Tuesday, 18 January, 2022

We didn’t fear death for independence

Jalal Uddin Bir Uttam tells the Daily Sun

  • Rajib Kanti Roy
  • 17 December, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news
We didn’t fear death for independence

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Nothing mattered more than the independence of this nation for us and we could do anything and everything for freeing Bangladesh in 1971, said Lieutenant Commander (retd) Jalal Uddin Bir Uttam in a recent interview with the Daily Sun.

He was one of the founding members of Bangladesh Navy and key figures of a number of naval operations, including Operation Jackpot and Operation Hot Pants, during the War of Liberation.

Born in 1936 in Polashbaria village of Mohammadpur under Magura district, Jalal Uddin joined Pakistan Navy in 1956 and was commissioned in 1959. While working there, he took part in several wars and was awarded for his bravery and brilliance.

When the time came, he responded to the call of the nation and used all his war experience to unshackle Bangladesh from foreign occupation.

“Six point movement, Mass Uprising and withdrawal of Agartola conspiracy case, Awami League’s victory in general elections and West Pakistanis’ reluctance to respect people’s verdict had made the war inevitable. Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech had a clear message in this regard. Since then I was counting days,” he said.

When Pakistan army launched infamous Operation Searchlight on March 25, Jalal Uddin was posted in PNS Bakhtiar (now BNS Isa Khan) in Chattogram naval base. Initially, in the first four days, he took part in the resistance war.

Later, realising the necessity of taking more preparations, on April 5 he took his wife Shirin Jalal and two children to his father-in-law’s house and on April 25, along with 17 freedom fighters (all students), he started for Kolkata to find his role in the war.

“Handing over my fellow fighters to Awami League leader Asaduzzaman in Rana Ghat camp, following the suggestion of Bangladesh Mission head Sohrab Hossain MNA on April 28 I met Gen MAG Osmani, Commander-in-chief of Muktibahini, who assigned me in Sector 9 under Major MA Jalil,” he said.

Initially, he trained freedom fighters there. Ten to twelve days later, he returned to India where              two Indian Navy officers Capt Mohan Narayan Rao Samant and Lt Samir Das interviewed and selected him with others for forming a naval unit and took them to Plassey where they were trained for two months and twenty days.

“Upon completion of our training, I along with 13 naval fighters entered Sundarbans’ Hiran Point through a pansi boat to take part in the Operation Jackpot,” Jalal Uddin said.

“We stayed there with Major Ziauddin, sub sector commander of sector 9, for one month and eight days and conducted operations at Mongla port and Sundarbans adjacent rivers. Then, we decided to go to India as we were scheduled to get two gun boats from the Indian Navy,” he added.

On September 18, 1971 on their way to India, they found that a Pakistani gun boat PNS Rajshahi was approaching near the dam of Chunkuri River in Satkhira’s Shyamnagar. With limited fighters and arms, they attacked and stormed the gun boat.

“It was really a risky decision but we succeeded to impair it severely. My fellow fighters showed immense bravery on that day,” the valiant naval commander recalled.

They went to India through Kalindi River and Raymongol area.

“Indian Navy had given us two gun boats named Padma and Polash. Those were actually harbour crafts of Kolkata port. I had set up four guns and canons and transformed those into gun boats,” Jalal Uddin said.

“Hoisting Bangladesh’s flag, those were commissioned in Bangladesh Navy on October 12 by then Kolkata’s Mayor Profullo Kumar Sen,” he added.

They patrolled outside the outer anchor of the Kolkata Port for a few days and then launched a new operation.

Jalal Uddin said, “On November 10, with the two gun boats we went to the Mongla Port using the sea route and dropped big acoustic mines in the outer anchor. We placed a total of eight mines each of which was 4,499 kg in weight with 50 pounds of explosives.”

“While returning, we found that a British ship, chartered by Pakistan Government to carry arms, ammunition and food grains for the occupation troops, was entering Mongla Port. We challenged the captain of the ship, shot fire and made him bound to surrender,” he added.

One month later, they decided to launch Operation Hot Pants to attack PNS Titumir and free Khulna.

“On December 9, we started from Hingalganj of North 24 Parganas for Khulna. Padma and Polash reached the target area through Sundarbans and Raymongol. INS Panvel of Indian Navy, along with a BSF launch Chitrangada joined through the sea route,” Jalal Uddin said.

They freed Mongla port and surrounding areas on December 10 morning. Then the naval fighters went to Khulna Shipyard to attack PNS Titumir.

“Aircrafts of the Allied Force were flying in the sky though Pakistanis had strong position in the ground. Suddenly one of the aircrafts mistakenly bombed on Padma and Polash at 12:00pm. The gun boats caught fire and we jumped into the water to save our lives,” the brave freedom fighter said.

Nine of the freedom fighters and Indian army men were injured, 21 were captured and tortured by Pakistan army and their associates while Jalal Uddin was among the 15 to 16 naval commandos who could skip Pakistani eyes.

They together entered India on December 13 and on December 16 Bangladesh obtained long anticipated victory defeating the occupation force.

Lt Cdr (retd) Jalal Uddin Bir Uttam believes that Bangladesh has made remarkable progress and surpassed many countries in different development indexes in the last 50 years and now on the right track to prove its potential.

It is for sure that had Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman not been assassinated, the nation would have gone even further ahead, the 86-year-old veteran freedom fighter said.

He suggested that the young generation read and know history of the Liberation War more and get inspired to take the nation forward.