None of them lived to see a liberated Bangladesh
March 25 of 1971 was a chaotic day. The common people were scrambling everywhere with thunderous gunshots being fired around them. The Pakistani occupational forces had already entered the locality, going from house to house and killing young men, albeit with the help of local collaborators.
Suddenly, they attacked our house and before we could fathom what was happening, they mercilessly killed my uncle Gofur Miah in his room. One cannot even begin to describe the horrendous scene. Seeing this, my mother hid inside the barn. When a Pakistani army member entered the room, he asked, “Is ghar mein koi jubok larka hain (Is there a young man inside this room)?”
My father knew a bit of Urdu so he replied, “Nehi (no) sir” but they checked the room nevertheless, and took away my father as they were leaving. We never saw him again.
When I got out of the barn, I could feel the air becoming thicker with the screams of the injured and people mourning the loss of their loved ones. I entered my uncle’s room only to see his bloody, lifeless body lying on the floor.
The next morning, I went to my friend Liakat’s house, where I learnt that the military took away his sister and shot his brother dead. He broke down in tears as he recalled the incident and I did everything in my might to console him. We got out and went around the village, only to come across numerous bodies of innocent children and people - a sight that completely shook me. In total, they killed about 40 people of varying ages.
It was impossible to remain sane but I had already made up my mind – together, Liakat and I would organize other young men and put up a resistance. That is when we heard about the Declaration of Independence, so we decided to join the Muktibahini and train ourselves for guerrilla operations.
Our first operation took place a mile south of Hirpur Bazar, at around 3:30pm in the afternoon. As a convoy of Pakistani military approached the road, ten of us prepared to pounce. And so we did. Fifteen of their soldiers died while the rest fled the scene with their jeeps. We conducted numerous other operations after that.
It was June 6, 1971 when we were preparing to attack yet another convoy of Pakistani soldiers in Kajla, Nayaranpur. At exactly 12:17pm, four jeeps approached the road and even before they could understand what was happening, we attacked them with full force. There were 26 soldiers and we managed to kill them with ease. However, there was one injured soldier who was still alive but was feigning his death. He used his walkie-talkie to call for reinforcements as he lay on the road.
Thinking that all of the soldiers had died, four of our team-members armed with machine guns, including Liakat, went near the bodies. Seizing the opportunity, the injured soldier opened fire with his machine gun and a bullet hit Liakat. He fell to the road, lifeless. The others killed the injured soldier but another jeep approached the scene and attacked us, taking us by surprise. All of my companions achieved martyrdom in the battle. I fled when I understood there was no way out.
I fought for the next six months and on Decemer 16, we achieved independence, which was won with the blood of my friend. I can’t help but wonder how happy Liakat would have been, had he lived to see the day. We haven’t forgotten him. Every year, I visit a Shaheed Minar which was built in his memory to pay homage to my friend.
Narrated by freedom-fighter Md Khamir Uddin from Hirpur, Netrokona. Collected by Sumi Akhter, class 7, Hironpur High School
The soldiers were starving, but they didn't stop
I was an SSC student during 1971, and on March 25, I could hear firing and explosions happening in Jessore town, six kilometres from our village Basudebpur in Monirampur upazila. Next morning, we saw thousands from the town fleeing towards our village. They told stories about how the Pakistani military burned down their houses, forcing them to leave behind everything, turning Jessore into a ghost-town. We tried to rehabilitate the recently displaced by building shelters for them.
Bengali army members stationed at Jessore cantonment started pouring in, carrying arms and ammunition they had managed to escape with. Tired from their ordeal, 52 members of the army almost collapsed beside our house and pleaded for food. Once they had some sustenance, they inquired how far Jhikargacha was from our village. They divided into two groups, and it was decided that we would accompany one group to Chanchra Bazar in Jessore while the other travelled to Jhikargacha. They also requested us to send food for Bengali members of the army in Harina, in southern Jessore, who were putting up a valiant armed resistance even while facing starvation.
The villagers assembled at Palashi High School next morning, as some of the students and I set out to gather bread, tomatoes and coconuts from other villages in the vicinity. As we reached the site, we noticed the starving men still pointing their rifles at the town, prepared to give everything they had. There was a mosque nearby where we spotted the dead bodies of five Bengali army members while two others lay nearby, almost on the brink of death. We fed them coconut juice and after half an hour, they came back to life andstarted crying. A Bengali major noticed this and summoned a car over his wireless to transport them to Jhikargacha. This is how we kept on helping them over the next few days.
After 11 days, a plane landed at Jessore airport at 11am and within the next half an hour, the Pakistani military attacked us. As we fled, my friend Ayub started bleeding from a bullet wound to his head. Three of us took him to Dr Anisur Rahman to stop his bleeding but it wouldn’t simply stop, so we had to send him to the hospital. After 17 to 18 days, it was becoming impossible to live in our area. The Pakistani military had already employed local razakars, inducting them into Al-Badr and Al-Shams forces. They comprised mostly of people who didn’t support the Awami League and preferred the politics of Muslim League. In response, we formed the Muktibahini as we accumulated students and vowed to drive out the Pakistani military from our motherland.
The razakars started torturing members from the Hindu community as they burned and looted their houses, and raped and killed Hindu girls. This provided further motivation for us, and we decided to target the collaborators and attack different areas on different dates. We moved towards Monirampur Bazar, where the razakars had set up their office and started conducting operations around them. One of my relatives, Akram from Khanpur, was caught and mercilessly killed with bayonets. His skin was hung on the road near Paton village to prove a point. The road was later named Akram moar to commemorate the hero.
Narrated as a first-person narrative by Kazi Nurul Islam about his grandfather. Collected by Kazi Gulshan Enam Emon, class 7, ML High School, Jessore
Everyone resisted, no matter what
My grandmother, who was a 23-year-old with two children in 1971, used to reside in Rayerbazar in Dhaka back then. After hearing Bangabandhu’s historic speech where he urged the masses to fight back with whatever means they had, they vowed to put up resistance no matter what. After the mass killing on the night of March 25, people started fleeing to the countryside the next morning. After three days, my grandmother decided to leave the city with her children, but my grandfather stayed back. She travelled to her father’s house alone, despite knowing the Pakistani military’s advances in the village.
My father was only seven years old during the war. One day, my grandmother asked him to get a haircut from the local barbershop. As he approached the marketplace, he noticed people running, which prompted him to ask a bystander what was wrong. He replied, “The Pakistani military are here. Go home as soon as you can.” He ran all the way to the house and notified my grandmother.
She decided to send my father and my aunt to their aunt’s house in a nearby village but despite my father urging her to join them, she decided to stay back on the account that their father wasn’t home. When my father and aunt reached their destination, they heard gunshots being fired in the vicinity. My father hid under the bed and started crying profusely.
The Muktibahini, along with residents of the village, put up a valiant fight, but two of them were hit with bullets. They were brought to my father’s aunt’s house where they underwent impromptu surgery to retrieve the bullets - with nothing but a knife heated on fire.
Coincidentally, my grandfather reached the house moments after the surgery and later joined the battle. In the end, the Pakistani military were overwhelmed and had to surrender. The Muktibahini took away their arms and ammunition as the villagers made members of the Pakistani occupational forces carry the new flag as they chanted slogans of “Joy Bangla.” They were made to experience people singing the national anthem and the lifting of the flag at the local village school.
A day later, collaborators from the village were hunted down and buried alive as the villagers set fire to their homes.
The account was delivered by Kazi Nazrul Islam about his grandparents and father. Collected by Md Tanvir Khan, class 7, Muljan High School, Manikganj.
Printed under special arrangement with the Liberation War Museum (LWM), Bangladesh. LWM have reached out to thousands of school children across the country to collect and preserve oral histories from the Liberation War. So far, they have collected over 21,000 different accounts. For more, visit http://www.liberationwarmuseumbd.org/