Major Dalim, Lt. Moti , 2 Lt. Nur were the first three officers’ to escape from west Pakistan and joined the Liberation war.
Month of March 1971. Finally the military junta decided to resolve the political crisis through the buttes and guns. As a result came the dreadful night of 25th march 1971. Pakistan army launched its operation on the Bengalis at the dead of night to crush their political movement with unparallel brutality. Thus the parting of ways became inevitable. The genocide and white terror of the occupational army superceded all such cruelties in living memory. The army savagely killed innocent men, women and children. The Bengali members of the army and other law enforcing agencies were also not spared. Supreme leader Sheikh Mujib declined to provide leadership and organize an armed resistance, instead he courted arrest. The other Awami League leaders also abandoned the people and went into hiding to save their lives. The people were stunt at such betrayal of the leaders. At that critical juncture on 26-27 night an unknown young major named Ziaur Rehman of the East Bengal Regiment imbued with strong sense of nationalism decided to revolt and after having consulted with his other Bengali colleagues took the initiative to come on the air and declared independence and gave call to the nation to organize armed resistance movement .The people responded and organized country wide resistance movement which subsequently turned into bloody liberation war.
The Bengali members of the Armed Forces, Police, BDR, Ansars and Mujahids played vanguard role in organizing the resistance movement.
At that crucial time of our national history I was posted at Quetta. I was with the 62 Field Regiment Artillery 16 Division. I used to stay at the Arty officer’s mess at King’s Road. Other than me quite a number of Bengali officers were also at Quetta posted in different regiments and battalions. Col Dastagir was posted as G-1 in Div. HQ. Maj. Hafeez posted in my own regiment. Capt. Shahid in 33 Cavalry Regt. Capt. Sharful in 33 Cavalry Regt. Capt. Mohsin in Baluch Regt. Maj. Malak BM. of a Brigade. Maj. Kader in Engineer Bn, Capt. Maolla in EME Bn, Capt. A.M.S. Amin in the School of Infantry and Tactics, Capt. Hannan Shah in the Infantry School, Capt. Zaker, Capt. Hudda, Capt. Shafat, Lt. Hroon 26 Field. Regt Arty, Capt. Ifthkar, Capt. Mozharuddin Mollah, Lt. KB in 63 Field. Regt. Arty, Capt. Jamal in CMH, Capt. Qasem in ASC Bn etc. Beside these officers there were also quite a large number of JCOS, NCOS and soldiers in the School of Infantry and Tactics, EME Bn, Signal Bn, and Div. HQ. There was some in the Staff College as well as 33 Cavalry Regt. The Bengali community in Quetta was small but a happy family. We had very cordial and friendly relations and our time flied in happy and congenial atmosphere. Very often we used to get together at a place. Usually at the residences of the married senior officers. We used to gossip, talk, discuss politics, sing, joke do every thing to make ourselves happy and light. The national crisis got all of us even more closer to each other. All of us were conscious about the present situation that prevailed and were very much concerned.
We have been meeting at different places secretly. We tried to find out the answers to all these questions through exchange of views and discussions. We exchanged in formations among ourselves in those meetings. We tried to analyze each and every new development and the news item in the context of the prevailing situation. We have been getting news about East Pakistan through our letters. We listened to All India Radio, VOA, BBC and Voice of Australia very attentively. The news and reporting in the national media are all one sided propaganda therefore did not have much credibility. Some times the Bengali compatriots from the Signal Center brought secret information that were sent by the army headquarters to the Div. headquarters . We could get some ideas regarding the intentions of the Junta from these reporting. But even all that was very little. We all remained anxious and eager to know each and every event that was unfolding everyday in the political movement in East Pakistan. One and half thousand miles away, whatever information we had been receiving from various sources, we analyzed them very prudently to keep up dated on the flow of events as much as possible. All these we have been doing with utmost caution. We continued with our normal duties as usual although inside we all were burning in rage. We had to suppress our anguish and feelings carefully from the watchful eyes of our superiors and non-Bengali colleagues. We decided in our secret meetings that the situation has to be faced calmly without any exposure and suppressing our inner feelings. Our minutes and seconds were passing in a state of despair, hope and frustration. It was a state of horrifying uncertainty.
On 30th March 1971 we came to know what had happened on 25-26 March night and the follow up events after that fateful night from the VOA, BBC, All India Radio and Radio Australia. We became very concerned about our relations, close ones and friends whom we had left behind. We became very angry at such atrocities and outrageous behavior of the Pakistan army. We started thinking is there nothing that we could do staying abroad? Don’t we have any responsibilities against the call for independence? Most of us earnestly wanted to participate in the struggle for independence along with other fellow Bengalis. We were passing our time in total suffocation and an uneasy situation.
Meanwhile our course almost ended. During the course at the Infantry School I became very close to Capt. A. Taher, Lt. Moti and 2nd Lt. Nur Choudhury. Like-mindedness brought us close to each other. I was a local officer. They used to visit me in our king’s road Artillery mess very often. We used to spend our leisure having fun together in different ways. We used to dine together in the mess, used to go around the city together, we used to go for cinemas together and even to the club for Tambola nights. Lt. Shumi used to join us at times. Although we used to have lots of fun being together but in between we also used to discuss about the latest situation in Bangladesh. Our hearts and souls were always with the freedom fighters in East Pakistan then fighting for the independence. All of us had one thing in mind, we must do something to contribute in the struggle. We should not accept everything quietly and sit tight. We must try to contribute in whatever manner possible towards the national liberation struggle. But then what we could do? We were all thinking hard but could not decide what we could do staying, so far away. At that point we came to know that 16 Division is going to be air lifted to East Pakistan. It was a very pleasant and happy news. If the Division moves then I shall also get an opportunity to go to Bangladesh along with my unit, which was a part of 16 Division. Taher, Moti, Nur and Shumi all were very happy. The course finished. But the authorities suddenly announced the headquarters’ decision that all those Bengali officers who had come from different units stationed in East Pakistan would not be sent back to their units instead they all will be posted in the units in West Pakistan. What is the matter? This is not to be like this! One should normally return to his unit after the course that is what is the normal practice. Then why such kind of decision? We were all surprised. Capt. Taher, Lt. Moti, Lt. Nur all had their units in East Pakistan.
They all thus became stranded. I returned to my unit. But on my rejoining the unit I discovered changes.The atmosphere was different. The situation was tense. One day my CO, Lt. Col. Mian Hafeez summoned me to his office. At his office he somewhat in an uneasy state said,
“Sharif I would like to releave you from the position of the Battery Commander.”
I was really perplexed at his statement. My personal relation with Lt. Col.Hafeez was very cordial. Bachelor happy go lucky type Lt. Col.Hafeez also used to like me a lot. Therefore I asked him straight,
“Sir, I am one of the senior officers in the unit and I prefer to remain as the Battery Commander.”
My submission went unanswered. I was hurt at his decision but it could not be helped. However, I thanked him and came out from his office. Immediately I rushed to Capt. Taher’s mess to inform about the decision. Lt. Moti and Lt. Nur were also called at the same venue. After discussions we decided to be very cautious and vigilant about our movements and activities. Anylaps could be fateful. That could be highly dangerous. We decided that we should remain absolutely normal and we shall meet with utmost care.
It would not be right to talk about Bangladesh with anybody other than the known ones who could be trusted. After I had that talk with Lt. Col. Mian Hafeez I could not ascertain whether I would be going with the unit to East Pakistan. The events were moving very fast. Suddenly Col. Dastagir, the senior most Bengali officer who was also the G-I at the Div. headquarters was posted out as G-I Mujahid corps headquarters at Lahore. All Bengalis at Quetta got upset at this posting order. Although it did not come to me as a big surprise, it stunned most of the Bengalis at Quetta as they were not aware of the secret decision of GHQ. All the Bengalis in 16 Division who were aspiring to go to East Pakistan were disappointed and their hopes dashed into the sand. I along with Lt. Nur one day went to visit Col. Dastegir at his residence. His family was then in East Pakistan. I asked him,
“Sir should we all seat quite even after this?”
“What do you want to do?” He asked me.
“We must try to make some contributions in our national struggle in whatever way possible”. I said.
“Are you all mad! What can you do from one and half thousands miles away?” Asked Col. Dastagir.
“We can escape and try to join the liberation war. Or we can try to blow up the ammunition depot in Beleli. Thus defense force’s 2nd line of ammunition will get blown up. It will be an irreparable loss to the military junta. Their fighting capabilities will thus be reduced immensely.” I replied.
“Are you crazy? What an absurd thinking! such an emotional act will not only bring disaster to yourselves but will also put all other Bengalis into problem. It is totally impossible!” Exclaimed the Colonel. He further reminded us,
“You all took an oath during your passing out parade that you will remain loyal to the constitution. So be faithful to your oath and prove your integrity”. At last he said that he was under surveillance and therefore we should not come and meet him so often.
How strange! We all knew this Mr. Dastegir as an devout Bengali passionately imbued with Bengali nationalism and a patriot. We all used to respect him for that. But what is it? What are we hearing from him today! My heart became heavy with disgust. I told Nur,
“Let’s go”. When we were moving out he said,
“Don’t be so sentimental. Think for a while. Say even if Bangladesh becomes a reality, preserve yourselves, Bangladesh cannot go without officers like you and me”.
We found his such opportunism totally filthy. It is really difficult to understand people in this world. I and Nur came out totally disgusted and angry. Thereafter the day when he was taking his journey for Lahore, We went up to the railway station and begged, “Sir still time, our independence movement needs experienced officers like you. Should you agree we shall take you and escape even at the cost of our lives”. He did not agree and left for Lahore. We came back frustrated. After this I alone took the decision to blow up Beleli ammunition depot. Initiating a sympathetic detonation through an explosive charge the depot can be blown off. A very close friend of mine was then posted at the depot. I started gathering all necessary information secretly through my visits to him. My friend was quite sympathetic towards the Bengalis. After collecting relevant information I drew up a sketch trace. One day I went to see Maj. Qader along with the trace. He was the senior most Bengali Engineer officer in the station. I wanted to get my explosive placement trace checked by him. I opened up my trace and frankly told him about my plan. He was awfully terrified hearing my plan. He said, “How dangerous! Have you gone crazy Dalim? Don’t you understand what are you up to? Should your plan work then whole of Quetta city is going to be destroyed. We all will perish along with. Your action is too risky. I cannot encourage you in this matter. I request you not to misunderstand me”. The same disappointment here as well. Before I left I requested him that he should not talk about this plan with another person. He agreed but I had to give my words in return that I should refrain from such dangerous activities. But I continued with my plan. Suddenly my friend got transferred. This was a rude shock to me. I was frustrated. As he went away my access to the depot became restricted and thus I was forced to abandon my plan. It was painful but I had to bear it. I started to think afresh what to do. I decided to escape and join the liberation war . At that stage one day Lt. Nur came to my mess. We sat in the lawn and were chatting. Suddenly Nur said,
“Sir, Capt. Taher has asked you to see him. Something important he wants to discuss”. I said, “very well, we shall dine together at his place tonight”.
Nur went away. I couldn’t fathom why Capt. Taher had called for me and what could be so much important that he wants to discuss so urgently. In the evening I went over to his mess. Lt. Nur was already there. Before dinner we all were sitting in his room and listening to the music. We were also talking amongst ourselves under the cover of the music. Without any pretext Capt. Taher straightway addressed me,
“Dalim, I and Lt. Nur have decided to escape through Chaman to Afghanistan. From there to Bangladesh. I understand you are friendly with the area being a local officer and we want your help.”
I could feel the sincerity of his appeal in his straightforwardness. It was a direct approach from less talkative Capt. Taher, a man of few words. In reply I said,
“Sir, I am also thinking to escape.”
Capt. Taher was very happy to hear my reply. He embraced me with the warmth of his heart and said,
“In that case without wasting any time you somehow manage to go over to the border and have Recce.”
I agreed to his idea and returned to my mess after dinner. We three have taken an oath placing our hands on the Holy Quran that we shall never reveal anything about our plan to anyone from now.
With an excuse to Recee regimental exercise area I left for Chamnan the next very day in an army jeep.
I returned the same night after the Recce with a happy note. Capt. Taher and Lt. Nur both were delighted to hear that some of my local friends have agreed to extend a helping hand. When our escape plan was in advanced stage, unexpectedly, one night Havildar Nazir from the Division Signal Core came over to see me urgently. I had excellent report with all the Bengalis in the station senior and junior alike. Particularly I was much liked by the juniors. Like Nazir many used to come to me to discuss their personal problems and used to seek my advice. First I thought Nazir has come to discuss same kind of problems. But I was surprised and shocked the moment I saw him. He was unusually quite and calm. His eyes were grime. I could well imagine that something has gone drastically wrong. I took him along and went straight to my room. “What has happened Nazir? Why are you so gloomy?” I asked. In reply Nazir said,
” Sir something dreadful has happened. Div. Commander has informed the GHQ in a cypher message that 3 JCO and 2 NCO of the EME battalion were caught at the Chaman border while escaping.”
I was stunned and dumfounded to hear this news. My head was spinning. I thanked Hav. Nazir and after he left I rushed to Capt. Taher. Nur was summoned. After long discussions at around mid night we took a decision that it would be very dangerous to escape through Chaman in view of the recent developments. Therefore, we have to abandon this rout and try through other borders. The routs that were opened to us were Kashmir, Lahore, Sialkot or Bhawalpur / Bhawalnagar sector. Through Bhawalpur / Bhawalnagar to cross Rajastan desert it would take two to three days. Any of the other sectors would take minimum 5 to 6 days to cross the border. It would be very difficult to get such time. Hence we chose to take Bhawalpur / Bhawalnagar sector as the best alternative. It is not only we shall require minimum time through this sector it was also our Divisional operational area. There for it would be easier to collect relevant intelligence for our escape. Reasonably I was assigned to collect all information and work out the draft plan for our escape. Time was thus passing.
It was a holiday in first week of April. In one afternoon I was lying on my bed after lunch. Somebody knocked at the door. It was Lt. Moti at the door. He was looking pale and dejected. I asked,
“Sir I am going through a painful mental torture for some days. Finally I decided to come to you for advice.”
“Is it something very serious”? I asked.
“Yes Sir. I have decided to escape. By any means I shell escape and join the liberation war. If I fail I shall not be bothered for the consequences. Let anything happen. I am prepared to take any risk. What do you say?”
I looked straight into his face and tried to read his mind. No, he was looking damn serious.
But we are under oath not to reveal any thing about our plan. So I did not talk anything about our plan to Moti and said,
“Moti I admire your sincerity. But what can I do for you in this matter?” Moti was thinking something. I called for the waiter and ordered for some refreshment. Refreshment came and Moti relished the food. I could see from his way of eating that he did not have his lunch. After he finished suddenly Moti asked,
“Sir, you are aware of the whole situation more then me. What do you think? We all should keep quit and sit tight? We don’t have any responsibilities? Aren’t you thinking to do something?” I did not give any instant reply to his queries. I just said,
” Come to the China Cafe tomorrow at 6 p.m. We shall talk more.” Moti left.
After he left I dressed up and set off with my car. Straight to Lt. Nur. He was taking an afternoon nap. I woke him up. At first Nur was puzzled,
“Sir you at such an odd time? What’s up?”
“I am here for something urgent.” I told him in details about Moti. After hearing he asked, “What do you think of him?”
I said, “How about taking him along?” Nur thought for a while and said,
“I don’t mind. But we must also take Capt. Taher’s opinion. Let’s go then to Capt. Taher”. I said “Ok lets go”. We went to Capt. Taher’s mess in my car. We told him everything and said that we both have no objection to take him along. Capt. Taher also agreed and said,
” If you both consider Moti trustworthy then he may join us”. I came back to my mess after dropping Nur. Next day, evening as arranged Nur and I went to China Cafe to discuss the matter with Moti. On our arrival we found Moti had already placed the orders of our favorite dishes. China Cafe was then the only Chinese restaurant in Quetta city. It was one of our most sought for place to pass time. One Chines family, father, mother and a daughter managed the restaurant. We are their known regular customers. Therefore, they always took special care for all of us. Soon after we reached food was reserved we started our discussion while eating. At the beginning I said,
“Moti I am replaying to your quarries of yesterday. For some reasons, I could not reply you yesterday. I , Nur and Capt. Taher are planing to escape for sometime now. We first thought of Chaman border, but after the sad incident that happened with the EME battalion we had to abandon that rout. Now we are planning to crossover through Bhawalpur/Bhawalnagar sector, crossing Rajisthan desert. You may join us if you like”. Moti’s face glowed with my offer.
“Sir I knew it for sure that at such a crucial time you cannot sit idle. I am so happy that I can’t tell you. I am proud of you sir” I took out a pocket size Quran and asked him to place his hand and swear. He place his hand. I said,
“Say, I shall not reveal anything to anyone about our plan under any circumstances. I would perform any responsibility that would be considered necessary without any question. I shall not ask unnecessary and unwarranted questions regarding the plan out of curiosity. We shall carryout all decisions with complete trust on each other.”
Moti repeated whatever I said without any hesitation. Thus we finished our meeting that evening. I was given the responsibility to workout the shortest and safest rout and to arrange operational map sheets of that rout and also to procure own and enemy troops deployment trace. I was also given the responsibility to arrange for compass, binocular, and personal weapons for the members of the team. I had been given all these responsibilities being a local officer. All these are there in the regimental store. But one cannot take them out other then operational requirement. Therefore I had to look for other sources. I thought to take assistance from Hav. Shafiq, a Bengali NCO with the intelligence section of the School of Infantry and Tactics for the map sheets. I became quite close with him during the course. He used to respect me a lot for the reason that as a Bengali officer I did well in the course. At times we used to talk about the overall situation in the country. He used to talk about many things with trust and confidence. He was always very helpful towards me and always tried to help me with utmost sincerity. In view of this relation. I thought to seek his assistance regarding the map sheets. One day I sent a message across to him to see me. Shafiq came to my mess. After talking about other matters I told him, “Shafiq I want your help. If you allow then I shall talk”. He was embarrassed and said,
“Sir, do not hesitate and make me small. Please tell me. If I can be of any help to you that would be my pleasure.”
” What ever I need is not an ordinary thing Shafiq”. I said to him. Intelligent Shafiq replied,
” I understand you will not ask for anything which is ordinary. However, please tell me what I can do for you?” I wrote down the map sheet members in a peace of paper and said,
” I need them all”. He perhaps could guess what I was up to looking at the sheet numbers. He remained quite and looked towards me. He wanted to find out something in me while guessing. As he sat speechless I said,
” Yes I am planning to escape. That is why I need these map sheets”. After giving a quite hearing he said,
” But sir… ,” I interrupted , ” Yes I know the move is very risky. You may he punished if the authorities comes to know about this. So before you take any decision you have to think about it very coolly. You are in no way under any obligation from my side to take the risk to help me. But my only request is that should you decide otherwise please do not discuss about this with anyone. I trust you will keep my request.” Hav. Shafiq was looking straight in to my eyes. Before I could finish he came forward and embraced me emotionally. He said,
” Sir you have trusted me. I promise I shall keep your trust even at the cost of my life. Please see me at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Khoka Bazar. Let’s see what I can do for you.” Next day I was waiting at the Khoka Bazar for Hav. Shafiq. Every moment was passing in excitement. 5-10-15 minutes passed but no sign of Hav. Shafiq. Nothing was wrong I hoped. Or perhaps he did not want to say no right on my face but wanted to indicate that he was unable to provide any help by not turning up to day. I was thinking may things and was observing the passing crowed. It was 20 minutes past 5, so I thought Shafiq would not turn up to day. I was coming out, only then I spotted Hav. Shafiq.He was almost dashing towards me. He had a bag on his left hand. He was signaling his arrival with his right hand. He was rushing towards me pushing through the floating crowed. I was very happy to see him.
“Sorry Sir, I am a bit late. I was not getting any taxi”. Said Shafiq while taking deep breaths. I said ,
“Lets go and sit somewhere.” We went to a Sajji kebab house in the market. We had a inter unit hockey match to day. It was a tough game. After the match I had exercised for long 1 1/2 hour. I was very hungry. We ordered for full two Sajji chicken, some Karari kebab and nans. We settled down. The waiter served kawa and left us alone. We chose a table at a quite corner. Record player was playing popular filmi songs. It helped us to talk discretely. The people sitting at the next table were even unable to hear our conversations.
“I was disappointed and was also anxious for you.” I said.
“How I have managed your things that Allah alone knows.” Shafiq replied, ” It was risky but then you are staking your life for the country and for that matter if any thing happens to me I would console myself thinking that I also made a humble contribution towards the struggle”. Hav. Shafiq said that and passed over the bag to me under the table.
“I shall ever remember your contribution. I shall not make you small by thanking. But know one thing. Since the ruthless and shameful genocide of 25/26th March I tried to talk to many Bengalis here, what is to be done. But none has shown selfless sincerity like you. Some got frightened at my thoughts. Some had warned me in rage. I have become dangerous to many Bengalis in Quetta already. Some had already decided even not to communicate with me. In such a situation your help has charmed me. Your this contribution is not small by any count. Should Allah Sobhanatallah grant me the opportunity to participate in the liberation war and I live through then I can promise you that your name will be there in the history of Bangladesh. This is my word of honor to you.” Hav. Shaifq was emotionally charged and deeply moved. Tears rolled down his chicks. In a heavy voice he said,
” Sir this is nothing that I have done for you. I wish I could accompany you. But that is not possible as I am a family man. How could I escape leaving my family out here? This inability will prick my conscience althrough. I shall perhaps not be able to forgive myself.”
“Don’t be upset my brother. Not every one even in Bangladesh will get the chance to join the struggle physically. Many will contribute indirectly just like you. Your, this contribution is of no less importance than those who will physically fight. That way you are also a freedom fighter.” Hav. Shafiq controlled himself after hearing my words. The waiter in the meantime had already served the food. ” Let’s eat.” I invited him. We both ravished the food.
” We have night exercise tonight. Time is short. I must return.” Hav. Shafiq said while eating. After we finished I offered a lift to Shafiq. Sitting in car Hav. Shafiq said,
” Sir, should any thing happens to me then please look after my family.”
“If I live then you can be rest assured.” I gave my word to him. Dropping Hav. Shafiq I came back to my king’s road mess and sat under the favorite Apricot tree that stands in the middle of the lawn like an umbrella. Gentle spring breeze was carring fragrance of the wild unknown flowers. A big moon was up on the Murdar hills. Moonlight overshadowed the garden lights. A quite and serene atmosphere. I was sipping coffee and thinking about Hav. Shafiq.
Maj. Malek of the East Bengal Regiment was still functioning as the Brigade Major. Bhawalnagar / Fort Abbas sector was within their operational areas. Bhawalpur and then Bhawalnagar. From there on way to Fort Abbas a small station Haroonabad. From Haroonabad we have to start our march on foot . We have to pass through Pakistani and Indian defense and walk about 20 miles to reach Sree Karanpur. Attempt has to be made to obtain classified deployment traces of Pakistani and Indian defense positions from Maj. Malek. All top-secret defense deployment information are marked on these traces. We had to act very fast. Next very day after securing the maps I called Maj. Malak and said I wanted to see him urgently. I reached at his office with Lt. Moti. He was alone in the office. As we entered he asked in his heavy voice,
” What’s up Dalim?”
“I come to see your new car. How it is running?”. I replied.
” Well it may not be that attractive as your volks wagon, but I have no complains.”
“Sir lets go home. We shall have lunch together.”
“You want to have lunch that is most welcome. Call your Bhabi and tell her. What is your problem? Have you picked on somebody again? By the way I cannot think, I know this young man with you?” I was then talking to Bhabi,
” Hello Bhabi, Dalim here. We are coming home for lunch. We are three of us. I hope its not a problem?”
” Which way the sun is up today? After such a longtime you remembered your Bhabi and asking for a lunch?” She charged. I was slightly embarrassed to answer back.
“Believe me Bhabi I was very much occupied with the course and that is why could not come to see you all. God alone knows how I passed my days.”
“Come over.” She said. I thanked her and left the receiver after conveying my salam.
“All clear Sir, at the home front. Yes, let me introduce Lt. Moti form 3 East Bengal Regiment. And Moti this is Major Malek from Senior Tigers.” Lt. Moti shook his hands with Maj. Malek and said,
“Sir, although I never had the opportunity to meet you before but I have heard about you a lot.” Happy go lucky type Maj. Malek smiled.
“Moti is here for OW-JTC. He has done pretty well in the course”, I said.
” That’s very good. I hear that you have also done extremely good?” Maj Malak’s statement made me somewhat uneasy. I did not say anything in replay.
“Lets go now.”
” You mean right way?” Maj Malek asked.
“That’s correct. What is the use of so much hard work Sir?”
” Dalim, you sound quite different today, but well let’s go then.” Maj Malek replied. He called his PA and gave some instructions and then we came out from his office. We were sitting in the drawing room.
” Now you young man tell me what’s up?”
“Sir, matter is top secret. We have plan to escape”.
Maj. Malek was taken a back at my straight talk. He was absolutely quite for a while. Bhabi was busy with cooking at the kitchen.
“Just a minuite”. Maj. Malek went away and returned after a while with his cigarettes. He said, “You know my batman is not very trustworthy. I sent him to canteen.” I could understand Maj. Malak took precaution-sensing gravity of our talks.
” Now are you sure?”
“Yes Sir, It is of no use live like this. It is shameful. The nation needs people like us at this crucial stage to carry forward the liberation war. What do you think Sir?” I asked.
” Well may be you are right. But we really do not have any authentic information about the struggle. Will it be prudent to take such a step under such circumstances? Won’t it be too risky?”
” Sir you have logic and a point. But the way troops are being dispatched to East Pakistan and body bags are being brought back, it is evident that some thing is going on out there. Moreover, do you think the international press and media are all carrying out false propaganda?” I replied.
” Well then what can I do for you in this venture of yours?” Maj Malek asked.
“We shall try to reach Karanpur from Haroonabad. After deliberation we have chosen this sector to be most suitable.”
“Your decision is correct. Other than Chaman border this is the most appropriate rout. It will take you two or three days only. Maj Malek gave his views.
“Sir you got to provide secret operational traces.” I requested.
“Food is ready and has been served.” Bhabi in her apron came out and requested us to go to the table. As Bhabi approached. Maj. Malak tried to make the situation lighter and changed the topic. He said,
” Lets first do justice to the food. One cannot think properly empty stomach.” We all went and sat around the table. Children were all out to school. Food was tempting. Fresh fish was cooked in different ways.
” Bhabi the great! How did you manage these things?” I enquired. Bhabi replied,
“I got them over from Orkh just this morning.” Orkh is a small green valley 15 to 20 Kilometers away from Quetta. A hilly stream flows right through the center of the valley. The whole valley is covered with different types of green orchard. All around there are high mountains. They are all covered with deep green Pine, Oak and Devdaroo trees. it is an attractive picnic spot. The steam is full of trout and other kinds of sweetwater fish. Bengalis always get fish from Orkh whenever they get any chance. We bachelor boys very often get car load of fishes and crash into some Bhabi’s kitchen and relish fresh fish preparations and rice. We relished the fish and rice and thanked Bhabi before we returned to the drawing room to continue our discussions.
While eating Maj. Malek thought out his answer to my request. He made himself comfortable in the sofa and lighted his cigarette and said,
“Well I admire your courage. I will definitely help you guys. Only request please keep this absolutely between you and me.”
“Definitely Sir, we give our words to you.”
“But what about the map sheets? Where will you get the operational map sheets?”
“We have already arranged”. Major Malek threw a questioning look. I quickly said,
“Not from my regiment. From else where.” Major Malak got a sigh of relief with my answer. “Then bring them tomorrow.”
“Not tomorrow Sir. I shall give them to you now and shall get them back tomorrow.” I sent Moti to get the map sheets from the car. He returned. Major. Malek inspected the sheets and exclaimed, “Incredible!”
He got up and went inside with the map sheets to keep them safely and then joined us again.
“We beg your excuse Sir for today, yet a lot to be done.”
“I understand. You know Dalim, I am sure with the sacrifices of the people like you Bangladesh will definitely be independent. I am feeling like joining with you guys”. Maj. Malak was looking very serious and grim and heavy in his voice.
” But I am tied up with the responsibilities of my family. How can I abandon them? How can I leave them and go?”
“You are right Sir. But Sir, although it may not be possible for you to go with us but your this help is no less a contribution. This way you are also a freedom fighter. If we survive then the country men will one day know about this contribution of yours. Believe me Sir, you are the only senior officer from whom we got such sincere help and encouragement. We have known all the rest. All are hypocrites and paper tigers. They all are selfish and coward. They are Bengali by words only”.
I could see tears in Maj. Malek’s eyes. We discovered a sincere patriot in happy go lucky type Maj Malek M.Q. that day. My respect to him thus further increased. We got up and saluted him. He came up to the car. While I was moving towards the car, he suddenly embraced me and Moti out of emotion and said,
” I wish you all well, boys take care.” We returned to the mess.
” Honestly, how strange Maj. Malek is?” said Moti.
“I also did not think that we shall get such cooperation from him. It is really very difficult to understand people in this world.” I replied. After discussing some issue Moti left.
Lt. Shumi was returning to Lahore. I thought, I will ask for his binocular and compass. One day he came to see me at my mess. Fair like an European, well built handsome looking Lt. Shumi was ever smiling. He was looking very sad that day.
“Shumi are you feeling bad to return to Lahore?” I asked.
“You are right sir, I really had wonderful time with you all out here. I passed my time happily. I am not feeling like leaving you all, but then there is no other way. I have to return to the unit. I shall never forget you Sir. Had you not been here life out here would have been totally boring.” “Shumi I shall ask something from you today. Give me your words should you find it difficult to comply with my request then you will not divulge it to others.”
“For heaven’s sake, don’t make me feel small Sir. Please tell me without any hesitation.” Shumi was very sincere in his utterances. I could trust him.
“I am thinking to escape and join the liberation war. I will cross over through Rajasthan desert. If you give me your binocular and compass it would be a great help.”
“Fantastic, Great idea! I will definitely give my binocular and compass. But can’t you take me along? I beg you Sir, Please consider taking me along.”
“Well Shumi, thanks a lot. I shall remain ever grateful for your help. But rightway I cannot decide whether I can take you along or not. I have to think about it. I hope you will not mind.”
“Not at all Sir. Please take your time. Give your reply after due consideration. If you find it difficult to accommodate me feel free to say so. I shall not mind at all. I must leave now.”
“How can it be? You can’t leave without lunch. It is already lunch time”. I ordered for our lunch. After lunch Shumi wanted to leave.
“Be at your place. After dark I shall come over.” I told him before he left. On his departure I quickly changed and set off for Capt. Taher. On the way I picked up Moti and Nur. After deliberations we all agreed to take Shumi along with us. Just before evening I reached at Shumi’s place. At this stage of our planning we are following strict compartmentation for secrecy. We are maintaining our liaison absolutely on need to know basis very carefully. Shumi was waiting for me. I found his batman was preparing his luggage for departure.
“Let’s have Chinese”. I picked him up in the car and went off to the China Cafe. We sat down at a quite corner and were talking while eating.
“Sir you said yesterday that Rajasthan is the sector. Is that correct?” “That’s right”, I replied. “In that case my going with you is absurd. You know that I am allergic to sand. I feel itchy in sand and get blisters. This aspect did not come to my mind yesterday; I do not want to be a liability. You may face problems. I do not want your escape is hindered in any way due to me. So, I have decided to stay back”, Said Shumi and looked up. I could see sorrows in his eyes. I got hold of his hands and tried to console.
“Don’t feel bad Shumi. You cannot accompany me through the desert so what? That’s not the end of the world. You can also try to escape through the borders at Lahore.”
“Yes! that sector would be the most ideal for me to escape. I promise you Sir, I shall attempt to escape immediately on my return at the earliest opportunity.”
“You must try. I shall pray to Allah, so that you can be successful in your attempt”, I told Shumi. After dinner we came back to Shumi’s mess. He ordered for coffee.
“Sir are you in a hurry? He asked. “I am feeing terribely depressed to night. Let us spend some more time together”. Shummi requested.
“I don’t mind. I don’t have much to do tonight”, I said.
We gossiped till midnight. We talked about the past memories and future.
“Wait a minute Sir!” Shumi got up and fetched a carry bag and gave it to me. The binocular, compass and his personal weapon 7.62 Chinese pistol were in that bag. Keep these Sir, you might need them all.”
” But I didn’t ask for your pistol?”
“Keep it Sir you may need it as well”. Shumi butted in.
“Thanks a lot Shumi But listen carefully, I know you will get punishment for loosing classified equipments. I have an idea that might reduce your punishment. At Multan or any other station on the way you lodge an FIR that your equipments along with your luggage had been stolen from the compartment. Carry the copy of the FIR with you. This might lessen your punishment even if you are Court Martialed.”
“Brilliant idea! I shall do exactly the same as you have suggested.”
“Let us then call it a night. It has been already too late.” Both of us came out. I thanked Shumi once again before saying good bye.
The day before Shumi was leaving for Lahore I invited him for dinner. Ever green Shumi was not in his original self. I could feel the difference. After dinner we sat on the lawn for the coffee.
“Sir to night is the last night with you. God alone knows whether we shall meet again or not”. said Shummi.
“It is very true. No one can say what is going to happen in the future. But I shall always charish my Quetta days and the memories of you all as long as I live.” I said.
It was time. Shumi has to leave. He has a long journey tomorrow. Shummi embraced me for the last time and said in a heavy voice, “Take care Sir. May Allah be with you”.
“Shumi, thank you once again for everything. If we live through then we shall meet in independent Bangladesh Inshallah, other wise good luck and good bye my friend”. My voice got chocked. I could hardly check my immotion. Shumi quickly got into the taxi and drove off.
Every thing was going on smoothly so far. Suddenly we faced the first debacle. All of a sudden Capt. Taher’s posting order was out. He was posted to the Baluch Center at Abbottabad. He was instructed to join forthwith. We rushed to Capt. Taher immediately after hearing the news.
He informed us he was asked to leave for his place of posting next day morning by Air. He asked for leave. But as there was an emergency kind of situation in the country his leave application was not sanctioned.
“What a dilemma! What are we going to do now?” I asked . Capt. Taher replied,
“It’s ok. In this situation in no way it is possible for me to go along with you. But the plan needs to be executed at the earliest.”
We all realized that as the posting orders have started coming in, any moment Moti or Nur can also receive such orders. We have to run way before we get separated from each other. Next day morning we all went to the Air port to see off Capt. Taher. What an amazing personality this Capt. Taher is! A young bright commando officer. Just returned from USA after finishing his Ranger’s course. Immediately on his return he came over to Quetta as he was detailed for the Senior Tactical Course. Young Capt. Taher was a man of few words, brave, sharp, intelligent, exceptionally self-assuring and confident. An unique example of a patriot. He won over us within a short time. We became very intimate. Out of all who came over from Pakistan and jointed the independence war, myself, Lt. Moti and Lt. Nur were the first. In 2nd batch after us were Capt. Taher, Maj. Manzoor and Capt. Ziauddin and others. They crossed through Sailkot Sector. We all fought together shoulder to shoulder in the liberation war and then after in the struggle for the have nots in independent Bangladesh.. Capt. Taher’s contributions and sacrifices is well known to the nation. The patriots of the present and future generations in Bangladesh shall always remember Capt. Taher, the legendary hero with respect and honor.
His name shall be written in golden letters in the history of Bangladesh. No futile attempts will be able to turnish his image on the soil of Bangladesh. Martyr Taher still remains alive even after his death and shall remain so for ever. Although Capt. Taher’s posting was very much demoralizing but we controlled ourselves. After his departure, our plan of action went ahead in full steam.
It was good for us to have Shumi’s pistol. I had two personal arms. One .32 Webbly Scott revolver and one .25 Walther pistol. Problem of arms were solved after getting Shumi’s pistol. Thus all our preparations were almost complete. Now it was the time and opportunity that we had to wait for.
In the meantime units of our 16 Division were being air lifted to East Pakistan on priority basis. From all those units so far had been sent, the Bengalis were left out. From this I was sure that very soon I shall get my posting order as well. I am the only Bengali officer in my unit. It happened so. I and Lt. Nur both received our posting orders almost at the same time. I was posted to Kharian and Nur to Kohat. We both were happy to receive our orders. We decided to escape on our move to the new places of postings. This will give us about seven days which would be the normal joining time on any posting. But the problem was with Moti. For some reason his posting order was not forth coming. Most of the stranded Bengali officers who came over from East Pakistan on different courses at the Infantry School of Tactics were already posted out in different units in West Pakistan. Only Moti’s order was delayed. We have to do something about this unusual delay. Suddenly Moti thought of an idea. He called directly the MS branch of GHQ at Pindi from my mess. I and Nur were sitting. As luck could have it when he contacted the relevant officer in charge of the transfers, postings and promotions of E. Bengal officers, Moti discovered that the colonel was known to him personally. He happened to be the farther of one of Moti’s roommate at Lower Topa public school. He took full advantage of this connection,
“Uncle it’s me alone is rotting out here at the school as rest of the officers had already been posted out. Please do something for me. I am hopelessly feeling bored out here. Please do something for me Uncle, I beg you.”
” Don’t you worry my son. Your posting order will be out today. You get ready to join 6th East Bengal Regt. at Peshawar.”
“Thank you uncle. by the way where is Bashir my friend these days. It is long that we have not met”.
“Bashir is at home on leave. If possible on your way go via Multan, you will be able to meet Bashir as well as your Aunti”.
“Ok Uncle, I shall do so. Please ensure that my posting order is out today without fail. Khuda Hafeez”.
Moti drooped the receiver and screamed with joy, hurry ! It’s all done sir”. “Well done. It’s really great! We said.
Next day as was promised by the colonel uncle, Moti received his posting order by first signal in the morning . We all were relieved. All preparations complete. Now only the move.
I was exercising in the mess after games. Nur and Moti came to see me. Both of them were very relaxed. After finishing my exercise I took a quick shower and changed. We all went down and sat in the lawn. We decided about our move plan. Nur will set off for Kohat by train. But midway he will disembark at Bhawalpur. He will stay at the circuit house there. I and Moti will join him there the next day. How me and Moti will travel that was not discussed. As per our oath none raised any unwarranted questions. After we finished our discussion we went to the club for Tambola night.
My commanding officer ordered me to leave for Kharian as soon as possible. So I got busy with my preparations. All my heavy luggage I dispatched with my batman by train for Kharian. I informed my commanding officer that instead of taking train I shall fly via Lahore. I shall spend my transit time at Lahore before joining the unit at Kharian.
The problem was my newly purchased car. I can by no means try to sell it off. It might raise doubt. I decided to leave it with one of my close friend. He is from Lahore. I became very close with the family. They also liked me a lot. I became almost a family member. One day I told him, “I am going by air via Lahore. Keep my car with you. Send it over to Lahore at your convenience. I shall have it collected from Lahore later”.
My good friend was happy to oblige. “Don’t you think about it. I shall manage every thing. You just go and have a nice time at Lahore. When do you plan to leave?”
“Sometime around mid April”, I replied. Thus car problem was also resolved.
At that stage there was a bolt from the blues. One evening Lt. Nur was sitting in the anti room of his mess after games. Some West Pakistani officers were also there. While chatting at one point they started abusing Bengalis and particularly Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
One of them said to Nur,
“Nur you are very lucky. Mujib will now make you a general. Isn’t it? Bastard Mujib. He is a traitor”. Lt. Nur got very agitated at such remarks and angrily replied,
“If Mujib is a traitor then Gen. Yahya Khan is a rogue. He is killing thousands of Bengalis, raping our mothers and sisters. Therefore, he is a bigger bastard.”
This was not enough. Emotionally he picked up the photo of the President Gen. Yahya Khan from the stand and threw it on the floor and walked over. It was a serious offense. He was immediately put under open arrest. Court Martial proceedings started. I and Moti were totally perplexed at this sudden uncalled for development. We both were astonished. We ran to his mess after hearing the news.
“What have you done Nur? You have jeopardized everything just on the spar of the moment. Your such action can bring danger even to us. Many knows that we are very close to one another. How could you be so stupid to do a thing like that? Shame on you”. Suddenly I became furious on him.
“I am sorry Sir. I was totally out of my head. I am very sorry and dejected at what ever has happened. Now you must not think about me and waste any more time, but should try to escape as soon as possible. Once the summery of evidence starts they may call for you both. You must move before getting involved in the case. Whatever happens to me does not matter. But once you get entangled you will loose the opportunity to escape. So I beg please leave me alone to my fate and think to escape as soon as possible. If anything happens to you, I shall not be able to forgive myself.”
Nur broke into tears like a child. We had no words to console him. We returned to my mess with the heavy heart. Suddenly what had happened is unimaginable. I was frightened thinking about the future of Lt. Nur. Poor Nur! after many altercations I and Moti decided to start our journey on 16th April. In those days a daily flight used to go up to Lahore via Multan. I shall catch that flight for Lahore. Moti requested the school adjutant that instead of train he would like to travel by Air and on his way he wished to break his journey at Multan to spend one or two days with his friend before going to Peshawar. After hearing the name of the colonel at the MS Branch the adjutant took everything normally and approved his travel plan. Thus on the same flight of 16th April Moti also got his seat confirmed.
As Nur was under open arrest it was still possible for us to meet him. Had he been under close arrest, we could not have any chance to meet him any longer. I was passing through an uneasiness since Lt. Nur was placed under arrest. My conscience was not agreeing to leave him behind.
Every time one thing was coming back to my mind. Can’t we find any way to take Nur along with us? After many thoughts I got an idea. On 15th morning I went to Moti. I could see Moti had already dispatched his heavy luggage with his batman.
Moti was taking his bath.
“What is the matter Sir. So early in the morning”? Moti asked.
“I came to discuss something very important and urgent”. Moti was aware that I was mentally passing through a hell since Nur got arrested. I was all the time thinking about him.
“Is it something about Nur”?
“Yes you are right. I have an idea to take Nur along”. Moti almost shut me up,
“Are you mad Sir? How could you think to take him along while he is in custody? There is every possibility to be caught if we take him with us.”
“Please first listen to my idea, I beg you Moti.”
“Ok, say what have you got to say.”
“See Moti, Nur was the first person who wanted my help to escape. I know suddenly out of anger he committed a serious mistake. Human beings are prone to mistakes. Beside, think about his future, I am finding it difficult morally to leave him out here and escape. In no way I can agree to leave him behind”.
“But then how?” Moti questioned.
“Listen carefully. I want to arrange three days attend ‘C’ for him and make him move today for Bhawalpur. He will wait for us there. I shall not reveal to him about our next move. I shall only say we will meet with him at the Bahawalpur station next day between 2 to 3 p.m. That’s all. If he agrees to comply with my orders without asking any questions then lets take him. if something goes wrong with him on his way then we are safe. As he will not be in position to reveal anything about our rout or next step. Thus our secret will not be compromised. What do you say?”
“All right you have your points. But how would you arrange attend ‘C’?”
“First of all you tell me, do you agree to take him with us principle?”
“Well, it is still risky. But I will buy it”. Moti said. I embraced Moti with joy and said,
“Thanks. You are great Moti Now come along”.
We went straight to the CMH to meet Capt. Jamal, the staff surgeon. when I was the student of Dhaka College, we got introduced to each other being active in student politics. Later that acquaintances turned into friendship at Quetta.
When we reached out patient department of the CMH we found Capt. Jamal very busy with the patients.
He came forward seeing us and said,
“well my friends why in the hospital? Sit down, let me be a bit lighter”.
“No we can’t sit now. I came to disturb you on an urgent business”.
“Well, say then”, Capt. Jamal said. I briefly introduced Moti and said,
“I am leaving tomorrow so I thought I must see you before I leave. How could I go without saying good-bye to you? Now, before I leave for the last time a request, please give a chit of 3 days attend ‘C’ for Lt. Nur Choudhury. Poor chap is totally shattered and depressed”. All the Bengalis in Quetta were sorry to hear about what had happened with Nur. Many had sympathies for him. Capt. Jamal was one of them. Capt. Jamal in a second wrote the chit for attend “C’ and gave it me and said,
“Tell him I shall visit him in one or these days whenever I am a bit free”. After saying so he uttered, “Poor chap has put himself in trouble for nothing. Only God alone knows what is going to happen to him. Young blood and total hot headedness, that is his problem.”
“You are very correct. Allah Hafez”. I embraced him and said good-bye. We hurriedly came out of the CMH. Bolan Express will leave at 3:30 p.m. We both had a quick lunch at my mess then went to Nur’s place. Nur Choudhury was lying on the bed in his lungee.
“Get up you lazy bum!” Nur opened his eyes and quickly got up tying his lungee.
“Nur, if you agree just to act on my orders without any questions, then we have decided to take you along even at this situation. Are you ready to do so?” I asked. Nur was initially puzzled at the way I was talking. But quickly he managed himself and said, “But”?.
I stopped him, “No But. Don’t waste time.”
“I agree”, said Nur.
“Very well. Now listen carefully”. Moti was following my every step quietly since morning. He remained quite even now.
“You have three days attend ‘C’ (Sick in quarters). Totally to be in bed rest ok? Send this chit to the adjutant through your batman. Then give him chutti for three days. Call him now and do as I said.”
Nur immediately called his batman and ordered him to go with the chit to the adjutant and then on leave for three days. The batman being a local was very happy to get three days holiday and got vanished.
” Now get dressed and take one or two change in the air bag. You have to catch Bolan Express this afternoon. Your ticket will be up to Lahore but you will disembark at Bhawalpur as planned. You will stay at the circuit house there. Tomorrow between 2 to 3 p.m. we shall meet at the Bhawalpur Station. Once you reach Bhawlpur you have to find out what are the means of transportation from Bhawalpur to Bhawalnagar and how much time it will take by different means. You will behave like an army officer on way to your place of posting at Bhawalpur. Am I clear?”
Nur took his change and other necessities in a bag. we set off in my car for the railway station. We reserved a 1st class berth in a cope for Nur. We three got inside the cope as the train was already standing at the platform. The door was bolted form inside. I took out 5 thousand rupees and 25-walther pistol along with 25 rounds of ammunition and gave them to Nur. Nur quietly placed them in his bag. After a while the bell and the whistle both could be heard. The train was about to leave. We embraced each other.
“Take care and may Allah be with you”. I said. The train moved. I and Moti got off on the platform. The Bolan Express rolled out of the station and thus Nur was on his way to uncertainty.
We came out from the railway station. Tonight I am going to be dinned out from the mess. I dropped Moti on the way saying that we shall see each other at the airport next morning. Till late night we drank and ate along with the Div. Arty’s band. I was feeling a bit tired due to the strain of the whole day. More over my mind was occupied with tension about Nur. But nothing was in my hand now. I pretended to be as normal as possible and came back to my room after all the formalities were complete. That evening we had a brisk shower. Therefore, it was chilly. The orderly has already arranged a small suitcase at the corner, which I shall take with me tomorrow. My most favorite two photo albums were still on my table. Beside, in an curved apricot letterbox all the letters of Nimmi were preserved. On a table stand there was a lively photograph of Nimmi. I have to destroy them all. I cannot afford to leave any clue behind. It would be too dangerous. I glanced through the photographs of the albums. Each of the photographs has a memory with it. After I went through the photos I threw both the albums into the fireplace. The fire escalated. I took out the letters and threw them all into the fire place again. They were burning along with the photographs. I was feeling pain to burn them like this. I could never think that have to depart one day with my most precious possessions in such a way. I was staring at the burning flames. How cruelly the flame was eating up very dear and precious collections, which I always kept so close to my heart. Tears rolled down my chicks automatically. I got absorbed in the past memories. I remembered the first meeting of mine with Nimmi. Nimmi is the sister of Riazul Islam Choudhury Bappi one of my bosom friend. I, Bappi, Shapan, Tutu, Hyder were very close to one other. Whenever I was at Dhaka on holidays, almost 24 hours we spent together. We eat together, roamed around together even stayed together at night. We had all the fun of the world together. Our time passed watching cinemas, going out shooting or picnic. If we got tired of these activities then we drove out to Coxes Bazar, Rangamati, and Captai or to Teknaf. In 1968 February I was home on such a holiday. We were passing our time enjoying as usual. One day Hyder brought the news. Lots of migrating seasonal birds have come to the chars of Jamuna. The same very night we set off for Shikar. We went up to Aricha by car. From there we hired a country boat. We sailed off very early in the morning after having our breakfast in the boat itself. The boatmen coocked for us fresh Hilsha fish and rice. We returned home next day late in the afternoon. Almost the whole day round we had been shooting. We could manage a good booty. One goose, four chakhas and 21 Bali hashs (Water Ducks). In the winter all these seasonal birds come in flocks from Siberia. Again they go away at the beginning of summer. As we returned home Keya and Mahua my two younger sisters got hold me. There was some function at the British Council and they requested me to take them there. We all were very tired because of whole night and day Shikar. None of the other guys wanted to oblige them. I could not say no to the poor girls. After lot of efforts I could convince Bappi to accompany us. When finally we reached British Council it was passed 8 PM. We found only a few girls standing on the veranda. There is suppose to be a function but then why the crowd was so thin? Something was wrong. As I stopped my car under the porch Mahua rolled down the glass of the car window and called by name one of the girls who were standing and talking among themselves.
“Hi! Nimmi! come here”. “who is this Nimmi?”. I thought. One of the girl approached our car. “Why so empty out here”? Mahua inquired. “Function is over”, the girl replied.
Suddenly Bappi asked the girl, “what are you doing out here then?”.
“I am waiting for a rickshaw. Not getting one”. She replied. Mahua said to me, “Bhaiya she is Nimmi, Baapi Bhaiya’s sister. She studies in Holy Cross. As we have missed the function, lets go and give her a drop”.
“Ok, lets go”, I said. We picked up Nimmi in the car and started off for Bappis’ home. I knew that Bappi had two sisters but never met them before. Slim but well built not very fair Nimmi was sitting with Mahua and Keya in the rear seat. Bappi is sitting in front beside me. I looked in the rear view mirror, the girl was sweet looking. Most attractive was her hair. A thick long plat was hanging well below her knees. In present modern era usually one does not find such thick and long hair. Nimmi was dressed in a navy-blue kamiz and a churidar payzama. All together I liked the girl at the first sight. That liking turned later into love. I was quite amazed at myself. I was quite a renowned fellow not only as a good student but for many other extra curricular activities, in school, college and the University. I was well known as well in different other circles. I had the opportunity to mix around with girls from my school days. But I never cared for so called puppy love or infatuation what so ever. It is not that I have never received one or tow love letters from the fair sex while exchanging books as it happens in most of the cases at that age.
But those did not make any mark in my mind. I always considered all those things to be silly and cheap. But although I myself was disinterested in such affairs, sometimes, I had been compelled to help many friends in such ventures. That is all.
Student politics, games and sports, songs and music, dramas, social works etc. were my passion. I hardly had anytime for any other thing. That Dalim, myself strangely enough liked Nimmi at the first sight and then fell in for her seriously. I think it happens so. Whom you like you like her at the very first sight. But could it be a passing phase?
No, it was not mere an infatuation. Since then every passing day I felt more attracted towards her. My love for her deepened . It was a strange feeling. In return Nimmi also loved me from the bottom of her heart. Her love was pure and selfless just like an angel. Nimmi trusted me whole-heartedly and had chosen me to be her man. Her devotion and sincerity was matchless and too good to be true. She became my dream and I loved her more than my life. Our parents welcomed our affair. Brothers and sisters on both sides and friends all were very happy. This time when I went to Dhaka our engagement was done. It was decided that we shall get married next year. but everything is topsy-turvy now. The future has become uncertain. Since my return from Dhaka I have not heard from her. I really don’t know how is she and where is she at present . Her father Mr. Rafiqul Islam Choudhury was posted as a diplomat in the Calcutta Mission of Pakistan since 1969. He was in Calcutta with Manu, Nimmi’s younger sister. Khallamma, mother of Nimmi used to stay at Dhaka for Bappi, Nimmi and her own education. I also don’t have any news of Abba, Aunti, Shapan, Mahua, Keya, Shangita, my friends- Badi, Tutu, Bappi and Hyder. I am definite Shapan and Badi cannot sit idle at his crucial juncture. They must have joined the struggle. The risky step that I am about to take that may put Abba and my other family members at risk. They may become the victims of Pakistan Army’s torture. Most definitely Abba, as he is a ranking government officer. I became mentally weak while all these thoughts came flocking into my mind. I experienced some unique pain in my heart. But no. I cannot afford to be weak like this. At all cost even at the cost of my life I shall have to go and join the liberation war. I must remain firm in my conviction. National interest comes first and there cannot be any compromise on this. Ofcourse, it will pain me immensely should something happens to Nimmi, Bappi or my family but, if I fail to join the liberation war I shall feel small to myself and I shall never be able to forgive my own self. I do not want to lead a life of a coward for the rest of my life. The letters and the photos all got burnt and turned into ashes. I was feeling totally exhausted due to daylong stress and strain. I have to be at the airport at 8 a.m. early in the morning tomorrow. I threw myself into the bed and turned the lights off.
I woke up at 6 a.m. as usual. The mess waiter brought the bed tea. After finishing the tea I dressed up and went down to the dining hall for the last time to have my breakfast. Mess waiter Fidha Khan took special care to serve me. After the breakfast I tipped the cook, mess waiters and the Mess Havildar and came out.
There was a queue of Jeeps and cars waiting outside. Most of the officers of the Div. Arty have decided to see me off at the airport. I was deeply moved by their love and affection and sincerity. What a difference between their warmth and the brutality of the military junta! I was thinking how much support the military junta really has of the common people of West Pakistan in their decision to run the steamroller over East Pakistan to crush the people? It was time Lt. Col. Mian Hafeez my commanding officer came over and said,
“Sharif it is time let’s go.”
“Yes sir”. I quickly said good-bye to all those who were not going up to the airport and sat beside Col. Hafeez in his jeep. Everybody started off once he started his jeep. The convey started moving towards the airport. We reached the airport after about thirty minutes. Moti had already checked in and was waiting for me. What a pleasant surprise Moti where are you up to?” I asked him pretending that I did not know his travel plan.
“I am going up to Multan on my way to Peshawar”. Lt. Moti replied.
“I see. That’s very good. We shall have a nice time on board.” I said.
I was talking to all my friends after checking in.
Suddenly, appears Brig. RGLG Badsha our Div. Arty commander. Commander used to like me as a good young gunner. Brig. Badsha was very open hearted and a warm personality. He was a Pathan. As he approached we all saluted him.
“Sharif alaka you are leaving us this is really sad. But then this is life! But don’t worry we shall be meeting each other”. Said the Brigadier. The announcement for the departure was heard. I embraced each one of the officers present and said good-bye. At the signal from the Brigadier some joiner officers lifted me on their shoulders and started with,
“He was a jolly good fellow” and carried me up to the stairs of the plane.
I was really chocked in emotion to leave behind my old friends and colleagues. Some how I managed to check myself and got into the aircraft. Moti was already inside. I could see through the window of the plane that all the officers were standing in a row and were waving their hands. After a while the plane started and took off. All my friends were still standing on the tarmac. Some of them waved their hanckies for the last time. The plane gave two rounds over the airport before climbing through the clouds towards its destination. Gradually the Quetta city became obscure. The plane was flying towards Multan leaving everything behind. Thus our journey to unknown started off. After about one and half hour our Fokker Friendship aircraft landed at the Multan Airport. We felt the heat of the blowing hot air on the face as we came out of the aircraft. Multan was much warmer than Quetta.
The heat shall gradually increase towards Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar. The small airport was located well within the cantonment. Without going towards the transit lounge I followed Moti to the arrival. There I canceled my onward journey to Lahore and came out from the airport both of us together. The city center was bout 5 miles away form the airport. We took a taxi and went to the city. We had to buy some necessities. We had our survival kits, anti snakebite kit, first aid box. Two pairs of desert shoes for me and Moti, A bottle of brandy, some sweets and chewing gums were bought. We also bought a pair of shoes for Lt. Nur. Then we went to a jewelry shop. We made two rings of solid gold each owing a Tola. S and M were inscribed on the rings. After shopping we went to the railway station.
We came to know that if one catches the 12 O’clock train then one can easily reach Bhawalpur by 2-2:15 p.m. We decided that two Bengalis should not travel together. This may raise suspicion. It was decided that Moti will take the train and I shall take the bus. I shall reach before Moti at Bahawalpur by bus. Rendezvous was decided to be the railway station. I saw off Moti at the station and returned to the bus stand with the same taxi. The buses were leaving for Bahawalpur every 15 minutes. I got into the bus ready for departure along with my luggage. I reached Bahawalpur before 2 p.m. From the bus stand I got a Tonga and went up to the station. When I reached the station I found Nur standing on the platform with a newspaper in his hand. We exchanged glances. Without talking I stood at the other corner.
At about to 2:15 p.m. Moti’s train got into the platform. Moti disembarked. All three of us separately moved to the circuit house. Once we got into Nur’s room safely we embraced each other in joy. Nur had already arranged for our lunch. We had our lunch in his room. Nur informed us that he faced no problem on the way. He further informed that there are two ways to go to Bahawalnagar. By train it will take about three hours, train will leave at 4 p.m. By taxi it will take at least two hours. We decided to take taxi. Because we shall have to catch the 7:30 p.m. train from Bhawalnagar. From Bhawalnagar there are only two trains that go to Fort Abbas in a day. One in the morning and the other at the evening 7:30. Should we miss the 7:30 train then we have to spend the whole night before we can leave for Fort Abbas. Bahawalnagar is a border area cantonment. It would be terribly risky to spend night out here. Nur informed, the train from Bahawalpur to Bahawalnagar is a local one. The timing of the local train is very irregular. We can’t take any risk therefore decided to take the option of taxi. Thus we shall be able to reach Bhawalnagar well before the time of the evening 7:30 train for Fort Abbas.
After lunch we took a short rest and called for a taxi at about 4 p.m. and started off for Bhawalnagar. The driver was a Sindhi. We told him that handsome Bakshish will be given if he can reach us safe and sound at Bhawalnagar before 7 p.m. The young driver said, “That’s not a problem at all Sir.” He started driving very fast indeed. His Chevi was rolling down the great Grand Trunk Road. The driver put on some filmi songs in the cassette player. We three were quietly listening to the music and thinking about the past, present and future. We almost fell asleep while being absorbed in our thoughts. Suddenly all of us woke up with a loud sound. The taxi stopped with a Jerk.
“What happened! What’s wrong?” We almost spoke out altogether. The driver replied,
“let me check first”, and walked out of the car. After some time and a thorough examination he returned and said,
“Saheb Gair ka Krank shaft toot Giya”. The Krank shaft of the car has broken down.
“Then what is next?” One of us exclaimed. It was Nur Choudhury.The driver said,
“Don’t worry. It is only 5 to 6 mils off Bhawalnagar. You shall definitely get some other transport.”
We would be able to get on any transport that might come along to reach our destination. What a disaster! Are we going to fail after covering so much grounds? We all pushed the broken car and placed it on the roadside. There was nothing we could do other then waiting for any transport to show up. We kept our eyes glued on the road with an anxious mind. Time was passing. No vehicle was in sight. Thus it was dark and we were waiting. The lights of Bhawalnagar at far off distance could be seen on the horizon. It was going to be 7p.m. and still there was no sign of any approaching transport. We were now getting impatient. We all were totally demoralized and thoroughly dejected. Suddenly we could see the headlights of some vehicle, which was coming from the same direction of Bhawalpur. Three of us stood right in the center of the road. Whatever it is. We must stop it. When the vehicle came close by we found it was a land rover. As we raised our hands and signaled the jeep stopped. One engineer of Roads and High ways was going to Bhawalnagar. We explained our plight to the gentleman. The person was sympathetic with three distressed army officers and said,
“If you feel comfortable then I can give a lift.” Comfort! hell it was almost getting moon within reach. We thanked the gentleman and quickly got into the jeep with our luggages after paying off the taxi driver. Within half an hour we reached Bhawalnagar.
It was past 7:30 pm. our train must have left by now we thought. The engineer asked,
“Where do I drop you?”
“Anywhere”. We said without disclosing that the station is our destination. He dropped us at the town center. We hired a tonga from there and started off towards the station. When we reached the station, the whole place was crowded with bustling noise. This was quite unexpected. The station usually should be empty after the departure of any scheduled train. Then why so many people? We could see a hope against hope. I ran to the stationmaster and inquired about the 7:30 p.m. train for Fort Abbas. The station master replied the train is late and has not arrived yet. I felt so relieved. When I broke this news to Moti and Nur they were also over joyed and jumped out of tonga screaming. We paid off the tonga and came to the platform with our belongings. There I came across a beggar standing, I gave him a hundred-rupee note in excitement.
His eyes were popping out in disbelieve. The train arrived at quarter past eight. We bought three first class tickets up to Fort Abbas. It was a border area. There was no other first class passenger other than we three army officers. We easily got an empty compartment. We occupied it and ordered for our dinner from the buffetcar. The waiter served the food. The train had by then started rolling. We three locked the door after dinner and got down to business. We started our preparation for the march. We all wore dark attires. We had all together about twenty thousand rupees. Those were kept in the hidden pockets. An extra pair of cloths for each one of us taken in the haver sack. We put every thing that were necessary for the journey into that bag. Map sheets were taken out and night march chart was drawn on it. We were to negotiate a motorized tank battalion position of the Pakistan Army on our way. There will be anti tank obstacles and midfields on the way as well. We had to find out gaps between them and charted our course.
We may even have to encounter petrol parties from both own or enemy sides during our march. Our decision was to avoid any contact with own or enemy troops. In extreme case we shall go on confrontation to over power the enemy. In no way we should get caught. If necessary we shall commit suicide but not surrender. Should a situation forces us to get separated then each one of us will try to reach Sree Karanpur at one’s own initiative. We set the bearings on the compass for the march. Beside the haver sack, binocular, a blanket, torch and our personal weapons, all other belongings have to be hidden at an appropriate place. We only kept our ID cards and rest of the papers were burnt and flushed out through the toilet of the moving train. We had two cameras with us. A pocket size Quran was also taken along with. Order of march was,Moti in front then myself and Nur at the tail.
The haversack will be carried in turns. There will be a rest for ten minutes after every one-hour rout march. During the break we have to check our compass and map under the blanket with the help of the torchlight. This is how we shall ensure that we are on the right track. The compass bearings will be adjusted if necessary. All three of us are adequately trained. We know all the methods of night march. At about 10:15 p.m. our train moved into Haroonabad station. A small station. The place where our compartment stopped was dark. We got out from the train. A few passengers got in and out of the train. We stood in silence in the darkness. After a while the train left the platform blowing its whistle. Rest of the passengers who disembarked all were out through the normal checking gate. We stayed back and were having a close look about our surroundings. The lights were only effective at the front side of the station. Rest of it was engulfed in darkness. There was a middle size courtyard outside the entrance of the station. There were few tea stalls and number of tongas waiting for the passengers. About 400-500 yards away the Grand Trunk Road runs parallel to the railway tracks from south to north. Long vehicles were plying on the road off and on. The small Haroonabad township was situated on the other side of the highway. The town is nothing but a large size market. There are habitats all around the market. We shall commence our march from the right side of the township keeping a safe distance. It is a border area moreover late at night, therefore, not much of people could be seen. As if the whole town has fallen asleep. After everyone went out we avoided the main gate and came out from the end side of the platform. We crossed the highway with caution and got into a Babla bush. From the end of the town the desert starts. Uneven sand dunes thorn shrubs and bushes all around as far one can see. Wherever there is any water source one can find some households in such areas. And around those habitat some small cultivations. Beans, maize, corn, oil seeds are grown on such semiarid land. We shall have to negotiate almost the same type of terrain all the way. Under the blanket I and Moti were setting bearings on the compass and checking the night march chart and the map. The final moment drew near to start our march. According to the map there should be a line of Karaj nearby. Karaj is a line of deep well in the desert. Rainwater is preserved in these wells to be used as required. The cultivations are irrigated from the Karaj. Nur was dispatched to locate that Karaj. After a short time he returned after discovering the Karaj. We carried all our luggages, leaving the haver sack up to the Karej and dropped them into one of the well. Now we are all set to start our march. Taking the name of Allah we started our march for Sree Karanpur. We have to march at a speed of 45 miles an hour. It was a moonlit night. The clear sky was covered with bright stars. The pole star, Cassiopeia, Orient belt, Seven stars all were prominently visible. If necessary we were even able to continue our march with the help of the stars and constellations. Each one of us had clear idea how to reach the destination without map or compass in case we got separated from each other. First one hour passed without any trouble. We did not come across any one on our way. We had started again after the rest. We walked for about ten minutes. Moti suddenly stopped and signaled. There was an anti tank obsticle ahead. A cannal. There was water in the cannal. Both sides of the cannal were high with over 60o gradient. Any such obsticle is usually covered with fire. So the place must be Recced before crossing. I and Moti went ahead for the Recce. We were moving covering each other so that we could face any eventualities. Nur was waiting for our return under a shrub. We found that the cannal had water deep up to the neck, some point it is up to the chest. We could easily cross it walking. There was no current at all. From the high bank I was looking through the binocular at the crossing site carefully. Moti went back and returned with Nur.
All clear. ‘Go’ the order was given. The tactical crossing started. I crossed the obstacle at the last. We started our march again from the far bank. We were maintaining speed and time as per the plan. We were communicating with each other through signals. After another ten minutes we shall have our break. Moti signaled. We all quickly hit the ground. We saw a small patrol party of four camels were passing by. This is the usual way patrolling is done in the desert areas between two BOPs. (Bordar observation post). We quietly crawled into a nearby shrub and took position lying motionless on the ground. The petrol party nearly ran over us and moved away towards the north. They could not understand or had any idea that three living souls were lying right underneath. The patrol party got vanished in the dunes. We got up and resumed our march. After we had our second rest and marched some distance we could hear some digging sound at a distance. According to the trace there was no mark of any defensive position at that particular place. Then who is digging? Moti was sent out for a Recce. Some people are digging bunkers for a new defensive position. This forced us to take a temporary detour and then come back again to the original track. We did accordingly set our compass and the night march chart. We started again but by passing the defensive position this time. Another cannal? Are we then on the wrong track? We went under the blanket and were looking at the map diligently. No we are on the right track. The cannel is a new one and thus yet not been traced on the map. Have we then entered Indian territory already? It was 2:30 a.m. at my watch. Correct, we are now well within Indian territories. This was an Indian defensive obstacle. We crossed the cannal. From now on our going is going to be more risky. We got to be very careful. We shall reach Sree Karanpur within an hour or one and half hour. After crossing the cannel we could spot Indian tanks deployed in the bunkers. We could even hear human voices in those bunkers. The whole area was exceptionally quite as it was very early in the morning. Such an condition is most ideal for this kind of journey. We walked through the Indian defensive position with our eyes and ears open. No one could see us. After some time we hit a position where there were a few tanks, transporters and vehicles. It must be some headquarters. We quietly negotiated the place and carried on towards our destination. Meanwhile the lights were visible on the horizon at a far off distance. That was Sree Karanpur. Another 4 to 5 miles then we shall reach Karanpur. We were thrilled and our morale became very high. We forgot about our tiredness and almost were running for those lights. At about quarter to 4 we reached a village on the out skirt of Sree Karanpur. Most of the houses were made of mud in the very traditional ways in that village. Every house had a courtyard surrounded with mud walls. Some dogs were barking inside the village. We took refuge inside a dilapidated abandoned house. The courtyard of this house was also surrounded by mud walls. We are now thinking what should we do? Will it be appropriate to enter the town at this odd hour?. In an unknown small town three foreigners like us moving around at such an odd time would be highly suspicious. Thus we decided to wait till the daybreak and then get merged with the crowd.
Thereafter we shall decide about our next step. We were taking rest after an exhaustive exercise in total silence. Suddenly, we heard noise of a moving train. I looked out and could see a moving train entering a station slowly at a distance of 600-700 yards. We immediately took a decision to catch the train to get away as far as possible from the border area at the earliest. We ran for the station. When we reached near, we could see a red colored train standing at the platform. We don’t have any idea where the train will go and from where it had come. Only thing we knew that it was an Indian passenger train. The crowd was very thin at the station. We embarked in an empty coach without any passenger. We closed all the windows and locked the doors. After a few minuets the train started moving blowing its whistle. We fell relaxed. At the platform we read the name of the station to be Sree Karanpur. It is a sub division within the district Sree Ganganagar in Rajasthan province. Our aim is to reach Delhi. But the train was going towards south. Delhi is at the North. After a while the train stopped at a station. It was a junction. Another train moved in from the opposite direction. This was also a passenger train. We quickly changed the train and got inside an compartment of the arriving train and locked the doors. After a while our train started rolling.
Now we are heading towards north. On our way we left behind Sree Karanpur once again. The train kept on rolling towards the North. Fatigue of the long tiring walk, rhythmical movement of the train, mental tension altogether gradually put all of us to sleep. At one time, we woke up with an odd Jerk. The train was standing at a station. I opened the window. It was already morning. The station’s name I read Sree Ganganagar. All three of us were very happy. We got out from the train. We are now far away from the border. We went to the upper class waiting room. We cleaned ourselves and changed our clothes to look decent. Then we sat down to decide our next move. We decided that from now onward we shall pose to be students of Calcutta University. We are out on a study tour and moving over whole of Rajasthan. We took three Hindu names. Sree Shaumen Banarjee Moti Sree Monoj Bose Nur Sree Narayan Gangooly, me. Some money have to be arranged. We are now Bengali students from Calcutta therefore, changing Pakistani currency could be dangerous. We decided to sell off the two gold rings.
We found out from the stationmaster that the town center was about a mile away from the station. The shops will start opening from 9 a.m. Therefore, we had to wait in the waiting room till it was 9 a.m. Right at nine three of us set out for the town center. We hung our cameras on the shoulders. Nur was carrying the haversack on his back. All of us wore Rayban sunglasses. We were really looking like tourists. Reaching the town center we found Ganganagar town comprised of a few roads and streets like any other district headquarters of East Pakistan. The town was small. All the shops were on the both sides of those roads and the streets. There we located couple of goldsmith’s shops. We entered the biggest one. The owner was a fat guy with Dhoti, Nima and a Tilak on his forehead. He was doing his Puja with a bell in his hand. As we approached he came forward and asked what we wanted. In reply I said,
“We are students from Calcutta. We are on a study tour and we are facing shortage of cash and we want to sell our gold rings”. The man took both the rings and examined them thoroughly and said,
“Four hundred rupees.”
“What rubbish he is talking?”. We know Pakistani rupee has more value than Indian rupee. Gold is also more expensive in India compared to Pakistan. That’s why we should get much more than he offered. The Bania was trying to cheat us taking advantage of our situation. We were angry at his crookedness. We just moved out of his shop with our rings. We did not go to the other shops as we could feel this will make no difference. All of them would behave in similar ways taking advantage of our situation. Then we decided to sell off one of the cameras. On the same street there was a big camera shop. We entered there. The owner of the shop was a young man aged 24/25. He was smartly dressed. We tried to explain our plight in mixed Urdu and Hindi and said that we want to dispose off one of the cameras.
The young man became sympathetic hearing our stories. He saw the cameras and said,
“They are expensive foreign cameras. They are imported.” I said,
“Yes my friend we got these as presents from our relatives living abroad. We want to sell them as we have no other alternatives.”
“But you will not be getting right prices for such expensive cameras in this small town. More over once you sell them you won’t be able to buy them again. Don’t you have anything else to sell?” The man asked.
“Yes we have”. I took out the rings and gave them to him and described our bitter experience at the goldsmith’s shop. After hearing all the young man laughed and said,
“The Bania found you to be foreigners and wanted to be smart. Well, you wait hare and let me see what can I do to help you.”
The young man was going out with the rings and instructed a boy in the shop to serve us tea. But I said,
“Please do not bother about the tea. Just get the rings sold and we shall remain ever grateful to you”. He laughed and said,
“Ok, you just have tea and let me try, you guys have come to Rajasthan from such far way distance. I think I have the right to treat you with a cup of tea”. We were charmed at the warmth of the young man. All are not the same.
The boy already went out to arrange for the tea. The man also went away leaving the whole shop at our disposal without any hesitation. We became lucky to have a person like him in such a God forsaken place who is so helpful. The boy returned with steaming luchi, tarkari and tea. The subsided hunger became fresh at the sight of hot meal. We almost pounced on the food. Then drank tea with all the pleasure. We were feeling fresh after the delicious breakfast. After about twenty minutes or so the young man returned with a smiling face.
“Your job is done.” He said and handed over eight hundred and fifty rupees to me.
“Did you have your tea?” He asked.
“Yes we really relished luchi, tarkari and hot tea. By the way what is your name?
“My name is, Ramesh Tripathy” he replied. We also told our Hindu names.
“Should you ever come to Calcutta please do visit us. We shall always remember your kind assistance that you have extended towards us at such a far away land.” I said.
No. 3 Park Circus, a false address was given to him. Then we all thanked him and came out from his shop. It is not true that there is no good people in this materialist world of today. The world is still moving may be because we can still find people like Ramesh Tripathy in this cruel world. From Ramesh’s place we straightway moved into a restaurant. We were feeling more hungry after having those luchi tarkari. We cannot concentrate on any thing without having a hearty meal. We had our full meal. chicken curry, parathas, dal and vegetables. Different style of cuisine with different taste. The boy who served us was astonished to see the way we were relishing the food. After the hearty meal Nur went out to buy newspapers. He returned with two three available newspapers. The date was 17th April 1971. There were lot of news about Bangladesh with photographs. There were news about formation of the provisional Awami League government under the leadership of Mr. Nazrul Islam, and Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed, about the freedom struggle and Mukti Bahini. There were detailed news items. We also came to know about the tacit support of the Indian government to the Independence war as well as open humanitarian support to the Bengali refugees from those papers. One of the photo was showing Major Khaled Mosharaff with some freedom fighters in the battlefield. We came to the conclusion that things have moved too far then what we knew about the freedom struggle. There is a real war going on in Bangladesh. The people had revolted and took up arms to liberate the motherland from the occupation armies. We did not commit any mistake to take the risk to join the liberation war.
We must make all out efforts to go up to the war front as soon as possible to join the struggle. We three started our discussion about our future steps in a low voice. It would be highly dangerous and risky to attempt to reach Mujibnagar by- passing Indian security agencies. As per the common practice we should have surrendered ourselves to the India authorities immediately after crossing the boarder. That was the right thing to do but we haven’t done so. If we surrender ourselves voluntarily there will be no suspicion in the mind of the Indian authorities on our intention and sincerity. On the other hand if we are caught on our way the authorities might doubt our intention. But where should we surrender? If we surrender at Ganganagar it would be waste of time. Because all decisions regarding us will have to come from the center. In that case to surrender here to the local authorities and then wait for the central government’s decision would be sheer wastage of time for nothing. Besides, at this level the enthusiastic agency officers would apply all possible techniques to get the truth about the mission of the three trained officers from Pakistan army. And none of us are fit at present physically or mentally to take that grueling interrogation session. Therefore, it would be better to reach Delhi and surrender. Whatever has to happen let it happen there. We thus decided to surrender ourselves to the Ministry of External Affairs at Delhi. But why we did not surrender ourselves to the boarder authorities and headed for Delhi should be informed to the Indian authorities as soon as possible. Explaining the reasons and seeking political asylum, a letter addressed to the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was drafted, to remove any misunderstandings what so ever. The address on the envelope was Hon Prime Minister, Govt. of India, c/o Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi. We went all of us together to send the letter by registered post at the local post office and after the job was done again returned to the same restaurant. The postmaster said the letter will reach its destination within two days. A copy of the same letter would have to be sent to Mujibnagar provisional Bangladesh Govt. We got the address from the newspaper. But it would not be wise to send a registered mail in that address from such a far flung place like Rajasthan. Therefore, decision was taken to post the letter from Delhi. Nur was sent to purchase the train tickets for Delhi. Lt. Nur came back after a while. He informed that our train Kalka Mail for Delhi will leave the station at 7:30 p.m. He bought three 2nd class tickets for us. First class tickets could not be managed due to the resource constrain. Now we have plenty of time at our disposal. After having our lunch we set out to see the town. We were wondering like typical tourists taking photographs and walking casually. We roamed almost the whole town within a short time. Ganganagar was itself a small district town. We had still plenty of time, so we decided to see a matinee show. In one of the movie house the Hindi film ‘ANJANA’ was running. Cast of the film were Bobita and Rajendar Kumar. We bought tickets and got in. A typical mufossil cinema house. Arrangements were so so. At mid day the sun was hot and so was tin shaded hall inside. It was almost houseful. Therefore, quite a suffocating atmosphere because of the rush. Being a new release the gathering of spectators were more than normal. However, it was quite enjoying as we were munching nuts and chanachurs. As the movie finished we came out. It was 5:30 p.m. We again went to the same restaurant we had been in the morning. We ate again sumptuously. We took it easy and reached the station at quarter to seven. Kalka Mail was supposed to arrive, but we found the station almost deserted. What is the matter? As we asked the ticket collector he informed to our horror that the train had already left at 6:30 p.m. What! We exclaimed hopelessly as the sky had fallen on us. Nur by mistake read the timing from the board 7:30 instead of 6:30. We were disgusted and furious. I and Moti were shouting at Nur at the top of our voice for his negligence. The collector heard our shouting and came forward. He said,
“Whatever has happened it happened. No use shouting on the spilt milk. You get hold of a taxi and ask the driver to reach you at the next station before the arrival of the train. It can still be possible.”
He also helped to find a taxi for us. The driver was a Sikh. The collector explained our plight to the driver in Punjabi and requested him to reach us before the train at the next stop. We quickly got into the taxi after thanking the helpful collector and the driver started his Ambassador taxi. The road condition was not very good. The taxi was running at top speed. Non-concerned Sardarjee was managing the wheel. We all were also quite. Although, we sat speechless at the heart of heart each one of us was perhaps thinking that we might not finally make it up to the war front. The way Sardarjee was driving we might become shaheed any moment due to accident at such a godforsaken place called Rajasthan. We started praying for mercy from Allah Sobhanatalla. But Sardarjee’s effort bore fruit. He managed to reach us at the next station before the train. As he entered the station he said,
“Dekho Sahbjee Asi pohonch gaye”. Sardar was radiating with a glow of pride. We got out from the taxi and paid a handsome Bakshish on top of the fare. Sardarjee’s green further broadened. The train arrived within next fifteen minutes. We got into our reserved compartment and were relieved and happy. The train started rolling on time. We are four passengers in the compartment. Mail train. There is a buffet car in the train. Beddings are also available on payments. After dinner we got our bedding and stretched ourselves in our allocated berths. The Kalka Mail was running towards its final destination piercing through the darkness of the night. Next day early morning we should be reaching Delhi. We were all relaxed after a hearty meal and an exciting day. At one time I fell asleep in the rhythm of the moving train thinking many things about the uncertain future. So were the others. It was a sound sleep after many days. I woke up with a sudden jerk of the train. As I opened my eyes I found our co-passenger is already up and was looking out through the window. I was still lying and was observing the breaking of the dawn. Slowly and gradually the darkness faded away and the rising sun was piping on the horizon. The sky was red with the glowing sun and the nature was gradually getting out of the slumber with another daybreak. I opened the window shutter next to me and got a blast of fresh morning cool breeze on my face. It was wonderful and refreshing. As I turned my face I found the gentleman on the next berth was bowing to the rising sun and murmuring something. I understood he was praying to the Sun God. I went to the toilet. When I came out I found Moti and Nur still sleeping. I woke them up. They got ready one by one and we all sat next to each other. Kalka Mail was moving slowly blowing its whistle. It was just over 6:30 a.m. We could realize that the train is approaching Delhi. At 7 a.m. we should reach Delhi. Right at 7 a.m. the Kalka Mail entered the platform of Delhi station. The station was crowded with people even at this early hour of the morning. Every one was in hurry and running about here and there. Trains stood at the platform one after another. Our train entered the specified platform and halted. It was hard to believe that we could reach Delhi so easily. We disembarked from the train and came out of the station. As we came out, we were virtually mobbed by the waiting taxi drivers. One of them came forward and said,
“Bangali Babu taxi chahiye.” I said,
“Yes take us to a middle class hotel. A reasonably good hotel close to the city center.”
“Lay chalte he, Ayie.”
He picked up some of our luggage and moved towards his taxi. We got into his taxi and after about 20/25 minutes the driver stopped in front of a hotel. Hotel Nataraj. We paid off the taxi and went to the reception and booked two rooms. One for me and the other for Moti and Nur. Both the rooms were adjacent to each other. The porter took our luggage and reached to our rooms. This is a three or four-star hotel. Quite good. Neat and clean. The rates are also reasonable. Each room had attached balcony and a bathroom. All of us had a hot shower after settling down. It was really very freshening after the long train journey.
We had our breakfast in the room together. We decided that on 20th morning we shall surrender ourselves at the Ministry of External Affairs. By that time presumably our posted letter would be in their hands.
– By Major Dalim