When Mirpur stood liberated | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 31, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 31, 2011

When Mirpur stood liberated

Let us get the facts straight. When Bangladesh stood liberated, as a whole, on December 16, 1971, there were yet small pockets where Pakistan's defeated soldiers were putting up last ditch resistance. That resistance would come to an end within days. But there was, unbelievably, one small portion of the country which non-Bengali collaborators of the Pakistan occupation army kept in their grip for a month and a half after liberation.
Mirpur, right here in the centre of the capital and peopled by Biharis who had emigrated to Pakistan at the time of the partition of India in 1947, was clearly in little mood to give in. There was the Indian army which clearly felt that any attempt to storm Mirpur would leave a lot of casualties, for the non-Bengalis were armed to the teeth.
And here is the reason why the Biharis were so adamant about keeping the state of Bangladesh at bay, despite the clear indication that with Pakistan itself gone they could not hold out for long. A number of leading figures among the community, having actively assisted the Pakistan military in the formation of such killing squads as Razakars, al-Badr and al-Shams, were now in possession of large cache of arms left in their hands by the Pakistanis.
There is Quazi Rosy to tell you all about it. And there is Syed Shahidul Haque, popularly known as Mama, to remind you of the gathering gloom which would descend on the Bengalis inhabiting Mirpur in the stirring times that were 1971. Even as a resurgent Bengali nation, led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, brought Pakistan to a grinding halt in March 1971, the non-Bengalis in Mirpur went on a spree of coercion and intimidation of the Bengali population in the locality.
Hartals were conspicuous by their non-observance. Every day that went by, even as the regime engaged in what would turn out to be a fictitious attempt at a settlement with the Awami League leadership, the Mirpur non-Bengalis picked fights on the flimsiest of pretexts with their Bengali neighbours. Mama reminds you of the notoriety typified by the likes of Akhtar Goonda. And what happened to Akhtar Goonda later? He was put on a list of distressed stranded Pakistanis after 1971 (in the Ziaur Rahman years) and sent off to Pakistan.
The tragedy for Bangladesh has been two-fold. In the first place, there has been a systematic distortion of history. In the second, there is the inexcusable historical amnesia we have suffered from. How many of us remember the incidents and events shaping themselves around Mirpur Bengali Medium High School in 1971? There are, even today, those living embodiments of Pakistani terror some of you might spot on your way home.
The graphic arts institute and the physical training institute in Lalmatia (and you see them opposite Mohammadpur police station) were the dark caves where hundreds of Bengalis were brutalised in medieval ferocity by the local collaborators of the occupation army.
There were the Bengali collaborators and then there were the Biharis from Mirpur. For them, the moment of glory came encapsulated between March 25, 1971 and January 30, 1972. It all began, in its blood-curdling form, when on March 27, 1971 (and this was the time when the army was massacring Bengali academics, students and other citizens all across Dhaka) the non-Bengalis stormed the home of the poet Meherunnissa in Mirpur. One by one they hacked her family to death before tearing her apart.
Into this killing field stepped the fledgling Bangladesh military in the last days of January 1972. On January 30, as the soldiers prepared to enter Mirpur and liberate it, film maker and writer Zahir Raihan linked up with them. He had earlier been informed by a voice over telephone that he would be able to find his sibling Shahidullah Kaiser, kidnapped by the al-Badr on the eve of liberation in December, in Mirpur. He dashed off, would not wait till the operation against the armed collaborators was over. He would lose his life as the Biharis opened fire on the soldiers.
So would many of the brave men who had set out to free Bangladesh of the last vestiges of Pakistani occupation. One of the soldiers who survived the massacre swears he saw Zahir Raihan's corpse. And then the corpse, along with other corpses, simply vanished. No one knows where Raihan's remains and the remains of the others lie.
Mirpur stood liberated, eventually, on January 31, 1972. It came at a cost. Those who lived to tell the tale might tell you all about it again. Helal Morshed Khan, Ainuddin, Amir Hossain, Mokhlesur Rahman, Osman Haider Chowdhury are the names you remember. Read Julfikar Ali Manik's revealing Muktijuddher Shesh Ronangon Mirpur.
Postscript: The discovery of human bones, along with remnants of clothing, medicines and other items beneath Noori mosque in Mirpur Section 12 in 1999 triggered a new search for the remains of those who were murdered on January 30, 1972. We may never know who the owners of the bones were. But those bones speak for us, of us. They are us.

Syed Badrul Ahsan Is Editor, Current Affairs,
The Daily Star.
E-mail: Bahsantareq@yahoo.co.uk

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