Published:  12:00 AM, 11 January 2017

Return of the patriarch from the jaws of death


My career as civil servant started with Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra at Kalurghat, Chittagong on March 26, 1971. For obvious reasons, in the initial period of 9 months of the liberation war I had to move from one place to another with the shifting of the radio transmitter of the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra which finally was setup at Baligonj, Kolkata. Twice in a week I used to broadcast two features, "Ranangan Ghure Elam" and "Muktanchal Ghure Elam" based on war situation over this radio.

I attended the 4th SAARC Summit in Islamabad on December 30, 1988 along with a team of journalists from Bangladesh. I spotted Tikka Khan seated in the VIP row. After much effort, I managed an interview with him. Rezaur Rahman, editor of the weekly, 'Akhoney Shamoy' and TV presenter on law and court, and myself together went to the Punjab Governor's House at the appointed time and the interview was held without any rancor.

I asked General Tikka Khan, "Mr. Ghouri and Mr. Nisar Usmany told me that common people of West Pakistan did not support the military action in East Pakistan in 1971. After more than two decades do you still think that the action taken at that time was justified, Sir ?" General Tikka Khan replied, "Regarding '71 crisis, some people held the Army responsible and some others, the politicians of Pakistan. Holding the same view, there were many leaders of Bangladesh who were with us. The general public of Bangladesh also held the view that we were on the right track. Neither Mr. Golam Azam of the Jamat and the Muslim League nor the general people ever said that we did anything wrong." I asked him, "When did you exactly start the genocide in Dhaka, Sir ?" He replied, "There was no genocide at all. I had secret information that at the Jagannath Hall some anti-state elements were preparing themselves to launch attack on the army patrol force. I sent some forces to the Jagannath Hall. It is true that during the gunfire some Hindus got killed. After that, skirmishes continued regularly in which our men as well as members of the Muktibahini were killed. When two groups fight each other face-to-face that is not a genocide.

Everyone knows that at the order given initially by Tikka Khan to begin with Pak Army had killed numerous people in Bangladesh. A commission was also set-up in Pakistan to investigate this issue and the commission had recommended court martial on specific charges of genocide and rape, although the recommendations were not implemented. "If so, why did you arrest Sheikh Mujubur Rahman from his Dhanmondi residence," I asked him. He replied, "My Co-ordination Officer brought to me a three band radio and told me to listen to the broadcast which said that Sheikh Mujib had given a call for independence. Personally, I heard Sheikh Saheb declaring independence, for I knew his voice so well. That declaration was the reason and so, I, as the then supreme authority of East Pakistan, I had to arrest him, there being no other alternative.". I further asked, "If Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had gone to India along with Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed what you would have done?" The reply was, "I knew very well that a leader of his stature would never go away leaving behind his countrymen. I would have made a thorough search in every house and road in Dhaka to find out Sheikh Mujib. I had no intention to arrest leaders like Tajuddin Ahmed and others. That is why they could leave Dhaka so easily."

But Tikka Khan said in a very firm voice that in case they had failed to arrest Sheikh Mujib on that very night, he and his force would have inflicted a mortal blow everywhere in Bangladesh. During the long nine months, they killed 3 million people, but had they been unable to arrest Sheikh Mujib on 25th March, they would have killed 3 crore people in nine days in revenge. But history is the witness Sheikh Mujib had saved Bangladesh from a catastrophe. At road no. 32, Dhanmondi, Dhaka he was waiting to risk his life only to save his fellow countrymen from the wrath of Tikka, showing great courage.

The name of 'Bangladesh' and 'Joy Bangla' were uttered in the same breath in every sector of the battle front as is rightly mentioned in the history of the liberation war. Its proof is the book, "Bangladesher Swadhinatar Yuddha" (The liberation war of Bangladesh) written during President Ziaur Rahman's time. Is there any one who can refute this in Bangladesh? Sector Commander No. 3 Major Shafiullah writes in the book "Bangladesher Swadhinatar Yuddha" (The liberation war of Bangladesh) (part 9, page 234). "On March 28, 1971 at 10 am I left for Mymensingh alone with all the surplus arms and ammunition and vehicles. At the time of my departure, Lt. Col. Rafique assured me that he would leave along with his force in the evening. After I had left Joydevpur I found the Bangladesh flag flying atop all houses right from the Joydevpur road roundabout. It instantaneously created unprecedented wave of joy in the hearts of the Army jawans and they all were shouting the slogan of 'Joy Bangla'."

As our convoy came out from Joydevpur, the people burst in great joy and inspired us to utter the 'Joy Bangla' slogan. The Commander of No. 2, Sector Major Khaled Mosharraf writes in the same book (part 9, page 134). "At last my conscience compelled me to take the final decision. We must stand against this injustice. There was no political directives though, I recollected Bangabandhu's declaration of Seventh March. He said, "Build fort in every house. The present battle is the battle for freedom." I called Lt. Mahbub to tell that from this moment. I declared my allegiance to Swadhin Bangla. Fly the flag of Swadhin Bangla from now on. We shall fight against the Pak Army. Ask all soldiers to get ready. From here we shall start for Dhaka. The Bengal Regiment was to assemble at Brahmanbaria. It looked as if Lt. Mahbub was only waiting so long for this directive. He ran at once to inform the rest of the men of my decision. Soon afterwards, I heard the slogan of the tiger of Bengal" 'Joy Bangla'.

Sector 9 Commander Major Zainul Abedin personally gave me the original paper of the press statement which was written and signed by him at Khulna circuit house after the Pak Army of Khulna Jessore range had jointly surrendered on December 18, after two days of surrender at Dhaka. The statement is published here without any change. "At 10 am Major Zainul Abedin in presence of all the officers of Khulna collectorate Janab Abedin delivered a speech and wanted the co-operation and coordination of all the officers to develop the country very soon and to regain the loss of the national wealth which was shaken by the enemy. He also assured them that he will move shoulder to shoulder with the officials and public in general for the betterment of the country. He advised the people not to take law in their hand in order to avoid calamities. The actual culprits should be punished according to law of the country after proper trial by the Bangladesh government. At 3.15 pm Major Zainul Abedin convened a meeting of the F/F, MB locally trained Mukti Bahani at the Khulna Circuit House. The meeting entrusted Janab Rahmatullah (Dadu) and Khairuzzaman (Tuku) to maintain law and order in Khulna Municipal area and mobilize the group accordingly.'

In each sector of the battle fronts in 1971, all sector commanders, sub-sector commanders and junior sub-sector commanders used to take oath and make promise to shed last drop of their blood for their motherland and Bangabandhu. And this, in a way, sums up the history of liberation war. This was the ideal and truth of the liberation war. As the War Correspondent of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra during my movement with the allied forces and Bengal Regiment, I have seen this in my own eyes. I have seen Major Ziaur Rahman as a Sector Commander or as Chief of the 'Z' Force used to give his speech on the war fronts raising 'Joy Bangla' slogan and inspired them to fight the enemy.

I happened to meet one accused of the Agartala conspiracy case, a retired soldier, I asked how he was pulling on. He said that Bangabandhu in the sixties had inspired the patriotic Bengali officers of the Pak Army. We plunged into the movement in an all-out way. But today we are left unwanted or supported. The state honor, which is due to Bangabandhu, is still being denied. But the objective for which we got ourselves involved in Agartala conspiracy case or liberation war had already been achieved. Now the country breaths freedom.

I asked him, "After winning independence how you have been and what you have got?" In a sad voice he replied, "The best sons of the nation Bangabandhu, Tajuddin and others got nothing. Similarly, I also got nothing, nor have I any expectation. So, I did not tell my name even to you. We are now totally forgotten.".


The writer is a war correspondent of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra and Former Secretary of Government of Bangladesh

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