Friday, April 3, 2009

Bangladesh War of Independence: Christian Muktijuddhas (Freedom Fighters) -- 1


The cover of the book in Bangla,
Muktijuddhe Amra: Christander Obodan
(We in the War of Independence: Contributions of the Christians),
edited by Sunil Pereira, Father Subrata Boniface Tolentino, C.S.C.,
Jerome D'Costa and Boniface Subrata Gomes, and
published by Pratibeshi Prakashani, Luxmibazar, Dhaka, 1995.

This book is an attempt to memorialize the efforts of the Christian -- both Roman Catholic and Protestant -- muktijuddhas (freedom fighters) in the 1971 War of Independence in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Among several hundred Christian muktijuddhas, this volume portrays 33 of them.

The Christians in the then East Pakistan, irrespective of their different ethnic groups -- Bangalis, mongoloid ethnic groups, and adibashi (aboriginal) communities -- had the same nationalistic spirit as their Bangali Muslim and Hindu compatriots. Christians sacrificially assisted internal refugees of any religious and ethnic background by providing food, shelter, clothing and also directly participated in the freedom struggle as muktijuddhas. More than a dozen Christian muktijuddhas also got killed in the line of their duty.

From the above-mentioned book, I present below four Christian muktijuddhas, who gave their lives in the War of Independence in 1971:

  • Subhas Biswas ("Subhasda"):

Subhas Biswas, a Baptist, belonged to the Khalishakhali Village of Gopalganj District. In 1971, he was a student at the Australian Baptist Mission Technical Centre at Faridpur.

During the non-cooperation movement, called for by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman due to delaying tactics of the West Pakistani ruling class to hand over power to the Awami League, Subhas returned to his village. Soon he joined others and left for India.

After a few months' guerrilla training in India, his group returned to his locality. Mr. Shehabuddin was the
Muktibahini (liberation forces) Commander of Sector No. 8. For a time, they took shelter at the Children's Welfare Centre of the Australian Baptist Mission at Bhorakandi Village.

The West Pakistani soldiers had set up their camps at Bhatiapara and Gopalganj. From these places they had been wrecking havoc and death and destruction in surrounding areas. Villagers were fleeing in droves and taking shelter from one village to the next.

The commando group of Subhas stayed at the house of Satish Majhi at Khalishakhali Village. One night they attacked the enemy soldiers, but could not last long. Then they planned new attacks. It was October 25, 1971. In their first attack, the motor launch of the West Pakistani soldiers capsized. Soon another group of soldiers came on foot to their rescue.

Fighting started on both sides. Both the groups had their share of the wounded. At one point, Subhas and his friend were the only ones remaining in the bunker. Others gradually moved away in face of fearsome shootings. When the two were trying to crawl away through the same rice field where the enemy was on the other side, one bullet hit Subhas' leg and it was bleeding profusely. At one moment, Subhas lost sense of direction, he sat from his crawling position. Immediately a bullet hit his head and divided his skull. He fell on the rice plants and the whole place was bloodied. His friend somehow could escape from there.

Subhas Biswas became a martyr. After the independence of Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship dedicated their largest church on the Green Road of Dhaka to Shaheed (Martyr) Subhas Biswas.

  • Khokon Solomon Purification:

Khokon Solomon Purification, a Roman Catholic youth, was from the Shadhon Para of East Rajabazar, Dhaka.

On June 16, 1971, he left Dhaka with some other youths and went to Agartola of Eastern India. After the guerrilla training in India, he participated in several attacks on the West Pakistani soldiers in Dhaka area.

He did not contact his parents for quite some time and they thought that he was killed in some guerrilla operation.
One day he suddenly surfaces and meets his parents. After three or four days, he vanishes again. Before leaving, he gave three pairs of churi (bangles) to his mother and said: "If I don't return, you remember me watching these churis." He never returned.

It was November 12, 1971. Khokon Solomon and his co-fighters were busy setting up explosives for destroying a culvert on a road at Saidabad on the eastern outskirts of Dhaka. Unexpectedly an army patrol vehicle appeared and started to shoot at them. Khokan Solomon Purification and his cousin William Montu died instantly, when others could get away from the scene.

Shaheed Khokon's parents were so much shocked at his death that they could never live a normal life again.

Photos Courtesy: Muktijuddhe Amra: Christander Obodan, edited by Sunil Pereira et al, Dhaka: Pratibeshi Prakashani, 1995)


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