Bablu said political and student leaders played crucial roles in organising the War of Liberation and fierce resistance against the Pakistani occupation forces in the Rangpur region.
“The unprecedented heroism of the Bangalis on March 28 showed in a bid to capture Rangpur cantonment instantly ignited real heroism in every Bangali when they started fighting till achieving the ultimate independence on December 16 in 1971,” Bablu added.
Since achieving national independence, the Rangpur people are commemorating the martyrs who sacrificed their lives while attempting to capture the Rangpur cantonment on March 28 every year at Nisbetganj area on the outskirts of Rangpur city.