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1971 As Seen By The Freedom Fighters

December is the month of victory, the month when Bangladesh came into being as a sovereign independent state. It was not an easy path; rather it had been a long process of continuing struggle, revolution, revolt and war. We didn’t achieve independence by sheer nonviolent movement, we had to go for a bloody war and had to win it.  

Blood, sweat and tears are the three constituents of Bangladesh independence. December 16th, 1971 is the day our beautiful motherland achieved victory over the Pakistanis and occupied a place in the world map. It has been 44 long years but the episodes from that year and day are well imprinted in our minds. 

It all started on March 26, 1971 when independence of Bangladesh was declared. People from all walks of life took part in what was a nine months battle for freedom. Patriotism had eventually won over injustice and independence was gained although at the cost of millions of lives and widespread damages.

Every year this day is celebrated with immerse joy and vigor. The departed souls are paid a glowing tribute and the colors red and green can be seen everywhere.

Victory day is a source of joy, hope and inspiration for the people of a country which had to tolerate much prejudices falsehood and slavery. Bangladeshis country of aspiration. It has experienced improvements in education, sanitation, medical care, water supply, and is enjoying a rise in GDP growth. Not only that, the country is also a peaceful place for women and children.

We all hope we can continue to thrive and become a force to be reckoned with.

In our current issue we interviewed three veteran freedom fighters- two of them are retired generals of Bangladesh army and one happened to be a founding member of Mujib Bahini. Our Staff Correspondent Md. Fakhrul Islam took the interviews and Raisha Jesmin Rafa Contributed by Editing the Script.

Maj General  M A Halim, psc (Retd)
 
[Maj Gen M A Halim was commissioned in the corps of Signals in Pakistan Army. He participated 1971 war of liberation as a Captain. He served as various capacities in Bangladesh Army including Commandant of Signal Training Center & School, DDG and DG of DGFI. At present he lives a quiet life in Dhaka.]
 
BDJ: Sir, When and where you joined the liberation war? What was your unit/battalion at that time?
 
Gen Halim: I was in Pakistan, Shialkot to be exact; I was serving in the Pakistan Army’s 1st  Signal Battalion as a Captain. I applied for leave in the early February to come to East Pakistan but due to the closure of Indian airspace to Pakistani aircrafts at that time, the only flights that were available were through Sri Lanka. As a result there was a massive mess up in flight schedule, so even though I wanted to start for Bangladesh earlier, some of my time was wasted to get hold of a ticket as I desperately tried to get hold of one by travelling from Sargodha to Lahore to Karachi. At the end in the 9th of February 1971, I finally managed to get myself a place to fly out to Dhaka from Karachi. I went to my hometown after reaching East Pakistan. Later, after a few days I had to visit Dhaka in an urgent business. I stayed in the Signal Officer’s mess but I noticed some abnormal activities among the officers and feared that it won’t be safe for me to stay there longer and leaving is the better policy and opted to go to my hometown as soon as I can. By that time it was well understood that the political problem has well went out of the politicians bound and requires a war to settle it. As time progressed, the intensity of activities regarding the political movement lead by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman increased and started to take shape. Regular rallies and meetings were commonplace. After the massacre conducted during Operation Searchlight during the night of 25 th March 1971, everyone rallied around to the Awami League activists who asked me to take charge of the matters at hand due to my military training in the following morning, in the school field in my hometown. I asked any and all ex-military personnel from any branches to join the gathering mass in the college field. Later that evening I went to the SDO and asked for the keys to the armory as all lacked proper weapons, he mildly resisted as after all he was a government official and after a lot of persuasion we broke the door to the armory and got hold of some 50 or 60 Lee-Enfield 303 rifles. Lacking any sort of objectives we fell back to the college field. The problem was that there was no clear objective at first as were hearing of sporadic resistance from everywhere. We were supposed to fight a war but we lacked the objective to march to which is the usual norm of any conventional military force. A member of the Awami League suggested us to move towards Narail for bolstering our strength and to get a better picture and better understanding of what needs to be done. We managed a few boats to travel in, most of which was arranged by the people affiliated with Awami League. The river was also a convenient way to travel as there were no patrols guarding the river routes. My house was beside the river and I stopped the boat to see my parents and ask for their blessings in fighting the coming war. On reaching Narail someone suggested to see the SDO for support. The SDO of Narail at that time was Kamal Siddiqi, who was sympathetic to our cause. He directed me to Jessore in order to get to India to get support. In the way to Jessore, our rag-tag band of fighters numbering upto 60 or 70 rifles strong came upon a Pakistani unit of platoon strength which was well dug-in in an area named Hamidpur. Regardless of our fighting spirit one has to come to an understanding with the reality when most of our fighting force consisted of amateur civilians armed with bolt-action rifles with 5 bullets allocated for every person carrying a weapon we have to take the strength of the enemy into account which was better equipped and better trained than most of my men. With some of the ex-military among my men I carried out a recon run to get a confirmation about the enemy’s positioning and strength. Returning from the recon we hatched a plan to encircle them and fire upon them with everything at our disposal in a surprise pre-dawn raid. It is to be noted that at that time most of the Pakistani forces were withdrawing and concentrating to their cantonments. This specific Pakistani unit in question was a sporadic mishap or a sacrificial of haphazard movements which is why it was still outside of its designated cantonment. By the time we reached the site and were to execute the raid the Pakistani troops have left it and were long gone. Reaching our destination I encountered a Red Cross car with an EPR Lance Corporal sitting in the front seat, who when stopped directed us to a school which was being used as a temporary HQ by an EPR unit headed by Captains Hasmat & Awlad. When asked about supporting my men they assured me and also confidently ensured me that there are only some pockets of Pakistani Army is providing resistance in Jessore, especially the telephone exchange, as soon as they are disposed of Jessore City would be in their control and they asked me for bringing in some civil officers to help establish a civil administration in Jessore as soon as it becomes free from the Pakistanis. They provided me with a transport, a Willy Jeep common in those times as a reliable military transport. I went back to Narail, talked to Mr. Siddiqi and requested them to help us establish civil administration in Jessore once the Pakistani Army is out of the picture. In returning from my mission, I went to the school only to find it deserted with not a soul in it. It is to be noted that before leaving for Narail in the morning I left my men in the responsibility of the EPR officers in charge, and they are also missing from this grim and lonely picture as without my men I as a commander has no strength to confront/fight the enemy. As I was wondering as to what happened to all those men, suddenly a man showed up and asked us about our motives about roaming around the school, to answer which we explained our situation and then he clarified that regardless of the heavy fortification the school was merely a home to the EPR unit, not an actual HQ. Afterwards, the man guided us about the whereabouts of my men and also the EPR unit, finding whom I continued to operate with them and after fighting in Jessore we headed towards Indian order to be regrouped and resupplied.
2-16 December 1971, 4 EB-Chittagong During 1971 War (L-R) Maj Gen Jamil, BP, Dr. Mansur, Capt Mumtaj, B
BDJ: You fought in which sector and what was your appointment? What was your motivation in joining the war?

Gen Halim: I crossed over from India through the Boyra Checkpoint and joined up with a company which was being commanded by then Captain Huda (the Late Major Huda) under the 8th Sector of Battle, commanded by Col. Osmani the Sector HQ was located in Bangram inside the Indian territory.

BDJ : What are the significant battles you took part? Can you please tell us the most memorable incident of yours during 1971 war?

Gen Halim: Battle of Kazipara,Battle of Dhaitola and Battle of Putkhali. The most memorable incident would actually be a series of them, the entire war. I remember the unbridled spirit of the people to contribute towards the war, even a beggar would offer up whatever he’s got towards the cause of freedom. I will also heartily remember the boys who got hit by the mines and other explosives, or were injured in other ways. They were jumpy to get back to the war even before they left for the makeshift field hospitals.

BDJ: How do you evaluate the assistance of the Indians all through 1971?

Gen Halim: Indian assistance was significant in our success, which ranged from letting our refugees live in their lands, feeding them, training our troops and providing them with hardware and logistical support. They also provided our freedom fighters with pay, for officers it was 400 INR.

BDJ: And what about the Pakistanis? How they fought?

Gen Halim: Even though Pakistani Army at that time was one of the best armies in the world lacked a legitimate reason to fight and thus their morale was down. Most of the sensible people in their ranks abstained from getting into this war without a cause. Another significant reason for the loss of the Pakistani Army in here was that they were not familiar with Guerrilla Warfare or Unconventional War whereas our standard operations procedure was Guerrilla War or Unconventional War. Also the factor of our terrain advantage is to be noted as the sons of the soil we knew every nook and corner of every city and every village whereas it was all unknown to them. You can engage an enemy which can be seen by you but you can’t engage someone who is invisible to you. Therefore, since the very beginning they started to cower into their cantonments and camps as soon as the dark closed in as any night patrols would open up opportunities for us to ambush them with the advantage of the dark.

BDJ: Do you think that if there would have any political solution before 25th March 1971, then there would have any possibilities of an independent Bangladesh?

Gen Halim: It might have been postponed but eventually would have happened due to a long standing anger of the Bengali people over the West Pakistanis.

BDJ:On 16 December where you had been? And after the independence where you were posted?

Gen Halim: I was in Sreemangal. I was transferred from the 8th sector to be attached with the Z Force, 101st Signal Company HQ, I was in charge of the company. It was finally established in Comilla permanently after the 16th of December 1971.

BDJ: After the Pak surrender what happened to their left over weapons?

Gen Halim: The Indians took away the leftover weapons as the Pakistanis surrendered to them, not to us, in fear of random attacks coming from us as we are not covered by Geneva Convention or any other human rights clause.

BDJ: After 44 years of independence do you think we have achieved what we dreamt for?

Gen Halim: There is no end to the list of achievements as a nation. Know this that we started as a war torn country where the Pakistanis have blown away the bridges and other infrastructures. We lacked resources. Our economy was nowhere. We struggled, we strived, long and hard, and in the end we triumphed in our success. Maybe it would’ve gone better if Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was not butchered with his whole family in the sudden coup d’état cause he was the one who could get our nation together and gave it the spirit of independence from the beginning. Even General Zia would’ve done a good job at that if he also wasn’t killed. We will always have complains as a nation but we must agree to accept it and march boldly to the future.

Maj Gen Jamil D Ahsan, Bir Protik, psc( Retd)
[Maj Gen Jamil D Ahsan, Bir Protik, psc was born in Chittagong on 11 May 1951. He took active part in the  war of independence in 1971 and was commissioned in the army on 09 Oct 1971. He was appointed as the Ambassador to Libya prior to his LPR on 10 May 2006. In his long carrier, he served in different capacities. He served as the GSO-II (Int) of one Infantry Division, Chief Instructor of School of Military Intelligence and Instructor at Defence Services Command and Staff College, Mirpur, Dhaka. He was also the Commanding Officer of one Infantry Battalion and Commander of  two Infantry Brigade in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Besides, he also served as the Director General of Special Security Force- SSF, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies- BIISS and Ansar and VDP.  He was also the GOC of 33 Infantry Division, MGO at AHQ and GOC of 55 Infantry Division. He was attached with US-CENTCOM during the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom, in 2005 was made ambassador to Libya and was also non-residentially accredited to both Malta and Tunisia .He has successfully completed the Staff Course from Defence Services Command and Staff College, Mirpur, Dhaka and Senior Defence Management Course from India. He visited India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Senegal, Morocco, Germany, UK, Holland, Italy, Denmark, Zambia and USA.]
 
BDJ: Sir, When and where you joined the liberation war? What was your unit/battalion at that time?

Gen Jamil: I was a student of Zoology in Dhaka University when all of it started. After the election of 1970 and the unfair culture of subjugation and deprivation practiced by the West Pakistanis on us and then there was the quick succession of political developments as the West Pakistanis denied to handover the power to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In the end in March 1971 the water spilled over and it was Pakistanis who were to be blamed for it as they carried out rampant killings of innocent Bengalis. The revolt of the military and the paramilitary forces bolstered our spirits and gave us the courage to assume a resistive role. As I was politically active I, along with my cousin Momtaz went on to make and stick Joy Bangla stickers and other leaflets also posting the changing frequencies of Shadhin Bangla Betar after witnessing the horrible atrocities committed by the Pakistani troops in the night of 25th March 1971 with my own eyes when there was a 2 hour recess in the curfew. During the first week of May we met with a few of our friends who frequently moves from Agortola to Dhaka and back again and then 5 of us made our move to reach Agortola through Comilla and then reached Melaghor in the 2nd Sector of Battle. We trained in there along with our friends while I came across a few old faces. There were all sorts of people coming from all walks of life to contribute to the fight for the freedom of their motherland. In the meantime, the interim government in exile felt a need to increase the number of people who can properly lead these ragtag groups of guerrillas into battle and get them out properly thus they started to look for officer class material in the common Mukti Bahini soldiers in the June of 1971. Me, who had a distinct height disadvantage and a sore eyesight never expected to join up military, not even in the dreams, even though my eldest brother was a veteran of the Indo-Pak War of 1965 and also was the youngest pilot to receive the Sitara-e-Jurat as a recognition to his courage and my brother in law was a medical officer in the Pakistani Army I never quite felt the confidence or the urge to try for military but this time I was picked up and packed to the training camp in Murthi, close to Bhutan border, 50 miles northeast of Shiliguri, along with 61 others, it is to be noted we didn’t train in any military academy as some claim. Together we came to be known as the 1st Bangladeshi War Course. After the officer training program I was commissioned in the 9th of October 1971 and was posted to 11th EBR, which was General Nasim’s unit, who was also the classmate of one of my elder brothers.

Lt Gen Niazi-Commander Pak Eastern Command At Hilli Just Before The Outbreak Of All Out War

BDJ: You fought in which sector and what was your appointment? What was your motivation in joining the war?

Gen Jamil: I started in the 2nd Sector in Melaghor but was later posted to 11th EBR and later on to 4th EBR as company commander. What motivated me to join the movement was the subjugation of our people while we were bereft of our rights and when we tried to protest this second class treatment as citizens of free country we faced horrible consequences which even went upto wanton massacres of civilians. It was never a pleasant thing to secede from the country that you helped create cause you should remember that it was because of the Muslim populace of East Pakistan that Pakistan saw the light of the day as we blessed the 1947 mandate with an overwhelming 98% majority!

BDJ: What are the significant battles you took part? Can you please tell us the most memorable incident of yours during 1971 war?

Gen Jamil: The battle of River Shaldah. Before this final push it was a tossing game between us and the 30th Punjjab Regiment of the Pakistanis as it went on through a constant routine and cycle of capture and recapture till we finally did it that day. It is also one of the most memorable incidents of the entire war. I commanded a platoon in it. To support the other two platoons with heavy fire and reinforce them if necessary. We started the battle shortly after midnight and it raged on to the next day till we finally captured the outpost even though the Pakistani artillery strikes and heavy machine gun fire claimed the life of many a comrade and sent a lot to the field hospital for a patch up. After the Pakistanis hastily withdrew from their position leaving their lunch we expected a counterattack along with some air support supporting their attack and feared that with our disparate defense the perimeter will hold. In the meantime, a company of Indian troops joined to reinforce our position.

BDJ: How do you evaluate the assistance of the Indians all through 1971? And What happened to the leftover weapons of Pak Army?

Gen Jamil: The Indians supported us through the entire period of 1971 but for their own political reasons and thought of it as their show to run because if they considered us as their friend then they wouldn’t have claimed the leftover Pakistani weapons as their war booty rather they would have left it for us.

BDJ: And what about the Pakistanis? How they fought?

Gen Jamil: The Pakistani troops lacked the knowledge of the terrain and thus lacked advantage over us also our unconventional guerrilla tactics caught them up with surprise as they were not habituated to face an enemy of this sort.

BDJ: Do you think that if there would have any political solution before 25th March 1971, then there would have any possibilities of an independent Bangladesh?

Gen Jamil: War was inevitable. It would have happened one way or the other as the subjugation and discrimination and deprivation would have continued regardless of a political solution.

BDJ: On 16 December where you had been? And after the independence where you were posted?

Gen Jamil: I was moving from Shaldah River crossing with my convoy. I was close to Nazirhat. The winter day was short and in the evening when I stopped the convoy to announce the surrender of the Pakistanis after hearing it in the radio. Most of us were jubilant, some of us were crying. After a while the people from the nearby settlements came to greet us. It was at that time that we remembered all that we left behind for the war, our families, our friends, and the kith and kin. During all these months we were nearly oblivious to the fact that they even existed!

BDJ: After 44 years of independence do you think we have achieved what we dreamt for?

Gen Jamil: After the independence the whole country was burning in a patriotic zeal and we all knew that this is a war ravaged country and it will take some time and a lot of effort for us to fix it as we also lacked resources, we accepted that. We had to reorganize and reproduce everything from the scratch. The economy had to be rejuvenated and growth must be ensured. Agriculture had to be restored and education was to be restored. We lacked access to the wider world as our scopes were kept limited to Karachi and Islamabad, we didn’t look East! We lacked knowledge about how Pakistan developed! Among all these were political challenges as many countries didn’t want to recognize Bangladesh. What made the development stagnant was the lack of political vision and goodwill.

Syed Ahmad Faruque
[Mr. Syed Ahmad Faruque  was the founding Instructor of Mujib Bahini, Founding General Secretary of Jubo League. He was the elected VP of SM Hall- Dhaka University. Throughout his political career he struggled for the cause of Bangladesh. At present he lives in Dhaka]

BDJ: Sir, When and where you joined the liberation war? What you had been doing that time?

Mr. Faruque: I had all along been a political activist. I was in Shadhin Bangla Chatro Shongram Porishod and at that time I was the Vice President of Salimullah Muslim Hall. Simultaneously, I was the treasurer of the then East Pakistan Student’s League. I was also working as a part-time journalist in Daily The People and an Evening Daily Evening Post. All along the Charta League stood for the independence of Bangladesh, in truth we have been trying to wage such a war for a long time since the 1962 inception of the splinter cell titled simply as Nucleus. My political mentor was Abdur Razzaq, former MP, Minister and Awami League General Secretary was at that time in the SBSP. The when and where is irrelevant for me as we were the architects of this war and laid out the groundwork and the framework for it and had been instrumental to it long before it started.

BDJ: How you joined the war ? What was your motivation?

Mr. Faruque: In the 25th of March 1971, at around 11pm I was leaving Daily People office after making a news item about the suppliers of chicken to the military and the cantonments. I made an news item on Anwar Zahid (later became minister in the Ershad Era) about his chicken supply to the cantonment and that was my last news item posted to Daily People before it was demolished by the Pakistani Army along with Daily Ittefaq later at that night as part of their objective. I left the office for Dhaka Radio office to submit a Charta League Press Release. As I was coming back I came across people who already started building barricades on the roads to hinder the movement of Pakistani Army across the city. After coming to Iqbal Hall some of my friends reported that Bongobandhu advised us to leave the Hall as there is an imminent chance of a raid taking place. In truth, it’s been a daily routine for some time then to hear about “imminent raids” from someone and everyone and therefore I couldn’t care less and longed to get to my room in SM Hall. I suddenly remembered that I didn’t get a chance to change my clothes for the last two days, and they were pretty dirty by then. Some of my clothes were stored in uncle’s house in Azimpur which is a stone throw away fromDhakaUniversity so I planned to get there and get a new set of clothes. It was my sheer luck that I opted to go there because in that night two of my junior friends got killed while staying in the hall. On the 26th of March the curfew continued without any break and then on the 27th of March the curfew was relaxed for 2 hours and that is when I got to the Halls and get to grasp the depth of death that has taken hold in there. In SM Hall I came across one dead body and as I was unable to do anything I called up Anjuman-e-Mufidul Islam to take care of that unidentified dead body. There was a wholesome slaughter in Iqbal Hall which was easily presumable from the amount of bodies that were left there. Later next day I shifted to the house of the Editor of Evening Post who was also my friend to stay there for a couple of days. The Editor’s brother was an intellectual martyr, who was given away by a close relative of the Dayra Sharif Pir Shaheb of Azimpur who was later tried and hanged after independence. I was confused as to where to go and what to do as I was not able to contact anybody. After the things got much more intense I moved to Faridpur with one of my cousins in early April. My late younger brother, who was from Student’sUnion, came to pick me up from Shariatpur and then we moved in a boat to Chandpur and then walked all the way to Comilla to our house to see my mother ask for her blessings in this noble undertaking. We crossed the Bibirbaazar border. My younger brother knew all the routes as he ran recon along the route before while I was in Faridpur as he made it to and from Agartola. While walking the streets of Agortola I met my many of my friends and colleagues and suggest me to visit College Tila. Showing up I see that Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni was already staying there and suggested that in this war we’ll have a group of our own as this is a Political War rather than a Military War as it is perceived by many and most. The Leftist’s claimed it’s the People’s War. During that time everyone has his own version of war. People participated in the war regardless of their cast, creed or credence but it was the political demagogue of Bongobondhu which was the point of influence for all of this as he motivated the drove the cause home. We discussed among ourselves and decided as this is a political war we require a political army to answer the call apart from the regular forces. In our experience (at that time), during that period most of the revolutionary wars were taking place all over the world and most of the movements even though initiated and funded by the nationalists are eventually taken over and turned by the leftists. Our prime objective is not to let the leftists take over it, no matter what. We wanted a political army which would make sure that the ideological background of the movement is not changed whimsically by anyone. According to our requirements we sat down and negotiated and discussed with our Indian counterparts and got the green signal. Even the government in exile wasn’t too happy to let it happen and pass it through. The 4 Kingpins, Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni, Sirazul Alam Khan, Abdur Razzaq and Tofael Ahmed sat down and decided that we should have a political army, to be known as Bangladesh Liberation Force, popularly known as Mujib Bahini. Arrangements were made to train us. 25-30 people were trained from the Agartola region. There were multiple regions. While the training was going on it was apparent that there was a certain amount of misunderstanding between the trainer and trainees due to the language problem and also the trainees prejudice towards instructors of Punjabi origin, as they assumed them to be the same as the Pakistanis, regardless of their difference in national identity. To overcome all of these it was proposed that 8 of us will be trained as instructors so that we can train the new recruits without any communication breakdown or misunderstandings. The other 7 being Hasanul Haq Inu, Sharif Nurul Ambia, Mohon Laal Shoum, Masud Ahmed Rumi, A.F.M. Mahbubul Haq (former BSD[defunct.]), I forgot the last one’s name. Our duty was to train the boys during the day and brief them on the politics at night. We were taken to a distance place named Tandua near the Chinese Border. In the briefing at was noticed that some ultra-leftists have taken over it to preach extreme left ideologies. Possibly my co-instructors were briefed by their mentors to assume that Bongobondhu will not return and therefore have a green sheet to run around with and attribute it to anything and everything that they feel like. The match was pretty lopsided as we were only two, me and Mohan Lal Shoum, and the rest six against us. The six were the blue eyed boys of Sirazul Alam Khan and thus it can be presumed that they acted on his behalf and they have presumed the stance that Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is not returning back from the Pakistani prison. During the 6th batch Sirazul Alam Khan vetoed my presence but in a rather flattery way to Moni Bhai (Sheikh Fazlul haq Moni). Moni Bhai (Sheikh Fazlul haq Moni) was one of the most intelligent people that I’ve copme to know in my life. He understood what was going but couldn’t ignore what was at stake. Therefore he accepted Sirazul Alam Khan’s proposition of abstaining me from the training sessions and suggested I shift to take care of the organization of the field hospital to provide good care and medical treatment to the injured. I came back to Agortola in another cargo plane. I now am charged with all field medical issues in my AOR. Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni by then has shifted his BOP to a place simply known as Glass Factory which is an old and derelict factory. In the Melaghor camp Maj. Khaled Mossharrof tried to hatch his very own faction. We were even ambushed by the Mukti Bahini in order to stop us from getting into Bangladesh and operate as we saw fit. In the meantime we started to publish Weekly Bangladesh which was edited by my good friend Mannan Chowdhury (now VC of World University), later on I took over.

BDJ: You had been the instructor of Mujib Bahini, can you please tell about your experience about it?

Mr. Faruque: Yes, I was an instructor of Mujib Bahini. The other instructors as they were sure about Bongobondhu not returning back preached extreme left ideas about authoritarian and totalitarian form of government in the name of Muzib-bad even though the actual essence of it couldn’t have been any different than that. The actual idea of it was an oppression free society where everything that can be provided to a person will be provided by the state. We preached a purely representative form of government with a socialist system in place. The most amazing thing is that the basic pillars of our constitution is what we used to believe and preach. We had been able to convince the Awami League leadership to include it even though they hatred for Mujib Bahini was known far and wide as they failed to have a controlling grip on us due to the fact that we organized and fought in our own ways. We were mostly Lungi clad civilian guerrillas in contrary to regular forces or beliefs suggesting that we operated in Indian Army uniforms. It was guerrilla war that we were waging and liked to address ourselves as guerrillas. As for me I was in charge of explosives and technically speaking I am an explosive expert. The organization was based on Leaders, as we were a political army we refrained from using terms like “commanders” to define the leaders operating in different areas. The hierarchy started from basic teams, they have Team Leaders to report to. Four such Team Leaders used to report to the Group Leader, who in turn was under the Thana Leader and District Leader, while all of it went back to the 4 Kingpins in Command. The BLF Central Command choose their targets and sent their operatives in teams accordingly. Our main objective was to disrupt communications infrastructure of the Pakistani Army. We used to take over the bridges. When we were overwhelmed in firefights we used to blow the bridges up.

BDJ: How do you evaluate the assistance of the Indians all through 1971?

Mr. Faruque: They did help us. Think of the population of Dhaka. How will the people react to the same amount of people pouring into the city? They will naturally be angry. These people they were not angry with us. The people, the government, all of them tolerated us. Our people even fought with their local thugs, in Calcutta and in the refugee camps if anyone dared to send in a slur or two in our way! Mujib Bahini or BLF forces were involved in quite a few battles, including the one fought in capturing the Shaldah River crossing, where one of our guerrillas were martyred and was later awarded Bir Protik. BLF also took part in the Operation Eagle conducted in the Chittagong Hill Tracts by regular Indian Forces. In every occasion BLF took part in its own form and liaised with the allied forces, be it Mukti Bahini or Indian Forces.

BDJ: And what about the Pakistanis? How they fought?

Mr. Faruque: I personally feel that Pakistani Army was not in a fighting spirit. We arrested and brought some of the paramilitary personnel and talked with them. They reported that their recruitment started about 6 to 8 months before Operation Searchlight took place proving that they hatched this plan of the crackdown a lot earlier than what we have thought. These people were recruited with the idea that war might break out and they were fed on the propaganda that they were to fight in East Pakistan against the Hindu majority populace. These militiamen were reckless and committed a lot of atrocities which were and are attributed to the regular military people as the civilians were unable to differentiate between the two. Lastly I want to say that the commanders in here also didn’t want to win the war. The way they behaved, the way they moved, the way they led their lives in here didn’t show any determination to win the war.

BDJ: Do you think that if there would have any political solution before 25th March 1971, then there would have any possibilities of an independent Bangladesh?

Mr. Faruque: We would’ve gone for it. Might have been after 3 months, but it would’ve taken place. The war was inevitable.

BDJ: On 16 December where you had been? And after the independence where you were posted?

Mr. Faruque: Due to overwhelming duties of taking care of the injured fighters I could not be in Bangladesh during 16th December 1971. I remember one very interesting incident after the Pakistani Army surrendered. I heard two Indian Jawans in the border post conversing, which started with one saying, “So now we also have Bangladesh with us.” The other one replied sternly mocking the earlier Jawan, “These are Bengalis, not Nepalese.” They well understood that a new enemy had been created in this front and it was pretty much evident during the whole war. The way we behaved, the Indian politicians also understood that.

BDJ: After the Pak surrender what happened to their left over weapons?

Mr. Faruque: I haven’t seen it. I haven’t been here but most of the Jawans and Officers thought that they have won over the Pakistanis.

BDJ: After 44 years of independence do you think we have achieved what we dreamt for?

Mr. Faruque: No, surely not. Nothing. We failed to build the society that we envisioned. The religious divide came in between and acted as an obstruction in part to the ruling style of H.M. Ershad, who wanted to copy Pakistan’s Zia Ul Haq and create a rather religious country, in which he failed miserably due to his vices which resulted in his lack of focus.