My blood will hasten the liberation of my sacred land | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 22, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 22, 2012

My blood will hasten the liberation of my sacred land

Siddiq Salik was born in Punjab. He completed his post graduation from Punjab University in English Literature and later on in International Affairs. Although he began his profession as a teacher and then became a journalist, he found his true calling when he enlisted in the Pakistan Army. In January 1970, he was posted to East Pakistan. On 16 December 1971, he along with other Pakistanis surrendered to the Joint Command of Indian and Bangladesh Forces. He held the rank of a Brigadier when he died in the plane crash that also killed Pakistan's President General Ziaul Haque.
Siddiq Salik authored “Witness to Surrender” based on his experiences in 1971 in Bangladesh. In page 104 of the book, he wrote:
“Their sabotage inventory included damage to, or destruction of, 231 bridges, 122 railway lines and 90 electric installations. They could not reach this figure without a high degree of motivation. Here is an example of their spirit. A Bengali lad was arrested in Rohanpura area (Rajshahi District) in June 1971, for an attempted act of sabotage. He was brought to the company headquarter for interrogation but refused to divulge any information. When all other methods had failed, Major 'R' put his sten-gun on his chest and said, 'This is the last chance for you. If you don't co-operate, the bullets will pierce through your body.' He bowed down, kissed the ground, stood up and said, 'I am ready to die, now. My blood will certainly hasten the liberation of my sacred land.'”
I was intrigued by this passage. It was a significant acknowledgement of the impression left by a mere boy of seventeen on a well-trained professional military officer in the midst of war. I wanted to know more about this freedom fighter, where he came from and his contribution in our struggle for independence. Without wasting anytime, I traveled to Rohanpur, which in 1971 was in the Rajshahi district, where Sadiq had this remarkable encounter.
In 1971, the 25 Punjab Regiment was deployed in and around Rohanpur several times. They were based mainly out of the Ahmadi Begum High School. Their deployment was a highly strategic one Rohanpur was the site of the last rail station near the Indian border. A Major Mohammad Yunus was the Commander of the Pakistan Army in the area and was responsible for carrying out massive atrocities in the area. The major appears in the list of war criminals prepared by Bangladesh Government and he is listed as POW 595.
In 1971, Rohanpur had three railway bridges of which the Mukti Bahini destroyed one. Following its destruction, the Pakistan Army captured a young man Hassan Ali from his residence on June 4, 1971. A number of Freedom Fighters and villagers who were in custody in the Army camp remembered him being brutally interrogated. They also recall hearing gun shot and saw him being dragged away. His body was never found.
Hassan Ali came from a very humble background and was the son of Jhabu Mondal and Khushimonnesa. At the age of seventeen, he joined the Ansars. When the Liberation War began, he immediately crossed over to India and joined a training camp near Maldah. He and his team were assigned to destroy the third bridge in Rohanpur to cut off the Pakistan Army's line of communication. On June 3, 1971, after the successful completion of his mission, Hassan Ali went to see his family. His mother insisted on cooking some rice and daal before he returned to the Mukti Bahini camp. When Hassan went to wash his hands before the Fazr prayers, the Pakistan Army and a group of razakars who beat him and dragged him back to their camp.Villagers remember seeing him being tied to a tree and being beaten mercilessly in the Army camp area.
The young boy mentioned in Siddiq Salik's memoir of 1971 was none other than seventeen year old Hassan Ali. It was he who Salik mentioned of kissing the earth and declaring that he was ready to die if his blood would hasten the liberation of his land. It was Major Yunus who shot him to death when he could not extract information about the Muktijoddhas from the young man. Yunus fired bullets into his body, but could he triumph in the killing of a warrior who had no fear of death?
In his memoir, Salik states: “It was not an easy job for the Army to stamp out insurgents so sophisticated in technique and so highly motivated.” In so doing, he paid a grudging tribute to Muktijoddha Hassan Ali and all his fallen comrades of 1971. In not being able to forget, he immortalized the courage of a young man who was unafraid to die in his struggle to free his motherland.
Hassan Ali's extraordinary courage in the face of certain death is a testimony to the determination of the ordinary people of Bangladesh who refused to surrender their dream of a liberated homeland. His unflinching valor is a powerful source of inspiration for people young and old, and a humbling reminder of the price paid by those who fought for the independence of this country, so we could be free.

The writer is a Freedom fighter, Researcher and Author.

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