“I read the last news announcing the victory on the eve of December 16, 1971” -- Aly Zaker
Renowned theatre actor-director and a familiar face on TV, Aly Zaker, had made significant contributions to our Liberation War. In the war he served not as a cultural activist, but as a war correspondent of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, the radio station that worked as the mouthpiece of the freedom struggle of Bangladesh in 1971.
Going back to those days, Zaker said, "In my student life, I was an activist of East Pakistan Students' Union and was involved with movements against the Ayub Khan regime. To me the independence of Bangladesh was urgent as I thought it is very important to defend our cultural identity. That's why I strongly believed that the country would be liberated sooner or later. I couldn't live in a colonised country."
After completing his studies Zaker took on a lucrative job. Neither was he purely a cultural activist nor a political figure. He was involved with the organisational works of Chhayanat. However, the resistance of the Bengalis from every sector of society against the 'crack down' on March 25 night by the Pakistan Army inspired him to give up his job, and he actively participated in the war.
"On March 25 night I lived opposite the Rajarbag Police line, where the Pakistani Army carried out a massacre. I also observed the resistance of Bengali policemen against the oppressors. This incident had a great impact on me and I decided to join in the war effort.
"Seeing the genocide at the hands of the Pakistani Army, my family and I left Dhaka at the end of March 1971," recalls Zaker. On April 12, Zaker crossed the border. "Going to India I first decided to be a Freedom Fighter. However I was not recruited because of my poor eyesight. On being rejected, I became frustrated. Then I came across a wonderful opportunity. Out of the blue I met filmmaker Alamgir Kabir on a footpath in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He suggested that I should join Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra."At the radio station Zaker served as a reporter-producer of an English news programme, which aired reports on the war. He was a correspondent and political commentator. In addition, he used to translate and read speeches by the then Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed and the then acting president Nazrul Islam. Alamgir Kabir was the programme co-ordinator. And the hour-long programme used to go on air daily at 8:30 pm.
Zaker said, "Our aim was to unveil the truth of the war to the outer world as well as to protest the cover ups by the Pakistani media. We used to read the excerpts of the comments published on the foreign journals on our Liberation War to let the world know about different interpretations of the war."
As a reporter carrying a simple recorder, Aly Zaker wandered around camps and bunkers of the Freedom Fighters at the Northeast and Southeast region of the country and returned to the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra to air it on the radio. Recalling this golden moment of his life, Zaker said, "That experience makes me proud. I consider myself fortunate that I could interview sector commanders, sub-sector commanders and even I covered news from the bunkers while firing was on."
"I read the last news announcing the victory on the eve of December 16, 1971," he said. To quote him, "When I heard the news that the Pakistani Army had surrendered, I could not control my emotion. That was a dramatic moment of my life. I fell on the ground and burst into tears."
Zaker believes that his activities during the Liberation War have shaped his personality as an individual.
The article is a reprint from an earlier version.