Excerpts from the author's forthcoming book 'Genocide in the Bangladesh Army (1976-1981)'. This is the sixth installment in the series.
Last letter of Major Gias to his wife
I take (your) leave. I could not ask forgiveness from you. Don't beat Shumi and Rumi. Henceforth rear them as their father/mother. Educate them. I have given you a lot of pain throughout life. Forgive me. You can live wherever you want. Make up your mind after talking to father/mother. I could not leave behind anything. Forgive me, good-bye. Give my plentiful affection to Shumi/Rumi.
Mrs. Mamata Ahmed
Wife of Major Gias Uddin Ahmed
I was living in our house at Chittagong's Sholashahar. In the morning, I heard people saying that Zia had been killed. On 2nd June I came to Dhaka. The next day, I heard that Major Gias had surrendered. I, then, shifted to my eldest brother-in-law's house at Jatrabari (south-eastern Dhaka). They were taken into custody. I went there to see him but could not. So I returned to Dhaka. My husband was also sent to Comilla Jail. My eldest brother-in-law got a permission to see him in jail. We went to meet him. I asked him--what happened? He put his hand on my head and told me-- believe me, I don't know anything.
While in prison, we met him, twice. But whenever we met, we could not talk much. One day everybody was preparing to go -- I asked them, where to -- they said, they will go to see him. Later, I came to know he was killed the day before. But what kind of a trial did they face? What was their crime? Were they really guilty? Till the day he was killed, we did not know, what was his punishment? What will happen to him? We did not know, whether he will be imprisoned or executed. The day he was executed, he wrote a letter to me. On the one hand, be a father, and on the other, be a mother, to Shumi and Rumi and rear them up, properly. If they are not educated properly, my soul will suffer. Try to stand on your feet. Stay wherever you want to stay. I survive with that, till today.
Mahin Ahammed Shumi, Nahid Ahammed Rumi
Daughters of Major Gias
What happened in 1981 nobody of this generation knows, later generations know even less. I think, we the 13 families that have suffered, are the only ones who know what really happened. We have only one expectation: everybody should know. It is almost pointless to seek justice in this country.
Major Rawshan Yazdani, Bir Pratik
BSS- 839 Major Rawshan Yazdani Bhuiya, Bir Pratik
Date of birth: 1948
Place of birth: Bhatpiyari, Sirajganj
Father's name: Farhad Hossain Bhuiya
Joined the Army: 1971
Commissioned: 5th August 1972
Location during Liberation War: Sector 6
Gallantry award: Bir Pratik
Marital status: Single
Last posting: Brigade Major, 65 Infantry Brigade
Died: 23 September 1981, Jessore Prison, 2 a.m.
Graveyard: Malshapara, Sirajganj.
Major Rawshan Yazdani Bhuiya was born in 1948 at Bhatpiari village under Sadar Thana of Sirajganj district. He passed his SSC in 1963 and HSC in 1965 from Fauzdarhat Cadet College. At the end of '65 he was enrolled as a student in the Engineering faculty of Bangladesh Agriculture University, Mymensingh. On 25th March 1971 when the Bangladesh Liberation War started he was a final year student. He left his studies to join the war from his village Bhatpiari and joined the freedom fighters' training camp at Roumari, Gaibandha. During the war, the Bangladesh government-in-exile selected officers for two war courses who were commissioned. The first batch was commissioned during the War on 9th October 1971. The officers of the second course were commissioned in Liberated Bangladesh on 5th August 1972. Yazdani received commission in the Second Course. During the War he fought valiantly in Sector 6. He was decorated with the Bir Pratik award for his gallantry during the War. In 1981 when President Ziaur Rahman was killed Yazdani was serving as the Brigade Major of 65 Infantry Brigade. On 23 September 1981 this war hero was executed in Jessore Prison at 2 a.m. He was
Lt. Col. A Y M Mahfuzur Rahman, Bir Bikram, PSC
BA - 301 Lt. Col. A Y M Mahfuzur Rahman, Bir Bikram, PSC
Date of birth: 1 October 1942
Place of birth: Katiadi, Kishoreganj
Father's name: Sayeedur Rahman
Joined the Army: 1967
Role during the Liberation War: Commander "Monughat" and later "Srinagar" under Sector 1
Gallantry award: Bir Bikram
Children: 3 sons, 1 daughter
Last posting: From the commander in chief's secretariat to president's private secretary
Died: 23 September 1981, Chittagong Prison
Graveyard: Banani, Dhaka
Lt. Col. Abu Yousuf Mohammad Mahfuzur Rahman was born on 1st October, 1942 in Charpara village of Katiadi Police station under Kishoreganj district. He joined the Army in 1967. He was commissioned the next year, 1968, and started his career with the 2nd East Bengal Regiment. On 25th March, 1971 when the Liberation War started he was one of the pioneers of the revolt from the 8th East Bengal Regiment. Captain Mahfuz during the latter part of the War took the additional responsibility of the Srinagar sub-sector and he remained in charge of the Monughat sub-sector throughout the War. During the nine-month' Liberation War Mahfuz fought in Kalurghat, Ramgarh, Belonia, Akhaura and other fronts, heroically. Because of his courageous role, he was given Bir Pratik Bar, i.e., he was decorated twice. On 30 May when President Ziaur Rahman was shot, he was the president's private secretary. After the killing of Zia, Mahfuz was arrested on 4 June and released on 17th June. Almost a month, after the killing, he was arrested again on 4 July. In the early hours of 23 September 1981 this fearless freedom fighter walked the gallows. On 23 September he was buried beside Brigadier Mohsin at Dhaka's Banani graveyard.
Lt. Colonel Mahfuz's letter to his wife, Mala
I am well. Fasting and praying all day and night. I was thinking, may be, I will be released. I did not expect such a verdict. The court has given me 'capital punishment'. Mala, only Allah knows that I am completely innocent and had nothing to do with the killing. As two (Army) officers to save their skins mentioned my name, saying they had contacted me, I was holed up in a secret place for four days and forced to sign a false statement. I signed what they had written just to save my life. This was mentioned in court but they took no notice of it. Whatever it is, you take mother and Masum and see "Zia Bhabi" (Mrs. Zia) and try to convince her, at any cost, of my innocence and cancel the death sentence and release me. If she does not agree, at least try to reduce it to life imprisonment (14 years). Later, Allah willing, it may be shortened, even further. But, by any means, try to get the death sentence waived.
I've sent a mercy petition through the jail authorities. It will be sent to the president in a day or two. If the president uses his prerogative, it has to be on this application. You talk to MSP (Military Secretary to the President), Mr. Syed Aminur Rahman, private secretary to the president and request him earnestly to consider the application, sympathetically. If necessary take (my) mother to see the PSO and seek an appointment with the president and request him to exonerate me.
I have written to Gias and requested him to pursue the matter. Please, contact him. You can go to Syed Aminur Rahman, the president's private secretary's residence and seek an audience with the president.
Do not see or talk to any other person about what you are doing. If you need any legal point you can talk to our defense counsel - Col. Ibrahim and Col. Ainuddin. I have about 12 thousand takas in my DSEP Fund and another one and a half thousand in the bank. I have made some loans. Keep ten thousand (taka) and use the rest to pay back my loans. Taka one and a half thousand to 24 Infantry Dir Headquarters, some to 55 Div and some to the 4th East Bengal (Regiment).
I am totally innocent. If I am executed even after this, I rely on Allah. I love you with all my life - I will wait for you in the next world, too. Bring up my children as educated ones. Do not reprimand them, unfairly. I was so fond of them.
Promise me - you will study the Koran and you will recite it to me after I am dead. Do not worry, all of us will die one day and we will meet again. Take care of mother, sincerely, which I could not and pray for me. All of you please forgive me.
If the death sentence is not commuted, then you, mother and the children should go and see the president.
Col. Mahfuz's letter sent to his daughter, Kumkum
Kumkum, mother of mine, you are my Golden Bengal,
I love you.
Understood, he was waiting for his family. I told him, "Sir, better sacrifice your family." Because you need to survive, first. Where do you want to go? We will take you there." He replied, "No, I cannot move without Rana." Rana was his wife. A few minutes later the GOC's staff car was about to pass the jeep when General Manzur, instructed the driver to start, quickly. The staff car had overlooked our jeep. We caught up with them. We saw, yes, his family was there. With General Manzur's and Colonel Delawar's families in it. Both the families were there along with the kids. We moved forward. Later Major Khaled and Yazdani came. A number of officers also joined us. We shared our seats in the vehicle and moved on. We were, possibly, travelling by three vehicles towards the (Chittagong) Hill Tracts. What I came to know was General Manzur wanted to be on the safe side in the Hill Tracts. From there, he wanted to decide on his next course of action, depending on his position, as many had already left the Chittagong Cantonment.
General Manzur and I were travelling in the same vehicle. The General's children were with me. We were on the move. Col. Moti's vehicle had gone far away. I didn't quite understand why we had chosen the road and wherefrom Col. Moti emerged and why he was heading the column. It was incomprehensible. I was with the GOC and watching Col. Moti's vehicle. It had gone beyond our sight. Suddenly we heard the sound of gun-fire. We stopped our vehicle. By that time night was giving way to dawn and the morning light was about to break. But in the open, one could see, people moving about urgently, at quite some distance. Major Gias was beside him. I was in the back seat. Stepping down from the vehicle I got up the hills and saw people running around. I came down and tried to turn around the jeep. But it would not start. The vehicle could not be turned around. He (General Manzur) had his suitcase in the vehicle. When we were backing up we met the other pick-up that was travelling with us. Col. Fazle and Capt. Jamil were in it. They were with the group that raided the Circuit House and were wounded. Majors Khaled and Yazdani were also in the pick-up. Khaled was driving it. Yazdani was beside him, while the others were in the villages after going back a little. Khaled and Yazdani took the vehicle to keep Fazle Hossain and Captain Jamil on the safe side. We were waiting in the jeep for a long time but there was no sign of them. We started walking, towards an unknown destination. We changed our guides, twice. While moving with the third guide the children were hungry. We gave some money to the guides to get some food, while they sat beside a tea garden. When they were about to go an old man remarked that they were not good people and could not be trusted with money. General Manzur called them back-- come, here. He said, we don't need the food.
Then they said, you don't trust us. Okay, we will not get any food. We will not go with you. Will we steal your money? The children were crying, by then, they were hungry. General Manzur then retracted and said, okay, go, get some puffed rice and bananas. They went and returned soon. They also started saying, flee and flee, quickly. I asked them, what happened? They said, the Army was coming this way. The Army has already caught two people also dressed in Army uniform and have blind-folded them. And now they are moving around the place for others.
Needless to say, people had asked us what had happened. We told them there was trouble in the Cantonment and the Army was fighting with each other. We don't know who is on which side. So we have fled to the village with our families. We want to be on the safe side. This is what we told the villagers. General Manzur's name was posted on his breast pocket. He removed it, after a while, and put it in his pocket. We walked away to another area. There, our guide put us up in a house and said, you take some food and rest here. We cannot walk after dusk.
There will be problems if we walk now. Accordingly, we sat there. I sat still looking after the security of General Manzur and Major Gias also sat to take their meals. I, too, was called to join them but I did not have the appetite. I told them, I will not eat. I had worked for so long, was sleepless for such a long time; I just had a vomiting tendency. When they were eating I heard the sound of dogs barking in the distance.
When I was hearing the unusual sound of dogs barking, General Manzur told me, Reza, why are the dogs barking? I told him, I've no idea, sir. "Come inside," he told me. I went in from outside the house, General Manzur and we, the people from the outside were on a hilltop.
The plain land was way below. Beyond that there was another hillock. On that hillock we could see policemen moving. General Manzur understood that the police were here. He told me, alright, it seems the police are here. I will surrender. That's the only thing he said. He told me, you and Gias (Major Gias was with me) - you escape. General Manzur's wife said, you, Reza and Gias escape, we will delay them. General Manzur said, no, I will not escape.
I will surrender. He told me and Gias to go. I then said, no, sir, I'm in-charge of your security and I will not go, if you do not go. I will surrender if you surrender. I then told him, on my own, okay, sir, you first observe the behavior of the police. For that we may hide ourselves, nearby. There is a bush behind the house. There was a stream, a little further down the hill. Irrigation water was drawn from it. I said, sir, let us hide behind the bush and observe. Let's see how the police behave. We will surrender after that. General Manzur agreed. General Manzur went straight into the bush. I, instead of going into the bush jumped straight into the stream. Jumping into the water, I swam under-water for a while, towards the jungle. When I surfaced I saw myself already covered by the bush. The bush that had covered the entire slope of the hill was covering me as well. Standing, I observed that the water was up to my waist, i.e. the water was slightly lower than my chest. I was inside the bush. Slowly, I walked towards the bank--still covered by the bush. The place where I was located had only one exit-- I had to swim back through the water. There was no other way out.
I had a sten-gun a Chinese sten-7.2 mm sten. Water had entered the arms. I jerked the water out. I couldn't see anything. General Manzur was just out of my sight. Suddenly I heard whistles from the top.
The writer is a journalist.