Stories of '71
Arman Rahman Khan and Kazi Akib Bin Asad
For the second time, the English Club of North South University took the initiative to bring some of the heroes of the Liberation War of 1971 to the campus, through the event, 'Stories of '71' on December 17, 2012 at the Recreation Centre of the university premises. The veteran freedom fighters held discussions with the students and faculty members of the university, and shared their experiences of the war-time struggle.
The freedom fighters who were invited as keynote speakers are Md Shahjahan Siddiqui, Bir Bikram, Major (Retd) Wakar Hassan, Bir Protik, Psc, Lt Col (Retd) Sajjad Ali Zahir, Bir Protik, Shamim Mohammad Afzal and Ishtiaq Aziz Ulfat. The event, hosted by Tamoha Binte Siddiqui and Kazi Akib Bin Asad, began with the guests paying their respects to the National Anthem. After the recitation of poet Shamsur Rahman's 'Tomake Pabo Bole Hey Shadhinota' and its English translation by the hosts, Dr Shireen Huq, Chairperson of the Department of English, NSU and Moderator of the event, welcomed the honourable guests.
Photo Courtesy: Shoail Anwar
Ishtiak Aziz Ulfat was invited to the stage first, and he told the audience how he ran away from his home to become a freedom fighter and briefly talked about some of his expeditions. He said, “Those were the best and the worst of times,” - best since they were fighting for a better tomorrow, and worst due to all the blood-spill.
Md Shahjahan Siddiqui, Bir Bikram, then took the stage. He was a member of the Naval Commando and Suicide Squad back in 1971. The veteran demonstrated a few commando techniques that he and his team used in the enemy front, and talked about his successful blitzes that brought independence to many areas. His stories about underwater missions kept the audience on the edge of their seats. Many said they were thrilled to have met such personalities through the event.
The microphone was passed on to Shamim Mohammad Afzal, who expressed his grief that not many youngsters have proper knowledge about Bangladesh's struggle for freedom. He thanked English Club, NSU, for such an initiative through which the legends got a chance to educate the young generation about the liberation war.
Emotions in the hall hit its peak when Lt Col (Retd) Sajjad Ali Zahir, Bir Protik, shared stories about the unheard people of the war. He spoke about Rebati Mahali, a young lady from Sylhet who was physically abused to death in broad daylight by the Pakistani military, and also shared the brave deeds of Karim Maajhi, a boatman who suffered a cruel fate on Eid day. These stories brought tears to the eyes of many people present, and tributes were paid to the many souls we lost in the nine months' fight for freedom.
Major (Retd) Wakar Hassan, Bir Protik, Psc, was the final war-hero to share his experience about the day battle that earned him a gallantry award. He recalled that in the immense confusion of the battle, he and his troop could not differentiate between comrades and the enemy, and he believes his survival was purely miraculous, albeit his side emerging as victorious. Even in the face of such atrocity, Major Wakar did not forget his humanity and even offered tea to the 26 Pakistanis that his team had taken captive. He commented, “The Pakistani army displayed cowardice by killing unarmed people. But we weren't cowards.”
With the audience already in tears, Ayesha Khan, Priota Iftekhar and Sharmin Ahmed – all members of the club - read out some letters written by the freedom fighters during the war to their loved ones, stirring the emotions even further.
The President of the English Club, Ateef Rashid said, “Not many of us can have the honour and privilege of meeting real life heroes nowadays. English Club strives to make a few of those dreams come true. And Stories of '71 gives people the chance to meet the national heroes of the Liberation War.”
Prior to the event, a story-writing competition regarding 1971 was organised by the club and the winners were chosen by faculty members of the English Department of North South University—Nasrin Pervin and Nausheen Saba Siraj. Nasrin Pervin, one of the judges, announced the names of the winners – Nifath Karim, Sarika Azad and Arman Rahman Khan, respectively – while Dr A K M Atiqur Rahman, then Acting Vice Chancellor and Dean of School of Arts and Social Sciences of North South University, presented them with certificates and prize money. Thanking the valiant heroes who graced the university with their presence, Dr A K M Atiqur Rahman said, “This is a great initiative by the English Club. I hope the NSU authority will also take further initiative to educate the students about our struggle for independence and make this event an even bigger one in the future.”
Dr A K M Atiqur Rahman then presented the freedom fighters with crests as a token of honour on behalf of North South University. Dr Kazi Abu Sayeed, Proctor, NSU, was also present among other guests to show their respect.
The event concluded with the song 'O Amaar Desher Maati' performed by Ishmam Nawar, with Arko Newaz Mahmood on the guitar. The mood lifted as the gathering hummed along, their hearts filled with pride and renewed patriotism in the presence of the golden sons of our soil – the freedom fighters – to whom we are forever indebted.