From 2004, the Liberation War Museum of Bangladesh started a nation-wide programme where school-going children asked their families and neighbours about their memories from 1971 and wrote them down. Through this initiative, the Museum has been able to collect over 51,000 testimonies from the 64 districts of Bangladesh. This year, we bring to you some snippets of the oral history that the Museum is painstakingly continuing to collect and preserve through the programme ‘NotunProjonmokeMuktijuddherChetonayUdbuddhokoron” (Inspiring the new generation through the spirit of the Liberation War)
I made a promise that day
My name is Akbar Ali, and I am a freedom fighter. When I fought in the war, I was 33 years old. I am the eldest of four brothers and two sisters, who are the youngest. I live in Rajshahi now, but back then we lived in the Tikrampur village in Chapai Nawabganj.
In August of 1971, the Pakistanis murdered my three brothers. And behind these murders was a Razakar - a member of the Peace Committee who led them to our house. I was working in the fields then. I heard the sounds of gunfire and when I ran back, they were just lying there. My youngest brother and the one right after me were already dead, but my other brother (Shejo) was still alive. He told me about AfazuddinRazakar with his last breath.
On that day I made a promise – I will fight for my country and free her from these Razakars. I didn’t have the time to get training. A few nights later, I killed the main perpetrator of the merciless killing of my family. Then I swam to the nearest village and continued to fight from there.
I have seen countless people become martyred. I am now proud to be a citizen of a free Bangladesh, but I cannot think of those days anymore without feeling shocked and horrified at everything that happened.
Collected by Shamima Akhter Shobha
Nachol Khurshed Mollah Girls’ High School
Don’t you dare give up
This happened in July 1971 in the village of Telipara in Pirgacha, Rangpur where my grandparents (Dada-Dadi) live. At the time, DadiJahanara Begum was almost 19 years old and they were married by then. My Dada was a freedom fighter.
When the Pakistani army came to our house in 1971, my Dada had gone to the war by then, but they found Dadi’s uncle, who was also a freedom fighter. Dadi hid behind the house and she saw the army knife him and then shoot him. He knew that she was hiding somewhere nearby, and before he died he said these final words - “Bangladesh will be free. Don’t you dare give up.”
Borodorgah High School
I decided to join the freedom fighters
I was 16 years old in 1971, studying in grade nine. On April 14 on the first day of attacking Ashuganj, Brahmanbaria, the Pakistanis set fire to my house in the village of Baikanthapur. They left after that. In early May, my nephew and I were sitting near the rail tracks running through our village. Suddenly, a train came and stopped next to us. The army got out from there and arrested us, thinking we were freedom fighters. Luckily, my uncle and other village elders came by right then and convinced them to let us go. After this incident, I decided to join the freedom fighters.
Around the end of June, I managed to reach Agartala. I was trained without arms for 33 days, and then I was chosen by Major Shafiullah, commander of sector three, along with a few others from my village, to go for armed training at Lebuchara. We were taught how to use weapons and bombs by Indian soldiers. After that, I joined the Bengal regiment and fought against the Pakistani army for three months in Aamtoli, Durnal, Kolokolia, Bashutia and Kalachara. I faced four different battles during this time. There was a horrific battle at Bashutia near Singarbil airport – we faced them three different times in this one place. Every time, we went into Bangladeshi borders and attacked the Pakistanis. We would reclaim two to three kilometers of Bengali soil and retreat behind Indian borders again. We also used to look for Razakars during these excursions. At one point, we arrested two Razakars and gave them up to our company.
On December 7, the joint forces fought the Pakistani army for 36 long hours in Kalachara, in the eastern part of Brahmanbaria. The Pakistani army received a huge blow in that battle. We killed around 20 Pakistani soldiers, and one of our freedom fighters was seriously injured. The Indian BSF helped us to send him to Madras, but I have no idea if he survived.
After that battle, the Pakistani army retreated towards Ashuganj. Our group commander was Captain Jahangir Osman. He ordered us to go back to camp after the battle. My elder brother Mozammel Hossain Monju led the fight in our village. A few days before independence, an unknown man came up to him and my two nephews at the Araishidha Bazar. After that, they were killed by some masked men. At the time, my brother was working for the intelligence forces of the freedom fighters.
Because my brother was martyred in the war, after independence Bangabandhu himself sent us a letter of condolences, two thousand Taka and a few bundles of tin to rebuild our home.
Collected by Faria Mehreen Dristhi,
Rowshon Ara Jalil Girls’ High School