A REVERSE FOLLOWING OUR LIBERATION WAR

BRIGADIER ABDUS SALAM CHOWDHURY

Introduction

The heroic Bengalese had to shed lot of blood to achieve the independence. It is the unflinching sacrifices of thirty lakhs martyrs by which we could draw the map of our dear motherland as an Independent Nation; the day was 16 December 1971. Although this month brings special happiness to most of the people, yet it does bring ache and sorrow for the few. Following the Liberation War, lot of mothers lost their sons, wives lost their husbands and sisters lost their brothers of which very few of us are aware of. Till date lot of unknown facts are coming up about our great liberation war, which are not incorporated in the history. Such an untoward incident took place inside a temporary camp established by Freedom Fighters at Moulvibazar Government High School Complex on December 20, 1971. The incident took place right in front of my eyes. By now few write up came up regarding that incident, but I have a feeling that some aspects of that incident remain to be uncovered. My solemn aim is to uncover those unknown facts. After long 28 years of Liberation War, I reminisce the tragic incident with a feeble hope that may the Creator bestows some peace in the heart of those departed soul. I recall in retrospect those martyrs who sacrificed their lives just before going back home on 20th December at Moulvibazar Government High School Complex.

The Incident

At 1100 hours of 20th December 1971, when the flavor of ecstasy of our great victory was yet to diminish, a terrible explosion took place in the temporary camp established by the Freedom Fighters at Moulvibazar Government High School. The gravity of the victory was deplored suddenly on that day due to that incident. Approximately 20-21 Freedom Fighters died on the spot due to this unexpected explosion and other 30 were seriously injured. Although I received minor injury but got miraculously saved by the grace of Almighty. In fact, once General Niazi surrendered on 16 December and Bangladesh came into being, this news spread throughout like bon-fire. Freedom Fighters from far-flung areas started clustering individually and in-groups in various camps. The camp of Moulvibazar Government High School was one of that kind, which had a phenomena of continuous increase in strength. A gallant Freedom Fighter Mohammed Solaiman was the commander of that camp. He was one of the member in C-in-Cís special batch under command of Principal Ahad Choudhury (presently Chairman of Freedom Fighters Command Council). I as a member of Mujib Bahini (BLF) had my training in Tandua Military Camp in India. During the war, I fought side by side with Freedom Fighters in the battles that took place in Chatapur-Shamshernagar-Munshibazar areas. I was acting as Chief Liaison Officer at the time of the incident. As a Liaison officer I was mainly responsible to have close co-ordination with civil administration and the general mass. The Camp Commander used to stay in a room of the camp where about two thousand arms, huge quantity of ammunition and explosives including 1000-2000 grenades were kept in the same room. After the victory, this camp was responsible to provide food to the Freedom Fighters and it was the control center of that area. At the same time in Moulvibazar Town Hall, a platoon of about 40 Freedom Fighters had been staying under command of Mohammed Yunus. They used to collect their daily meal from our camp. During the day of incident, I collected the food from the cookhouse and brought it to the camp. The cookhouse was just behind the Camp Commanderís room where the food was kept for distribution. The number of Freedom Fighters in the camp was 1200 where I could collect only about 600 eggs. The platoon commander Mohammed Yunus had also been there to collect food for his Freedom Fighters. At that time, a palmist along with 7/8 civilians came for a courtesy call on with the Camp Commanderís room. These people extended their heartfelt assistance and provided food to the Freedom Fighters during the Liberation War. The palmist was examining the hand of all one by one. I was also waiting to show my hand to the palmist after collection of food.

Since the number of eggs was almost half of the total requirement, as a result there was chaos. Hearing the shouting I told the Camp Commander, " Solaiman Bhai, I tried my best to collect more eggs but in vain. Thatís why there is hue and cry in the cook house, please solve it". A very polite and soberly demeanor Solaiman Bhai got up from his chair, hold my hand and requested me earnestly by saying " Bhai Salam, please go. I think you are the one who can resolve the matter". Both of us had the intention to show our hand to the palmist and we had been sitting together. However, I could not deny the request of my Commander, left the room and went to cook house. In fact he pushed me out of the room. Few seconds later, that terrible accident of a huge explosion took place. The blast rocked the ground to an extent that the sound was heard from miles away. Within seconds, the building with the tin-shed roof started trembling down to the ground. The sky was clouded with fumes and the ground with debris. Everybody inside the camp was taken aback. As per military teaching I dashed down with hazy sight in my eyes while the building was breaking down into pieces. Feeling insecure in that lying position, I was desperately looking for safer place. When I tried to run out of the place to save myself and I got fainted probably due to the effect of the explosion at that moment. As I got back my senses I found myself at Moulvibazar Sadar Hospital. I learnt that one of my fellow combatants Rana Choudhury brought me to the hospital from the spot. While I was in the hospital, I had misfortune to see for myself the plight of my comrades with whom I had too many things to share. But the sight was more than what can be expressed in words. Nothing could be more pathetic, distressing and heart penetrating like that in my life. Dead bodies were being collected one after another. Approximately 20-21 dead bodies were gathered in the Hospital Compound. Around 30 valiant Freedom Fighters were admitted being seriously wounded. In this tragic moment I had always been searching for my Camp Commander with whom I had been talking prior to the explosion. Though, I could not identify him initially among the corpse, but it did not take much time to locate the ambient Md Solaiman with his typical moustache. His body was completely deformed, bisected and I found only the upper portion, which was separated from the lower portion. But in my thought he was never separated as I always bridged it with the bondage that we had during the hard and tough nine-month of struggle against the Occupation Army. This bondage grew basing on the sense of belongingness and patriotic feelings to establish own rights. And it was strengthened more by the loss of so many fellows Freedom Fighters. Later, I could learn that the explosion was so devastating that it took the tin-shed roof off the building by 200yards. The broken bi-cycle of the wretched palmist was also found at the same place. The kote was turned into a mini dry pond. At the time of the incident most Commanders (Freedom Fighters) at various level in Moulvibazar area had been staying at Masimpur in India and waiting for next orders on post liberation activities. Otherwise we could have lost few more dedicated sons of the soil. Hearing the sound of the blast from 40 kilometers away, they returned back immediately to Moulvibazar Camp, but it was too late to change the course of nature. These coveted martyrs were buried with great honor in the Government High School Yard. People from all walks of life mourned the death of these brave martyrs. Though they sacrificed their lives immediately after the victory, but they left the revered count of their struggle against the aggression for nine months for the cause of the nation. They are the brave hearts and the gallant freedom fighters of this country. An epitaph or a memorial will be too little to show them due honor and will fall short by a great margin in commemorating their memories. I am not aware of any regular arrangement by the administration to pay due respect to these departed souls. It will be sad for the lives of deserted mothers, wife or the helpless sisters where they can only measure the degree of pains and sufferings of loosing their nearest ones. That is the order of the nature but time is also more than due to ascertain as to how much we could do for the aggrieved in this independent nation, which their beloved ones dreamt. The respected Camp Commander Mohammed Solaiman was an orphan and had only one sister. She used to reside at Fenchugonj in greater Sylhet District. My personal relation with Mohammed Solaiman was very intimate. He did not know how to drive a motorcycle thatís why often asked me if I could give him a ride to his sisterís house. I donít know when Mohammed Solaiman met his sister for the last time, but his sincerity and dedication towards the country did not allow him to manage time visit his sister with me. He was distinguished patriot and always gave more priority to his nation than his own self. Did he ever know that he would never be able to meet his sister again? His dream of a better future for his nation overwhelmed his other dreams. I donít know whether his sister is yet alive or not. Probably his sister still waits expectation that one day she will able to meet her brother. May Allah bless her to realize that her brother sacrificed his life for a great cause and took his place in the distinguished ranks of great martyrs? The day of the incident will be recognized as a mourning day for the whole nation as I dream till date. The event was a tragedy of which the palmist and also the Camp Commander were not aware of. To say about me, I submit to the bounties of Allah and glorify Him for letting the camp commander to tell me to go out of the room at very moment and settle the dispute over the distribution of food. If he would not have requested, I also could join the ranks to the martyrs of that incident.

Probable Cause of Explosion

According to the statement of a survivor of the 20th December 1971incident, a probable cause of the incident was unearthed, but it was not conclusive. As per his version, Platoon Commander Md Yunus of the platoon staying at Town Hall collected some abandoned mines (seemingly anti-personnel) of Occupation Army. While coming for the collection of food, he sent those mines to the Camp Commander Mohammed Solaiman by another Freedom Fighter. I noticed that Freedom Fighter carrying the mines in a box in Camp Commanderís room. At that very moment I was requested by the camp commander to go to the food distribution point to stop chaos over the food. But he was standing by the door and had been having chat with the bearer of mines. According to the statement of another survivor who was eye- witness and standing in the corridor beside the room at the time of the incident, following was revealed. When Camp Commander Mohammed Solaiman was inspecting those captured mines, a sudden pressures on a primed mine (which was not known to the Camp Commander) or sudden fall of a mine from his hand on to the floor might have caused an explosion. Due to that explosion all explosive kept in that room got exploded collectively and caused this severe accident. At the time about 8 Freedom Fighters who were present in the room, died on the spot and embraced martyrdom. Many lost their arms, legs or eyes amongst the wounded. Till date, I still wander those survivors and really donít know as to how and where they are living in this independent nation. Though the incident of that day was viewed by some quarters as a carefully planned sabotage, I never found a clue or evidence to support that assessment.

Lessons Learnt

         It is not ideal to keep weapon, ammunition and explosives in the same room.

Weapons, ammunition and explosive are to be kept separately in different rooms

         A sensitive weapon like mines is to be handled by personnel who either have past experience to handle those or have training on explosive.

Conclusion

The explosion of huge quantity of explosives at the Freedom Fighterís camp established at Moulvibazar Government High School complex was merely an accident. We could have been relieved of some pains if the incident occurred during the nine months of Liberation War. We will probably never be able to pay the prices of the blood sacrificed by these dedicated martyrs. Today I have made a little effort to express my sense of respect and honor to those heroes of Liberation War whose names have faded away from the history of our nation. I also take this rare opportunity to express my feelings and sympathy for the families of those victims who are still bearing the pains of loosing their nearest and dearest ones. Though those Freedom Fighters lost their lives immediately after independence, yet they will consider as heroes and best sons of the soil for the contribution that they made during Liberation War. They are the braves and coveted Freedom Fighters .I aspire that Inshallah they will take their place as great martyrs in the history of our nation.