The month of December 1971 was a month of emergence of a nation, a month of victory and independence. Every day was full of anxiety to win a war to celebrate victory or accept the anguish of humiliating defeat and survive with agony forever.
Thus, December was a month of living with strong passion manifesting overflow of emotion and frequently with dejection and disappointment. News of victory in different war fronts encouraged us to stand united and become more confident to see the marauders as vanquished and at the same time, instances of oppression on freedom fighters was always frustrating and depressing. Finally, we won a war decisively and hoisted our flag of Independence on 16 December, 2017 with the surrender of 90 thousand Pakistani armed forces at the Race Course that the world ever witness in any war.
On this day of December 16, 1971, the winds of freedom blew across the land, rivers, forests, villages and towns but we paid a very dear price. There was bloodletting, pillage and plunder everywhere by marauders of Pakistanis that shattered the very fabric of our society, our economy and our social values. Millions died during the war, 10 millions became refugees, 2 million women humiliated due to Pakistani occupation army let loose its firepower on a populace that was totally unarmed, only fighting for human right and independence. True, we observe the day with much pomp and pleasure, celebrate it everywhere with songs and drama, but we celebrate it with heavy hearts knowing well we paid a terrible price for the freedom. We remember those black days; we pay homage to our brave fighters who sacrificed lives and those who lost honour and underwent extreme humiliation at home and at refugee camps.
Today, we take a stroll down the memory lane and acknowledge with gratitude the support we received from India and its people in general, especially Srimati Indira Gandhi and the erstwhile Soviet Union for their unwavering assistance as against the strong partisan of USA and China in favour of Pakistan, the killers of humanity.
The month of December reminds us a few events those directed new dimensions to our march towards victory. The day 3rd December, 1971, was a day Prime Minister of India Srimati Indira Gandhi scheduled to deliver her speech at Maidan of Kolkata. Since early morning thousands of people were marching to the Maidan to join the meeting with slogans demanding the recognition of Bangladesh as an independent country. Those processions were full of festoons, placards, and banners demanding recognition of Bangladesh. I requested Shahid A H M Kamaruzzaman, Minister for Home Affairs, Relief and Rehabilitation to allow me to go to the Maidan to join the meeting and listen to the speech of the Prime Minister of India. I was his Private Secretary at that time. I told him that public in procession is demanding recognition of Bangladesh. He said, PM cannot recognize in the public meeting except in the Parliament. I went to the Maidan but I found it impossible to hear her speech and decided to rush to home and tune on radio. I went home but heard the news at around 5.47 PM over radio that Pakistan started war against India and bombed Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Abasthipur, Jodpur, by air and attacked by land at Solemanki, Khemkheran, Punch, and other land borders areas. The whole city of Kolkata was on blackout instantly.
On 6th December, 1971, Prime Minister Srimati Indira Gandhi declared the recognition of Bangladesh in the Loksava and conveyed the same to Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Shahid Tajuddin Ahmed in letter stating, “Government of India have declared to grant the recognition. This morning, I made a statement on the subject in our Parliament, I enclose a copy.” So far we Bangladeshis were refugees in the Indian soil and now became Bangladeshi citizens.
Within 3 days, the blackout in Kolkata was over since the sky of East Pakistan was free and all aircrafts were destroyed by Indian air force. News started to pour in that in all sectors Pak army were trying to flee but killing indiscriminately wherever possible. Pakistani armed forces and their collaborators, Razakars, Al-Badr and Al Shams were confident that China and USA must arrive to give lesson to Indian army and Bangladeshi Mukti Bahini. In fact, USA reached with 7th Fleet at Bay of Bengal to save Pakistan but that was too late.
Lt General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, Martial Law Administrator Zone –B, Eastern Command, Eastern Theatre (Pakistan) decided to surrender with 90 thousands armed forces on 16 December, 1971 at Ramna Race Course Maidan where Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave his historical speech that inspired the birth of a nation on 7th March and UNESCO recognized on 30 October, 2017 as the Memory of World International Register. The scenario of surrender continued as the victory of Bangladesh and humiliating defeat of marauders.
The preparation started to fix the date to transfer of Mujibnagar Government of Bangladesh to Dhaka. Finally, it was decided that the Mujibnagar Government might return to Dhaka on 22nd December, 1971. One Indian air force aircraft was ready at Dumdum airport and acting President Syed Nazrul Islam, Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed, Finance Minister Capt. Munsur Ali, Foreign Minister Khondker Mustaque Ahmed and Home Minister A H M Kamaruzzaman, one after another entered the aircraft. We few were on board as supporting officials to the Cabinet Members.
The air craft reached Dhaka airport while it was almost dark. I found huge gathering at the airport of which most of them were politicians, army personnel, and officials came to Tejgaon airport to receive the Bangladesh cabinet members in exile. I found Mr. K M Obaidur Rahman, MP from Faridpur reached near to the aircraft and embraced Tajuddin Ahmed and started crying like a child. Many politicians were crying and security people were feeling embarrassed to manage them. I found a picture beyond description. Suddenly I found my friend and batch mate Nizamuddin, Magistrate Dhaka Court reached near and embraced me and told me that he heard, I was killed by Pakistan army at Patuakhali as Magistrate. I could not control myself and embraced him with tears in eyes.
The motorcade with Cabinet Ministers started for Bangabhaban with many people on both the sides of the roads making slogan of Joy Bangla and making slogans in the names of Cabinet Members especially Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister. We reached the Bangabhaban and after dinner I took the Home Minister to look around within former Governor House with a staff of the house. We showed him big holes through which sky was visible.
I told the Minister when Indian and Bangladesh Army attacked on Bangabhaban and bombed strongly only then Rao Forman Ali decided to flee and took shelter in the hotel. We stood for sometimes and felt that victory of truth must prevail and defeat of Pakistan was inevitable.
The writer is a former Secretary