December 10, 2015
My dear Ashfi,
IT HAS taken me just a little over 44 years to reply to your letter which you wrote from Patgram, Rangpur, Bangladesh on October 25, 1971. The letter in a brown envelope posted with an Indian stamp reached me at my brother’s address in London on November 6. Dosto, I am so sorry for the late reply but being awfully busy with meetings and processions in London, I could not ‘write to me at this moment’ as you had commanded and very soon I was informed by my father that you had embraced martyrdom just as you had predicted all along how the war would end for
After directing at me all the loving abusive words available in the 70s vocabulary, you continue ‘I am writing to you from a liberated area of Bangladesh. The Indian border is about 18 (eighteen) miles from here. I am breathing the free air of a liberated place and by God it feels good. Liberated this place last week. How’s is London. Must be very big and glamorous. If I can dodge the bullets and stay alive I will see you there. Fix a nice little place for me. Will you.’
As I am hitting 67 today I recollect the days we shared when we were all around 21/22 and how we all lived through a time of great excitement and the creation of a new nation. This is how it all began for us. With the lifting of the curfew for a few days after the March 25 onslaught, Badiul Alam, Masud Omar, Badal and you came over to our house on Road 4 House 113 Dhanmandi and young as we were, lazing in our smoker’s den on top of the garage, we talked with great gusto on the struggle and fight for freedom by Mao, Lenin, Castro, and Che Guevarra and left no pages out of the history records to confirm that such barbarism unleashed on us could not go unchallenged, and somebody must do something, we proclaimed unanimously except Bodi. Silently smoking a cigarette on the floor mattress in the far corner he softly said ‘Guys, there is no somebody it has be us… we have to be that somebody’. What followed was total silence for a few minutes and then the resolution to go out looking for arms and offer resistance was adopted. With a few more meetings in between curfews, all of you dispersed in the search and contact of Bengali men and officers who rebelled and moved out of various cantonments or outposts. However, you guys also decided that I could not go on the ride as our house would be the meeting point during the resistance and I should hold fort. But more so because you guys thought that being the first amongst us to tie the knot and having married Rukhsana just a month ago, I should not go wandering out of the house. Ashfi, the brilliant marriage poster you made with my sad and bearded face with a caption reading ‘mrito lok ta abar jibeeto hobay… hobay to?’ was just the cartoon to deter any young man from getting married!! But brother, for your information I have not done too badly being blessed with a son and three daughters and six grandchildren… all in the 44 years since we parted. Dosto, you would have loved them all and they immensely, you. But destiny decided otherwise.
And now into mid-April what started as adventurism in the footsteps of Che was suddenly and surely turning into a reality. Bodi came to my house and told me that weapons had arrived at your place in Gopibagh but needed to be removed urgently to my place in Dhanmandi as some pro-crackdown people in and around your locality could become a serious nuisance if not an immediate threat. The Razakar or Peace Committee had not yet been conceptualised because the Pakistan army had not yet seen any sign of armed resistance in Dhaka. The only news of resistance and rebellion we knew through broadcast from Swadhin Bangla Radio at Kalurghat was happening in the outskirts of Chittagong by a rebellious army section under Major Zia. Remember how Azad, a martyr himself, directed four officers to my place who instead of going to the Tejgoan airport and taking the transfer flight to Karachi, you and I got them across the border with the assistance of a poor schoolteacher of
In Dhaka, the populace was in shock and recovering from the smell of shell fire and the stench of death. So on this misty morning without telling my uncle who came visiting, I took his car and along with Bodi came to your house to pick up the arms and ammo and placing them in a quilt placed it inside the luggage space and brought it to my house. This entry and the movement of the four hand grenades, five 303 rifles and 200 rounds of ammo into Dhaka were, my brother, the tactical beginning of the guerilla activity episodes that were soon to engulf the city of Dhaka and the entire territory of the then East Pakistan till the bloody birth of Bangladesh. Missions and strikes with super human courage and adventure were displayed in the use of those weapons and had touched many lives sadly and viciously including that of Bodi, whose movements were probably betrayed to the Pakistani intelligence and on a certain day, which I don’t recollect now, was chased, arrested and he never returned. The follow-up to Bodis arrest and the army coming and inspecting the place where we had buried the weapons at dear Wasif’s house is another fascinating story but for another time.
But Ashfi dosto, I have a theory which I must share with you as to why the Pak army gave up and surrendered… the Pakistani soldiers just could not fight your sense of humor!! How can you in your right mind while lying on your wooden platform for bed inside your two-feet deep bunker think and write, ‘My friends, “the punjabees” are only 600 yards away. The s.o.bs have not shelled us today/tonight but I have a feeling that they will any time now; they usually do at this time. The idiots did not let us sleep last night. Fired about 40 shells, couldn’t land a single one on us, marksmanship! So we fired about 50 shells today on them. Intelligence report received one “dog” killed, what marksmanship!! Actually these kinds of funny things happen quite often. Because once you are in the bunker you are safe unless one unlucky one lands right on your top, which is very rare.’
Dosto, you always had a tremendous sense of humor which we all enjoyed but to carry it into the battlefield, makes one invincible. The enemy can kill but never defeat a soldier who can find humour in distress. Comrade, Lal salam to you.
My friend-my brother
Destiny moves on its own course… and a few weeks before the birth of Bangladesh, the unlucky shell did fall proving wrong your rarity theory. I, therefore, in submission take solace in the immortal words of Omar Khayyam ‘The moving finger writes and having writ moves on…’ and until we meet again my friend-my brother, I thank destiny for giving me the pleasure of your smile, the enjoyment of your wit, the warmth of your friendship and to witness the courage of your mind and soul in the bloodiest of times.
Rest in peace, my brave soldier!
Lt Ashfaqus Samad
HQ Sector 6