General (Dr) VK Singh, a great hero of 1971
We, all Bangalees, know the narrative of the Allied Forces' (Mitra Bahini) valiant fighting in 1971, and the nation -- generation after generation -- will ever remember the history with profound gratitude. The Bangalee Nation will remember the Bangladesh and Indian joint command of nine-month-long bloody war, General Manekshaw, General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army, and other valiant Army officers and jawans. The officers and the jawans of the Indian Army along with the brave Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh fought against the Pakistani Army in hundreds of battle fields, and sacrificed their blood for the noble cause of the independence of Bangladesh. The fields and forests of Bangladesh were washed red by their sanctified blood. The sons of both nations- the Bangalees and the Indians- were martyred in 1971. They ever remain alive to the hearts of the people of the sacred land- Bangladesh.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, along with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, honoured the 7 families at Manekshaw Centre on 8 April 2017. I was privileged to attend there. On the occasion, the sacrifices of the lives of the Indian soldiers were especially remembered and profound homage was paid to their sacrifices. "A total of 1,668 Indian soldiers attained martyrdom in the war" as The Times of India mentions. These brave personnel of the Allied Forces sacrificed their lives, fighting in the different fronts, forests and areas of Bangladesh.
The corpses of many of theirs like our freedom fighters' were not identified. The bodies of those martyred ones were unified with this land, and sanctified it. Indeed, they were the truest friends of ours. Their sacrifices gave impetus to attaining our freedom. On that day, at the Centre I found and talked to a lot of families including those who lost their family members in the Liberation War in 1971, and even their dead bodies were not found. It was a very emotional moment; they wished if they had regained their dear ones. Still I feel saddened by the memory of that moment.
General Dr VK Singh was one of the heroes of the Allied Forces who fought for the 1971 Liberation War. To be enlightened by his heroic words, I visited him at his residence on APJ Abdul Kalam Road of New Delhi on 17th July 2018. I was accompanied by Mr Musa Sadiq, a freedom fighter and former Secretary to the Government of Bangladesh. When I stood before Dr Singh, I felt thrilled that I was before a great hero of the Allied Forces of 1971.
In the military manner, saluting him, I said, "Sir, by paying honour to you, I pay my deep respect to all valiant soldiers of the Allied Forces for whose brave fighting Bangladesh earned its freedom through the nine-month long war. Your sacrifices for the cause of our freedom are historically significant and beyond measure". Smilingly, General Dr Singh extended his hand to me saying, "Joy Bangla". I shook hands with him with the greatest pleasure.
While introducing me to General Singh, Mr. Musa said, "He is Professor Dr Abdullah. He is the son of my respected teacher, an organizer of the Liberation War, Mr Ansar Ali. As Mr Ali was the most popular teacher in Satkhira District, a great many parents sent their sons to the different battle fields only for his advice, saying, 'May Allah protect you!'. The Pakistan Army also took him to a firing squad where 3 people were killed on the spot, but he escaped death miraculously by the mercy of God."
Having been introduced to me, General Singh embraced me with rapture. The handsome man of pleasant personality told me, "Tell your father that I am a freedom fighter of Bangladesh. Your father, a great teacher, sent his students to the battle fields where I fought as a soldier of the Indian Army, a part of the Allied Forces. And I was ready to achieve martyrdom for the cause of the freedom of your country."
As a matter of fact, I got fresh opportunities to know about freedom fighters and the Liberation War from such a great hero. I came to know how the Indian Army officers and jawans fought selflessly for the cause of our freedom. General VK Singh became delighted to see a son of a survived freedom fighter. He became more joyous to know that the people and the new generation of Bangladesh still remember him.
General Singh was continuing, "Thousands of the jawans and officers of the Indian Army were martyred. The sacred blood of ours and yours formed the same flow. During the war time on the roads and streets, in the forests and localities, and on the banks of the Padma and the Meghna of Bangladesh, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, and the Buddhists were unified as if they had formed the same body. All the religions formed the great identical confluence in the land of 56,000 square miles at the advent of the birth of independent Bangladesh. The world community recognized the Bangalees as a heroic nation; similarly, Bangladesh becomes a holy union for all the creeds and cultures."
Very raptly, I was listening to General Singh and said to him, "I heard about your valiant fighting from many freedom fighters. The soldiers under the command of Sector Commander Major Khaled Mosharraf lauded you. The then acting President of Bangladesh, Syed Nazrul Islam, exchanged his views with you, while visiting the battle field.
There he talked with the officers and the jawans of the Allied Forces, and he asked you, 'How long will you fight?' You answered smartly, 'Sir, as long as I am alive'. In response to your reply, he told, 'In Bangladesh where some hypocrites are handing over Bangalee mothers and sisters to the Pakistan Army; an outsider young man says what, "you see". He says, 'as long as he lives, he will fight for the freedom of Bangladesh'.
General Singh who later became the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army and now the State Minister of the External Affairs of the BJP Government said to me with great affection, "At the battle field in 1971, the words of affections of the then acting President of Bangladesh can be compared with those of a dear father. We were inspired by his words to fight bravely at the battle field."
I was spellbound by General VK Singh's eloquent words. I became fortunate enough that I felt myself as his disciple who gave me the lesson of patriotism. Why could I not meet such a great patriot and freedom fighter of Bangladesh ago? Having listened to such a genius and wise personality, when I was returning from his residence on APJ Abdul Kalam Road, I felt my transformation; I became a new man enriched with fresh consciousness of patriotism and commitment to my beloved country.
At the time of our parting, General VK Singh embraced both of us, and waved his hand saying, "Joy Bangla". Replying to him, "Joy Bangla", we departed from the great hero of the Allied Forces. Let me declare as a son of a freedom fighter fearlessly that the Bangalee nation is not able to repay the immeasurable sacrifices of all the valiant heroes of the Allied Forces.
Therefore, it is imperative that we should acquaint our new generation with the glorious contributions of the Indian Army to our great liberation war. We have to let the generation know that only for the cause of our freedom they sacrificed their lives. We fought for our freedom, but they fought without any material cause. Unquestionably it is a unique precedent of noble sacrifices in world history. They never expect reward for their glorious sacrifices. They, however, deserve love and admiration from us. We and our new generation should never forget their immeasurable sacrifices.
Professor Dr Abu Yousuf Md Abdullah is Vice-Chancellor, Northern University of Business and Technology, Khulna