Gnawed by the tiger | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 23, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 23, 2013

Gnawed by the tiger

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In 1971, many deaths were violent and heart rendering. Pakistan Army and their collaborators employed many techniques for annihilation and elimination of the people of this country. They adopted new ideas for killing, starting from guns and bullets to primitive methods. Those were episodes of men's inhumanity to men. The people involved in the genocide were savage animals in human form. Sanctity of human lives were violated in extreme ways. Many victims faced those violent times with courage, fortitude and in the process perished. Each incident is a tale of pain and sorrow. Such an episode of extreme cruelty took place in the northern town of Thakurgaon.
The tragedy was of a young freedom fighter, Mohammad Salahuddin. In 1971, when the atrocities began, he was eighteen years old and a student of Surendranath College of Dinajpur. After the crackdown, Salahuddin, along with his peers crossed the border and reported to the youth camp at Moloy. From there the youth were taken to receive one month training at Panighata Muktijoddha Training Camp near Darjeeling. During the training, Salahuddin proved himself to be a strong and mentally robust young man. After finishing training, he joined the No. 6 sector and took part in operations in Godagaon and Pirganj. In each of the operations, he proved to be an able freedom fighter taking initiative and right decisions.
On 10 November 1971 morning, Salahuddin received a message from one of his known persons in Thakurgaon that Pakistan Army had abducted his father. Salahuddin was in great distress. Being the eldest son, he felt the responsibility to his family at the time of their distress. That afternoon he quietly left the camp, without any weapon, only confiding to one of his fellow freedom fighters. He told him that he would go home and return at the earliest. He walked 20 kilometers and reached near Thakurgaon. It was still dark and he quietly reached his home. Unfortunately, one of the Razakars saw him entering the house but Salahuddin had no knowledge of it. His parents were very surprised and overjoyed to see him after such a long time. He found his father at home who told him that he was not abducted by the military. Salahuddin understood that he had received a wrong message and there may be a trap awaiting him. He sought permission from his parents to leave immediately. His mother insisted that he should eat some rice and dal before departure and it will take minutes to prepare. As ill luck would have it, soon Pakistani troops and Razakars disembarking from the Army trucks surrounded his house. Captain Zaman of Pakistan Army shouted through megaphone for Salahuddin to come out or his family would be butchered. Salahuddin understood that it was not a warning but a final order and the Captain would show no mercy. He came out of his home and walked up to Captain Zaman. The soldiers immediately tied him up and put him behind the jeep. All the prayer of his parents for mercy bore no result.
Salahuddin was taken to Thakurgaon Army Camp, which was previously East Pakistan Rifle's Camp. He was produced before the commander of the camp Major Hassan Beg. Major Hassan Beg was a notorious and cruel officer who had carried out many acts of genocide in Thakurgaon area. Major Beg seemed pleased about the arrest of a freedom fighter and asked Captain Zaman to immediately start the process of interrogation. The soldiers first beat him mercilessly and then asked him questions on location of Mukti Bahini camps, their weapons, the identification of freedom fighters, their future operations, etc. Salahuddin refused to provide any information. The interrogation and torture went on for the whole day and night without any result. Major Beg was furious and had a plan for a heinous act of punishment.
Next morning, Razakars were seen on the streets of Thakurgaon riding on vans and announcing by mikes that there would be an exceptional entertaining show that day at noontime in the Army Camp. All interested people are welcome to witness the entertainment. People of Thakurgaon did not have any idea on the show but were suspicious of Major Beg's activities. People in general decided to stay indoor.
At noontime, a small crowd consisting of Razakars, peace committee members and non-Bengalis gathered in the Army Camp and they were escorted near a large cage. They saw in the cage two full-grown tigers and two calves. Major Beg had forcibly taken these tigers from a circus party. The tigers looked restless and hungry. The spectators first thought that Major Beg had brought them to show his prized possession.
They were proven wrong. After few minutes, they saw Salahuddin being dragged near the cage. His clothes bore mark of blood and he could not walk. It seemed his hands and legs were broken. The collaborators knew Salahuddin and that he had joined the Mukti Bahini. They also understood that he had been tortured very badly and were happy to see the distressful condition of a freedom fighter. Major Beg came up to Salahuddin and told him that this is the last opportunity he had to save his life; he could only save himself by giving the required information. Salahuddin gave a blank look at Major Beg and put his head high showing defiance. Major Beg was eager to glut his savage thrust with the blood of a maimed defenceless person.
Then happened an incident that people only read in the books covering the history of medieval Rome. Under instruction of Major Beg, the Pakistani soldiers tied the hands and legs of Salahuddin and threw him into the cage. Sounds of mockery from the heartless audience were heard. The two hungry tigers immediately jumped on him and had their teeth on his flesh. They tore his body apart and started eating parts of body with utmost satisfaction. Soon the two calves joined the feast.
After some time what remained was a pool of blood, few bones and torn pieces of cloth of freedom fighter Shaheed Mohammad Salahuddin. The tigers and the calves were still munching on the bones of Salahuddin. The unheard brutality, the mockery nothing mattered to Salahuddin any more. Defying the cruelty, until his last breath young Salahuddin was falling but not yielding and in the process returned to the Creator. Blood of the son of the soil mingled with the soil of Bangladesh.

The writer is a Freedom Fighter.

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