Massacre of Bengali intellectuals II

Dr. Alim Choudhury had multiple bullet injuries on his chest, and sharp wounds on the left temple and left lower abdomen, believed to be bayonet wounds. He was still wearing the vest, shirt and lungi he had been taken away in. Mrs Choudhury found that his face had become unnaturally blackened - but his body had been lying face down in a watery pit for two days. The gamchha (cloth towel) used to blindfold him was around his neck.

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Late Jahan Ara Rabbee (Professor Rabbee's wife) talked about his death:

On 15 December the curfew was relaxed for two hours. Despite his wife's objection he had gone to see a non-Bengali patient in the old part of Dhaka. He had bought plenty of vegetables on his way back. Though his wife requested him repeatedly to move out from the house at 75, Shiddeshwari, he did not agree. On that fateful day he took some rest after lunch. In the afternoon, members of Pakistan army, Al Badar and Rajakars circled his house. They came in a microbus and a jeep. About six soldiers took him towards the jeep. As his wife came out running they pointed a gun at her and stopped her from advancing any further. Rabbee walked towards the jeep with his head held high. It was known that on 15 December midnight Rabbee along with some other intellectuals were taken in a truck from the Lalmatia Physical Training Institute to the Rayerbazar brickfield and murdered in a brutal manner. His dead body was identified on 18 December. Born in Pabna district. He was only 39 years old.

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I knew my father is no more .. but I would like to know what was date when my father was killed at least.

Sahwan Mahmud, daughter of Altaf Mahmud

It was August 30, 1971, 5:30 in the morning when our house was raided. Altaf Bhai, who was in the Crack Platoon was with us. We didn't know that he and another Muktijoddha had hidden arms in the ground near our house. That night around 32 Muktijoddhas were caught. The army arrested Samad, Altaf Bhai's friend who was coerced into telling them everything. They brought Samad along with them and demanded to know where Altaf Mahmud was. Altaf Bhai said: 'I am Altaf Mahmud.' They then lined up all my brothers and told him that if he didn't tell them where he had hidden the arms, they would all be shot…They beat him up severely; they hit him with a bayonet and the skin came off from his forehead, blood was pouring down his face. They made him dig out the arms…He was wearing a vest and lungi. Just before he left he turned around and for a few seconds just looked at me. It seemed like an eternity to me. He wanted to say something to me but in the end couldn't. But somehow I knew what he had wanted to say something about looking after his sister, his daughter Shaon, my mother…I felt as if all his energy had been transferred to me with that one look. It is a kind of inner strength that has kept me moving forward. After my father died when I was only four, it was Altaf Bhai I looked upon as a father.

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Shumon applied to the Dhaka City Corporation and knocked for long nine years to name a road after his mother. Accordingly, the Siddheshwari road has been named: Martyr Journalist Selina Parveen Road. Though Shumon struggled a lot to survive after losing his mother, and is still struggling to run his family with a meagre income from a small job, he does not have any demand for his personal gain. He requested the government to set up a mural with the portrait of his mother containing full information about her. It will help the new generation to know about the supreme sacrifice his mother made for the country.

"My sorrows know no bounds but if I see that the war criminals are tried, killers of my mother are punished, the soul of my mother will rest in peace," Shumon expected.

Parvez Babul, Journalist

Growing up, I used to dread this time of the year. December coming around invariably meant some journalist would go for the low-hanging fruit of doing a story on how the families of the martyrs especially the martyred intellectuals of '71 were doing; or even worse come up with the done-to-death idea of dragging a few of the young children of the said individuals in front of a TV camera to try to wring some tear-jerking anecdotes out of them. Even as a child, I vividly remember feeling that the entire ritual was hollow and the self-serving acts of opportunists harsh views to be sure, but then, it is the prerogative of the young to be passionate and self-righteous.

Well, I'm in my very late thirties now, and it's getting on to thirty-five years since my father was abducted by the Al-Badr; thirty-five years since the independence of this beleaguered country. I no longer have the righteous indignation of my younger days, but worry that along with the naïveté, I may have lost some of the idealism, the faith in the essential goodness of human beings and in better days to come. My father was brutally tortured and murdered thirty-five years ago because he was a patriot and a conscientious human being, and the side of the murderers seems to be winning. The vision that he and so many more of his peers had of the kind of country this was supposed to be looks to have been lost, seemingly irretrievably.

Mofazzal Haider Chaudhury was my father. There was a time when most people I would talk to would recognise the name, but I increasingly get the sense that that's not the case anymore; with the passage of time, my father and his peers are slipping out of our collective memory. It falls upon me therefore to introduce him to the younger people out there: my father was one of the country's foremost educationists and a brilliant scholar. He was an Associate Professor of the Bangla department of Dhaka University and an acknowledged expert specially on the works of Rabindranath Tagore. He wrote extensively on Bangla language and literature; for a time, his articles were included in school text books, but I don't think they've survived the censoring efforts of successive right-wing governments. Do you know the walls in front of the central Shaheed Minar where the sayings of luminaries on our language and culture are inscribed each year the night before 21st February? For as long as I can remember, one of my proudest moments each year was when I would make my way there and take my first glimpse of one of my father's quotes on that wall a quite famous one where he compares our language to mother's milk but I notice that for the last 3-4 years, that quote never appears on that wall anymore. Coincidence? Perhaps.

As a man, everyone I've ever spoken to tells me that he was kind, helpful, courteous, generous the very embodiment of the cultured Bengali gentleman. Quite a few people have told me stories about being picked up off the streets in his red Triumph Herald car, this was in the mid sixties when there weren't that many cars around on Dhaka streets, and being dropped at their destinations even when it would take my father out of his way. Everyone tells me that they never saw him lose composure or raise his voice. They tell me he never made an enemy in his life. And yet this gentle soul was doomed to die at the age of 45 not that much older than I am right now just when he was starting to experience some contentment along with his wife and children after a lifetime of unhappiness and strife.

... [On father's incomplet PhD from London University] The fact that he was willing to forsake the labour of two years of his life because of a matter of principle I am told he did not like his supervisor's condescending attitude indicates that there was a glint of steel beneath the gentlemanly exterior. He was to demonstrate this attribute amply over the next years of his life particularly in the fearless advocacy of Bengali culture and heritage in his writings, at a time when this was a decidedly dangerous approach to take.

He had many plans: starting an ideal educational institution named 'Bani Bitan' or 'Anando Kanon' styled after Shantiniketan on a piece of land he owned in Pubail, cultivating flowers there and setting up flower shops in Dhaka.

Tanvir Haider Chaudhury, son of Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury

Sayeda vividly remembers the morning of December 14, 1971 when her beloved husband, a bright history professor, was bundled out of the teachers' quarters blindfolded with the very chador (shawl) he had hurriedly borrowed from her to open the main gate.

Before the very eyes of her children, about half a dozen armed men had entered the ground floor apartment. "I rushed out of the kitchen when I heard some people call out in clear Bangla, 'who is Dr Abul Khair?' says Sayeda sitting at the family's rented Dhanmondi accommodation. "One of the men pointed a gun at me and ordered me to go inside", she says. Two of her sons, Reaz 10 and Kamrul 8, were playing with other children on the third floor apartment. As they looked out of the window they saw their father blindfolded and surrounded by several armed men. He was being led away towards the main gate where a microbus camouflaged with mud waited.

Dr Abul Khair's mutilated body was found gagged and blindfolded with the chador 21 days later at an abandoned brick kiln at Rayer Bazar. It was Sayeda's chador that led to his identity being established. On the same site at Rayer Bazar lay bodies of dozens of other intellectuals brutally slain in the same way.

...Sayeda's sadness for the loss of her husband deepened when sometime in the early nineties, officials from the national museum arrived at her doorstep. The officials convinced the family to hand over all memorabilia of her husband to the museum.

"They said they wanted to display his personal items at the museum and took away his camera, glasses, pens, suits, cufflinks, books and wristwatch, but later when I went to the museum there was nothing on display there that belonged to my husband," Sayeda says.

Kamrul Islam the eldest son of the family also works for an insurance company. He says that his father loved cooking at home and taking long drives in the family's Morris Minor. "He was so keen on cooking that when he returned to Dhaka from the USA after completing his PhD, he brought a pressure cooker with him", Kamrul says.

The indifference of the Dhaka University authorities towards the country's martyred intellectuals is nowhere more evident than the graveyard of the eleven martyrs buried by the mosque on campus. There is no sign of any of the graves of the martyrs. Visitors would never know that the men, who made the supreme sacrifice for our liberation, were buried there. A request by the martyrs' families to mark the graves individually was turned down by the university authorities.

Morshed Ali Khan, Journalist

On 29 March 1971, my father left my aunt's house to get money and the car from our Mirpur house. But later we heard that on the way to his firm [BNR], he met the chief accountant of Daily Ittefaq Abdul Halim, a non-Bengali. Abdul Halim handed my father over to [Jamaat-e-Islami leader] Abdul Quader Mollah at Mirpur and my father was stabbed to death at Jalladkhana in Mirpur-10. Akhter Gunda [a non-Bangalee of Bihar origin] and some other non-Bangalees accompanied Quader Mollah.

...[After his father's death, the family left Dhaka and took shelter in Beura, Pubail, until July 1971] We had none to earn for the family and my mother went mad.

...[In July 1971, Ahsan returned to Dhaka and used to sell tea for a living while the rest of his family went off to their ancestral home in Satkhira] One day, when I was on my way to Chawkbazar [Dhaka], I met Nizam [a non-Bengali], who was our family driver who lives in Mirpur-10, and he told me how my father was killed. On instructions from Quader Mollah, Biharis carried out mass killings in Mirpur. They used to bring Bangalis from Gabtoli Bus Terminal and Technical areas and kill them in Sialbari, Muslim Bazar and Jalladkhana killing fields in Mirpur.

Like other parts of the country, Bangalis in Mirpur area observed 23rd March as Bangladesh Day protesting the killing of Bangalis. Actually 23rd March was Pakistan Day. The Pakistan flag was brought down from the Bangla School in Mirpur and the Bangladesh flag was hoisted at half-mast. Syed Kayum was the headmaster of the school at that time. For this reason, three to four people attacked Syed Kayum at his home on that night and stabbed him indiscriminately. Hearing his screams, a Bangali rescued him and brought him to our home. He was given preliminary treatment there.

My father admitted Kayum to Dhaka Medical College Hospital the next morning and afterwards he [my father] went to the home of Bangabandhu [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] and apprised him of conditions in the Mirpur area. But my mother became mentally weak after the incident of Kayum Sir and we left our home on 24 March 1971.

Khondaker Abul Ahsan, son of Khandaker Abu Taleb

The most talented teacher of the department of history of Dhaka University Mr. Ghyasuddin Ahmad did not leave the country even after the ferocity of March. He made arrangement for his younger brother neurosurgeon Dr. Rashid to pass across the border, but he himself didn't avail of that opportunity. That was because he had a lot to do inside the country and he silently behind people's eyes continued to perform his duties with dedication. He decided to continue with those works which he took upon himself as his duties during the war of liberation until the day he was killed.

Dr. Rafiqul Islam of Bangla department of Dhaka University

Bachchuda, as he is called in the family, was three years older than me and we both matriculated from St. Gregory's High School. He stood eighth in the matriculation examination in 1950 and tenth in the I.A. examination in 1952. Even though three years in school days is a big difference we had a very special relationship, both as an elder brother as well as a close and good friend. From our school days we used to play many games like chess, bridge (cards), basketball, tennis together. In the University days Ghyas was chess champion and captain of basketball team of S. M. Hall.

Ghyas could have done a PhD with the same Commonwealth scholarship but he did not. The reason was that he considered an Honours of LSE would give a much broader base of learning which would be more suitable for teaching in Honours and M.A classes back at home than a PhD which is really a very focal narrow pointed research work. He had foregone his personal achievement and necessity for the cause of his students' teaching. That was the measure of his dedication to his students' welfare. He had to pay for it later on by losing out in the promotion ladder to his juniors who had PhD. But he did not bother about it at all.

I cannot finish without giving some examples of the impression of his immense character imprinted in the minds of his colleagues, friends and students. These were of encounters of relatively recent years, a long time after he left this world. One was with Mr. M. I. Khan (later a chairman of the Income Tax Tribunal) whom I had to face at an Income tax appeal that I applied for against the Tax Department. When I went to his office, Mr. M.I. Khan (who never saw me before) looked at me for a while and asked me “Are you by any chance a relation of my favourite Sir Mr. Ghyasuddin Ahmad?” when I told him that he was my brother, he said,

{INCOME TAX GUY COMMENT}

Rashiduddin Ahmad, brother of Ghyasuddin Ahmad

In consonance with the flow of my academic life, I selected General History as one of my subsidiary subjects. And Indian History was one of the topics I had to study. Professor Bhattacharjee taught this subject, or, to be exact, taught the sub-continent's ancient history. It was a riveting fifty minutes or so, as the man's erudition came through, delivered in English, and as far as I can remember, without the aid of any lecture notes. The people, society, civilization, dynasties, wars and conquests relating to this old country, many nations were recounted in rich, variegated colours.

There was this one occasion, though, when, with the approaching Ekushey February in mind, one student requested him to deliver his lecture in Bangla. And he did, and, again, if memory serves me right, not one word of English broke the linguistic harmony of the entire lecture. I hope any student reading this does not get the wrong idea, but I had the habit of playing truant in class. But I never failed to attend any of Professor Bhattacharjee's, and not because the sword of punishment for attendance missed beyond a fixed percentage hung over our heads (I had to do a penance of copying some two hundred foolscap pages for missing more than the acceptable number of classes at Notre Dame College).

Simply, I enjoyed Professor Bhattacharjee's lectures. He was a rather short man, with an almost entirely white head of hair brushed back, a quizzical, sardonic glimmer in his eyes, and usually wore a white shirt. He looked unassuming; he was unassuming, but he had at least one amusing idiosyncrasy that I, and many others, was aware of. He was an inveterate smoker. That, in itself, was not amusing, not to say, unusual, in those days (or, these days, either). Neither was the way he inhaled and exhaled. The glowing white stick (filter-tipped cigarettes were both rare and expensive in Dhaka) was puffed down with a reflective air and, no doubt, great pleasure. That is, as one caught him in the inhaling state when he had all the time in the world. Which situation, I suspect, he was in more often than not. But, then, there were those frenetic times, just as the hourly classes were about to begin, when Professor Bhattacharjee's antics would be on splendid display. He would lounge around the front side entrance to the large lecture hall, and wait for the bell announcing the commencement of classes to ring (that is right, ring, not clang an unholy cacophony) before traversing the short distance to his pulpit

Shahid Alam, former student of Santosh Chandra Bhattacharyya

Circumstances did not allow him [Rashidul Hasan] to stay in his birthplace, West Bengal. In order to regain his Indian citizenship, he surrendered his Pakistani passport – which he happened to have because of his stay in East Pakistan after the partition of 1947 – to the government of West Bengal. For a long period of eight years, Rashidul Hasan relentlessly tried to regain his Indian nationality and went from door to door in government offices, but on different excuses West Bengal government delayed and finally rejected his application. Frustrated and utterly betrayed, in 1967 he resolved to come back to Dhaka and his wife complied. Rashidul Hasan’s second spate of sufferings began in 1971; but this time it took a vicious turn and ended his life. He was killed by the Pakistani army during the conflict that gave birth to Bangladesh.

Thus the life of Rashidul Hasan bears the brunt of the two major political upheavals of the region: the partition of 1947 and Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.

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My father is martyred intellectual SMA Rashidul Hasan. He was a teacher in the English department of Dhaka University. I lost him when I was only 13. Long before I could discover him as the person he was. How he was and who he was, what were his thoughts and ideologies--answers to all these questions would have remained unknown if it weren't for his meticulous diaries which my mother had held on to for so many years with great care. Over the years I have read the diaries many-many times each time and what amazes me is how a person could have led such an organized life and noted down all the works of a day with such diligence? Every event from the important ones to the ones carried out every day found its way into the pages of the diary.

Every morning he would wake up and read the Holy Quran sitting my little sister on his lap. He cared about all our feelings and thoughts and paid attention to them." Roquaiya Hasina Neely, TV artist and daughter of martyred intellectual SMA Rashidul Hasan.

Roquaiya Hasina Neely,

Although he was a teacher of English he greatly respected our mother tongue and our Bengali culture and tradition. So among his clothes we have always noticed more panjabi and payjamas than shirt-pants. He loved music. Tagore songs and poems were his favorite.

On 20 September a few men from the occupation army came and took him away but with the help of a friend of his he returned 12 days later unharmed. But on the morning of 14 December just two days before independence they took my father away. That was the last time we saw him. After 22 days of his disappearance his decomposed body was found in Mirpur killing ground along with the dead bodies of the best sons of this soil. My mother was asked to identify her husband from decomposed bodies. How hard was this for a wife?

My mother sacrificed all kinds of enjoyment and good things in life for her beloved husband. She engaged herself in raising her three children that her husband left behind. Do the citizens of the new generation know of the hardship of the lives of such widows when they lost their only earning member of the family ? Do the citizens of new generation know of the gruesome killings of the intellectuals by the collaborators? Have they been punished for such a heinous act? What you see now in this country? The people who opposed our war of liberation and tinged their hands with blood of our intellectuals are now in power and ride government cars hoisting the flag of Bangladesh!

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History is a fair judge. I believe that history will place everybody in the exact place that they deserve. I believe that in the distant future when all involved persons are gone, there will be no confusion about who was right or wrong. Criminals will be called criminals. We will prevail because we have truth on our side.

My father used to take my mother to the Shaheed Minar every 21st February. He used to say that the martyrs are the lucky ones. All would die someday. How many are lucky enough to have such a glorious death? I feel proud that I am the daughter of such a man. I am proud of the man that my father was, the life he lived, the ideology he believed in and struggled for, the respect he earned in his short life. With his death he became part of the country's history and left us with a legacy of pride and honour.

Dr. Nuzhat Choudhury, daughter of Martyred Intellectual Dr. Abdul Alim Chaudhury and Assistant Professor at Department of Ophthalmology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University

I could never get rid of a thought. What he was thinking, how he was feeling when the Al Badr men blind folded him, tied up his hands and piercing bayonets," said an emotion-choked Nasrin. She is yet to overcome the numbness of pain. She still feels the last- minute agony felt by Dr Alim at Rayerbazar killing field. With tearful eyes, she wants to hear the pains inside Dr Alim's heart when the Al Badr men were taking preparations to kill him.

Nasrin said the face of Dr Alim turned black when the Al Badr force pushing the door to take him away from home. The rear entrance of the house, which was the only way to flee, was shut by Mannan who was staying inside. Failing to flee through the door behind the building, Dr Alim could understand that he has given shelter to a betrayer, liar and fraud.

A former principal of Udayan School and Head Mistress of Uddipan School, Shyamoli Nasrin said the collaborators are still hiding among the people. They are making rooms in society on false identities. They have established themselves politically with the help of the heads of states in post-1975 Bangladesh.

Nasrin said Dr Alim's clinic was on the ground floor at 29/1 Purana Paltan. They used to live on the first floor. The parents of Shyamoli Nasrin lived on the second flood. After March 25, the clinic was closed and the place was used for discussions and medical treatment of the freedom fighters.

At the middle of July, 1971, a neighbour named PDP Matin brought a man and requested Dr Alim for shelter. Though Nasrin had objected first, she agreed to give him shelter with request of all others at home. But much later, they could know that the man in shelter was Maulana Abdul Mannan, who fled from his house in fear of the freedom fighters. "After a few days, we noticed that the Al Badr men are on guard at the gate of Mannan. People come to meet him every day. Army cars also came". When asked about the matter, Mannan said, "I am Maulana Mannan, organiser of Al Badr. I have taken shelter at your place, as the freedom fighters would kill me". By that time, Mannan had become a regular residence of the ground flood and treated to pay rent to the owner of the house. "Therefore, we could not tell him to go away," Nasrin said.

"Since then, we were in panic. But Mannan told Alim not to be afraid." Nasrin said and added that Mannan had pledged to save Alim's life as he had given shelter to him.

"It was 4 o'clock in the afternoon on December 15. Alim, my mother and I were sitting on the balcony. There were sounds of bombings and firing by the allied force all around. They were invading the bases and camps of Pak army and razakars. The whole country was waiting for surrender of the Pakistan force the next day. Suddenly we saw a microbus covered with clay to stand at Mannan's door. We did not take it seriously. A number of armed Al Badr got down. They knocked out door after 35 minutes. I told Alim that they are knocking at the door. Then Alim's face turned black," Nasrin said.

She said she called Mannan though the backdoor through which Mannan used to flee when the freedom fighter visited the house. Mannan advised her not to worry-"You go. I am in the city. Nothing to worry." Dr Alim tried to flee through the backdoor, but he couldn't as Mannan had shut it from inside and staying in his room silently.

"We, the families of martyrs, have been demanding trial of the war criminals since 1972. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has started their trial. For this reason, the killers had assassinated him in 1975."

Shyamoli Nasrin was married to Dr Alim Chowdhury on December 22 in 1965. Joined the Udayan School on February 15 in 1966. She was sacked from the job on July 1 in 2002 during the alliance government. She was sacked following recommendation of a probe committee led by Dhaka University Soil Science Professor Aminur Rahman Majumder. On Friday, police recovered organisational documents of Islami Chhatra Shibir, dummy rifles, pistons and Islamic books from the Elephant Road house of Prof Aminur Rahman.

Criticising the BNP for establishing the war criminals in the country, Nasrin said late President Ziaur Rahman had rehabilitated Maulana Mannan and HM Ershad made him Religion and Relief Affairs Minister.

"This our tragedy. I had to work under Razakar Mannan, the killer of my husband," Nasrin said.

"If I had no job and I did not marry Hafiz (younger brother of Alim), perhaps I could not groom up my children." Dr Alim left behind two daughters of two year and one year old in 1971. Nasrin expressed satisfaction over the beginning of the trial of war criminals and said the trial process must be completed as soon as possible with the tenure of the present government.

"With completion of their trial, we will be able to build a Sonar Bangla, dreamt by Bangabandhu, as per the sprit of the Liberation War. The 1971 constitution would also be restored," she hoped.

Interview with Shamoli Nasrin Chowdhury, wife of Dr. ALim Chowdhury

On 15th December, at 4:30 pm, they came. They went first to the room of Moulana Mannan.

Some time later, they came to the third floor where our family used to live. They told my father that they were taking him somewhere. My father asked where, and they replied that he was soon to find out. My father was in informal clothes, and he asked for some time to dress properly. To this they replied, that where he was going, he would not need proper clothes. Then they handcuffed him and dragged him away to the microbus in which they had come.

There were three men, their faces were covered, but they were unmistakably Bengalis. My mother ran to Moulana Mannan and asked him for help as he was known to be in good terms with the authorities.

'They are taking him to a doctor, do not worry at all, that is what he told my mother'. He repeatedly assured my mother about my father's safety.

Dr. Nuzhat Chowdhury, daughter of martyred intellectual Dr Alim Chowdhury

Lt. Colonel Dr. Nurul Absar Mohammad Jahangir was the head of 40 field ambulance unit of Comilla cantonment in the year 1971. This hero disappeared on 30 March 1971.

On March 1971, a conference of senior officers was held at the Comilla Cantonment for a discussion to take stern action of killing of those who had been trivializing the Pakistani ideology. Without delay Lt Colonel Jahangir vehemently protested such heinous decision, which later barred his access to any other conferences and he became the reason of their anger for his bold speech.

He was called to the headquarters on 26 March 1971. Some senior officers asked him if he had any connection or relation with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and General Osmani. Like a valiant son of the soil, he undauntedly expressed that he had no personal relation with them but he followed the spirit and philosophy of those Bangalee leaders. It was 27 March 1971. Being a unit head, the higher authority ordered Lt. Col. Dr. Jahangir to return all arms and ammunitions of his unit. He returned a few arms to them, but secretly he hid a large portion of the arms with a thought that these arms would be used by his associate soldiers for the liberation of the country. On that day he summoned the unit members and said, “If death is inevitable, you will use the last arms of your hands against the enemy and accept death, but never defile the country and yourself by surrendering to the Pakistanis”.

On 28 March 1971, Dr. Jahangir could not make any communication with other officers. The next day one Pakistani soldier came to his residence through a difficult path of a hillock beside his house and conveyed a horrible message to his family members. The soldier said that severe action of killing was going to be orchestrated against all Bangalee officials and soldiers. When Lt . Col. Jahangir returned home, his wife delivered the message in a terrified voice. The message made him silent.

He tried to go to his office several times but he was obstructed. He made a phone call to his office but some messages from the other side of the phone made his face stiff, and he told them “If they use machine guns against you, don’t keep silent, whatever arms you have in your hands, use them. Nothing is comparable with the glory to be a martyr doing war for the country”.

Under the hypnotic call of this leader, 47 heroic freedom fighters out of 50 of the 40 Ambulance unit valiantly embraced death in a fight with Pakistani soldiers for two hours. One hundred Pakistani soldiers also died in the fight. The fateful day came as a nightmare to Lt. Col. Dr. Jahangir’s family on 30 March 1971. The day started with an awful event for the family at about 6.45 am. Two Pakistani soldiers came and delivered the order of the higher authority to escort Dr. Jahangir. Sensing the situation, he could realise that his time is coming to an end. Controlling himself, he affectionately took his three loving children - Maruf, Mithu and Mimi on his chest and looked at them in a vacant eye to silently say them goodbye.

After it, he handed over his 0.32 revolver to his beloved wife and assuredly said, “Do not lose heart. Have patience. Use it (revolver) in time of danger”.

Before the very eyes of his three lovely kids and his beloved wife, he went away with the soldiers. The miserable moment started for the family. At 9 in the morning, suddenly the family phone blared out. Mrs Jahangir could hear the last few words of Lt Col Dr Jahangir, “I have been taken to the conference with Pakistani colonel Yakub Malik”. And these last few words became the whole life’s memory for Jebunnesa Jahangir.

After Dr. Jahangir’s departure, his family and other Bangali families were confined to the Ispahani School in Comilla. Those days were horrible for Jahangir’s family. There was no food, no water. Dr. Margub Aref Jahangir, younger son of Lt. Col. Dr. Jahangir, remembered that they prayed to Allah for water. It began to rain and then they started collecting water to quench their thirst. Mrs Jebunnesa Jahangir was desperate to get news of her husband but she could not. While she was overwhelmed by her misery and grief, Pakistani colonel Malik came to visit the incarcerated families. Mrs Jahangir approached the Pakistani colonel to know about her husband. The killer colonel Malik in a cold voice said, “Jahangir was a rebel, he wished the destruction of the Pakistanis. Even standing at the firing squad, he expressed his same thoughts and feelings. Death is the deserved punishment for such rebels”.

The brave, intelligent and patriotic physician Lt Col Dr. Jahangir was disappeared on 30 March 1971. After the liberation war on March 1972, he was exhumed from a mass grave at Comilla and was buried in front of Comilla CMH with military tribute. Four decades have passed by since the independence which cost much pain and grief to freedom fighters and their families. But the alleged masterminds and architects of the war crimes still roam free, holding high positions in society.

Tanzina Hoque Beas recalls the tragic but valiant death of Lt. Colonel Dr. Nurul Absar Mohammad Jahangir, Head of 40 field ambulance unit of Comilla cantonment

When the occupation forces realised that Bangladesh was about to become independent, they killed off the intellectuals who were the greatest minds of the country. These great human beings never got to see the sun rise over the independent Bangladesh.

Gopal Sannyal, president of Pabna Drama Circle and a leading cultural activist in Pabna

"Shei Raater Kotha Bolte Eshechchi" film

In 2001, A Bangladeshi director, Kawsar Chowdhury, recreated the horror of the massacre by the Pakistani Army in Dhaka University in his film "Sei Raater Kotha Bolte Eshechchi" (Tale of the Darkest Night), which was awarded as the second best film in South Asian Film Festival on 28 September 2003. Out of 230 documentary films from 24 countries, 40 films competed in the contest. Kawsar Chowdhury beat every one of them, except one, to win the award and cash prize of $1,000.

  • Kawsar Chowdhury ()

The documentary was first screened on 25 March 2001 - on the 30th anniversary of Operation Searchlight - in the Dhaka University, which still contains the mass grave at Jagannath Hall. The film was also the winner of Bangladesh Documentary Film Festival in 2003.

I was shooting a scene where Pakistani Army was shooting Bengalis and throwing them in a mass grave. So, to shoot that scene, I was requesting the staffs of the Dhaka University to act for the scene. I found a young man to act. When I held is hand to bring him on the spot, his mother started screaming and crying. She yelled, “You dare not take my son. You have killed my husband in 71 and now you want to murder my son? You dare not touch him!” The fact was that, the woman's husband was similarly brought to the very spot and shot dead on March 25, 1971 and the woman could not bear the trauma all over again. That very incident shook me and became an indelible memory.

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