Pamelia Khaled: “The more you get hurt the more you incur loss.”(Tagore)…..There were many stories appeared in lines after the black night of 26th March 1971. Among all of them, I’m narrating one little story that seems little in compare to other stories, but it has tremendous effect in my family, as it costs us enormous and left our heart empty—nothingness.
Those were the collaborators of West Pakistan Army and traitors of Bangladesh nation- the defector East Pakistanis named as “Razakars and Al- Badars”; in 1971, who arrested my second eldest brother, Muhammad Shamsul Islam, a sporty, talented young man of 21, the then, famous soccer player, his devastated life driven me and my family each February, March, December in a similar way. His memory doesn’t become grey or blur our vision, it becomes distinct and lucid. These Razakars and Al. Badars tortured my brother brutally and transferred him to the Pakistan Army to torture more, by numerous ways. They were very exalted and proud of thinking that they caught up a freedom fighter-muktijodhdha in that ominous dark night.
After this incidence, more than four decades have passed away, but it was February 13, 2013, I re-wrote this story sitting in Mount Pleasant & Eglinton Coffee shop in Toronto.
Nandina is renowned as a big Bazaar, a centre of market place in a sub-urban area; however, it is also renowned of its famous school Maharani Hemanta Kumari Pilot High School and Railway Station. About Nandina Bazar, the country window net describes, One of the developed villages name Nandina situated 10 km away from Jamalpur, which is very famous for business centre as well as literacy rate of this village is at around 90%.Nandina is considered one of the most important education hub in Jamalpur district and people belong to this village are serving as high officials in home and abroad.
This small locality had a great significance during the liberation war. Nandina is situated by the riverside of Brahmaputra River, 147 km north of the capital city Dhaka, the national capital. Nandina is an important market center for the rice, sugarcane, jute, tobacco, and mustard -produced in the region. The semi urban city is connected by road, rail, and river with Jamalpur, the district city, Dhaka and the rest of the country.
The north side of the River Brahmaputra, there is a huge Charanchal known collectively as Char (covered with sand). It is surrounded by a narrow branch river name Maragang (Dead River, the branch of Brahmaputra). In the winter season Maragang gets dried entirely; however, it looks more beautiful for its calmness and tranquility.
In the evening, the North side of the Brahmaputra River the scenic beauty of bluish Garo hills look magnificent; this is the northern border of Bangladesh and India. According to one such oral tradition, the Garos first immigrated to Garo Hills from Tibet (referred to as Tibotgre) around 400 BC under the leadership of Jappa Jalimpa, crossed the Brahmaputra River and tentatively settled in the river valley and neighboring areas of Bangladesh.
In the beginning of The Liberation War 1971, most of the Hindu families crossed the river and moved to India for their safety. The same way many (the then) East Pakistani (Bangladeshi) youths crossed the river to get trained to be muktijodhdhas(freedom fighters) in India. However, Al-Badars’, and Rajakars’ were much watchful to cover Brahmaputra River side as India is very close to the northern part of this River. During the war, The Pakistan Army settled their camps in the large building of Nandina Union Council, and in the different part of Nandina Pilot School and Nandina Cum College. Al Badars’ and Rajakars’ also settled their camps in the one part of the huge school campus.
The Liberation War 1971 had started very rapidly in the capital city of Dhaka and the other part of the country in a massive scale with a mass killing of innocent people of East Pakistan. In the beginning of the War our father could not decide whether he will send all of us to our grandfather’s home right away seeking for our safety and security. He was rather concern of our schooling. As he always paid attention of our education, he was more concerned what if we miss school due to war. Hence, he decided to continue our schooling during the first month of the war staying at our Nandina residence. Still I can remember, out of tremendous fear, I walked with a panicked heart to cross the Pakistan army camp going to school every day.
In 1971, I was a grade four student of Nandina Nekjahan Girls High School. From our house, the distance of this School was less than one kilometer. While I walked in front of Pakistan army camp, I always thought, today I might get caught up by the Pakistani soldiers. They were all dressed up with Khaki uniform and patrolled that road with guns to check Nandina railway station and passengers. I wondered what if they ask me anything, what I’ll answer to their questions. Whenever I reached in front of the camp my feet got slower and heavy, heartbeat became faster and head got distressed thinking of them living demon. I felt I am traumatized and speculated something is going to be happening just right now.
However, it was our education spirited father, in the middle of war he took a huge risk and responsibility of keep sending three of us to school, except our eldest sister. She was a grade ten student – a pretty teenage girl. For her security, one day father decided to send her to his native village Darihamidpur along with my mother. My mother was anxious of our two eldest brothers’ security and safety: one of them was studying in George Foreman Christian College, Lahore and another one was in service of West Pakistan army in Risalpur, West Pakistan. My sweet and soft mother was in more panic thinking her rest of the children, leaving them alone in Nandina residence, though our beloved father was there always for us.
To save all of us, from air bombing, my father dug out a huge trench in the middle of our courtyard. In this huge bunker our store keeper Shahjahan stored all kinds of dry food, valuable goods, fire sticks, clothes water etc. We were taught well whenever we hear sounds of an airplane; we must run to the bunker before we get struck of frequent bombing. Every day, these sorts of rehearsal had been taking place at Nandina residence. As soon as we heard the sounds of airplane was patrolling, firing machine gun, or bombing in Kamalpur the neighboring semi- urban city, we ran to the home bunker for our shelter. Each morning our lives had started with a hue and cry for all those chaotic situations and incidents. Especially, the store keeper Shahjahan was in a real fright. Each time he ran first to enter in the bunker and got out at the last.
After all these doldrums, one month later when devastation was done, my father decided to send all of us to our grandfather’s house. We walked mile after mile along with all the bags and baggage’s, fear, anguish, pain and sorrows. We carried all of our stuff on the cow drawn cart and all the sorrows in our heart.
Even though, father took all the precautions to save all of us, the worst matter have had happened. Unfortunately, the risk he took during The Liberation War keeping us all together under his warm arms, it did not work out the way he thought. The peril could not be avoided during the genocide, in 1971.
I can remember that evening vividly that black evening (kal shondhabela) had been waiting to something happen awkward.
My brother is gone, gone forever, he didn’t return on that murky night.
(To be continued)
The writer is Doctoral student in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)
Research assistant, University of Toronto
Founder-President Volunteer Association for Bangladesh Canada