Name:  Sheikh Abdul Hannan

Father:  Late Moklesur Rahman

Vill:  Ranabijoypur  Union:  Hatgambuj

P.O.  K. Ali Dargah

P.S.  Bagerhat,

Dt.  Bagerhat

Education:  S.S.C

Age in 1971:  17 yrs

Occupation in 1971: Student

Present Occupation: Business

 

 

 

Q:   What do you know about the elections of 1971 and subsequent incidents?

 

A:   In the 1971 elections the Awami League led by Bangabandhu won with  absolute majority.

 

But subsequently, when the Pakistani rulers were reluctant to handover power to Bangabandhu, a massive political movement was generated within the country. This movement soon spread throughout the country,  including Bagerhat. From Bagerhat Sh. Abdur Rahman was elected M.P. He was leading the movement. In addition the NAP(National Awami Party) of Muzaffar Ahmed took part in this movement under the leadership of Advocate Sabur Ahmed. The NAP (Bhasani Group) was led by Amjad Ali and Gorai Mia. There were other parties taking active part in this movement. A Sangram Parishad (War Council) was formed taking in its fold all the parties under its umbrella. Those of us who were in Chhatra(Students’) League, youth organization of the Awami League, and other organizations combined under the leadership of the Sangram Parishad and took active part in the movement.

  

Later on  I made contact with Commodore (Retd) in Dhaka. I heard he had a secret organization. I was lucky to attend one of their secret meetings in Dhaka along with my brother Sh. Abdul Mannan, Pathan Abdul Mannan, Bhotu Mia and some others. The meeting took place in the end of January (1971). In this meeting several decisions were taken: we would have to make the country independent, discussed what would be the design of the national flag, what would be the name of the country etc. In this meeting a decision was taken that the name of the country would be “Bangladesh” and the flag would be a map of Bangladesh on a red circle over a green piece of cloth. A sample of the map was brought secretly to Bagerhat by Bholtu Mia, Pathan Abdul Manna and. Sh. Abdul Mannan. Ansar Sahib was a famous tailor of Bagerhat. He loved Awami League and Bangabandhu. We went to him very quietly at around mid night and he produced the sample flag for us.

  

At that time there were two groups within the Students’ League, one was led by Nure Alam Siddiqui and Abdul Quddus Makhan and other by A.S M Abdur Rab and Shahjahan Siraj.

 

Under their leadership the new national flag of Bangladesh was hoisted on the campus of the Dhaka University. The flag with Bangladesh map on it was first hoisted by ASM Abdur Rob. We belonged to his group. I have mentioned before that there were two groups in the Chhatra League. Because of this reason when we came to know that our leader ASM Abdur Rob hoisted the national flag at the root of the banyan tree on the Dhaka University campus. We also decided to hoist an identical flag in Bagerhat. I was not aware of any place in Bangladesh where this flag was hoisted before then. We decided to hoist the new flag of Bangladesh on the office building of the S.D.O. When we discussed this issue with M.P of our area Sheikh Abdur Rahman, he gave us clearance. On that day Mar 2, my elder brother Pathan Abdul Mannan, Asoke Kumer Debnath and another boy named Nazrul Islam climbed up  the S.D.O’s office building and was about to pull down the Pakistani flag, a police guard on duty at the treasury building was ready to shoot Mannan. It was a stroke of luck that Mr. Dudu Mia, the head clerk of the S.D.O restrained the police man from shooting Mannan. When Pathan Abdul Mannan came down with the Pakistani flag in his hand,  Dudu Mia  drove him away. There were a lot of people who had assembled there. Amiruzzaman Bacchu, now dead, was making announcements on a microphone. He was chairman of the Student’s League. His hard work made it possible to organize a strong movement. To-day he is almost forgotten. He inspired us by his emotional speeches, something that made our blood boil. After raising the flag when we returned we heard that a case had been lodged with the court of the Martial Law Administrator of Khulna. One Col. Shams of the Pakistani Army, then already known as the hanadars’(Aggressors), was the Martial Law Administrator of Khulna. Even many of our leaders were unhappy about our raising of the flag. In a situation like this there was even a demand for our trial in a people’s court. As a result  the few of us responsible for this act went underground.

 

 

Q.   Even after wining the 1970 general elections the Awami League was not allowed to assume power. In a situation like this what was the reaction of the people of Bagerhat.?

 

A.   Bagerhat did not lag behind the rest of the others. In fact Bagerhat was ahead of the rest of the country. In this context it reminds me of an incident. Someone by the name Mr. Kauth, so far I remember, a Pakistani, was posted as the ADC general of Bagerhat. All of a sudden he appeared from somewhere and gave orders to fire on the crowd of college students who had assembled there. We had launched a strong protest against this order and called for his explanation. The protests were made by Sabur Bhai, Sh. Abdur Rahman, Amjad Ali, Gorai Mia and some others. As a consequence arrest warrants were issued against all of them. Although the authorities failed to arrest them, Sh. Abdur Rahman was caught and he was jailed. Meetings, processions and demonstrations were all too frequent and the entire population of the area was on the streets.

 

 

Q.   What do you know about the incidents of Mar 25, 1970 and what was the role of the people of your area?

 

A.   When the Pakistani occupation army launched attack on us I immediately got the new from Mr. Nurul Islam, MNA of Barisal over telephone. He said the Pak army had cracked down in Dhaka, Bangabandhu had declared independence of Bangladesh and asked us to prepare for resisting the Pak army. This news was communicated over telephone to the residence of Sh. Abdur Rahman, MPA of Bagerhat. Immediately we got the news of Pakistan army crackdown in Dhaka from Mr. Rahman. Next morning we got repeated broadcast of the announcement of Independence of Bangladesh from Chittagong through the Independent Bangladesh Revolutionary Radio Station. We had a Citizen brand radio set assembled in East Pakistan with us. While turning the knob forward and backward we suddenly got tuned to this Chittagong radio centre. After we got this information we became sure about our war of independence. On receiving this news all the political leaders who were giving leadership to the movement came forward. I have said before about the Sangram Parishad (War Council) constituted in Bagerhat by taking leaders from several political parties. Now they came forward. At the time a Hindu gentleman by the name U.C. Sarker was posted as  the second officer of Bagerhat Sub-division and the third officer was one Mr. Nurul Islam. Sh. Abdur Rahman M.P and some other politicians of the area made a request to these two officers to transfer all the arms and ammunition of the treasury to our men fighting for our independence. They told the government officials that the repression that was going on on the Bangalis on the soil of Bengal and the armed attack that has been launched must be resisted. We wanted to build resistance as per the directives of Bangabandhu, we wanted to go for armed revolution and free this land.. Then the third officer Mr. Nurul Islam handed over the key to the treasury and said “Please enact the scene that you are forcibly taking away the key from me”. We were all present there. We were all with our leaders. We surrounded the officer and snatched the key and collected all the weapons from the treasury strong room.

               

In the meantime Maj. M.A.Jalil, Lt. Mehdi, and Capt Huda, reached Bagerhat. After they arrived we distributed all the weapons amongst the Ansars, EPR men who had escaped from their units and retired members of the police and the army. On arrival at Bagerhat  Maj Jalil expressed his plans to capture the radio station at Khulna and then make a broadcast declaring the independence of Bangladesh as per the wish of the Bangabandhu, and that we were fighting a war of independence. According to this plan the Khulna radio station located in Gallamari was attacked under the leadership of Maj, Jalil with several groups taking part in the assault. Two of our freedom fighters subedar Zainal Abedin of Chitalmari and a gentleman named Habibur Rahman of Rupsa were killed. To the best of my knowledge these were the only two who became shaheed in that action. I did not participate in that operation because I had by then received no training in arms. But I did take part in supplying arms and ammunition, food and medicine to the fighting men. We could not capture the radio station. After this we became separated from one another.

 

 

Q.   Did you hear about the 7th March speech of Bangabandhu Sh. Mujibur Rahman?

 

A.   Why me alone, every single soul in entire Bangladesh heard about it. I thought he knew very well what would be his position, what would be the situation around him and that is why he said that if he were not around to give orders, then every one should pounce on the enemy with whatever implements they could lay their hands on. We understood after the 7th March speech that we were on the path towards independence. His address carried that directive.

 

 

Q.   Were you attacked in 1971?

 

A.   I was not attacked in 1971. When I reached India I could not go for training immediately. Because the sector commander of sector IX Major Jalil engaged me for recruiting young boys. I entered Bangladesh territory many a times. Those boys belonging to the Students’ League or men, members of Youth League desirous of joining the liberation war had to be collected and for this reason I entered Bangladesh territory quite a few times. It so happened that Sh.Naser, younger brother of Sh. Mujib who was camped at Dhopakahli of Bagerhat had 10/12 young men with him and I picked them and brought them to Jamrultala camp in India which was a recruiting centre. Sh. Abdur Rahman M.P.A was the camp in-charge. The sector commander was Maj. Jalil and  Mr. Abu Rahman was the political adviser. They were appointed by the Govt. of Bangladesh. While I was in charge of recruitment, I was sent to the training camp by Maj. Jalil. After completing the training when I was returning to the Bangladesh territory with subedar Tajul Islam along with 50/60 freedom fighters, the transport a British made Bedford of England brought out of Bangladesh to India and containing explosives and ammunition was speeding through rain drizzle ran into a ditch near the Bagda border as the driver of the vehicle lost control. All of us were injured more or less and I received grave injuries. After the accident the Indian army and police cordoned off the area. Those of us who received  injuries were promptly sent to hospital. I was taken to a hospital in Howrah. I received serious injury on my chest. I am still not out of the effect of the injury. I feel pain while breathing, but I am still alive. For this act of kindness I am grateful to Allah.

 

 

Q.   Why did you join the Liberation War?

 

A.   Please remember that the Liberation War did not start on Mar 26,1971 just like that. The history goes back to the Language Movement of 1948. We hoped that we would be able to live and express our views like an independent nation. I love freedom. I have seen the repression and acts of cruelty committed by the  Pakistani aggressors in Bangladesh. I was a student of the Khulna B.K. School. I had seen that we couldn’t talk on the streets in front of the Biharis. They used to utter the names of our parents and speak ill of them and abuse them in filthy language. Such incidents created a strong feeling in my mind. I wanted this country to be independent. We are Bangalis. We wanted a flag of our own and an independent state on the map of the world so that we could move around with our heads upright. With this hope I actively participated in the Liberation War.

 

 

Q.   When did the Pakistanis attack your area or Bagerhat district?

 

A.   Well, I would say that we had set up our camp on the campus of Bagehat school on Mar 26 and built up resistance against Pak aggression. The Khan(Pak) soldiers arrived at Bagerhat on April 24. They came to Demarpole by river route on a gun-boat Then they traveled on foot  towards Bagerhat. At the time we were in the Bagerhat school camp. When we got the news of the Khan soldiers coming in our direction, two different groups under the leadership of Subedar Mahtabuddin and EPR Habilder Abdur Razzak took position on the banks of Pachadighi. A little distance away in Karapaa village a man by the name Tara Mia fired a few shots at the Pak army with disastrous consequence. The army entered his house and killed Razzak and 4/5 others including women and children. After this, they again moved towards Bagerhat. While returning to Bagerhat they had a fierce battle with our men who had taken position on the banks of Pacha Dighi under the leadership of subedar Mahtabuddin and EPR havildar Razzak. Our troops were compelled to retreat, and in this action havildar Razzak became shaheed(martyr). In that action both Pathan Abdul Mannan and Sh. Abdul Mannan took part under the leadership of Khandaker Mahtabuddin. Pathan Abdul Mannan was seriously wounded by a splinter of a mortar shell fired from the gun-boat the Pakistanis had anchored at Demarpole. He was rescued. Earlier we had received information that he was killed. After our resistance failed, the Pakistani troops moved very quickly towards Bagerhat. An elderly fellow by the name Muzaffar who claimed that he had built a mosque, named Nur Mosque, with his own money was standing beside his mosque to receive the Pakistani troops with gallons of drinking water to quench their thirst. But unfortunately for him the Pakistanis mistook him as an enemy agent and shot and killed him on the spot. And then they started firing rocket shells from Demarpole near Bagerhat. The Pak troops entered the Bagerhat school and attacked the camp that we had set up with heavy weapons and dispersed our men consisting of EPR, police and army personnel. At one stage these men crossed the river and set up another camp at Batpur, and some of them gathered at Gotapara, Dopara and Besragati on the other side of the river north of Bagerhat..

 

 

Q.   What sort of repression and torture the Pakistan Army had carried out after they entered Bagerhat?

 

A.   I didn’t see these because I myself was a freedom fighter and at the time we had to retreat. But later on I heard that they had carried committed  murder, raped women, destroyed business places and set fire to anything they wished. From their gunboat moored at Nagerbazar about which I have mentioned before, the Pakistani soldiers fired shells around Nagerbazar and destroyed quite a few buildings. They created a reign of terror through committing murder, rape and arson. The market was razed to ashes and debris. On the very first day one thirds of the town of Bagerhat was totally destroyed. That day after these acts of terror they left for their camp. Later on they set up a number of camps in the area and used these as their bases for committing more acts of terror and destruction. Later on they captured 10/11 men from Kandapara bazaar  while they were on their way to Chitalmari and killed them by slashing their throats open. They raped innumerable women which the victims themselves reported to us. But they won’t admit those shameful  incidents now for fear of losing respect in the eyes of the society. One of the unfortunate victims was my relative; she is married now and I do not want to disclose her name.

 

 

Q.   Did anyone of your own family become shaheed?

 

A.   No one of my family became shaheed. We three brothers were adult. We left home. My father who served in the British army also fought in the liberation war. My mother took refuge in a distant village where no army could reach.

 

 

Q.   When did the muktibahini operations start in your area? What was the people’s feeling like about the muktibahini?

 

A.   In my area muktibahini activities started from the very beginning, Mar 26. In Ranbijoypur and Shaat Gambuj Mosque area armed clashes took place with the Pak army. There was a mukti-bahini camp beside the Shatgambuj mosque. There was a school beside the mosque and the camp was set up in this school. Bagerhat was a free-zone from Mar 26 till Apr 24. During this time there was a wide support from the people. They spontaneously brought us food, drink, fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, anything anyone could afford. If someone found an egg in his hen cage he would cook it and bring it for us. There was such a spontaneous natural feeling from our people for the freedom fighters.

 

 

Q.   In the first phase how was the war conducted and who gave the leadership?

 

A.   Maj. Jalil provided the military leadership and the political leadership came from the president of the Bagerhat Awami League, Mr. Abdur Rahman. Then we had Amjad Ali Gorai Mia of Bhasani  NAP. They jointly gave leadership of the war of resistance in our area.

 

And then at the top of everything we had the wholehearted support of our people from one to all.

 

 

Q.   In your village or area who were the Rajakars or members of the Peace Committee?

 

A.   I belong to the Shatgambuj union (a collection of a dozen or so villages). In this area one Rajab Ali Fakir, the chairman of the union, was himself the leader of the Rajakar bahini. One Kashem Master of my union was also a Rajakar. His second in command was a man by the name Kader Mallick. Several others such as Manik Fakir, Abu Ali Fakir, Ishaq Uddin, Hemayet Ali and several others were in leading position. These people gathered many others around them with the passage of time and created a reign of terror over the entire area.

 

 

Q.   Will you elaborate a little more about the repression carried out by the Rajakars?

 

A.   I forgot to mention the name of Akijuddin. He was a killer. He had killed many people. He used to round up many ordinary people and slaughtered them blaming that they were freedom fighters. The captured men were taken in front of the Bagerhat  Dakbangalow and then killed. The launch(small steamer) of the sub-divisional officer used to be docked there, and near that place the victims were taken over a bridge and killed and their bodies thrown into the river below. Siraj master, a rogue, was the leader of these planned murders .Another killer Akijuddin used to tell the would be victims with a smiling face that he was an old man and asked  the victims to lower their heads making it easy for him to kill them. The captured men were hung with their heads down for days together and tortured mercilessly and poked by bayonets and killed. Many others were shot and killed.

 

 

Q.   Where are these anti-liberation elements now?

 

A.   Fakir Rajab Ali, the chief of Rajakar died on Dec 16, 1971. He committed suicide. Akijuddin who was a leader of a gang of robbers met natural death. The others are still living in the area and doing well. Some of them are doing business. Rajakar Kasem master is still around, creating terror in the area. Others are also quite well settled. They are all doing fine, enjoying life and creating terror as usual.

 

 

Q.   Were these anti-liberation elements arrested after liberation?

 

A.   We captured these elements and according to government directive sent them to jail. But later on after the general amnesty granted by the government these elements got out of the jail through wrong interpretation of the order and using loop holes in the laws and by managing the government officers got out of the jail. People misunderstood Bangabandhu. They thought Bandhu had pardoned the criminals by the general amnesty order. This is nothing but malicious propaganda. He did grant general amnesty but those who had specific charges of murder, rape, arson, destruction property  etc against them were not covered by the order. This was clarified in the order. But money, personal relationship, connivance with government officials and loop holes in the laws helped the criminals to get free.

 

 

Q.   After the war what was the condition of the schools, madrashas, hospitals,mosques, roads etc of this area?

 

A.   Almost everything was destroyed; schools colleges, mosques-madrashas, and everything else.

 

 

Q.   During the war which were the areas where excessive killing took place?

A.   The biggest massacre took place at the Mongla port area in the south of Bagerhat. Bajua village was another area where large scale killing took place. And so also Kaliganj, Dakra, and  Morelganj  where massacre was committed.

 

 

Q.   How were these massacres committed?

 

A.   The joint operation carried out by the Pak troops and the Rajakars resulted in these large scale murder, rape, arson and looting.

 

 

Q.   What is your estimate of the number of people killed around Bagerhat Dak-bungalow jetty?

 

A.   These luckless people were rounded up from many areas and brought to the jetty. Most of them were innocent men who had nothing to do with the liberation war. They were killed on the false pretext that they were connected in one way or the other with the liberation war.Almost two hundred men were killed at the Dak-bungalow jetty. We got the list of the victims after liberation of the country. It reminds me of one Rajakar of Harikhali who had kept three young girls under confinement. When we reached the place they had no clothes on them. The girls told us that they were always kept naked. I do not remember the name of the Rajakar. We had rescued the three girls. The son-in-law of Mosharaf Kazi who was the owner of the nearby Mosharaf saw-mills was the man who committed this crime. We transferred the responsibility of the three girls over to the Bagerhat police station. We had earlier built  bunkers at this station. We had also built pucca(brick-work)bunkers at several other places.

 

 

Q.   What did you do with your weapons after the war ended?

 

A.   At the end of the war when Bangabandhu issued instructions to surrender our weapons within a specified time, I forgot the exact date, I deposited my weapons to my local commander Major Joynal Abedin.

 

 

Q.   What did you do after the war ended?

 

A.   Even after the war I involved myself in active politics and I am still continuing to do so. Later on also I spent most of time in nation building work neglecting my family. On April 24 the Pakistani soldiers and Fakir Rajab Ali’s marauders burnt down my home.

Till to-day I have not been able to rebuild it.

 

 

 

Name of Interviewer: A.K.M. Fazle Khoda

Date of Interview:  April 20, 1997

English Translation: Faruq Aziz Khan