Dhaka University in the Emergence of Bangladesh – Part- VIII

Role of DU Teachers in Liberation War

Dr. Abdul Mannan Choudhury

14 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Role of DU Teachers in Liberation War

Dr. Abdul Mannan Choudhury

It is possible to divide the teachers of Dhaka University into several segments during the liberation war. Some of them crossed the border and participated directly or indirectly in the liberation war. The other segment helped the liberation war from within the country and some of whom were killed by Al Badr. Others expressed no confidence in Pakistan without joining the work in the university. Some were already abroad and helped the liberation war in various ways. There were some who rejoined Dhaka University just to aid the guerrilla warfare. It may be recalled that weeks before the start of the war, on March 3, 1971, some teachers at Dhaka University resolved to have independence instead of pursuing the six point program. As many as 129 teachers made statements in the newspaper urging transfer of power. A chunk of them organised themselves into Think Tank to advise Bangabandhu in preparing the critical speech of March 7, 1971. A handful of them led by Abdul Mannan Choudhury protested against the filthy report in the Observer newspaper by setting fire to some of its copies openly. Another segment sensed genocide and sent telegram to Mr. U. Thant-the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation at that time.

Role of Dhaka University Teachers across the Border

Among the teachers of Dhaka University, Ajay Roy of Physics, Abdul Mannan Choudhury and Shahid Uddin Ahmad of Management; Tapas Kumar Bose of Accounting, Rangalal Sen of Sociology, Khan Sarwar Morshed of English, Noor Mohammad Mia of Public Administration, Zillur Rahman, Zainal Abedin of Political Science crossed the borders at different times and played multiple roles. Some former students of the university at that time worked in Chittagong University like Dr. Anisuzzaman, Syed Ali Ahsan, Mohammad Abu Zafar, Azizur Rahman Mallick; and Dr. Mazhrul Islam, Qazi Abdul Mannan, Ghulam Murshid, Mosharraf Hossain of Rajshai University, also got involved in the Liberation War by crossing the borders. Many teachers encouraged their students to play their due role by recruiting other students, looting of weapons, collecting explosives and cooperating with armed freedom fighters in carrying arms, arranging hideouts, food and transportation. Some teachers set glaring examples of defying the Pakistan Government and lent support to the war. Dr. Enamul Haque, Dr. Abu Mohammed Habibullah, Munir Chowdhury, Dr. Neelima Ibrahim, Dr. Sirajul Islam Chowdhury were among those who received warning from the military authority, or got rusticated from membership of the syndicate of Dhaka University. Of them, Dr. Kudrate-e-Khuda, Dr. Enamul Haque and Muzaffor Ahmad Chowdhury were replaced by Dr. Osman Gani, Justice Muhammad Ashir and Jalal Uddin Ahmed. It was found that Osman Gani kept on pushing aside interest of Bengalis till the last day of Pakistan beginning from the Language Movement. 

A total of 52 teachers and employees were temporarily expelled by the government. Dismissed teachers had a hard time receiving financial help from some other colleagues who also collected funds, medicine and clothes for the fighters and exchanged vital information for tactical action.

Self-immolation and Abused Teachers

Eight teachers of Dhaka University were killed by Pakistan forces between March 26 and March 30, 1971. They are Anudwaipayan Bhattacharya, Ataur Rahman Khan Khadim, Abdul Muktadir, A.N.M. Muniruzzaman, Govinda Chandra Dev, Jyotirmoy Guhathakurta, Fazlur Rahman Khan, and Sharafat Ali. Mohammad Sadat Ali a teacher of the Laboratory School of Dhaka University was killed in early part of 1971. Ten teachers and one medical officer were brutally killed from 14 to 16 December 1971. They are Anwar Pasha, Abul Khair, Gias Uddin Ahmad, Faisul Muhi, Munir Chowdhury, Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury, Rashidul Hasan, Santosh Chandra Bhattacharya, Sirajul Haque Khan and Mohammad Mortaza. In that turmoil period, Ahsanul Haque and Belayet Hossain served as alternative general secretaries of the Teachers' Association. The first person stayed in the country, worked secretly for promoting the war and the second worked for Bangladesh abroad. A Shibir activist of Dhaka University namely Ashrafuzzaman as well as Major General Rao Farman Ali had a list of 21 people in their diaries, of whom Wakil Ahmad, Saduddin Ahmed, A.M.M. Shahidullah, Rafiqul Islam, Neelima Ibrahim, Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Dr. Moniruzzaman survived accidently. From August 13 to November 17, 1971, the teachers arrested and subjected to inhuman physical and psychological abuses were A.M.M. Shahidullah, Zahurul Haque, Rafiqul Islam, Saduddin Ahmed, Ahsanul Haque and Wadudur Rahman.

Dhaka University in the Ancillary Role

Some of Dhaka University teachers were directly involved in the psychological warfare through publishing newspapers and joining independent Bangla radio centres and cultural organisations. The Bangladesh Liberation War Council, Bangladesh Mukti Sangram Parishad formed in London, the People's Solidarity Council, Bangladesh Teachers Association, Bangladesh Information Centre established in Washington, Artist-Literary Support Association, Liberation Council of the Intelligentsia, Women's Freedom Fighter’s Association, Independent Bangla Football Team, Bangabandhu Artist Group, Bangladesh Young Artist Group, Bangladesh Young Artist kept the psychological warfare mobile, visible and active through various literary and cultural activities. Needless to say, the majority of their members were former or present students and teachers of Dhaka University.

During the liberation war, at least 51 weeklies were published from within Bangladesh or across the border. The editors and publishers of all of them as well as the place of their publication were often pseudonyms. Let's start with Jai Bangla. The weekly published from Noagaon was edited by bank officer Mohammed Gul Haider. Gul Haider changed his name to Rahmatullah. Later on, Awami League leader Abdul Mannan took over the editing of the weekly. Needless to say, both were Dhaka University students. Abul Hasan Choudhury was the editor of the weekly Bangladesh. This was his pseudonym. In fact, it was Abdul Mannan Choudhury who used to write the editorial in addition to his direct participation in the war. The other names he used for publishing and column writing were respectively Abdul Momin Choudhury and Mozammel Huq Choudhury. The editor of ‘Ranaangan’ was Ranadoot who was actually a student of Dhaka University, namely poet Rafiq Azad. Moreover, Amir Hossain, editor of Banglar Bani on behalf of Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni, Professor Muzaffar Ahmad editor of New Bengali and Ferdous Ahmad Koreshi of Desh Bangla were former students of Dhaka University. It may be mentioned that as head of National Awami Party, Ahmed was a member of Central Advisory Committee of the Mujibnagar Government apart from his role as a senior director of NAP-Communist party’s armed contingent. At that time Dhaka University was the oldest university in the country and it was just a hot-bed of political activities that led to the growth of nationalism. It is not even surprising to note that Poet Shamsur Rahman, former student of Dhaka University, had the glaring record of sending his poems to Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra for recitation or publication in Calcutta although he was working as editor of Dainik Pakistan at Dhaka.

It was not uncommon to find the female students or teachers of Dhaka University involved in the liberation war in multiple roles. Sultana Zaman, a teacher in the Psychology Department left the country with her husband sector commander Nuruzzaman and was involved in war support work along with her family members. Previously Sheikh Hasina, Nasreen Ahmad Shilu, Hasmat Jahan Hasu, Nilufar Panna, Ranu and many female activists helped to promote the liberation struggle and some also crossed the border along with Rafia Akhtar Dolly, Badrunnesa Ahmad, Mumtaz Begum, Sajeda Chowdhury, Matia Chowdhury, Mahfuza Khanam, Maleka Begum, Ayesha Khanam, Monica, Deepa Dutta, Forkan Begum, Ruby, Khuku, Junu, Echo, Mumtaz; and Sultana Kamal received further training in handling arms, running the camps and  nursing the wounded.

                                to be continued.....


The writer is a former student and teacher of Dhaka University and currently serving as the Vice Chancellor of World University of Bangladesh