For more than two decades, the Pakistani rulers used fear, intimidation and murder to brutally oppress the Bengalis, who sought justice and equality from them. But the most brutal, ugly, desperate, and vicious form of aggression in our history in was carried out by them in 1971. Never before in history has such a sweeping fervour for freedom expressed itself in great mass movements and mass armed struggles which drove down the bastions of Pakistani President Yahya Khan's empire. This wind of change blowing through Bangladesh was no ordinary wind. It was a raging hurricane against which the old order of the Pakistani military junta and their local brutal collaborators could not stand. The great millions of Bangladesh grew impatient of being hewers of wood and drawers of water, and were an armed rebelling against the oppressive Pakistan's Army. The year 1971 saw the emancipation of the Bengali nation, which finally witnessed the total liberation of the country-Bangladesh from the brutal Pakistani rule and their exploitation.
Marck E Estemil said: "National freedom is an expensive gift always worth fighting for; even if it costs us!" And undoubtedly, we paid a very high price to gain our motherland. Bangladesh was born on December 16, 1971 after a nine-month war having or covered with or accompanied by blood from the brutal Pakistan's Army and their local cruel accomplices. But Mirpur, an important part of the metropolitan Dhaka city, was occupied by the Bihari butchers from early March of 1971 to January 30, 1972. Mirpur was finally liberated on January 31, 1972. Hence, January 31 is generally known as the Victory Day of Mirpur.
But this year, the day has passed away so silently. So many precious lives, including the lives of eminent journalist Shahidullah Kaiser, noted film maker and novelist Zahir Raihan, and famous poet Meherun Nesa, were brutally slaughtered in Mirpur area before it was liberated from the cruel clutches of the non-Bengalis and some Bangla speaking Pakistanis, like Qader Mollah and the likes of him belonged to the criminal organisation, Jamaat-e-Islami. It is very sad that no words for it were from any corner in the country on this very important day of our History of War of Liberation. But we had to bear witness to the worst of human brutality and atrocity during that time in that important area and throughout Bangladesh. Like John Burns, we wish to say: "We are depressed rather at the wave of brutality sweeping over the country" during our nine months of long struggle to achieve Bangladesh. During the last couple of days, I only heard the roaring voice of Syed Shahidul Haque Mama from abroad, the 1971 war veteran and who actively participated in all operations to free Mirpur from those hyenas.
The biggest threat against the survival of humanity is not brutality and unkindness, it is stupidity and selfishness but we really encountered horror, terror, brutality, mass killing, and genocide from an opposing Pakistan's military force and a hostile group of local people supported by them who used our holy religion-Islam to annihilate us from this sacred soil of ours. The war against the tyrannical rule of the Pakistani commands in 1971 was truly our mankind's war of liberation. We are sorry for those who have never had the experience of seeing the victory of a national liberation struggle, and we should feel cold contempt for those who jeer at it.
According to the Asia Times, at a meeting of the military top brass in March 1971, President Yahya Khan declared: "Kill 3 million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands." Accordingly, on the night of 25 March, the Pakistani Army launched Operation Searchlight to crush Bengali resistance wherever found in this country; the Bengali members of military services were disarmed and killed, students and the intelligentsia were systematically liquidated and able-bodied Bengali males just picked up and were gunned down.
Mama Guerilla Bahini Chief Syed Shahidul Haque Mama recounted: "On March 27, 1971, Abdul Quader Mollah, Hasib Hasmi, Abbas Chairman, Akhter Gunda, Nehal and many others killed poet Meherun Nesa, her brothers and mother and chopped their bodies into pieces in Mirpur. Akhter Gunda and his accomplices forcibly brought one Pallab from Thathari Bazar to Muslim Bazar in Mirpur. Then Akhter and his accomplices cut his fingers and hung him up on a tree and killed him mercilessly."
He also said Quader Mollah and his accomplices took part in the election campaign in 1970 for the 'infamous' Ghulam Azam, the then Ameer of East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami and a candidate of the Mirpur area for membership of the Pakistan National Assembly. The enemies were the Pakistan army personnel, Jamaat-e-Islami men, Al-Badr men, Al-Shams men and Razakars. At the fag end of our glorious War of Independence in 1971, the Biharis, Pakistan's Military personnel, Jamaat-e-Islami along with the members of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the-then student wing of Jamaat built a strong resistance in Mohammadpur and Mirpur areas. Jamaati gangsters convinced the Biharis that Bangladesh would turn into a part of Pakistan once again but that dream was sent to death on January 31, 1972 by our courageous and patriotic freedom fighters.
A fearless freedom fighter Mama recollected from abroad that on December 17, 1971, he recovered the bodies of martyred intellectuals from the Rayerbazar killing field; and he said: "I found a small sack full of human eyes." He further added that they picked up many killers who were hiding in Mohammadpur and following their information, they recovered the bodies of hundreds of intellectuals from the brick kilns of Rayerbazar. "The martyred intellectuals were our best sons of the soil" Shahidul Mama said. The killing of intellectuals was a clear manifestation of the grave brutality unleashed upon them by the Al-Badr, Al-Shams and the Razakars.
According to noted Journalist and columnist Syed Badrul Ahsan (SBA): "Let us get the facts straight. When Bangladesh stood liberated, as a whole, on December 16, 1971, there were yet small pockets where Pakistan's defeated soldiers were putting up last ditch resistance. That resistance would come to an end within days. But there was, unbelievably, one small portion of the country which non-Bengali collaborators of the Pakistan occupation army kept in their grip for a month and a half after liberation." And it was the place of Mirpur.
SBA added: "There is Quazi Rosy to tell you all about it. And there is Syed Shahidul Haque, popularly known as Mama, to remind you of the gathering gloom which would descend on the Bengalis inhabiting Mirpur in the stirring times that were 1971. Even as a resurgent Bengali nation, led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, brought Pakistan to a grinding halt in March 1971, the non-Bengalis in Mirpur went on a spree of coercion and intimidation of the Bengali population in the locality".
According to Christopher Hitchens: "Freedom is the decision to live and die, doing what you love" and we decided to die; we decided to live and we decided to do what we loved in 1971. And we loved to attain independence from the shackles of the Pakistani rule marked by unjust severity or arbitrary behaviour and we finally achieved Bangladesh.
Mirpur was a heartless terror in 1971 till the end of January, 1972. Yes. Terrible, and...A wise saying has spelt out: "When somebody challenges you from the wrong path, fight back." And our freedom fighters fought back those cruel devils valiantly with patriotism and liberated Mirpur. It was a milestone in the annuals of our struggle for freedom from the Pakistani regime.
In man - in the history of mankind, this has happened many times, and occupation leaders cling on to the land that they are occupying. People fight to liberate their land. But in the end, the people's will is what achieves victory. The people's will was finally achieved. Brutal and heavy acts must be fought back suitably and vanquished by the patriotic forces. Our people stood up as best they could to the disgusting stupidity and brutality of Pakistani Military. It was a fight to the bitter end, one in which we are defending our ideals or beliefs. Eons of suffering, brutality and struggle have paved the way through the corridors of time to create this moment, where we now exist as an exalted expression of lives. According to George Weah: "My fellow revolutionaries; liberation is a noble cause. We must fight to obtain it" and our people took it as a noble cause and so, we have won it.
Mirpur liberated us from darkness to walk in the glorious light. We should not miss to celebrate the good days like Mirpur Victory Day because there were brutal days for us in the past. Like Paulo Freire, we wish to say: "Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future."
In closing, we wish to use the words of eminent journalist Zulfikar Ali Manik: "It is impossible to forget the grief of the gruesome killings of 1971, but this time we at least have the consolation that we could ensure justice." And justice has been happening in the country, though belatedly.
Anwar A Khan is a political commentator