Road to freedom

Events preceding the war

Shahnaz Parveen

Awami League's unprecedented victory in the National Assembly election on 7 December 1970 came as a massive blow for the ruling military junta of West Pakistan. It was the first National Assembly election in 23 years, after the formation of Pakistan in 1947. The result was upsetting for the Pakistani rulers as it was beyond their calculation. Out of 300 National Assembly seats Awami League won 167. Even Awami League gained sweeping victory in the Provincial Assembly election of December 17 as well, winning all but 2 of the 162 seats. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, being the lawful claimant, was in the potential position to form a government. Consequently the people from all corners desired transfer of power to the elected representatives of East Pakistan. But it was unlikely to happen as the military rulers planned otherwise.

Few days after the election result, clouds started to darken the sky. Political scene became intense as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto firmly opposed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's six-point demand declared in 1966. Bhutto's thoughts were shared by the West Pakistani military generals. Six-point demand, which alluded to the autonomy of East Pakistan, immediately became very popular among the mass people. This announcement displeased the West Pakistani rulers at that time. They viewed it as a sign of defiance.

Negotiations begin
Pakistani generals feared that Awami League now being in a powerful position after the election result might try to execute the six-point demand. Amidst this intense situation, President Yahya Khan visited Dhaka on 11 January 1971. He even addressed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib as the 'would be Prime Minister" of Pakistan. Negotiations took place and Yahya stipulated on the cutback of demand for autonomy. Mujib boldly refused any concession on the issue. Yahya went back to Pakistan.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Dhaka on 27 January 1971. More negotiations took place. However, Bhutto-Mujib talks failed to resolve the situation. On 12 February President Yahya announced that the National Assembly is to be held on March 3rd in Dhaka.

Events afterwards substantiated the fact that the negotiation and the subsequent announcement were merely a formality. But On 13th February 1971, just after Yahya's announcement of the National Assembly date, Bhutto stunned everyone at the political scene. He announced that his party would not go to Dhaka to join the Assembly. Political leaders of Pakistan criticised Bhutto for this statement. Elected representatives of West Pakistan including Wali Khan, G. M. Syad and Maolana Mufti later arrived in Dhaka even after Bhutto's announcement. They called on Mujib and expressed their support for the democratic cause.

Traitor Pakistanis and defiant Bangalees
Bhutto threatened to launch a general strike throughout Pakistan if the Assembly was held in scheduled time. By now the people of East Pakistan was convinced that the Pakistani rulers would not let a Bengali rule the country. West Pakistan's positive response to Bhutto's threat was yet another proof of this presumption. On 1st March Yahya postponed the assembly. The declaration ignited the fire. Eventually tension escalated. People burst out on the streets with protest rallies. Continuous slogans condemning Pakistani rulers echoed in the streets of Dhaka. They chanted 'Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, tomar amar thikana'.

On 2nd March, Hartal was observed by the entire nation. Red and green flag with yellow map of Bangladesh in centre flapped in the air on this day. Students of Dhaka University hoist it up at Bot tola, in front of the Kala Bhavan. They burned Pakistani flag. Army killed two young demonstrators; thousands continued marching the streets of Dhaka and other cities, raising militant slogans, 'Bir bangali austro dhoro Bangladesh swadhin koro'. A curfew was imposed. Troops armed with latest weapons moved around the city to enforce it. Agitated demonstrators defied the curfew and clashed with the troops, losing six persons. More hartals followed. Six-point demand was gradually turning into a one-point demand among the mass. Freedom became the one and only obsession for the entire nation.

Non cooperation movement
Non-cooperation movement was called on March 3rd. Complete shut down of the entire nation was the response. No one went to the office from this day. Schools were closed. Black flag fluttered on the rooftop of every building. Cultural organisations such as Udichi Shilpi Goshthi, Betar-Television Shilpi Shangshad, Mohila Parishad, arranged street drama, gono shangit, and meetings, conveying the message of freedom to the general people. Lawyers of High court, employees of deferent private organisations, civil servants, joined the movement.

People participated in the protests in their very own way. Gradually they came forward with a remarkable idea of protest. On 4th March, the name 'Radio Pakistan' was altered to 'Dhaka Betar Kendro'.

On 6th March, Yahya in another futile effort tried to convince the raging people with an announcement that the assembly will be held on 25 March. The announcement was followed by the appointment of infamous Tikka Khan as the Governor of East Pakistan. The people of Bangladesh will not be deceived any more. They deemed this announcement as another mischievous scheme of the wicked Pakistanis.

Thinkers of deferent media joined forces with the protesting people. It gave a new dimension to people's dream. On this day the cultural activists of Betar and TV declined to join any programmes.

March 7: History was made
The historical event that strengthened the courage of the entire nation was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's speech at Race Course Maidan. It was March 7, people waited eagerly for the meeting. Freedom beckoned and they were already prepared to fight for it. All they needed was a boost from their leader. The meeting was due in the afternoon. No one waited till then. People started to gather from early noon with flags and bamboo sticks in their hand. Several hundred thousand attended the meeting. Those who did not live in Dhaka waited for the relay transmission of the speech on the radio. On this day Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib elevated the inner strength of the people present in the meeting with his raged words. "Ebarer shangram muktir shangram, ebarer shangram shadhinotar shongram", he proclaimed before the mass people.

The Martial Law authority postponed relay transmission of this historical speech. This act enraged the employees of the radio. They protested by shutting down all the transmissions. Postponement of the relay transmission did not stop the progress of denunciation. The massage was conveyed to the entire nation.

Preparation for armed struggle
Non-cooperation was now in full fledge. From 8th March, people started collecting arms and ammunition from the stores all over the country. Chatra Union started military training at the Dhaka University campus with dummy rifles. Cinema halls all around the country stopped screening Urdu cinemas from this day. Starting from Chatra League, deferent organisations obliterated the word Pakistan from their names. Rejection of the Pakistani rule continued.

The flames of freedom touched the expatriate Bangalis as well. They could no longer ignore the force. Expatriate Bangalis organised a protest rally in London, U.K., demanding independence for East Pakistan. More than ten thousand attended the rally.

Countdown to war
Every day of March in 1971 was extraordinary and left
its mark in the history book. On March 9, Maolana Bhashani shunned the Pakistani junta in his Paltan speech. He proclaimed, "Relationship with Pakistan is over". Official oath taking of Tikka Khan was scheduled on this day. Chief Justice of the High court B. A. Siddiki was in charge of swearing him in. He bravely refused to carry on with the task. This was considered as one of the most striking event of that time.

In the meanwhile foreign delegates present in Bangladesh during that time anticipated more intensity in the situation. The then Secretary General of United Nations, U Thant asked the local UN employees to leave Bangladesh, then East Pakistan. Just after that, Japanese and the West German governments also announced that they would be sending chartered planes to evacuate their citizens.

On March 10, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman issued a statement declaring that "the responsibility of the United Nations does not end with the evacuation of their employees from a troubled area. The threat that we are facing today is of genocide. It is a threat which is in violation of the UN charter that protects the basic human rights of seven and a half crore people of this country".

On 11 March teachers of Engineers University with the supervision of Dr. Nurul Ula built a secret radio station. 12 March cultural activist announced that from now on Shapla will be our national flower. On this day, Charushilpi Shangram Parishad was formed with artist Kaium Chowdhury and Murtoza Bashir in the front.

On 12 March, Bangali officials in the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) and of the East Pakistan Civil Service (EPCS) announced their complete support to the non-cooperation movement. In a unique gesture, they announced that they would contribute a day's salary to the Awami League Relief Fund.

From March 14, Intellectuals started rejecting titles given to them by the Pakistani government. This act of uprising started with Shilpacharjya Jainul Abedin rejecting his Helal Imtiaz title. Many others followed this courageous trend afterwards.

Amidst the non-cooperation movement Yahya once again visited Dhaka. He arrived on 15th March and from 16th he joined in another series of meeting with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. Key demand made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was that 'military be sent back to the barrack, transfer of power to the elected representative and the killers of Bangalis in the shootouts be put on trial'. Second meeting on 17 March was held for a very short period of time. On this day it became quite evident that the negotiation is about to fail. It was apprehended that the meeting was a final bid to buy more time for troop movement and preparation for a severe onslaught. Yahya planned a huge military assault with his advisors while the meeting went on. With the help of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and National Shipping Corporation (NSC), Yahya continued shifting troops and armaments to East Pakistan.

March 18 was one of the most haunting days for the Bangalees. On this day the Pakistani generals sketched the plan to eliminate all defying forces in East Pakistan. Gen. Khadim Raja and Maj. Gen. Rao Farman Ali made a draft of the basic operational plan, which was named 'Operation Searchlight'. A brutal offensive was speculated. People were getting ready as well with whatever weapons they had. It was on this day retired air force recruits declared that they were ready to fight guerrilla warfare like Vietnam. Mahila Parishad started giving special training to women from this day.

Just before the massive offensive, fragmented war started. On March 19, Punjabi officers at Joydevpur killed several Bangali officers, which enraged fellow officers in the force. A section of Bangali officers started fighting with Panjabi officers. General people of the locality joined with them. To prevent demonstration a 29-hour curfew was declared. When the curfew ended people instantly returned to the streets and continued with their protests. All around Bangladesh this incident was denounced amidst public meetings and rallies.

20th March is a black day in Bangladeshi history. It was the last day of negotiation. On this day the army command approved the 18th March draft of 'Operation Searchlight' prepared by Rao Farman Ali and Khadim Raja with slight modifications. Bhutto unexpectedly arrived in Dhaka after declining to do so for several times. The mass people immediately condemned Bhutto's arrival. On the same day, members of Gonobahini trained by Chatra Union paraded the streets of Dhaka with dummy rifles, creating an excitement among the mass people. This further heightened the Bangali spirit.

Mar 23 was the anniversary of the Pakistan Day. On this day in 1940, Sher-e-Bangla A. K. Fazlul Haque presented the Lahore Resolution. In 1956 the constitution of Pakistan was written on this day. March 23 already left its mark in the history and it again created a new one. In an amazing development, the Awami League declared this day a 'Resistance Day'. Pakistani flags were burnt, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's portraits were torn down and his effigy was burnt. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib himself hoists the flag of Bangladesh in his residence at Dhanmondi 32. The Radio Pakistan stationed in Dhaka started to refer itself as Radio Dhaka. The Radio and Television played Rabindranath's 'Amar sonar Bangla' as the new national anthem. The Bengali youths chanted 'Joi Bangla' slogans vehemently. The day became more exciting when British High Commission and Soviet consulate hoisted new Bangladeshi flag.

The day of the ultimate event was drawing near. Preparation for the final evil doing was going on. Pakistani military was transporting large amount of armaments via Chittagong port, as air space over India was restricted for Pakistani aircrafts. On 24 March port workers refused to unload arms and ammunition from M. V. Sowat. This incident turned violent. In an unruly firing the military killed several port workers. People of Chittagong created barricade. They will not let them shift the weapons.

Then the brutal attack on innocents
By 25 March 1971, Pakistan was prepared to crush the defying Bangalis forever. During the day there were rumours among the people about a possible strike. Dead at night Yahya with his advisors secretly ran away to Pakistan by a special flight giving full command to the armed forces. Silence of the night was violated with the sounds of Mortar shells, firing Rifles and heavy tanks. The rampaged killing under the command of Tikka Khan started from the Rajarbag Police line, Pilkhana EPR barracks and Dhaka University halls. All night long gruesome killing of innocent people continued. The cruel Pakistani army set fire to houses, raped and killed female students of Rokeya Hall DU. Screams of terrified people were heard from distant areas. Tracer shells reflected in dark sky of the night. Number of death was innumerable. On this night they arrested Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib and later flew him to Karachi. This genocide shocked the humanity. The world later came to know of this ghastly episode and was stunned.

The members of East Bengal Regiment, EPR and Police along with the people put up resistance to the Pakistani killers. Chittagong became a strong centre of resistance. The radio of Independent Bengal operated from the 26th to 30th March from this port city. On 27th March Major Zia made a valiant call to his countryman. He said,

"I Major Zia of Bengal Liberation Army. This is Major Zia, the leader of Bengal Liberation Army, speaking on the support of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's liberation movement… Under circumstances however I hereby declare myself as a Provisional Head of the Swadhin Bangla Liberation Government under guidance of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. At this moment we have to fight united. By the grace of God, we will capture all Punjabi traitor in a matter of one or two days and free Bangladesh of all these menaces. Joi Bangla".

For millions of Bangalees, the struggle had been going on for a long…long time. They wanted to free themselves from the atrocity of the Pakistani evils right from the beginning. The genocide of March 25 night was the ultimate blast-off of the armed resistance and this announcement was the final boost. The most ferocious weapons that the people of Bangladesh had was courage, which was manifested during the 9 months of Liberation War.
Sources: Hajar Bochorer Bangladesh by Dr. Mohammad Hannan, Ekatturer Dinguli by Jahanara Imam, Bangladesher Taarikh by Habibur Rahman. Some information were also taken from

Guard of honour at Mujibnagar

Mahbubuddin Ahmed, Bir Bikram

7th April of 1971 dawned on us brightly with a touch of serenity and sublime humidity left by the preceding night's squally gusts of wind which left many giant trees uprooted, branches broken and baby mangoes strewn all over. Hundreds of giant mango trees, some half a century old, all planted in a geometric fashion, wore a serene and fresh look washed by rain water. The garden and the surrounding area were damp, and droplets of water remained embedded on tree leaves and grasstops like glowing emerald.

Morning dew and raindrops mingled with glittering sun rays permeating the leaves of tree tops. The buzz of cool morning breeze resounding with the rustle of fallen leaves created an air of heavenly bliss all around. The azure blue hot summer sky laden with floating nimbuses allowed the midmorning sunshine to play with the floating raindrops suspended in the air creating specs of rainbows bemused the atmosphere.

Everybody around was busy trying to put up a makeshift stage. Wooden "charpies" were taken out from some poor men's bedroom to make a raised platform. Someone brought in a mike while yet another fetched a few chairs and spread sheets from the neighbouring church. Some bamboo pieces were cut down from the jungle and ropes were to be had from a home nearby. A group of boys from the neighbourhood under the guidance of Shabuddin Sentu was practising national anthem in a chorus. Even a harmonium, a few tablas and a table were procured. Participants included Asad, Stephen Pinto Biswas and Monsur Molla. ASM Rab joined them at the last moment. Persons were being organised for recital from the holy books. Eventually, however, only Quranic verses were recited during the ceremony.

A large contingent of civis clad soldiers from the Indian side could be seen standing behind tree trunks purportedly guarding the place from any enemy attack. The Indian border outpost could be seen nearby. The place we gathered at was hardly far from the Indian border.

A flag was tied to an indigenously crafted flagpole made out of a cut piece of bamboo fixed in front of the stage. The platform was set up under a huge mango tree with its foliage spread over as an all pervading big umbrella and the budding mangoes hanging like lollypops between the thick green leaves made the greener by the previous night's freshening episode of rain and wind.

Earlier on the morning of 15th April, however, a scheduled installation ceremony of the government-in-exile at Chuadanga had to be postponed with a decision promptly taken to shift the venue to a safer place: Baiddanathtala was selected. This was perhaps aired to the BSF by the Indians, because some BSF people started to clean the designated venue of shrubs and foliages to set up a stage and in their efforts they quietly sought help from some local youths, viz, Emdad, Shelly, Jelly, Shari, Karam Ali, Munshi Shakhawat Hossain and some Chowkidars and Dafadars. These people maintained considerable secrecy about the matter during the next few hours.

Away at Meherpur, we had heard rumours on the evening before that something momentous was going to happen in Baiddanathtala the following morning. We also heard, while in Chuadanga, that a government was formed in-exile after a lot of deliberations in Agartala by the MPAs and MNAs elect who had managed to reach the safety of the Indian side of the border. This was announced by Tazuddin Ahmed over Akashbani Calcutta on the 10th April night. And, our headquarters in Chuadanga was also considered safe to install a government on 15th April. But as our wholesale withdrawal started even beyond Chuadanga by that fateful day it was put off for a safer and convenient date and place. On the morning of 17th, my friend Towfique, then SDO Meherpur, informed me that the postponed ceremony was to take place at Baiddanathtala that very morning. And, we had to rush.

This place was considered safe because it was an enclave which could not be attacked from the air without crossing Indian airspace. For greater safety, Indian commandoes were put on guard, thinly beyond normal perception in civilian clothes. It was tactical to keep off any possible curiosity about it on the part of foreign journalists. Bangladesh leaders and the authority in India both wanted to make sure that the show appeared to be fully organised by and under the control of the Bangladesh government in exile.

Towfique and I set out early in the morning for Baiddanathtala. As there was a very weak old rotten wooden bridge over the river Bhairab between the villages Dariapur and Monakhali, we had to put reinforcement on the fledgling planks to drive our jeeps through. And, to cross the narrow channels, we had to resort to innovative driving aided by push and pull by local people all the time chanting Joy Bangla. The village roads basically had herring bond redtops broken all over with intermittent mud and slush and were slippery and difficult to negotiate.

The same road still exists but gone are the difficulties. Instead, we have today a black top metalled road.

Anyway, by about 10 in the morning, we managed to reach our destination. It was a big mango groove surrounded by green paddy fields, small hutments, mud houses and many mango gardens all around. There was a church in the vicinity. We halted at the border outpost manned by some EPR men who, as you know, had joined our ranks on the fateful night of 25th March and were guarding the border on our behalf. By the time we arrived at the place it was humming with people converging from different directions. Many young people with firearms could be seen loitering. Within a short time the entire garden was abuzz with "Joy Bangla" chants.

By then, Joy Bangla had become our war cry. It gave us rhythm and inspiration in our moments of danger as well as glory. It became a part of our independence war saga. People embraced death shouting it. People wrote this mantra with blood while in captivity; this was a magical slogan which united the Bengalee nation like a rock behind Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib.

By about 11am we heard the honking of motor cars coming along the kutcha road running almost parallal to the border. Quite a few ambassadors carrying a large number of journalists and our leaders-in-exile suddenly appeared. The whole place dramatically took a festive look with clicks and flashes of camera. As soon as he alighted from a car one journalist started counting the number of steps taken to trek from the nearest point of the border to the stage. I saw this with interest and when he had finished I asked him what he was doing. He said that he was measuring the distance of Indian border from the place where the provisional Government of Bangladesh was going to take oath. It was hardly 300 steps, he said.

All the VIPs were ushered into the EPR outpost. While organisers of the event under the able guidance of the mighty SDO Towfique was proceeding smoothly, journalists were mingling with people and collecting latest information about the current military and political situation obtaining in the country. Among those who came with the entourage were Syed Nazrul, Tazuddin Ahmed, Monsur Ali, Quamruzzaman, Yusuf Ali, Abdul Mannan, Barrister Amirul Islam, Abdur Razzak, Tofail Ahmed, Abdul Quddus Makhan, ASM Rab, Noor-e-Alam Siddiqy, MAG Osmani, Noorul Quader Khan. Nearly a hundred journalists from all over the world came, including quite a few from the major Indian newspapers. There were Aminul Huq Badsha, and many others whom, I did not know at that time. Some local MNAs and MPAs elect including Dr Ashabul Huq and AL party stalwarts of the surrounding areas arrived with their many supporters chanting different slogans. People from all walks of life converged to have a look at the leaders and the ceremony unfolding. Many important persons also missed the occasion as the information was kept secret for reasons of safety.

I was busy talking to some journalists and the commandoes guarding the place. A jeepload of soldiers who had fallen back with me all the way from Jhenidah had accompanied me. They were gossiping under the cool shadow of the mango trees. It was about half an hour after the arrival of the guests when Towfique came running, a little disturbed, and exclaimed, "Osman Bhai has not arrived yet. Time is running out. The guests are in a hurry. Can you suggest what should I do?" Elaborating, he said, "Osman Bhai was asked to come prepared to organise guard of honour for the President after the oath-taking. He has not shown up." I told him, "Don't worry, I can do it." "Sure you can," Towfique nodded. I said, "Yes, of course. I myself visited many ceremonial guards of honour in the police academy as a training requirement. Besides, as Sub-divisional Police Officer I had to inspect guard every week. So, I know the drill and you need not worry. You prepare the guests, I prepare my boys. Go!"

Towfique was relieved of a great burden, it appeared. I went to a side and called my soldiers. I also asked them to call others who could be found in uniform and fall in line for a parade. Not many were found in uniform. Those who wore uniforms were not shipshape. Most of them have been sporting the same outfit for weeks with nothing to change. Some had tattered apparels and creaky boots. Some had bayonets fixed, others did not have any. It was a motely formation, if you like, with or without helmets, camouflage or no camouflage; "kisti topies" worn by some, others with police blue berets and myself wearing a green beret, one presented to me by Maj Osman on the day I was turned from a police officer into a Muktibahini captain to command troops in the battle fronts.

In fact, there was nothing uniform, except, of course, the 303 rifles and the firm determination and patriotism to destroy the Pak army wherever and however found. Hardly a dozen people drawn from as many as four different sources viz. Police, Ansar, EPR and civilian youth were on hand. I commanded them to stand in two rows with myself in front and carried out several chores of rehearsal. We practised shouldier arms and present arms several times. I had a .38 calibre revolver in my holster hung on the left side of my belt. I tried to command with a loud voice. It took about ten minutes to get ready.

In the meantime leaders were being introduced to the crowd, nay to the world press, as members of the cabinet. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib was named President of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and Nazrul Islam the Vice President. Tazuddin Ahmed was declared Prime Minister with Monsur Ali as Finance Minister and Quamruzzaman as Minister for Relief and Rehab. MAG Osmany was introduced as Commander of the three services. Chief Whip Yusuf Ali administered the oath of office. In the absence of President who was in custody of the enemy, Syed Nazrul Islam, the Vice-president was made Acting President. Once the cabinet was announced, oath of office administered, and the green flag of Bangladesh with the red disc in the centre hallowed by the golden map of Bangladesh was raised with the rendering of Amar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tomai Bhalobashi, the entire gathering raised Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu slogans in unison. The whole garden appeared to me to be trembling with joy.

As soon as the flag hoisting and rendition of the national anthem synchronised, I raised my voice to the extreme and commanded PRESENT ARMS in honour of MY FLAG heralding our identity to the world. When the flag reached the top of the pole it was tied, and Syed Nazrul Islam, the Acting President of The People's Republic of Bangladesh, appeared at the centre of the dais with MAG Osmany one step behind him on his right, clad in khaki and Tajuddin watching from the ground near the left end of the dais. In front of them and around the dais was the delirious crowd while my troops and I were facing them. Between the raising of the flag and the tying seconds I had commanded my troops back to attention with "order arms" and readied them for PRESIDENT SALUTE. Syed Nazrul Islam's face was as determined as ours and the crowd was vibrant and wild with excitement. In a moment there was pin drop silence as the Acting President stood in front of us beaming with the pride of conviction. I felt my breath rising as I once again raised my voice to the extreme pitch and commanded shoulder arms and with a thud the rifles went up to the soldiers and were placed slanted at 45 degrees. My voice was already breaking but I could care a fig. With all the strength left in me I shouted PRESENT ARMS. With double thuds the rifles behind me went up and stood erect and still in front of every soldier. The band of rifles stood unwavering like up-jutting minarets ready to pierce through the webs of Pakistani brutality and murder.

Across the thick green canopy of mango forest and beyond, the bright blue summer sky sparkling sun rays were pouring like gold dusts, while I raised my right hand in SALUTE and so did the PRESIDENT in response. Everybody around came to virtual attention at that moment. A gust of wind suddenly appeared and the flag started fluttering and flying on the flagpole like a live entity. My heart was vibrating like the flag itself and I felt the wind touching the flag was carrying the message of the nation's birth as far as it would go. With it another burst of Joy Bangla Joy Bangabandhu, Padma Meghna Jamuna Tomar Amar Thikana, and yet another and then another, in thousands of voices multiplied umpteenth time sent the message of the bloody and yet proud naming of a nation across the world like never before.

With it came reeling in my mind the voice of thunder, the voice that said in no uncertain terms on the 7th of March, Ami jodi tomader hukum debar na o pari tahole jar ja achhe tai nie rukhe darao. rakto jakhon diechi, aro rakto debo, kintu a desh ke mukto kore charbo Insha Allah. ……e barer sangram muktir sangram, e barer sangram shadhinatar sangram, Joy Bangla.

In a flash came a cool breeze wheezing and blowing and murmuring between the leaves and branches in the canopy overhead spreading a blissful exuberance all around. The magic sound of Joy Bangla travelled with thunderous applause from the countless number of people standing in the crowd. With the clicks and flashes of camera and flash lights came the lazily blowing summer wind caressing softly on my cheeks, forehead and face like the fondling touch of my mother's warm love. For a split second it lingered on me like unending bliss and my heart was lost in the thought of my mother and father and my siblings with whom I had lost contact since the eventful night of 25th March.

After a few seconds I commanded again shoulder arms and with it I brought down my hand from the saluting position -- to attention. Syed Nazrul Islam brought down his hand as well, and my boys behind me put their arms back on their shoulders. Next, I went forward a few steps and stood in front of the Acting President and informed him that the guard was ready for inspection. So he came down and I chaperoned him in a parade form to the soldiers standing with arms on their shoulders. I started with him on my side in slow motion like any trained army formation would do, in a miniature form. He moved from one end to the other, in front of the soldiers, and thus the inspection was over; and I was accompanying him to the dais. I stopped short of stairs reaching the dais and took position in front instead. I came to attention, and so did he at the centre of the dais. Now, I asked for his permission to let the contingent break up to which he consented and so I ordered the contingent dispersed.

It was a historic event of great import to the furtherance of our war effort. Personally, it was a monumental occasion of my life.
The author is a valiant freedom fighter.

Copyright 2004 The Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.