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Reminiscing Freedom in the Air

Kamal Lohani is a legendary journalist and an epic figure of cultural activism. Born on June 26, 1934, Lohani grew up witnessing the Indian independence movement, the partition, the language movement and the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.

In an interview with The Daily Star, the eminent journalist reminisced the Victory Day on December 16, 1971, when he was the news editor of the revolutionary radio station Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra that played an important role to inspire the nation in those days of struggle.

After the Kalurghat radio centre was bombed by the Pakistan Air Force on March 30 and was discarded, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, a clandestine radio station of the resistance, was formed and aired revolutionary programs from Baliganj Circular Road, Calcutta (now Kolkata).

The radio station became an invaluable instrument with programs like Charampatra, Agnishikha, Pindir Prolap, Darpan, Bajrakantha, Pratidhdhani, and Kathgorar Ashami to become the source of inspiration for the fearless freedom fighters in the battle fields as well as for the whole nation.

“On December 16, we were not sure that Pakistan Army will surrender until around 4:30pm when we received the confirmation. At that moment all of us were so overwhelmed with joy that we came out in the street and began shouting, chanting slogans and making noise with whatever he had around us,” Lohani said, as he walked down the memory lane to that moment of freedom in the air.

“Soon after, we prepared a five-line news bulletin to announce the victory against Pakistan forces and let the world know that we are now an independent nation. I feel proud that the news was presented on air in my voice, as my dear colleagues suggested I should be the one to read it,” he also said.

 “Among the other programs that day, there was a recital of Dhakay Swadhinotar Shurjo by my wife Dipti Lohani, who also wrote it, at 2:00pm. That was when we were expecting something to happen as we have been receiving the information of retreat of Pakistan forces in all fronts.”

“In the evening, MR Akhter Mukul presented his popular 8-10 minute satirical monologue of Charampatra, in which he mocked the Pakistani army while praising the bravery of our freedom fighters in local dialects,” Lohani further said.

Lohani’s eyes sparkled as he kept telling about his life as an activist during a time when activism meant raising your voice, hand in the air, rendering powerful, evocative songs against establishments and the wrong doings of the authorities.

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ABOUT FREEDOM IN THE AIR

Freedom in the air is a non-profit project aimed at building a rich repository for all sorts of contents on Bangladesh's Liberation War of 1971. Besides producing exclusive video interviews of war heroes and experts and a turn-by-turn daily interactive calendar of 1971, The Daily Star Online gathered very rare declassified diplomatic cables, the sensational Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report that proved genocide by Pakistan army, significant collection of rarely seen photographs and international newspaper reports. There is an exceptional collection of TV reports, video footages and documentaries which The Daily Star does not own but using with courtesy of the original owners and those who uploaded.