12 July 2015



Imran Chowdhury

On the 31st of October 1984 I was undergoing a training course in The Bangladesh Armies school of Infantry and tactics in Sylhet   The course was full of unnecessary physical hardship for a commissioned officer. Which one would never have had to endure in order for him to be a champion in his regiment level battalion’s support weapon arsenal. Yet, it was more of a physical training than that of a instructional one. 

I did not feel the need of those gun drills and shouting numbers at the top  of your voice and making those monstrous noises would not be an ideal thing to do in battle scenario which will break the  sky line and depict the existence of the monstrous gun in the  theatre of a battle. Still that was the order of the day and no one seemed to have any quibble about it. 

The place itself was like sacred place to me ; a pilgrimage  for me. this was the place astride the same road my father came advancing from Dauki - Tamabil towards capturing Sylhet town during the last phase of the liberation war of 1971.

On the same road just a few miles down towards Tamabil near Horipur my father buried one of his co fighters Havilader Golam Rasul Bir Bikaram ; Who was the LMG man and he was killed in the battle to capture a Pakistan Army strong post on the side of the road. My father buried him  just on the mile post sign on the side of the culvert and toured these areas and showed me after 71. He also mentioned how they were pinned down after capturing the SI&T premises and making a cross country run towards capturing Shalotighor (Sylhet Airport ) and if  the 5th Gorkha Rifle regiment did not come for reinforcement. He clearly mentioned to me that without the help and thrust of the indian army it would have been an impossible task to dislodge the Pakistan Army’s fortifications.  3 miles down the road from the SI&T ( Botteshor Cantonment) towards Sylhet; In Khadimnbgor Polytechnic College and the old 12 wing EPR Barracks my father single handedly raised the Eighteenth Battalion of The East Bengal Regiment in the month of January 72 -  working till small hours of the night ; When it was imperative for him  to grief for the loss of life of his elder son. Who was killed by Pakistan Army; a 17 years old FF too. 

Due to all these reasons I had always remembered those tremulous  days of 1971. the refugee camp days, the cues to collect our weekly rations, the money for shopping, the medicine and many other day to day chores during those hardest of days.

I clearly remember the passion and the dedication of the Indians and the officials and the civilians how generous they were and how charitable they were to give us shelter in their houses and extra rooms and provided us with rice and fish and survive before the organised refugee camps are erected. 

Reminiscence and memories of 1971 and the place Botteshor ( the SI&T) being a battle ground of my father - I always felt it to be a place a home from home. Felt proud for being son of a Freedom Fighter who was part of the liberation of the Sylhet in 1971. 

Sadly, at that time of my army career’s crucial juncture- the army did not have much time to listen to our stories and they were full of admiration of the defeated force i.e. The Pakistan Army ; the host freedom fighters’ ranks and files have become guests in their own built house so it seemed to me. Also, this is where I started my army entrance exam in 1980 - the very room I was interviewed in 1980 became my dormitory in 1984 what a bizarre coincidence - every day when I walked past under the shadow of that statue of a soldier aiming with his rifle in sitting position was known to me too - it was Havilder Nannu Miah - who hailed from the same area of my ancestral village - I met him once or twice when I went to our Village when he was retired and living in poverty. His kids were student of our school named after my shaheed brother.

On that fateful day at about mid day we came to know that, Mrs Indira Gandhi has been assassinated - I was perhaps only one amongst the trainees who was visibly shaken and shocked - felt sick in my guts and was very grieved. Indira Gandhi was seen by me as one of the most gracious of ladies and her generosity in 1971 will be written and  engraved in my heart for the rest of my life.

After a day of usual physical exertions and unnecessary physical torture and gun drills we were told at the commandant of the school will be lecturing the officers after 19:00 hours. 

We all officers gathered in the central lecture hall overlooking the small lake with sculptures of the 7 highest gallantry award wining Freedom Fighters of our Liberation War of 1971 ; walking past their torsos is yet again a stark reminder of the glorious liberation war of 1971 and glimpses of the face of the lady admired by all the pro liberation war fraternity kept on flashing in my minds eye. What a tragedy and what a great loss for the people of India and the world. A sombre walk towards the venue. 

Thinking why is this sudden assembly ? why all of sudden call to address the officers and what could be the reason. Many thoughts were playing up in my  mind. 

After a small introduction there came a man, with pristinely combed hair, small moustache’ and uncanny resemblance to hitler’s one.  A  man barged in to the  room to reach the rostrum with vigour, anger, excitement and relief; whisked past my eyes a flash back of a SS Panzer ( das reich) started to speak and what I have heard that day in that fateful evening still haunts me to this day. The chief Guest of the day was Brigadier M.G.Rabbani; the mighty commandant of Bangladesh Army’s epitome of the Institution ‘’ THE HOME OF INFANTRY. He was seriously trying to emulate a very sadistic jaunta.

His first pronouncement was, ‘’ Gentlemen, The biggest enemy of Bangladesh is gone, she has been ruthlessly killed so it should be by her own body guards, It is day of joy for us Bangladeshis’’  The witch of India is gone forever…bla bla bla…on and on and on with mouthful of preposterous name calling of this great woman.

I was stunned, dumbfounded, frozen with his utterance of exuberant rant on the saddest death of a human being; how can any human being express joy on the death of someone? 

My mind stopped working for a split second, what am I hearing - Brigadier Rabbani continued with his anti Indian propaganda, his version of history of Separation of Pakistan and how she played the most pivotal role on dividing the two halves of Pakistan and How she has been proactively engaged in interfering in Bangladesh’s progress and how are various secret agencies creating all sorts of problem to stop furhterting Bangladesh. 

How the emergence of the military rule and  annihilation of political forces of her choice are side lined and why side lined and how these acts of bravery and patriotism has stopped her damaging Bangladesh - Had there been no interference from the mighty military of Bangladesh - then Indira Gandhi would have by now swallowed Bangladesh so on so forth. It was well choreographed and well manicured piece of speech full of degradation of a human being who has just embraced her ultimate fate. 

I felt like and attempted standing up and say and protest his obscene and obnoxious speech but my dear friend lieutenant B.M. Zahid ( colonel later) stopped me from standing and protesting. i instead went for the lavatory. 

‘’say not in grief she is no more, but live in thankfulness that she is no more’’ 

The ranting continued for more than, 30 long minutes and the words that, I have heard on the event of a person’s death is the worse I have ever heard in my life. That was completely unnecessary, unethical and despicable for an army officer whose army itself was raised under her guidance and leadership ; it was she who felt personally that the Pakistani Army is humiliating the Bengalis, It was she who rallied around her government, her party leaders, the opposition political parties, the communists of West Bengal and the general public of India to come in unison to provide help, shelter, food, clothing. Ensured that the nucleus Bangladesh Forces(BDF) ( later became Bangladesh Army) is formed and it was  her guidance and leadership that Bangladesh was liberated and she is one who negotiated the repatriation of the likes of Brigadier Rabbani’s to come back from Pakistan in the Simla, Where she could have bargained more and made Pakistan bow down to the hilt . But instead she opted for a quid pro quo deal. 

 It was that lady who toured half the world to raise support for the plight of Bangladeshi people where perhaps many of Brigadiers Rabbani’s relatives were suffering humiliation by the Pakistani’s. I was  wondering how can someone be so ruthless who rejoices on someone’s death that too the death of Mrs Indira Ghandhi; a friend in need was perhaps a real friend indeed. 

The birth of the army of Bangladesh & the Freedom Fighters ; their arms and training, logistics and ammunition all happened under the auspicious sponsorship of the woman herself and just 13 years down the line that Bangladesh army officers are asked to assemble to rejoice her assassination, was uncalled for and inconceivable. Yes, I agree she was our enemy if I take their story but still a gentleman never expresses his joy on some one’s death, That is derogatory a gesture, a gesture of mean mind, a traitor who does that whose very inception was one of that dead human’s in question’s achievement.

Why is he so joyous in her death ? i was wondering because of the liberation of Bangladesh that, gentleman who was lecturing has become a Brigadier prematurely - should  he not be grateful ? This army is the army which lead the war of liberation where he has been given a job after his merciful repatriation from Pakistan - should he not be humbled towards the army, no, he was still burning that candle of slavery to Pakistan - he was remorse and upset that his beloved Pakistan was divided and he is not comfortable with it, yet he gets paid every month and pampered right left and centre by the sweats of those soldiers who endured nine months of hardship, danger and near death experiences days in days out to pave the for this ungrateful man to cast doubt on their hard work ? He had a chip in his shoulder as he once was an ADC to Pakistani General  & was deeply and madly in love with his achievement so much so the whole nine months of war of liberation meant nothing to him and Foolish tax payers of Bangladeshi labourers were paying for his wages, uniform, the stick (baton) , the plot of land, pension and his funeral and even his grave - what a prize  to achieve out of treachery.

What an irony ! what a shame it was ! finally his abusive deliberation of obituary of disgrace stopped - so did my heart stopped for a split second and felt very little in my heart for being associated with such an ungrateful bunch of human beings. 

Walked to my dormitory, did not feel like looking at the statues of those valiant freedom fighters who laid their lives for an ungrateful man to speak like this to mark the death of the symbol of saviour in 1971 and remembered somewhere, some times ago I read a few lines of Winston Churchill

‘’ The dead can not cry out for justice, 
it is the duty of the living to do so for them’’

But, I guess there were deeper questions remained unanswered in this saga, how could he do this act of heinous speech when an officer was not allowed to even  burp in private , was immediately taken into task - so, there lies the million dollar question - was it a deliberate ploy of showing a thumb to my liberation war by expressing displeasure by marking the death of friend who helped us to be an independent country even challenging a direct threat from the USA and signing an abrupt treaty with the Soviets to counter and create a strategical balance of power when she personally was not  in favour of singing that treaty due to its mandatory one sided terms dictated by the Russians. 

What a glorious lecture delivered by a true patriot - I was told next morning. 

Thought, whilst walking to the carry out an unnecessary gun drill - when will we be able to have an ‘’introspection?’’

Though On the hindsight, Now I think this was the beginning of the end of  radicalising plus Brainwashing  the Bangladesh army towards a softened tone for the Pakistan Army ; no wonder many presently retired and serving commissioned officers think very high of Pakistan Army; who are of my contemporary. 

Featured post

'' পাহাড়ে কয়েক টা দিন ''

'' পাহাড়ে কয়েক টা দিন '' এ প্রিল ১৯৭৯ রাঙামাটি রিজার্ভ বাজারের লন্চ ঘাটে গফুর হাজীর লঞ্চে উঠলাম : নিজাম ; লন্চ মাল...