Published:  01:58 AM, 10 August 2020

August 5 -- a day of historical significance

Four decades and eight years ago, on 5th August 1972, the 2nd batch of Bangladesh Liberation War Course, comprising 47 cadets were commissioned in the Bangladesh Army- heralding the beginning of a new chapter in our nation's history, a chapter symbolizing the proud  journey of an independent and sovereign nation towards building its own destiny. Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, then President of Bangladesh, took salute and reviewed the passing out parade.

As the War of Liberation was gaining its momentum and intensity, the Provisional Government of Bangladesh taking into account severe shortages of trained officers to lead the war, decided to recruit officers from amongst the eligible freedom fighters.

As most of those who were selected through proper interviews had already gained some degree of real life battle experience in the field,  a short , three months' officers' course was designed to primarily impart leadership qualities in them and whet their fighting prowess.

It may be mentioned that most of the selected young men, who were in their late nineteen or early twenties, were perhaps a group representing the brightest section of the society, imbued with unadulterated patriotism and ready to make supreme  sacrifice for the cause of the  motherland. A makeshift training Camp was established in Murtee, a mountainous remote hamlet  situated at  a valley under Jalpaiguri district of India, near the Bhutanese border.

The training program , which was compact, rigorous and  grueling  was conducted by a group of brilliant army officers of India , including JCOs , NCOs and other ranks. Following the passing out of the 1st batch of 60 officers, the 2nd batch of 70 Gentleman Cadets joined the Training camp on the 1st week of November 1971.

As the training of the second batch ( popularly Known as 2nd Bangladesh  War Course ), progressed in full swing ,under extreme climatic condition, India declared war on Pakistan on 03 December 1971, heading the  Mitra Bahini , a Joint Bangladesh -India Force .The 13 days' long war brought a swift victory of  the Mitra Bahini leading  to the surrender  of 93,000 Pakistani troops, in the heart of Dhaka, the capital of the new nation on December 16, 1971.

The second batch of cadets who were still in Murtee, continued with their training program and returned to independent Bangladesh on 8th February 1972. Upon arrival in Dhaka , the cadets reported to the Bangladesh Forces Headquarters (BDF) at Kurmitola. They were received by Gen.

MAG Osmany, then C in C of BDF on Feb 09, 1972 and were told that the government will take fresh decisions about them. As the cadets were detached from their families for nearly a year, during the entire period of the liberation war including  at the training camp, they were given 10 days leave and asked to report back to the BDF HQ on expiry of their leave.

Consequently , the cadets were dispatched to different Units of Bangladesh Army , deployed around the country,  pending  a final decision. At this point 15 cadets opted out of Bangladesh army in order to pursue their higher studies, which they abandoned to join the liberation war.

 On the 1st week of June the cadets were asked to report to the Army Headquarters to participate in a fresh  three months' training program , to be held at the Battle School ( another makeshift training facility)  at Dhaka Cantonment. All the 55  cadets, who were attached to different Units,  barring one, who was injured during an insurgency operation in Atria,  Rajshahi in the last week of May 1972 gathered at the Battle School to finish their subsequent training course.

In the meantime a group of five former cadets from Pakistan Military and Air force academy, who escaped from Pakistan to join the war of liberation also joined at the Battle School to be formally commissioned into the Bangladesh army. The injured cadet was sent to Belgrade , capital of former Yugoslavia for improved treatment.

The short training course, which was equally tough and trying , opined by some as being even harder than the training in India, was conducted by a set of finest Bangladeshi officers, all of whom were freedom fighters and  who also had earned plaudits for  professional prowess during their service in the Pakistan army.

At the end of the three months' training program a total of 47 cadets, including the injured one, were given commission , while 15 cadets were unsuccessful ostensibly for not making it up to the mark. In my opinion not granting  commission to those 15 cadets was an ill advised decision, throwing their future life in uncertainty.

It can be said with strong conviction that had  the liberation war prolonged requiring those cadets to undergo a full training program in India, it is more than certain that all of them would have granted commission as it had happened in the case of the 1st batch.

There is a saying, 'He who survives a battle lives to fight another battle'. The 47 officers of the 2nd batch continued to confront many challenges in their career like many other freedom fighters.

The first such confrontation came, when some of the officers of the 2nd batch, following the brutal murder of Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975 along with his entire family, save two daughters, joined a counter coup launched by Brig. Khaled Mosharraf on November 3, 1975, to evict the killer group from Bangabhaban and bring them to face justice.

In the melee of chaos and confusion that followed, the group led by Khaled Mosharraf lost control of the situation, leading to his assassination along with two other valiant freedom fighters on Nov 7, 1975. Consequently three officers of 2nd batch, who joined the counter-coup were arrested, dismissed from the army and held in detention for a certain period of time before being released.

The second wave of misfortune fell on a number of officers from this batch following the assassination of President Zia, in Chittagong on May 30, 1981.  In the grand scheme of things , the new army leadership that be, who were from the very beginning jealous of the freedom fighter officers, got an opportunity to sort them in one go.

Four officers of the batch who were posted in Chittagong were falsely implicated along with another group of freedom fighter officers  and through a miscarriage of justice by a sham  Court Martial, two of them were sent to gallows and the other two to long term imprisonment. Subsequently , another ten officers were thrown out of the army or coerced to resign on trump up charges of being a party to the killing of President Zia.

Of the remainder who survived all the hurdles, discrimination and neglect under the post-Zia dispensation of army leadership struggled to keep their job. Following the Ershad era, under the subsequent democratic governments, those who still stayed on saw some ray of hope in their career and two of them rose to become Major General, five to Brigadier General by sheer dint of their merit and professional competence. .

Of those who left army following the liberation and those who were forced out of the army under various circumstances, equally shone in their chosen fields --- three ministers, two members of Parliament, two secretaries to the government, one editor of a major English daily, two additional secretaries and a number of doctors , university teachers and a few of them becoming successful entrepreneurs in the private sector. The fate of the officers of the 1st batch was no different and they too had their share of sufferings and tribulations.

It is truly a heartbreaking spectacle that a large number of freedom fighter officers, including those who defected from Pakistan, left their posts, left their studies to join the war to liberate their country, were rendered irrelevant in independent Bangladesh, through a mischievous long drawn conspiracy. "When the enemy swooped on my land, with intent to kill, rape and plunder,

* could not sit idle,
* left my kith and kin and all that were mine.
* took up arms, I fought, I bled, I died, and
* crushed the enemy.
* return home victorious. 

Everybody was celebrating victory  and none was there to care and nurse my pain."

Every year the officers of the 2nd batch commemorate their Commissioning Day, under the banner of "Fellowship Day", attended by all the officers of the two batches including those cadets who joined Murtee and those cadets who escaped from Pakistan Military and Air force Academies, along with their families.

The members of two batches also formed an umbrella platform and named it Bangladesh War Course Foundation (BWCF) .The practice of get together which was started in the mid eighties continued to be held regularly without fail until the killer pandemic hit us early this year like other parts of the globe.

As the saying goes, "under every cloud, there is a silver lining". We circumvented the enforced social distancing foisted upon us by the pandemic, and our this year's get together , to be more precise, virtual get together  was held Online over Zoom.

A number of participants joined the get together including a few from North America. The atmosphere of the get together this year was however, somber and  filled with grief as a number of members  of the BWCF passed away this year due to various ailments , including Covid 19.

Though largely subdued, yet the occasion provided at least an opportunity to see each other's face on the screen and to pray to Allah (SWT) for the salvation of the departed souls of our fellow freedom fighters and also to eliminate the scourge of the Covid 19 from the whole world.

The writer is a former secretary to the government and served as ambassador to a number of countries. He was a member of 2nd batch of BWC and sustained bullet injury on May 29, 1972 during an insurgency operation in Atrai, Rajshahi. He was sent to Belgrade for improved treatment.

Subsequently his right leg was amputated from above the knee. He was commissioned with his batch and continued to serve in the Bangladesh army until April 1977 before joining the Bangladesh Foreign Service. His last rank in the army was Major.

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