Tale of a martyr
CRUTCHER Kornel, one might be intrigued by the title of the book.. It starts with a quotation from Ho Chi Minh:
'Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.'
Even though the writer calls it a novel, it really depicts the life and fate of Colonel Taher, one of the sector commanders of the liberation war of Bangladesh. It is very informative and interesting as the narrator gives a vivid description of Taher's life, starting from his revolutionary days till his untimely death on the gallows. It is said that he walked on his wooden leg as he approached death. He is compared with Khudiram by some.
The entire book is divided into short chapters with suitable headings. So it's very easily grasped by the reader. The historical facts are also portrayed in vivid detail, so much so that the visual effect is almost there. The leftist movement in Bangladesh, the formation of the Awami League and the formation of the first government of Bangladesh, all are described here. Before that, how the partition of India and Pakistan took place is shown through the eyes of a Bengali revolutionary. The major event that shaped the formation of the new country named Bangladesh is the central focus in Crutcher Kornel. This starts with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's speech on the 7th of March. This was in fact the beginning of the birth of the nation. As his speech was going on, General Tikka Khan's plane landed at Dhaka Kurmitola Airport. Taher was sent to West Pakistan for training at this time as the people of East Pakistan were fighting for their freedom. This fight was in fact preceded by the Six Point demand of Bangabandhu and the electoral triumph of the Awami League in December 1970.
The Taher family, comprising ten children and including Ashrafunessa (Taher's mother) has been depicted with dexterity by Shahaduzzaman. A simple village woman who reared so many children but with such perseverance that all of them were united and ready to sacrifice their lives for their motherland at a time of crisis. As children they shared the household work according to their mother's instructions. They were trained not be bow down under even the most severe pressure. In later years we see them standing close to one another in the battlefield; even when Colonel Taher lost his leg most of his siblings were in close proximity. Taher's wife and children were sent away to live in IshwarGanj, Lutfa's native town, while his parents and sister were arrested and were confined in Mymensingh circuit house. One of his brothers was sent off to West Pakistan. Taher was busy planning the most critical episode of the war, the Kamalpur operation. Major Zia was already planning an attack in Kamalpur on 3 July but was unsuccessful in occupying it. So General Osmani later gave orders to Taher to attack Kamalpur. The date was 14September, Taher's birthday. It was on that day he got shot in his leg. He was taken to Gauhati for his treatment. The country was liberated by the time he got back. He came back to the country in 1972 with an amputated leg and a crutch. He was awarded the highest title 'Bir Uttom' for his contribution to the war of independence. His rank was upgraded to colonel and he was appointed adjutant general of the army. Colonel Taher was not content with the state of the country; he always talked about the unfinished war. To him the war meant rebuilding the nation. He never considered himself as an invalid and refused to join the forum of wounded freedom fighters. The condition of the war battered country and the deeds of the Awami League right after the war pained him, to a point where he dreamt of a revolution to bring about change in the country.
Sheikh Mujib was assassinated by a group of army officers on 15 August 1975. Then the political scene in Bangladesh changed completely. Colonel Taher was informed about the killing on the same day and he refused to be part of the game. Even then Taher was suspected to have been associated with the evil deeds of 15 August. Then there was the jail killing of 3 November, followed by the rebellion of 7 November. He had to pay a heavy price for his revolutionary role. He was hanged after a sham of a trial in July 1976.
The book is well written and keeps the reader glued to its pages till the very end. Even though the writer says that it is a historical novel based on research work, the questions about the conversations, the chronology of events, if they did actually take place, are not answered. If it is a work of fiction then it is accepted that it is all imaginary. But then most of the characters in the book are still living. That would put the book in the non-fiction category.