A Piece of land and our Mannan Bhai | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 21, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 21, 2012

A Piece of land and our Mannan Bhai

Photo: Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahir, Bir Protik

The sun beat down fiercely as I walked down the track leading to the primary school of Khargor. Khargor is a small village under Nabinagar upazilla under Brahmanbaria district. It is located at a distance of 15 kilometer west of Brahmanbaria. The students of the primary school assembled under the trees next to the school to participate in the discussion on Liberation War. I am following up the project of participating in the discussion on Liberation War of Bangladesh mainly with the student community in the rural areas. Braving the hit, the students were attentive and engrossed when I was discussing with them on the various incidents of Liberation War.
At the end of the discussion, I asked the students if any of their family members were killed by Pakistan army and their collaborators during Liberation War. To my surprise, a large number of students, teachers and even the Headmaster raised their hands. The Headmaster told me during Liberation War a large number of people of Khargor were killed by Pakistan army. He requested me to accompany him to the killing field where the brutality took place. I readily agreed to his proposal and followed him to the site. Behind me the students followed.
We walked through dried grass. The dirt tracks lead us to the bank of Pagolini River. The villagers who were taking shelter from the sweltering summer heat were watching us with almost lazy curiosity. Slowly they started to come around and the crowed started to grow.
I was offered a mat to sit under a tree near the river bank. The village elders and others sat in front of me. I wanted to know from the village elders about the incident of 1971 in the village which caused the loss of so many lives. They started by telling that on the night of October 9, 1971 Pakistan army column attacked Barail village adjacent to Khargor. 17 freedom fighters were camped inside the village. The fire fight started and continued for about one hour. The freedom fighters appeared to be out numbered and out gunned. So they retreated through adjacent Khargor village in the cover of the night.
On the October 10, 1971, early in the morning the villagers were awakened by the sound of launches coming through the Pagolini River. To their horror, they found two large steel bodied launches carrying Pakistan army soldiers along with their collaborators approaching their village. Within minutes, the soldiers jumped out of the launches and landed on the river bank and started firing and running inside the village. They began indiscriminate killing of villagers. The poor villagers screamed and begged but no one listened, no one cared. They were left abandoned to their fate. At first they shot the elderly peasant, Ful Miah, who was tall and strong looking. They shot him to death and the wireless operator shouted in the set that the Mukti Bahini Commander has been killed. Ful Miah was just a village peasant. The gruesome killing continued and within nearly two hours forty-nine dead bodies were lying in a pool of blood and there were 173 wounded villagers. The village was totally burnt down.
The army left in their launches after which the villagers who were hiding came back to see the horrific scene. The wounded were screaming for help. Some help came from nearby villages. The wounded were carried by boat to the nearby medical centers. It was almost evening time. The villagers had to bury their dead. Due to delayed monsoon in the area, the small graveyard of the village located in the low land near the river was submerged under water. Only the houses were above the water level. There was no place to bury the dead. The villagers started preparing rafts made of banana trees on which they would lay the dead and let the river carry them. It was a pathetic decision but they had no choice. The 49 dead villagers would not get a resting place even after death on the land they were born.
Abdul Mannan was watching the situation quietly. He owned a piece of high land near the river bank. He came up and told the villagers not to let their dead be left into the river. “Take my land. Bury my brothers and sisters in my land.” Some village people reminded Mannan that was the only land he has. He should make a logical judgment. Mannan replied, “This is not the time to think about the future.” Mannan along with madrasa students of the village Abdul Kalam and Abdul Qader with the help of other villagers buried the dead by night fall.
War was over, the country was liberated. Mannan had no land so he started working to process the paddy in other's houses. I saw Mannan wearing a torn lungi, a gamcha hung around his neck and in poor health. I asked him what the valuation of the land would be today. Mannan replied that he is not sure but it could be around 8 lakh Taka and the villagers agreed with it. I asked him if he repented for giving his only property for burial of his fellow dead villagers while, at present, he is working in others' homes. Mannan casually smiled and told me he feels satisfied that his friends and family were buried there and were not carried away by the waters of the Pagolini River.
When I was returning from the village that night, I was remembering people who fight for possession of land, money and wealth but Mannan Bhai has set such a glorious example for us all to follow. When I walked further away I prayed silently, “Please God, open the golden gate of heaven for dear Mannan Bhai.”
Mannan Bhai's sacrifice is a fascinating tale. An unnoticed common man of the village had set an example for creating the future of a good nation. Mannan Bhai tried to show us where to start from but we have largely ignored his example.
This is the story of a man, a fine human being and a hero. His balled of sacrifice should go down to generations. His is the spirit of the strong dutiful patriot of our country. Let us remember the sacrifice of Mannan Bhai who still struggles for survival on the bank of Pagolini River.

The writer is Freedom Fighter.

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