Home they brought his warrior dead

Md Shahidul Islam Miah writes a ballad of a fallen freedom-fighter called Mufti Mohammad Kased

He fell: in an encounter.

It was 1971. Pakistani army was fighting ‘miscreants.’

The fallen boy was fighting for a free Bangladesh.

Marauding troops brought his body to town. They needed his identity. Who were his family?

Summary executions were usual.

warrior-deadSighting that it was his official duty, the municipal secretary was summoned and asked to find and present the identity of the ‘hated cargo’ lying cold on the pick-up van that carried it. The secretary frantically looked around town, came back and again took a close look at the boy and declared with a lump in his throat, ‘I don’t know him.’

But I knew him.

He was my childhood friend, Mufti Mohammad Kased.

Years later, I went visiting the home of the slain. As I entered the gate of the house, across the yard I could seean old figure with flowing long gray hair and beard, sitting on a deck-chair and peering through a pair of thick glasses, deeply engrossed, reading a book — Freedom at Midnight.

Someone uttered my name and said, ‘Mufti’s friend is here!’

As if electrified he stood up, looked ahead, walked a step or two close towards me and held me in a bear hug, as blistering hot tears kept falling on the back of my shoulders. Did he mumble something that pierced my ears? Yes, he did. ‘Freedom we’ve got, son: why then Midnight doesn’t pass?’ was what he wanted to know!

The fingers that were still holding the book behind my back gave way and suddenly scraping my back, the Freedom at Midnight book fell to the ground with a thunderous thud.

The once municipal secretary was, indeed, too old and frail.

Md Shahidul Islam Miah is a retired engineer of the Roads and Highways Department.

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