Col. Osmani, the Commander-in-Chief of Mukti Fauj

His visions and plan.                                                                                                                                                                                              

Once we reached Mujibnagar headquarters Col. Osmani gave a resume how the independence movement and the war had started and at what stage it was now. He said,

" You must know and remember that after the brutal crackdown on 25-26th March night it were the brave and valiant members of the East Bengal Regiments, EPR, police force, ansars, mujahids who revolted against the white terror and genocide and plunged into the armed resistance movement. They rose in arms at the clarion call of Major. Zia over the radio. There was also spontaneous response from the youths, students and the people from all walks of life who came out to join hands with the fighting soldiers. Thus the freedom fight started. Initially the battles were fought in conventional ways. That continued till May. Battles were fought to confine the army in the cantonments denying them line of communication. The policy was to create obstacles as munch as possible on their way to spread out all over the land. The regular battalions fought very courageously though they were small in numbers. At places one regiment had to fight against brigade strength. But considering limited number of own troops the tactics was changed. Small groups of platoon and company strength were organized to contain the enemy force which were more in numbers at the same time to hit them at the weakest point. This is how the battles were conducted in Chittagong, Comilla, Jessore, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Noakhali and other parts of the country. But soon it was realised by the commanders that it will not be possible for long to fight the enemy in conventional ways. Because own troops comprised of only 5 regular battalions, some EPR troops, some police and ansars, mujahids and civilian people who were not fully trained and equipped. The commanders tried to train the civilians with two weeks basic training on small arms and thus attempts were made to increase the number. But with such forces it was not possible to fight 4 to 5 divisions strength well equipped and well trained enemy. Mukti Bahini’s defences were getting weaker and weaker due to repeated attacks form the enemy. Under that circumstances to achieve independence by defeating the formidable enemy at frontal confrontation was considered to be impractical. That forced the commanders to think about a prolonged people’s war. They decided to raise a big guerrilla force around these five regular battalions. A trained Gono Bahini can only neutralize the numerical superiority of the enemy forces. This guerrilla force will be like a cancer cell working in the intestine. From within they would finish the enemy. The enemy will have no definite front to fight or defend. Without adopting this strategy they thought we shall never get our independence nor shall we be able to defeat the occupation army. The enemy is strong, well organized , well equipped, they have their air force and assured source of supply and replenishment. They are much more powerful then us. They are also resourceful". After listning Col. Osmani questions rose in our mind. Had military junta not decided to launch brutal operation on the unarmed innocent people killing them mercilessly. Particularly if the Bengali soldiers of the East Bengal regiments, EPR, police, mujahids and ansars were not attacked in their sleep, would these people have ever taken up arms in revolt for the independence of Bangladesh? Would there be any freedom struggle at-all? Any Mukti Fauj? etc. Only the historians sometime could unfold these riddles in future. We continued hearing Col. Osmani,

"But I am convinced that it will take a very longtime to achieve independence through a classical guerrilla war and in this way the loss will be too much. Our main resource is our people. They will perish". Col. Osmani’s utterances reflected typical middle class opportunism. I knew no nation in this world who had to fight a formidable enemy and had achieved their independence within a short time and without irreparable losses. Those who had achieved their freedom without any sacrifice, their freedom did not become fruitful and turned out to be meaningless hollow illusion. Those independences fell pray into evil conspiracies even at their mother’s womb. In some of those cases geographical independence might have been achieved but emancipation remained a far cry. No leadership in those countries could deliver the fruit of independence to their people. The people who got their freedom through machination and manipulation form behind the scene only got frustration, bluff, deprivation, poverty from their corrupt leadership. Who always remained loyal and eager to please the masters who installed them into power. We again concentrated in what Col. Osmani was saying.

"To cut short the time and to achieve an easy victory I had thought of a plan. A large guerrilla force will have to be created to hit the enemy from every direction to bleed him. Side by side the regular troops would carryout operations in company or platoon strength so that the enemy positions get cut off from one another and thus turn into small isolated pockets. The guerrillas will play the major role in this plan. They would be responsible to disrupt line of communications, supply routs, radio and telecommunications with their hit and run tactics. And finally, the regular stirking brigades that would be raised as conventional army would destroy those isolated positions. I have already placed my plan to the Prime Minister and the Indian counter part. I mentioned in that report that the strength of the guerrilla force that would be called Gono Bahini and the regular force that would be called Niomito Bahini would have to be at least 60 to 80 thousand and 20 to 25 thousand respectively. Beside the freedom fighters who are now fighting along the borders under the commanders at different places, these additional forces have to be raised if we really want our independence. We must obtain the permission to raise them without wasting any time. At present out of fighting freedom fighters the ex soldiers in uniform are termed as Niomito Bahini and the others inducted from among the civilians are termed as Aniomito Bahini. The Indian authorities call them as FF (freedom fighters). I intend to raise at least 3 regular Infantry brigades out of these freedom fighters. The rest would continue to fight under their respective commanders as sector troops. Their main task would be to train the guerrillas and secure their bases inside before the trained guerrillas are inducted. The sector troops would also coordinate the guerrilla operations inside Bangladesh. Guerrilla advisors would be appointed to all the sector commanders. I have decided to devide the whole theatre into 11 sectors. A sector commander will commend each sector. There would be a sector headquarters. They would be all located within the liberated territories. Sectors would form the main base for the guerrilla warfare. The sector commanders will have to operate almost at their own. Due to the shortage of resources it will not be possible for the Commander-in-Chief to coordinate day to day affairs of the guerrilla war spread over such a vast arena. All the sector headquarters would be loosely connected with the C-in-C’s secretariat mostly for policy decisions. To brief the commanders on my plan and the decisions, to apprise them about the political and military consideration of the provisional government and the Indian government, to discuss about the implications and complexities I am thinking to call an urgent meeting of all the commanders. In this meeting we shall thrash out every thing and every details. Policy guideline would be the responsibility of my secretariat and the sector commanders would have to implement those policies on the battle field. My secretariat will have liaison officers to maintain contact with the sectors. Freedom fighters would also be used to gather informations. I will have a intelligence cell set up at my headquarters. I shall also visit the sectors from time to time personally."

We listened every word that he said. Although he talked a lot about his plan and military aspect he virtually said nothing on the political aspect of our struggle. An ideology and a popular political leadership are two fundamental pre requisites to organize any national liberation movement and carry forward the armed struggle to its victory. Guerrilla war is necessarily a people’s war. People can only be drawn into a protected guerrilla war by a sound political ideology. The people must find their aspirations reflected in the political philosophy. They should find the desired promises. That is why it becomes imperative to form a national government to lead any national liberation movement. It is only through a national government a broad based unity of the nation can be achieved.

Such a government is usually formed with the members from the freedom fighters and the political leadership of all the patriotic and nationalist parties. This is almost an universal practice to organize a long drawn people’s war. This practice has evolved through the process of national liberation movements that followed since the two world wars in the contemporary history of mankind. Against this accepted norm, how it would be possible to carry on the protracted struggle under one party government formed by the Awami League in haste at the behest of the Indian government? The liberation war had started with the spontaneous participation of the people from all walks of life regardless of their class, party affiliations or profession. Politically Awami League’s ideology and policies do not reflect the aspirations of the whole nation. Awami League is a party that represents the upcoming petty bourgeoisie. Being the representative of a particular class how this provisional government of Awami League could provide justifiably an effective leadership in this national movement? Particularly in an anticipated long drawn guerrilla war? How intriguing! India claiming to be a democratic country is also trying to ensure Awami League’s sole leadership on the liberation war for their ulterior motives. In 1970’s election Awami League got the votes championing the cause of self determination and provincial autonomy, preaching to make a new constitution in light of Islamic principles. There was no commitment or promise to wage an armed struggle in their election manifesto. One thing came out very clear from what Col. Osmai had said. The Awami Leaguers did not initiate the armed resistance. One unknown young Bangali officer Major Ziaur Rahman gave the first call for independence. And it is against his clarion call the entire people plunged into the resistance movement and organized the freedom fight. The people in uniform from the East Bengal Regiments, EPR , police and ansars spear headed the armed rebellion and played the vanguard role to organize the registance movement and train the Mukti Bahini all over Bangladesh at their own initiatives. "

"There were deferences among the rank and file as well as the leadership about the role of Awami League. A section of the leadership wanted that only under the, sigular leadership of Awami League the war should be fought. This section had been, supported and patronised by the Indian government" (Mr. Shanti Moi Roy’s interview given with the daily Inquelab).

Strangely enough, Col. Osmani seemed to be day dreaming. How could he think to fight this independence war and achieve emancipation for the people under such an opportunist leadership? He was also thinking to fight a long drawn guerrilla war and yet he aspired for a quick victory. We found his ideas messed up at a point not for any lack of sincerity but due to his inadequate knowledge about the political philosophy of people’s war. The government is also not in favour of any protracted war that he had already spelt out clearly. What all these boils down to? Is there anyother conspiracy behind the scene centreing around this independence movement of Bangladesh? Is it that both provisional government and Indian government are equal partners in this conspiracy? Formation of the provisional government in a haste, and to opt for an premature early victory, shortcutting the natural course of development of the liberation war only substantiate the theory of a conspiracy and a hidden design. Col. Osmani’s utterances some how reconfirmed our apprehensions about the hidden agenda and the evil blue print that we smelled at Delhi. Is Col. Osmani then playing his role as a party for the implementation of that blue print? We were finding it hard to believe. We knew Col. Osmani to be an upright and brave soldier and a staunch Bengali nationalist. He joined Awami League and was elected in 1970’s election on Awami League’s ticket. But even then there can not be a sudden change in human character. How this could then happen to Col. Osmani? Once I thought we should disclose our experiences at Delhi to him and our views. But then decided to know first exactly where he stands and how much he knows. Without understanding him thoroughly if we open up that might be counter productive and harmful. We all were in dilema. As I was thinking all these, Col. Osmani suddenly said,

"I have decided to appoint you and Moti as guerrilla advisors to the sector commanders and Nur will be at the headquarters as my ADC and personal staff officer. We all were surprised. How strange! That means Col. Osmani is not aware of the decision that has already been made regarding us jointly by the provisional government and Indian authorities concerned. This was a ridle! It was clearly understood that either the decision about us was taken by the Prime Minister himself after consulting Indian authorities bypassing the Commander-in-Chief or for some reasons Mr. Tajuddin did not yet informed Col. Osmani about this decision. If the first assumption is correct then decision to form the special political force BLF is also not known to Col. Osmani. That means he has not been taken into confidence on this mater. This was heartening for us. He is not a changed person. He is also not a party to the evil design. We may now safely open up to him. It was a great relief. Poor Colonel! Another ball game has already been started totally side tracking him and he knows nothing about it.

"Sir you desire to post me and Moti as guerrilla advisors that sounds fine. But the Prime Minister and the Indian authorities have decided something else for us. Don’t you know anything about then creation of a force called BLF? I enquired.

"What is BLF? Nothing at all. Can you please tell me what is going on?" Col. Osmani asked me impatiently. I could feel he was very upset as a proud men of integrity.

"Sure Sir, I shall tell you everything that we experienced at Delhi. We have full confidence and trust on you. As a man of dignity and self-respect, and as the Commander-in-Chief of the liberation war, we are convinced that you shall never betray the nation like the self seeking politicians. We also have no doubt that you have the character and courage to crush any conspiracy against the national interest. But we have one earnest request to you Sir. After hearing every thing you will neither get upset nor will loose your cool. You have to think very calmly about your course of action as the matter is most sensitive and grave. Any careless move might put all of us in serious problem". Col. Osmani remained quite for a while after hearing my statement.

"Well I promise you it will remain just between me and you three. Now tell me every thing in details". We could feel his sincerity. I exchanged glances with Moti and Nur. They gave their silent nod. I started

"Sir, most of our time we passed at Delhi with General Oban Singh and his colleagues. Beside brushing up our knowledge on guerrilla warfare, we were given extensive political motivations. The Indian authorities and the Prime Minister Mr. Tajuddin Ahmad are not trusting most of the commanders and the fighters completely. They are apprehensive about their loyalty to the recently formed provisional Awami League government. The Indian government is also apprehensive about the abilities of this AL government’s affective leadership in this war of independence. There prevails a great sense of anxiety. As a political party Awami League has many inherent shortcomings. Most of the leadership and members of this party do not possess required ideological mooring, mental make up or preparation for such kind of armed struggle. They were also considered incapable to make the required sacrifice to earn and maintain their leadership in a prolonged war. Under such circumstances if the war became a protracted one, there is every possibility that the leadership will shift to some otherhands. There are two main forces that may challenge Awami League’s leadership. The left extreme political forces with revolutionary ideology or the members of the earst while Pakistan army around whom the present freedom fighters are organized. At present the position of these ex soldiers of East Bengal Regiments, EPR, police and ansars, mujahids are well entrenched and their popularity is also on the rise. In a protracted war their strength will increase more and Awami League’s strength may decline. As Indian government is committed to provide assistance only to the Awami League leadership therefor, it is imperative that their leadership is ensured at any cost and the war must he conducted under their leadership alone. To protect Awami League’s leadership from any such challenge during the war or even after the war, a strong and well trained political armed force needs to be raised. The force will be around hundred thousand strong. The name of this force is going to be BLF (Bangladesh Liberation Force). Awami League leaders at different levels and the leaders of its affiliated organizations will help in the recruitment. The youths and the students would be recruited from the refugee and youth camps. Indian government will arrange for their training by the specialized units of the Indian army. Indian authorities will take full responsibilities for their maintenance, sustenance and deployment. They will be armed and equipt by the Indian army. No one else other than the Prime Minister and we three shall know anything about this special force. We three will act as liaison officers between the Prime Minister and the concerned authorities of the Indian side. The main task of this force will be in the post independence period to safeguard Awami League’s interests remaining directly under the Prime Minister. Although, it has been decided to name it BLF. At later stage if necessary the name could be changed as Mujib Bahini. To dispel any misgivings necessary propaganda will be made that this force if necessary will go to the western front to fight along the friendly forces to free Sheikh Mujib from his captivity. To facilitate the recruitment four student leaders have already been selected. They are Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni, Shirajul Alam Khan, Abdur Razzak and Tofayel Ahmed. It is heard that Abdul Quddus Makhan, Shajahan Shiraj and Nure Alam Siddiqui may also join this group of youth and student leaders. (Later on four of them were branded as ‘Char Khalifas’ among the people of Bangladesh). Overall responsibility of this force will remain in the hands of Gen. Oban Singh, the head of RAW (Research and Analysis Wing). They would be trained in a special training camp at Chakraul near Dehradoon. Various specialized trainers would train them. During the training period and afterwards we would be working with the Indian counterparts for their reorganization and deployment. Thus gradually we shall also become part of that force". Col. Osmani was utterly astounded at my submission.

"How strange! I know nothing about all these. I must find out from the Prime Minister about this matter and his involvement". Col. Osmani said.

"Ofcourse you should ascertain that. But be very careful, as the matter is very sensitive. You must measure every utterance you make" I said.

"You are right. Well we shall take our decision after I have talked to the Prime Minister ok? Lets call it a night". He wished us good night and we came out from his room. The very next day Col. Osmani went and discussed the matter with the Prime Minister and discovered that the Prime Minister was unaware about all that we said.

"But how is it possible? At Delhi we had been categorically told that the Prime Minister of the provisional government is fully aware of this plan". I refuted.

"No boys, he is as much in dark as I am. And I think he is not lying. However, he would try to find out more from the Indians but ofcourse without expositing any one.

It is worthwhile to mention here the statement that Gen. Arora had made concerning the creation of BLF or the Mujib Bahini and RAW’s involvement. He said,

" Mujib Bahini was a force which was totally different from the Mukti Bahini. I knew nothing about this force. A group of young students who worked closely with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during 1970’s elections, told our intelligence agency RAW that they were the real supporters of Sheikh Mujib. Their loyalty was unquestionable and Sheikh Mujib took them into full confidence. If they are given adequate assistence they can raise a more loyal and commited force than the Mukti Fauj. I came to know all about this much later, when this force came into conflict with the freedom fighters. One day Prime Minister Mr. Tajuddin came to me and enquired about this force. I got in touch with our Chief Gen. Manek Shaw and attempted to know about this force. He told me that this force was raised by our intelligence agency RAW. When the contradiction between Mujib Bahini and the freedom fighters further sharpened Mr. D.P.Dhar (Durga Prashad Dhar, then special advisor to Indira Gandhi on Bangladesh affairs) once told me that the matter had been kept as a secret in view of the present situation. But shall be disclosed to the provisional government in due course of time." (This was an interview Gen. Arora gave to journalist Mr. Nikhil Chakravarti. The heading was ‘Reminiscence of the liberation war of Bangladesh 1971).

This statement of Gen. Arora confirms that initially Mr. Tajuddin was also kept in dark about the formation of this Bahini by the Indian government and RAW.