Memoirs of the Liberation War: A Freedom Fighter’ Perspective

By: Muhammed Rafiquddin Choudhury (Rana Choudhury)


A short historical Background of Bangladesh

Bangladesh is an independent country, located in the South East Asia, with joint borders with India, Burma and Nepal. Prior to the British colonial ruling, most of the time in history, it was independently ruled by various kings and Jamindars.


The state of Pakistan was born on August 14, 1947, with two detached parts, the East and West Pakistan separated by 1100 miles. Parts of India were located between those two parts of Pakistan. Eastern part was the most densely populated one and the populations were ethnically known as Bangalee. Their language is called Bangla (Bengali as termed in English). Western part of Pakistan was constituted of four provinces; they were Sindh, Punjab, Southeastern Frontier and Baluchistan.  That Pakistan was created after Mohammed Ali Zinnah’s Two Nation Theory, which divides the people of the then Indian sub-continent into two nations 1. Muslim & 2. Hindu. Two Nation theory was recognized by the British empire of that time, so they divided the sub continent into two countries i.e., Pakistan for the Muslims and India for the Hindus.


Besides same religious belief, there were no reasons for the then East Pakistanis to be within a same country with the then West Pakistanis. Life style, culture, food, language, costumes, history and heritage, were completely different in the people of the eastern and the western Pakistan. Besides that, during the 25 years of Pakistani history, it never developed to form a new Pakistani nation in the world map. The concept of this Pakistani Muslim nationality was attacked within a year after it’s birth in 1948, when Mohammed Ali Zinnah declared, “Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan”. The whole Bangalee nation in the then East Pakistan woke up and protested against this declaration. The people in the East Pakistan had to shed blood on February 21, 1957 to protect their language, heritage, culture and identity. That is named the historical ‘language Movement’ and the background of ‘International Language Day’.


The “Pakistani” age of the then 70,000,000 of the then East Pakistan was colonial age where political right was a matter of dream, economic plundering was widespread, autonomy was completely neglected and democracy was grounded. So, there were many movements, where mass people spontaneously took part. At last a general election was held in 1970. Awami League, under Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman secured majority seats in that election in both parts of Pakistan. But Pakistani regime refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Instead of transferring power to Awami League, Pakistani Military Junta conspired to crush the Bangalee nation in the east and launched the most barbarous campaign against the east Pakistanis by killing, looting, raping innocent people and driving them out of the country in the darkest night of 25th March 1971. That had led the Bangalee Nation to stand up for a fight against the Pakistani Armed Forces that will later named as the Bangladeshi Liberation War.     


Part 1


In March 1971, I was a B.A (Honors) student attending the University of Chittagong. In the month of March, I was staying with one of my friends at the Agrabad Residential Area of the City of Chittagong.  At that time, there were heavy tensions among the Bihari community and the Bengali and riots started in different places of the city including the nearby areas of Agrabad.  The Punjabi Police and Army took side with the Bihari and started killing Bengalis.  The peace loving Bengalis of the then East Pakistan then took orders from Bangabhandu Sheik Mujibur Rahman -- the father of the nation – to maintain peace. 


On March 6th, my friend Mona, Kamrul & few others of my classmates and I started for Dhaka to attend the historic public meeting ever held at the Race Course Field at Ramna, Dhaka on the 7th of March. Bangabhandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made the most enchanting announcement…” Ei barer shongram, muktir shongram, ei barer shongram, shadinotar shangram. “ He ordered all the Bangalis to fight against the Pakistanis with whatever weapons they had.  I realized that we had no choice but to fight for our freedom.   At that time I was a member of the East Pakistan Chattro League.  I had been asked by the Central Committee of the Chattro League to return to my home sub-division – Moulvibazar—to organize arms movement for our liberation.  This is to be mentioned here that in January 1971, I had qualified to be a Pakistan Naval Cadet Officer.  I was waiting to go to the Naval Academy in Karachi, Pakistan.


On March 15th, I with some of the other student leaders placed the flag of Bangladesh on top of the Agrabad Radio Station Building, Chittagong. This caused a major threat for me to stay in Agrabad as the Punjabis were going after me.  


My father was a Class 1 Government Officer of Cox’s Bazar subdivision at that time.  I was not able to contact him in any way at that time.  The place I was at was very unsafe as attack from the Biharis was highly expected at any moment.  Almost all of the residents of that area had escaped because of the fear of rioting.  Mona’s family and I were the only ones left.       


On March 16th, Mona’s family and I headed for Moulvibazar because we saw there was no hope of staying in Chittagong any longer.  The train communications were expecting to stop soon.  A trip to Moulvibazar normally takes ten hours, but in that circumstance it took us thirty-two hours.  Mona had a three-month old younger sister named Luna.  There was no food available in the train during the journey and she suffered the most out of hunger.


On the night of March 19th, I with the top-level Moulvibazar student and youth Leaders, held a meeting in the classroom of the Moulvibazar Government High School’s science building.  Shaheed Abdul Mukit, Motiur Chowdhury, M.A. Muhaimin Saleh, A. Subhan Moshu, Shujaul Karim, Mukit Khan, Dewan Wahab, Nasir Bhai, Mahmud Bhai, Harun Bhai, Mumen, Roni, Azibur, Tutu, Farid Beig Bhai, and Foizur Rahman Bhai attended the meeting.  We decided to break in to the Moulvibazar Rifle Club and collect the rifles.  We also decided to find bomb-making materials from the Science Laboratory of the Moulvibazar Government High School. 


On the night of the 20th March, Shopon Da and some of the others were given the duty of making the bombs, and Shopon Da was put in charge of that group.  Our pre-planned action to break into the Rifle Club was held on the 24th March under my leadership.  We recovered 15 Chinese .22 rifles with sufficient bullets.  We kept the arms and ammunition in a safe place at a nearby hill.  Afterwards we returned to our homes.  


On the 25th, the Pakistani President General Yahya Khan made a speech.  With his order that night from all the cantonments the Pakistan Army started massive killing in Dhaka and all parts of the then East Pakistan


The next morning of 26th March; we heard an announcement that Moulvibazar will be under an unlimited period of curfew. The Pakistani Army was expected to attack. They did attack and the whole Moulvibazar Administration was then taken over by the Pakistani Army. The S.D.O. and S.D.P.O of the Moulvibazar Subdivision at that time were West Pakistanis.  However, they were very much peace loving and were liked by the Bangalees.  On that same day, the Muslim League Leader Inam Ullah, his relatives and followers started destroying and taking over Hindu owned properties and businesses. 


My associates and I went in to hiding. On March 26th, Major Ziaur Rahman made an announcement and urged to the public to fight along with the Bengali Army, Police, EPR, Students and Public against the occupation Pakistan Army.  He made an official declaration of war.  My associates and I heard it & we were highly inspired.  I heard two speeches by Ziaur Rahman and my associates heard them as well.  The first speech was made in English.  And he made the first declaration of war as a Head of State.  Later he corrected his speech and said it in Bangla.  That time he declared Bangabandhu Sheik Mujibur Rahman as the Head of State, and on his behalf, declared the official war.  Two or three months later, I heard from the members of the Awami League that in actuality, Bangbhandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had indeed declared a war on the night of March 25th, through EPR wireless in Dhaka.  However, I hadn’t heard this myself.  


The next day the curfew was withdrawn for a few hours.  We went out to the town and saw leaders of the Muslim League, and their relatives and followers running the businesses and properties owned by the Hindus.  We learned that the then, MCA Azizur Rahman, Journalist Motiur Rahman Choudhury, Awami League President B. Ghosh were arrested and severely tortured, especially Motiur Rahman Choudhury (Editor, Daily Manab Jamin). The Hindus to save their lives started to leave the town in the darkness of the night leaving behind their land, property and memories. 


The local leaders of the Awami League, after seeing the worsening situation, held a meeting in a house in Ekatuna Union.  They decided to gather up all the weapons they had and carry out the order of Bangbhandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and to go and attack the Punjabi Army in Moulvibazar.  At the same time, our group was informed of the decision and agreed to launch an ambush attack on the Pakistani Army.  We decided that action at midnight on the 28th at a bridge near Sreemongal bus stand to ambush the Pakistani Army.  In the meantime I was training my comrades on how to use rifles.  Because I was a member of the University Officer Cadet Corps, I had learned how to use the rifle. Every night I took my group to a nearby hill and started training them.   Because of the curfew we had to be very careful. 


On the morning of 27th March, when we received our break again, we got out and saw that, the top local leader of Moulvibazar Muslim League and few other Pakistani collaborators were arrested by the order of the S.D.O. and S.D.P.O.  They were taken to local police station. We went to see them. After seeing this we thought the country would soon get better.  However we were wrong.   After we returned, we saw Kanu Paul, a local leader was tied up behind a jeep almost hanging from his neck.  The Punjabis were driving the jeep around town as a sign of threat.  He was screaming and crying but no one could help him.  This made us really sick mentally and wanted to launch the attack on that night.  However we were unable to do that as we were waiting for a central order from Dhaka.  But we hadn’t received any.  The atrocities by Pakistani Army angered every local citizen who expected a quick retaliatory attack on the Pakistanis. The only form of communication we had were the BBC radio and Indian Radio, Akashbani, etc.  After this incident the Awami League supporters, Muslims and all Hindu families started to leave Moulvibazar.  


On the morning of the 28th, a group of Bengali under the leadership of local Awami League came to the northern shore of Monu River. The leaders were Gyash Uddin (Monir) (former High Commissioner at UK), Professor Foyzur Rahman, Askir Mia, Abdul Malek, Joynal Hossain, Khurshed Miah, Abdul Mosobbir and Sajjadur Rahman (Chairman).  They came with whatever weapons they had to attack the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis also came from the southern shore and started shooting at the Bengalis.  Due to the lack of weapons, and the heavy shooting from the Pakistanis, the Bengalis reluctantly had to escape.  The Pakistanis killed many innocent civilians. Their bodies were lying down near the river. Similar attacks were also launched by other groups of the local Bengali civilians in the western side of the town with minimum success because of the superior quality of the Pakistani counter attacks.


As per our plan on the mid night of 28th March, we came to the bridge near Sreemongal bus station to attack the Pakistani Army.   We were waiting for hours under the bridge.  We had rifles and hand-made bombs, petrol bombs.  Shaheed Abdul Mukit, M.A. Muhaimin Saleh, Nasir bhai, Shopon Da, Azibur, Abdul Malik-brother of Shaheed Mukit, Shaheed Abdus Shahid, Shaheed Kripesh Kar Ranu, Abdu Mumen, Harunur Rashid Bhai were with me.  While we were waiting for the Pakistanis, they didn’t arrive.  About 1,000 yards in front of us was the Circuit House and the S.D.O’s Bungalow.  Past that was the Parzatan Rest House, the HQ of the Pakistanis.  They were staying at the Tourist Rest House.  At about three in the morning, a jeep arrived from behind us.  We recognized the jeep as S.D.P.O’s.  We saw the S.D.P.O and his family were in the jeep with some of their luggage.  They went into the SDO’s bungalow and after a few minutes along with two other Jeeps, they went towards the Pakistani Army Campus.   We waited until 4 AM.  We had to leave before sunrise so as not to be identified.  We went towards the nearest shelter in the Vocational Training Institute.  On our way, we met some day laborers on their way to work.   They told us that the Pakistani Army had left the town. We did not have any kind of transport at that time. We went to search the house of SDO and found a Jeep there. My friend Shaheed Abdul Mukit knew how to drive Jeep. We went to SDPO’s house to search the house and found a Pistol. After that we went to Pakistani’s camp, a tourist rest house and found eleven dead bodies. Of those some were women, who were probably raped and killed. We find the unconscious body of Kanu Paul and rushed him to the local hospital but the local Asst. Surgeon pronounced him dead.


Later we went to the local Police Station to collect weapons, but there were no weapons left. Hundreds of 3§3 rifles were taken back by the Punjabi armies and destroyed. We went up to Sherpur to look for the Punjabis but found none.


(To be continued at Part 2)