Witness to the fateful night of 25-26th March 1971
Khallamma, Nimmi and Bappi are living witness to the dreadful army operations of 25-36th March and its after math. Their description of events are hair raising and a sad song.
Some time end February Mrs. Sharifunnahar Choudhury that is Khallamma, Nimmis mother went to Dhaka from Calcutta. The purpose was to judge the overall situation and if necessary to bring Bappi and Nimmi to Calcutta. On 25th night till about 10:30p.m Khallamma was in Sheikh Mujibur Rahmans residence at road No.32 Dhanmandi. She returned to Lalpagh around 10:45p.m. On her return they all got around her and wanted to know what the leader said. Khallamma replied in a worried voice that inspite of repeated insistence the leader did not agree to go underground.
The leaders and the worker of the party, the student leaders and many others apprised Sheikh Mujibur Rahman about the forth coming army operation and requested him to go underground. They told him that should finally the army cracks down on the people, at that situation the whole nation would like to see Sheikh Mujib with them providing leadership to the armed resistance. That will be the only thing people would expect from him. But Sheikh Mujib was adament. He was repeating again and again that he believed in democratic struggle and never will get involved in an armed struggle as he never believed in the politics of guns. He was also not fully convinced that Pakistan army finally will unleash the brutal white terror on the innocent people. He thought the last thing the army could do was to arrest him. He thought their problem was he not the people as such. Many tried to convince him with the arguments that the present contradiction was not only between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the ruling junta, the contradiction at present was between the junta and the Bengalis of East Pakistan. It will be a great blunder not to accept this fact. Today every Bengali of East Pakistan is eager to get their self determination. They are ready for any sacrifice. Under such a situation it is imperative for the leadership to prepare the people against any ivantualities. If necessary against any army operation the people may have to take up arms. There are may instances in the history as such. The leaders should remain prepared to provide leadership in any cercumstances.Only thus the losses can be minimized. Under a commited leadership the people will be able to snatch away their cherished goal from the enemy. But Sheikh Mujib did not accept any reasoning or logic. He finally declared a programme. On 27th their will be a hartal. This was his last words. After giving out this programme he asked every one to leave. While declaring the programme he also said, whoever is apprehensive and fearful of the army crackdown can go into hiding at his own risk or can go underground. All those who were there at the road No.32 were thoroughly disappointed at his negative attitude and left the house in utter despair after his announcement of hartal on 27th March. Khallamma also returned with a disturbed mind. When everyone was talking about the inevitable army crackdown, Sheikh Mujib as the supreme leader had been thinking differently. Sheikh Mujib and the other leaders had virtually refused to take any responsibilities to saveguard the innocent people from the impending army crackdown. But people had chosen them as the leaders with much of hopes and trust. At there call people had brought this movement to this stage with numerous sacrifices in terms of life and blood. Why then at this advanced stage of the struggle Sheikh Mujib is backing out after pushing the people to this height? Khallamma was very upset and disheartened as she failed to get any reasonable answers to these questions that came to her mind. She was equally frightened. Her conscious mind could not accept such naivety from her paramount leader. Everyone at home were shocked after hearing Khallamma. If this is what is the decision of the supreme leader then nothing much could be done! One could only count every suffocating moment and wait for the time to tell how correct was the thinking and the decision of the paramount leader of the ill fated nation. As per the advise of Khallamma, it was decided that everybody other then the minors will remain awake the whole night to face the impending uncertainties. Babun and Bappi went out after dinner together to acquire latest information about the developments. At about 11:30p.m they came back. They broke the news that the army has already started patrolling the University area and the New market. They were also taking up positions.
Army had also taken over the radio station. Infact the whole city had been taken over by the army. It was about midnight. Suddenly some noise could be heard. Bappi listened to that noise carefully and said tanks are rolling in the city. That noise was coming from the movements of the tanks. Why tanks? Every body became pale out of fear. Suddenly everyone stopped talking. Only the wall clock was heard ticking. It was about 12:30 am and all of a sudden the quietness of the night was shattered with the thundering noise of heavy guns, mortars, machine gun, recoilless rifles firings. The whole Dhaka city was shaking due to the sound of intense gun fire. As the earth shook some of the glass windows also got broken into pieces. At the suddenness of this horrifying event everyone dashed to the floor. The children woke up crying. Bappi and Babun hurriedly switched off all the lights. With all the deadly weapons the ferocious army had pounced on the innocent sleeping population. Noise of indiscriminate firing could be heard from all directions. Bappi crawled up to a window. As he looked out he saw the whole sky illuminated with fire balls those been fired into the sky. Tracers were flying across in hundreds and thousands. Rising flames could be seen at Azimpur, New market, Pilkhana and University areas. Black smokes were spirelling up in the sky along with fierce flames. A few moments later they could hear the cries of dying people. Groaning of the injured. Death cries of men, women and children could be heard together. Everybody in the room were shocked and horrified at the brutality of the white terror that had been unleashed by the army. They became speechless and laid on the floor embracing one another breathless. The whole night the killing spree continued uninterrupted. At one time it was dawn. The morning air was heavy with the smell of burnt gunpowder. One of them turned on the radio. There was a special broadcast and announcement that was being repeated again and again. It said, since midnight curfew had been imposed over whole of East Pakistan. People were asked not to come out. People were warned not to get involved in any kind of anti state activities. Curfew was imposed for indefinite period. There was nothing one could do about the whole affairs. Sheikh Mujib and his thoughts proved to be wrong. Khalamma thought about her leader. What had happened to Sheikh Mujib? Where were the other leaders of Awamileague? Curfew was on. There is no way one can defy and dare to go out. So everybody remained confined in the house the whole day of 26th March. In the evening as the darkness sat in, once again firing started. Again the death cries and groaning of the helpless innocent people could be heard. Noise of the movements of the military vehicles and heavy boots could be heard from time to time as the army passed by. Again they turned off the lights and were praying for Allahs mercy as they were totally helpless and shattered. A pathetic situation. What scared them most was the fear that any moment army can break into the house and start killing, looting and raping. All the ladies and the girls were kept hidden in the place considered relatively more safe and secured. Bappi, Babun, Nunni and Mao decided to hide themselves on the roof top. The elders decided to stay together in one room to face any intruders. Every moment passed in anxiety. Finally another dreadful night was over and another day had dawned. Every body got back into life as the sun shinned. Hurriedly radio was opened. There was an announcement. The government had decided to lift the curfew for few hours for the convenience of the people. Bappi came out from the house on the road infront of the house. 5/6 Bengali soldiers in uniform were running for their lives. Two of them were seriously injured. Their cloths were soaked in blood. As they came nearer he noticed fresh blood were still woozing from their wounds. They were tired due to continuous running. One of them asked Bappi,
"Brother can we get some water to drink?"It was still very early in the morning, therefore not much of people on the road. People were still not sure to come out from their houses.
"Sure, please come to our house". Bappi requested.
"No brother, we dont have any time. Somehow we could getaway with our lives. Untill we can cross Buriganga we are not safe. Pak army is looking for people like us every where. We are from EPR. If they find us then they are going to kill us like stray dogs. They ruthlessly killed our colleagues whom ever they could get indiscriminately at Pilkhana". Bappi asked them to wait for a while and ran back to the house and carried a bucket of water alongwith Babun. Once the soldiers drank water Bappi asked,
"How this could happen to you?" They replied,
"Brother the attacking army had finished every thing. They launched a sudden attack on the Bengali units at Pilkhana, Police line and in the cantonment at midnight while every one was sleeping. Soldiers like us have died in thousands. All the Basties had been burnt to ashes. Who ever could manage to run away could save their lives. The University halls were blown up by heavy fire. Many students had lost their lives. Army is patrolling the entire city. They are looking for the getaways. They are shooting anyone whom ever they are suspecting. Young people like you are also their targets. Brothers you also get lost before it is too late. Run for your life. Go to the villages leave the city. Resistance movement have to be organized to save the nation. The movement would need young people like you. We must leave now. If we are alive may be we shall meet again Inshallah."
The soldiers begged leave and started running again. Bappi and Babun were dumfounded by the narration of the escaping soldiers. What is this madness! How the government could be such ruthless and barbaric? Their reckless operation has axed on the very foundation of Pakistan. After all these East Pakistan can no longer remain as a part of Pakistan. The appropriate answer to this shameful atrocities would be the independence of Bangladesh. Bappi decided to go around the city as the curfew had been lifted for sometime to have a firsthand knowledge of the situation.
As he expressed his intention, Khallamma, Nimmi and Babun also said they would accompany Bappi as they thought it would not be safe for him to go alone. They went out with the car. People had started coming out. There was tremendous rush on the roads. People and vehicles were moving in streams. Everybody looked pannicked and perhaps was rushing for a safer place. Some were out to buy daily necesisties. The Basties close to their house had been raised to ground. Some parts were still burning. People were all running about with fear in their eyes. There was no sign of life in the otherwise crowded Basties. Kataban Basti next to the New market was also in ashes. The whole of Pilkhana was cordoned by the army. Army trucks loaded with armed soldiers were patrolling every road every street. The trucks we fitted with machine guns. At all stratigic locations tanks have been deployed. The University area was completely deserted. The place was unusually calm. Iqbal Hall, the seat of Chatra Shangramme Parishad, Jagannath Hall, Rokeya Hall all turned into heaps of demolished bricks and concrete due to heavy shelling. On the fields next to the halls bulldozers to bury the dead corpses had dug mass graves. They saw in one of such mass grave near the Rokeya Hall that two human leggs were still sticking out as the bodies were buried in haste. It was a horrifying sight. The soldiers from the patrolling trucks were looking towards them in a strange manner. Suddenly Khallamma realised it is not safe to move arround like this. The soldiers surrounded Bashabo, REMPURA TV station, Kamalapur station, Radio sation at Shahbagh all in hundreds. Militia forces in black uniform had also been deployed along with the army. All the Basties everywhere had been raised to ground in these two nights. They went to our house at Malibagh to enquire about the familys wellfare. Abba was surprised to see them. He was quite angry and told them it was totally unsafe to move arround like this and asked them to return home. He also advised Khallamma to leave the house and move accross the river to the village as soon as possible and said they were also moving out. Dhaka city is not safe anymore.