Name: Abdul Mannan Sarker

Father’s Name: Late Morsheduddin Sarker

Village: Baliapukur, Union/Municipality: : Ward 27 

Rajshahi City Corporation: P.O. Ghoramara, Dt: Rajshahi

Education: Read Up to Class VIII

Age in1971: 21 yrs

Occupation in 1971: Small Business

Present Occupation: Business.

 

 

 

Q:  What do you know about the general elections in 1970 and subsequent events?

 

A.                       In the general elections held in that year in the then Pakistan the Awami League won in    majority of the seats. But power was not transferred to them. After this a political movement started in the country. Then came march 1971. This was a very important month for East Pakistan. A lot of things happened in this month. From the beginning of this month at the call of Bangabandhu Sk.Mujibur Rahman a non-cooperation movement was launched throughout the country. Then in the dark night of Mar 25,  the Pakistani occupation forces cracked down on the sleeping population of Bangladesh and carried out one of the worst genocides that history has ever recorded.

 

Q.                      Do you know or have you heard anything about the crackdown of 1971,  Mar 25/26 night?

A.  We heard this news on the radio. The Pakistanis planned to kill everyone in Bangladesh                   

      but they did not succeed. The Bengalis rose against them and launched a vigorous 

      liberation war which finally brought our independence and we got a new country..

 

Q.                      Were you attacked by the Pak troops in 1971?

 

A.                       Yes. During the liberation war I was in Rajshahi. On Oct 16, I was arrested by the Pak

troops. On that day early in the morning the Pak soldiers arrested me and Mir Rahmat Ali alias Titu Mia. Mir Rahmat Ali’s home is in Bhalukpara. He is the father of Mir Iqbal. We were arrested from our own homes and taken to Zoha Hall(Rajshahi University students’ residence). There were many others interned in this hall. Kanu bhai of Kajla, Babul Mia of Talaimuri, NAP leader Ataur Rahman Mukter and Salu Mia, Shamsher Ali of  Meherchandi and many others. We were all imprisoned there. I myself was connected with NAP (National Awami Party, a leftwing political party). Both eyes of Mir Rahmat Ali were gouged by the Pakistani soldiers. It cannot be described in words how mercilessly  he was  tortured from head to toe inflicting severe wounds on his whole body.

 

Q.                      What did the Pakistani soldiers do to you after they arrested you?

 

A.                       They took us to Zoha Hall, a student residence of the Rajshahi University. First they locked

us in one room. There was an old Hindu gentleman in the room. He told us that he was forced to embrace Islam through the ‘Peace Committee’ (Pakistan Army sponsored council of their supporters). He had a lot of landed properties. That is the reason why the Razakars were not satisfied by converting him into Islam, they handed him over to the Pak army. He was from Pabna. At the time I had no idea about the ‘Zoha’ Hall. The Pak soldiers took us there blind folded. We came to know from this gentleman that the building was Zoha Hall, one of the students’ residences of the Rajshahi University.

 

 

As soon we were taken there they started interrogating us. One Major Ilyus and another Major Aslam Khan entered our room and asked us a barrage of questions. There were two Bengali Razakars with them. At one point of time they repeatedly questioned Tetu bahi about his son. He was charged with the killing of many Biharis and Pak soldiers. They asked him where his son was. They wanted to know where the arms used to kill their men were hidden. At one stage of questioning they kicked Tetu bhai and he fell down on the floor. They also kept on asking me similar questions. They also asked me where I had hidden my weapons. They charged that I knew where the Muktijoddhas were camped and that the muktis(freedom fighters) were visiting me every now and then and I would have to tell them everything. At one stage they also started beating me. Our addresses were noted down. At this point the two Razakars were with them. They seemed to be educated persons. They were translating our replies into Urdu for the majors. At one stage they left the room.

 

The same night at around 9 or 9:30 Rahmat Ali and I were taken to a lonely room. It was dark and  stinking all over. Soon after we were taken to this room suddenly light was switched on.. Then we could see a table and a chair at one corner of the room, and some empty bags piled together. On the floor there were plenty of human hair scattered all over. The walls and the floor were splashed with blood. In some places the stains became black. Soon after we were taken to this room, the two majors and the Bengali Razakars entered the room. Mir Rahmat Alil was lying down on the floor on one side of his body. I was also lying down. Soon some one said, Rahmat Ali, are you alright?  At that time Tetu bhai was not able to get up. He was trying hard to raise his shoulder. One of the Razakars helped him to get up and sit down on the chair. And again they started asking questions. They asked him where his comrades were, and where was his son. They asked him where he had hidden his weapons. ‘Tell us everything’, the Major said., ‘we will let you go’. Tetu bhai knew Urdu very well. He repeatedly said in Urdu that he did not know anything about it.

 

Q   Didn’t they ask you any question at that time?

 

A   Not exactly at that time. Later on they asked me questions. I was then seeing everything

      leaning on one side of my body. Tetu was repeatedly saying that he did not know  any-

thing about it. At one stage he said that he was in the village and the government announced on the radio that all those who had left their businesses could return to the towns safely and open their shops and no actions would be taken against them. On hearing this announcement he had returned to Baliapur town. ‘ And now you have arrested me from Baliapur,’ he said. ‘ and what wrong have I done? I was never connected with Mukti Sangram. I do not know where my son Iqbal is and I have no relation with him’. When he said this they started beating him right and left with a cane and pushed him down on the floor. And then one of them put his booted foot on his chest and a Bengali Razakar gouged out one of his eyes with the bayonet of his rifle. Blood oozed out of his eye socket and his whole face became covered with fresh blood. Tetu bhai could not speak any more and he started groaning in terrible pain.

 

Then they left him and came to me. One of them placed his foot on my waist and started pulling my hair and chin and kept on asking all sorts of questions. A little later they started beating me right and left. At one point of time they hit me so hard under my foot that I lost my senses. I do not know anything that happened afterwards. When I regained my senses I found myself in another room. In that room  there was another person in place of Tetu bhai. He was Salu Meah, at present a businessman.  I knew him also. His home is in Dargapara. He helped me and with his help I managed to get up and sit down leaning against the wall. Then I noticed that there was a plate on the floor which looked like the one in which food was given to me and Tetu bhai the day before.

 

Q  Did the Pak soldiers give you food on the first day of your captivity?

 

A. Only once. It was salt and spice less Khichuri (rice and dal cooked in the same pot).Talking to Salu Mia I came to know that he was also caught because of Tetu bhai. He was arrested by Boalia thana policemen. Those policemen were non-Bengalis. They handed him over to the Pak army. Around mid-day the Pak army came down stairs. It was very painful for me to walk down Salu bahi held my hand and helped me through the stairs. When we came down we saw Ataur Rahman Moktar, Babul Mia, Kadu Mia of Kazla, Jumman of.Tikapara, and Shamsher Ali of Meherchandi and many unknown persons who were waiting there. Pak bahini made us stand in a line. One of the Pak bahini men took our photographs. Then they called our names one by one and led us towards the gate. I could not move. I had terrible pain in the waist. If I took one step I could not go for the second one. It was Salu bhai who was literally dragging me towards the gate. With great difficulty I reached the gate and as we reached we found lots of shuttering materials need for building concrete structures such as wooden planks, bamboo poles etc were heaped up all over the place. The prisoners were ordered to remove them. Ataur Rahmen Sahib was also doing his duty. So was Babar Meah. Some of us had to clear the area of unwanted shrubs, bushes etc. And then a truck came and from that truck a man was brought down. His eyes were blindfolded. A little later another truck arrived and exactly at the same time we heard a rifle shot somewhere close by. Immediately the Pak soldiers took us inside a room  Ataur Rahman, and Babar Meah of Talaimari were also in the group.

      None of us could sleep at night. We were simply watching what was going on around us. We came to know that every night one or more of the prisoners were killed by the Pakistanis. One night suddenly the door of our room opened. Four new prisoners were brought inside our room. The Pak soldiers left them in the room and disappeared. We came to know from them that at mid-night they were captured from Godagari and then brought to our camp. At around 11 am of 21 April, the Pak army men called me by name, one of them said, who is Mamoon? I responded. Then they took me to a room downstairs. I was thinking, that this would be my last day of life. Probably I wouldn’t live any more. After they took me to this room they started interrogating me. They asked me, what was the name of the chairman of my Union and who were the people of my village who had left for India. They asked me many other questions. Atabhai told me if I told them any names then they would be immediately arrested. Ata bhai told every prisoner, ‘You die but don’t put anyone else into trouble, don’t tell them any names. If you do,  they will be caught’. He repeated his advice many a times to us.

         Remembering what Atabhai had said I told them that I did not know anything. When I said this   they started thrashing me right and left. At one stage I fell down unconscious. When I regained  my senses I found myself dumped in a ditch packed with dead, rotting corpses, some packed in gunny bags, all around me in the middle of an abandoned brick field.

 

Q.                      Where was this brick field located?

 

A.                       The brick field was located on the eastern side of the Zoha hall. The field was packed with rotting bodies and skeletons all around. The smell was so foul that it was not possible for anyone to stay there for even a few seconds. Probably it was the stink that woke me up from unconscious state. I found myself dumped into a ditch and still alive. With a great deal of effort I stood up. There was no one else alive in the whole area. Then I looked back at the Zoha hall. I could hardly see anything, nothing beyond 20/30 feet. Then everything around appeared to me like a dark screen of smoke.

 

      Q   Did it happen during the day or night?

 

A.                       It would be around 2 pm or so. Probably the Pak army thought I was dead and so they

dumped me into the disposal yard. Somehow I managed to remember everything and then I thought I would have to escape, no matter how, from this hell. In front of me there was a naked corpse. It seemed this one was disposed of some time in the morning hours. All the other corpses were wholly or partly decomposed and looked as if they were a day or two old. It was difficult to guess how these men were killed. Some were packed in gunny bags. And then I managed with a lot of pain and difficulty to escape from the spot. After limping over a bit of distance I came across a man. He was very helpful to me. Without his help it would have been impossible for me to come out of the varsity area.

 

Q.                      Did you find out who was this man?

 

A.                       He said he lived with the family of a professor of the university. One of the cows belonging

         to the family had strayed away and he was trying to find the animal. I did not ask his  mane. I never thought of asking his name. He took me to a building and helped  me to sit on the steps. Then he gave me a shirt and a glass of Horlicks to drink. After the drink I felt somewhat better. Then he asked about my address. I told him I was from Baliapukur. I told him if he would be so kind to inform my brother then it would be a great help to me. I said I could wait there. He said, I couldn’t stay there much longer and instead he would take me further along the route. He took my hand on his shoulder and helped me to walk with him towards a primary school building. There was a big banyan tree. He left me there. The Natore road passes in front of the building. The road was used by pedestrians all sorts and by light vehicles. I could see this but I didn’t have the strength to go any further.

 

Probably my luck was good. On that day and that hour a relative of mine was passing along the road. Somehow his eyes fell on me. His name was Muzammel. He was a brother-in-law of one of my maternal uncles. When he saw me he got down from his by-cycle. Then he left his by-cycle leaning against the tree and came to me. I knew him. He also recognized me. When I saw him I thought I got a new life. Perhaps, I shall live again.

 

Anyhow, he listened everything from me. Then he quickly arranged for a rickshaw . He helped me to get on the rickshaw and accompanied me up to Baliapukur. As soon as I reached home my only and the elder brother sent for Dr. Hazrat Ali and arranged for my treatment. The doctor gave me some immediate treatment. I was for 6/7 hours at our home. I thought it would not be safe to stay at home. I stayed for the night and early in the morning I went to the nearby village of Hariany. My elder brother took me there. My father-in-law’s home was in this village. I was married then.

 

Q.  Why did the Pak bahini arrest you?

 

A.   In reality I had contacts with the Muktijodhas. They used to visit me. This the Pakistanis

 somehow came to know. There were some Pakistan army collaborators in the village.   They secretly kept watch on me. During the Muktijuddho period I had regular contacts with one of the freedom fighter’s father Meer Rahmat Ali alias Tetu Meah.

 

Q.                      What did you do at your father-in-law’s house?

 

A.                       A few days later I left for Bahrampur with Meer Iqbal (freedom fighter). I was treated there

and after I recovered I stayed at Sheikhpara camp in India. I told Iqbal his father’s story. He was terribly shocked to hear about the tragedy that befell his father. Iqbal said to me, mama(uncle) you are ill, you stay here and get  treatment. Then according to his advice I stayed in the house of one Kader Sarder of  Nandivita Banshpara area. A few days later Bangladesh became independent. I then returned home.

 

Interviewer: Moloy  Bhowmick

Date of Interview: June 13, 1997

Translator: Faruq Aziz Khan