Chuadanga : The Unsung Tale of our Liberation War

By Mesbah Ul Haq

The history of our liberation war shows that people in general, when united, with their bare hands can defeat any force of evil equipped with the most sophisticated weaponry available. Though it is the people's leaders who make them united for a just cause, the process in and out is always not similar to any other place of happening or to the people who organise them at the grass-root level. But history itself often puts its footing on some exceptional situations and endeavours that are rare to find. The people who are part of such situations and are associated with such endeavours and whose deeds imprint great success need to be recognised for their remarkable and outstanding efforts that play critical role in changing the usual course of history of a country and fate of its people. The role of Chuadanga, the then a small quiet Sub-Division of Kushtia, in our liberation war was not simply a matter of distinction but demands to be assessed for its outstanding position of high magnitude in leading the war to victory. And one of the key persons behind the gamut was an political iconoclast described by the TIME magazine on its April 19, 1971 issue as "Bengali administrators were running the region under the local party leader, Dr. Ashabul Haq, 50, a forceful physician who packs a Webly & Scott revolver and a Spanish Guernica automatic." He was in fact a popular physician cum veteran politician who was the elected MPA to the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly from its constituency Kushtia-6. Being the President of Chuadanga Sub-Division Awami League, he was the convenor of the local Sangram Parishad that had been spearheading the ongoing popular movement against the autocratic conspiracy in 1971. As elsewhere of the then East Pakistan, peoples' resistance to the Pakistani military junta for realisation of their constitutional right as to handing over power of the whole of Pakistan to the elected representatives was on full swing. The month of March in 1971 saw an all out non-cooperation movement throughout East Pakistan as was called by the unabated leader of the people, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. With the political and strategic developments in Dhaka and Islamabad the movement took a dramatic momentum after the ‘poet of politics’ delivered his master speech on 7 March at the historic Race Course ground in Dhaka. Soon its waves reached to the farthest corner of the land as the Dhaka centre of Radio Pakistan was compelled to transmit the recorded speech on 8 March. Following the message of that great speech people started getting organised gradually with whatever they had. This process got an exotic turn when the political negotiation ended without conscientious. Local leaderships, in most of the areas, got stuck and had been hovering on the edge of an unknown future. The overall situation remained highly tensed and completely uncertain till the massive military crackdown, codenamed ‘Operation Searchlight’, on the unarmed civilians in the dark of 25 March at Dhaka. The provincial capital Dacca (Dhaka) was practically made incommunicado by 10 in the night.
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It was just past midnight of 26 March. A unanimous caller rang Chuadanga exchange telephone number 77 and got Dr Ashab Ul Haq in bed. The caller identified himself as an operator of a Dhaka telephone exchange. The shaky whispering voice informed him of the crackdown and asked Dr Haq to leave at once as with the apprehension of similar crackdowns throughout the country. Dr Haq took no time to load his holster packed with a personal Webley & Scott revolver and left home. Taking a late night goods train he left for Nilmaniganj; roused a few of his political workers there including a prominent one, Mohammad Alauddin (later matryred). He instructed them to spread out to mobilise as much people as they can at Chuadanga by early morning. By 7:30 in the morning rickshaw-mounted loudspeakers were out to inform the town dwellers of the crackdown at Dhaka. The local Sangram Parishad called an emergency public meeting at the Boro Bazar crossing, just in front of the local Police Station. By 9:00 AM of 26 March 1971 people crowded together in great numbers that almost flooded the venue. The writer, then a college student and present at the meeting, possesses a vivid memory of the event. Jubilant peoples from adjacent areas poured in with long sticks and tri-colour flags of free Bangladesh in their hands. Local newly elected public representatives to the Provincial Assembly, Advocate Yunus Ali and Dr Ashab Ul Haq addressed the meeting. Advocate Yunus Ali informed about the military crackdown on innocent civilians at Dhaka that had left thousands killed the previous night. People present were at a deep shock. Then veteran politician Dr Ashab Ul Haq rose to address the meeting. He elaborated the situation that culminated in the Pakistani atrocities and clearly explained that the Pakistan military junta was in fact in war with the unarmed civilian Bangalees. Now it is up to them to decide how to face the challenge. A point to note here, specially, that none of the leaders ever mentioned of receiving any direction from the central leaders in the wake of the crackdown. Dr Ashab Ul Haq in the usual vibrant style categorically told the people: "You have supported and elected me as your representative in the general election of 1970; now I take this opportunity to return that support back to you. Because upon your vote we wanted to formulate a constitution based on the Six-Point Programme. That is not being possible now as the Pakistani armed regime has started military attack on the innocent people. In such a situation there are but two options open to us - either yielding to their subjugation or resisting fiercely. If we surrender to their wish our men shall have no way but to become their slaves and our women, concubines. Do we want that? As your representative, I need your advice at this critical moment. I am ready to do may what you wish. Say! Surrender or protest?" The audience kept mum and almost a pin drop silence had been prevailing on the scene. But after a short while an old man of ordinary stature spontaneously stood amongst them and shouted to his might, "Stand erect to resist, sir! It cannot be tolerated anymore". Instantly the whole audience rised and expressed their vocal support for resistance. Consequently Dr Ashab Ul Haq raised his hands to the public and formally declared war against the Pakistani military junta. History was on a making then. He vowed and asked all not to take rest before defeating the enemy. He asked the people to be highly vigilant. He also asked for their immediate help in any form and their all out cooperation with the Sangram Parishad. The meeting concluded in about half an hour. A point to note here that declaration of war at Chuadanga carries some remarkable historical importance. It was possibly the only and the first place in the history of our liberation war where elected public representatives ceremoniously declared war against the Pakistan occupational forces after obtaining

people's affirmation to the cause. And that was at 9:30 in the morning of 26 March 1971 when there was neither any information about receipt of instruction from the higher-ups at Dhaka nor of the much-discussed message of 'declaration of independence' from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Nowhere else in the history of Bangladesh it is found that peoples' representatives formally opted for taking peoples' formal conscientious support to declare war against the Pakistani regime. Also it was possibly the only place where such a declaration was physically made in public. As soon as the meeting ended a spontaneous procession moved from the venue wherein thousands of people joined and chanted slogans in support for resistance and freedom. Immediately the leadership took complete hold of the local administration and started mobilising a fighting force, facilities and logistic support; while students and housewives went out to collect whatever they could in support of the unseen war ahead. A Control Room was immediately established to function as the nerve centre of the newly declared resistance. Volunteers were dispatched to distant areas with instructions asking peoples to get organised, cut off road communication, build blockades by falling trees and digging trenches across main roads, and to accumulate and preserve strength and resources for the imminent war; collect personal guns, weapons, food items and money and send them to the control room. Besides members of the BDR, Police, Ansar, Mujahid, Village Defence Party and others having training in running arms were asked to report to Forces Centre. By midday over a thousand trained young men reported to the centre, many with their arms and ammunition. In the meantime the news of fall of Kushtia to the occupation army the yester-night came as a serious blow. Local leaders along with a few officials sat in a meeting to determine the future course of action. Need for a patriotic officer from the armed forces who is to take charge of the armed units and to fill up the strategic vacuum became imminent before an informer confirmed arrival of the EPR Wing Commander Major Abu Osman Chowdhury at Chuadanga. That day, by evening all communication by roads to Chuadanga from Jhenaidah and Jibannagar, on way to Jessore, were cut off by hundreds of heavy barricades and trenches. Vigilantes started guarding key positions round the clock covering an area of about 25 miles radius, specially the roads leading to Chuadanga town. Listed trained personnel were posted at different key positions armed gathered arms and ammunition including those from the local police line, banks and the treasury. By the day end an initial defense line was established to guard and fortify the nerve centre of the organised resistance at Chuadanga. Dost Mohammad Ansary and Miskin Ali were at the helm of the Control Room while Mirza Sultan Raja along and Abul Hashem was in charge of public ralations; Solaiman Haq Joarder Selun took charge of the student and youth force. As elsewhere students played a pivotal role in organising the resistance whereby Nurul Islam Malik, Siddique Jamal Nantu, Aliuzzaman Joarder, and others took leading role. Armed volunteers numbered over a thousand were led by Obaidul Haq Joarder Kobu (later a martyr), Kazi Kamal (a valiant freedom fighter) and Allah Hafez. East Pakistan Rifles (EPR), the border security force, played an important role in our liberation war. It was past noon of 26 March when Major Abu Osman Chowdhury reached his Wing headquarters at Chuadanga. There, his NCOs briefed him of the overall situation including formal organisation of local resistance in the wake of
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the crackdown at Dhaka. In the meantime Dr Ashab Ul Haq had contacted him over telephone and invited him to an emergency meeting with the public leaders and representatives of the local administration. At the meeting Major Osman was asked to take charge of the armed resistance force that he accepted at once. After a long discussion the first ever war command of Bangladesh, named South Western Command, was formed on 26 March 1971 in Chuadanga. While Major Abu Osman Chowdhury was given the position of the Commander, Dr Ashab Ul Haq, MPA became the Chief Advisor and Barrister Abu Ahmed Afzalur Rashid alias Badal Rashid, MNA and Advocate Yunus Ali, MPA were made Deputy Chief Advisors. The whole of western region of the Padma was taken under the command comprising that of Kushtia, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna and Barisal districts. All the armed personnel from defence, EPR, Police, Ansar, Mujahid and armed student wing of the area were vested under the Command. The newly built District Council Dak Bungalow was made the Command Headquarter. The next day on 27 March at about noon the Pakistani flag, last flying one at the EPR Wing headquarter was ceremoniously lowered and the tri-colour Bangladesh flag was hoisted at the flag post by Major Osman. Captain A R Azam Chowdhury, his deputy, was there who afterwards played valiant role under the Command. Major Osman held the position till division of Bangladesh war commands into 11 Sectors by the Provisional Government on 11 July 1971. The South Western Command was then renamed Sector-8 with some revision of the command area and Major Osman continued to hold the position of the Sector Commander till Major M Abul Manjur took over in September 1971. After ensuring landed defense line around Chuadanga, the prime objective of the South Western Command was to recapture and free Kushtia from the hands of Pakistani forces. Mobilisation of dependable intelligence, organisation and impart training to available fighting force, amass weapons and ammunition, and ensure other logistics were the prime concern. In the next few days a secret plan of attack, in detail, was chalked out by Major Abu Osman Chowdhury and Dr Ashab Ul Haq at the Command headquarters. During the session lack of support force and services were identified. Then with the mission of serving the wounded and the sick at the battlefield, Bangladesh Red Cross Society was formed at Chuadanga on 27 March 1971. Dr Ashab Ul Haq became the founding Chairman of the Society while Dr Shamsuz-zoha Quraeshi, the then Sub-Divisional Medical Officer of Meherpur, was made the founding Secretary General. A team of young men and students having experience in medical assistantship and first aid led by professional doctors was formed by thee Society to work at the front. Besides, a support team of Rover and Boy Scouts was formed to help the medical team at the time of need. Later Bangladesh Red Cross Society demonstrated its capability at 'the battle for Kushtia' on 30 March 1971. After formation of the provisional government of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Red Cross Society was reconstituted with Syed Nazrul Islam, Acting President of the government, as the ex-officio Chairman and Dr Ashab Ul Haq being Vice-Chairman while Dr Shamsuz-zoha Quraeshi remained the Secretary General. The Society, in the later days, under the leadership of Dr Ashab Ul Haq did tremendous effort to mitigate the sufferings of the fleeing refugees from Bangladesh in India during the liberation war. Besides, establishment of business relationship with International Red Cross and International Commission of Red Cross Societies procurement of huge quantity of relief and rehabilitation materials for the suffering refugees from Bangladesh was no less a success story. For that purpose Dr Haq had to fly to

Switzerland on several occasions to procure formal recognition for the Society from the international bodies in those days of our liberation war. However, he held the position till April 1972 and helped organise Bangladesh Red Cross Society in a commendable way at its elementary stage. Another important event was that the news of popular resistance on the wake of ‘Operation Searchlight' was first channeled to the international media through Chuadanga, when no local media source was in function. Kaliprasad Bose, a Press Trust of India correspondent at Krishnanagar in West Bengal, having clue from sources at Chuadanga across the border, transmitted the news to its Calcutta bureau by evening of 26 March 1971. His report as was transmitted that night started as: "People of Chuadanga has revolted against Pakistan in response to military crackdown in Dacca..." that did spread like a wild fire throughout the world. In the following days Chuadanga became an international media hub. Journalists and correspondents of the international print and electronic media started finding their way to Chuadanga. But under a secret arrangement with the eminent Indian journalist and literary personnel Gour Kishore Ghose their entry, in groups, was granted on selective basis that followed a strict scrutiny at the Calcutta Press Club. The selected ones were used to be picked up at the no-man's land at Darsana-Gede border point every morning at 10 and brought to Chuadanga where they were given press briefs, mostly by Dr Ashab Ul Haq. Then they were often taken to a few places of importance to cover, and then drop them back at the border in the afternoon. Maqbular Rahman (later captured by the Pakistani forces, tortured and detained at different cantonments before his release on the Victory Day), Shafiuddin Ahmed and Fule Hussain were deputed to receive the journalists and guide them. There had been never a day when there were no items on Chuadanga or on the liberation war dateline Chudanga. Against this backdrop the first direct communication from Bangladesh was made with a government head of a foreign country. On 28 March 1971, just after noon an operator at the Calcutta telephone exchange rang the Chief Minister and told him on a hurry of having an emergency call. Before he could ask anything and to his astonishment a clear voice came through the telephone line: "Mr Chief Minister, this is Dr Ashab Ul Haq from Joy Bangla". In fact 'Joy Bangla' was the codename of Chuadanga as had been used for communication by the South Western Command. Mr Mukherjee could hardly believe what he heard and, being perplexed, asked how could he was contacted from Bangladesh. "Everything is possible, sir, when time demands so" was the reply. On that occasion Dr Haq had a rather short but precise discussion. He appraised the Chief Minister of the depth and velocity of the running popular resistance. He also informed that the Pakistan armed force at Kushtia had already been surrounded by thousands of determined people armed with whatever they have. And soon a final attack would be made to free the District headquarter. Then he asked for all out support from the Indian authority specially by arms and ammunition. Mr Mukherjee assured him of taking the issue with the federal government at New Delhi and of trying his best in that respect. Anandabazar Patrika of Calcutta carried the news as an exclusive item on its 30 March 1971 issue with due importance. It may be mentioned here that since the 1965 war telecommunication between the two lands were cutoff. But a few local telephone men with their tremendous effort connected Chuadanga with the Indian railway telecommunication system at Gede railway station on that day. In this manner to facilitate logistic support from the other side of the border international railway
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communication with India was established on 6 April by laying railway lines in between Darshana in Bangladesh and Gede in India. Later Nurul Qader Khan, the then Deputy Commissioner of Pabna, used that line through Chuadanga to run a train loaded with what was lying in the local treasury to handover those to the Provisional Government in exile. Another remarkable event was the ‘Battle for Kushtia’. The district headquarters since captured by the Pakistani force became an important target. A detailed tactical plan, to free Kushtia, was chalked out at the Command headquarters. Captain A R Azam Chowdhury was made commander of the mission codenamed "Operation First Leg". About a hundred EPR along with Police, Ansar, Mujahid, armed Volunteers supported by thousands of armed and unarmed people took part in the assault force. They took positions surrounding the town that covered an area of about 8 miles radius keeping the occupation force rather unperturbed. The situation was later described by Siddiq Salik in his book Witness to Surrender as: "...The Company Commander passed a word of caution to his platoons, but the troops did not take it very seriously. They did not even bother to dig their trenches." On the front in a threeheaded attack Captain Azam Chowdhury led the main team to hit the enemy headquarters at the Zila School while others headed for Police Line and radio transmission station. As planned the assault force stroke Kushtia before dawn of 30 March. While SDO of Meherpur Taufiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury provided rear cover, SDPO of Jhenaidah Mahbub Uddin Ahmed sent another armed team. In the mean time a few telephone men from Chuadanga and Alamdanga had already established a makeshift exchange at a remote open field near Poradaha. That served as a field communication system between the operation headquarters at Chuadanga and the advanced force. More so, a field medical team of the newly constituted Bangladesh Red Cross was sent from Chuadanga to serve the wounded and the dead on the Kushtia front. The team took its position in a mango-grove a few miles southeast off Poradaha. Dr Sudhir Kumar Mukherjee, Dr Syedur Rahman Joarder, 3 paramedics, a local quack and about 20 field volunteers along with the writer were posted there. In a blitzkrieg the assault force backed by thousands of shouting people did much to demoralise the occupation force with their hostile presence and held them in a completely perplexing situation. The Pakistani force could hardly sustain the force and velocity of the attack. The whole day saw a all pervasive face to face fight, leaving back many of the enemy force dead and the rest confined within two square miles. By evening all the enemy posts except its headquarters at Zila School fell to the resistance force. Finding no other way and failing to draw air cover and sorties from his brigade headquarter at Jessore the Pakistani commander, Major Shoaib, was rather ordered to pursue his own way out. By that time over half of his troops had been eliminated. Siddiq Salik in his book Witness to Surrender wrote: "Major Shoaib collected remnants of his command to reorganise them. He found that only 65 had survived out of 150." The overall situation practically left him with no option but to flee in the dark of the night. Ironically, while they were dogged down in ambush on way to Jessore and encircled by the local resistance force, most were killed on the spot. Only a few could escape that either were killed later or captured by the rebellious villagers. Back at the Command headquarters the news came as a great victory and was immediately passed to Calcutta Press Club in the early morning of 31 March for circulation to the international media.

The battle for Kushtia caused not only a major havoc on the enemy force but also resulted in capture of huge amount of arms and ammunition and about twodozen military vehicles. But the most important possession was the capture of Lieutenant Ataullah Shah, the first prisoner of war. In the history of our liberation war the battle for Kushtia was the first and major blow to the Pakistan armed force that caused serious and permanent damage to their strength, morale and image. It occupies a special place in the history of our liberation war as the first and the only massive military success and that during the time of the initial resistance. Within two days all the captured arms, ammunition and the fleet of military vehicles were brought to Chuadanga that many from the international press and media visited. Reports and photographs of the same were published in almost all major international newspapers and, video recorded interview of the prisoner was transmitted throughout the international television networks. Among them was TIME magazine's ‘‘The Battle of Kushtia’’ in its April 19, 1971 issue where its correspondent Dan Coggins covered the victory at Kushtia and the captured Pakistani troopers at Chuadanga. All these represented documentary evidence as to the reality of organised resistance and of the first major offensive against the Pakistani military regime that they had been disclaiming since the beginning. At mid-day of 30 March when the fall of Kushtia had become imminent Tajuddin Ahmed along with Barrister Amirul Islam came to Chuadanga incognito on way to India. Later, in a closed-door meeting with a few leaders Dr Haq along with Major Osman briefed them about the whole situation and what the Command had been doing. Tajudding Ahmed highly appreciated the Command's role and gave various directives. They left Chuadanga in the afternoon whereby Taufiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury was sent along to take the leaders in secret to India through Changkhali border point in Jibannagar. After detailed discussion with the officers of the Border Security Force (BSF) of India stationed on the other side of the border, and after being assured of due honour and security for the guests they were introduced and handed over to the Indian authority. Being representatives of the fighting Bangalees they were given guard of honour at the border before taking them to Calcutta. Later, within a few days they were flown to Delhi for formal discussion with the highest authority there. After the fall of Kushtia on 30 March the Pakistani military junta realised that the source and leadership of all actions by the resistance force had been at Chuadanga, the nerve centre of the South Western Command. Naturally, they fixed their next and prime target on the town. As a result to break down the high morale of the resistance force, just before noon on 3 April, two low flying Sabre fighter jets of Pakistan Air Force from Jessore air base bombarded and sprayed machinegun on Chuadanga town and its periphery. Duration of the attack was about half an hour. The bombs were incendiary in nature and were later identified as Napalms that Americans used in the Vietnam War. Though not enough the resistance force instantly took their positions and tried to fight back with their .303 Enfield bolt action rifles and with what they had. The air attack damaged EPR Wing headquarters where most of the lines were burnt down to ashes within a very short time. Though human casualties were negligible the air attack left huge damage of properties and a few cattles. Incidentally a team of crews from a French TV network was at Chuadanga that time specially to cover the success story of the battle for Kushtia. As soon as they finished an interview with Dr
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Ashab Ul Haq at the pressroom at his home, the air raid started. Immediately the team with their cameras went out and moved from spot to spot to record live air attack by the low flying Pakistan Air Force jets on its own civilians. They also shoot live action of the resistance force, captured weaponry, ammunitions, the fleet of military vehicles and the most coveted POW, Lieutenant Ataullah Shah. The footage was later shown by almost all the major television networks throughout the world and helped in great extent to project the reality and extent of the armed resistance in Bangladesh. Since fall of Kushtia to the resistance force on 31 March, Pakistan army got stuck at the Jessore cantonment. Practically they had been encircled by the resistance force and all the ways out, except by air, were either cut off or fortified by heavy obstruction and barricades. In the meantime a good number of surviving Bangalee officers and soldiers who could escape had joined the resistance force. One of them was Lieutenant Hafizuddin Ahmed, stationed near Chowgachha, came to Chuadanga on 4 April on his mission for weapons. After detailed discussion on arming his unit Lieutenant Hafiz was given a few military vehicles, some heavy and light weapons and enough ammunition from the Command headquarter. The object was to keep the Pakistani force at bay in the cantonment. That was primarily for securing the Command headquarters at Chuadanga from Pakistani attack and also to gain enough time for reinforcement and consolidation of military and political power for a successful attack on Jessore cantonment. But the expected reinforcement by means of military assistance from the other side of the border never came. In the mean time, the resistance force blockaded a platoon of Pakistan army, in the quiet of the early morning of 6 April, as it moved from Jessore cantonment on way to Jhenaidah. Having no idea of the secret stronghold of the resistance force the enemy was caught in a well-planned ambush at Bishoykhali. And in a bloody battle the Pakistan army faced major debacle there and dispersed. Only a few could escape but with serious injuries. After causing the havoc at the battle of Bishoykhali the morale of the resistance force further raised significantly. Considering the dearth of commissioned officers to fill operational commands the South Western Command decided to confer commission to a few officers in recognition of their dutifulness and bravery. Thereby on 7 April through an order by the Commander of the South Western Command, Major Abu Osman Chowdhury, awarded the rank of Captain to Taufiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, and to Md. Shafiqullah, the then a teacher of Jhenaidah Cadet College. Needless to write that they were the first officers of the Bangladesh armed force commissioned during the war of liberation. On the international and political front stones were rolling on a different pace. With the exodus of thousands of people everyday to India escaping Pakistani atrocities many elected MNAs and MPAs of the majority Awami League also followed. On 10 April Tajuddin Ahmed held a meeting with the available MNAs and MPAs at Agartala in Tripura and they constituted themselves into a Constituent Assembly. The Assembly approved the 'Proclamation of Independence' and formed the Provisional Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh in exile. On the same day Tajuddin Ahmed sent the message to Dr Ashab Ul Haq through Calcutta and asked him to be prepared to arrange the oath taking ceremony at Chuadanga indicating that the place would be declared Provisional Capital of Bangladesh. The newly built Sub-Divisional

hospital building had been chosen as the venue for the ceremony. Later Tajuddin Ahmed confirmed the date of the ceremony to be on 14 April. Though the information about oath taking was kept secret, the name of Chuadanga as the Provisional Capital of Bangladesh somehow, got leaked to the media. Consequently in a dispatch by UPI on 14 April, quoting Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, the news was made public as: "The proclamation, broadcast by the rebel Free Bengal Radio and monitored here, said the capital of the Bangladesh (Bengali Nation) government would be Chuadanga, a small town 10 miles from the border with India." As soon as the news got flashed in the media the Pakistan military junta took it as a challenge and sharply reacted. They immediately ordered their advancing force at Goalando, Paksey and Nagarbari and that at Jessore to move towards Chuadanga. In the event of the development the date for the oath taking ceremony had to be deferred and the Command headquarters shifted 20 miles off to Meherpur for security reasons. Consequently the resistance force had to retreat from their posts on tactical ground. Against the backdrop of fall of Kushtia the previous day, on 16 April Chuadanga, so long the nerve centre of the resistance spearheaded by the South Western Command and declared Provisional Capital of Bangladesh, was lying almost an abandoned town. By that time Jhenaidah had fallen and a strong contingent of the enemy force from Jessore cantonment armed with heavy weapons and armoured carriers had started moving towards Chuadanga. By 10 in the morning while one could naturally smell gun-powder in the air, Pakistan Air Force jets raided Chuadanga for the second time and again by one past noon that created a real havoc. Leaving about hundred casualties and seriously damaged buildings an all pervasive panic soon engulfed the town and its periphery. In such a chaotic situation with incessant thriving sounds of armoured shells coming from the east and with no other alternative people ran out and left their homes for an uncertain destiny. Once busy a few days back it became a ghost town by afternoon. And under cover of firing heavy artillery shells, the advancing troops of the Pakistan armed force entered Chuadanga in the dark of early night. The next morning, on 17 April, a contingent of enemy soldiers drove to the home of Dr Ashab Ul Haq. As usual a big-size tri-colour Bangladesh flag was still flying high atop the two-storied building. Failing to bring that down, they blasted the whole building by laying charges of powerful explosive and spraying gunpowder all through it. While the South Western Command, headquartered then at Meherpur, had been busy with secured retreat of all of its forces and logistics it had been working on another secret plan to arrange the oath taking ceremony of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh. At such a critical point of time Dr Ashab Ul Haq, being the Chief Advisor of the South Western Command, issued a public notice on 17 April 1971 titled Swadhin Bangladesh Torof Theke Bolchhi. The notice explained and justified the policy of retreat by the resistance force and gave directives as to change in tactics mentioning that ‘guerilla warfare’ would be the mode of all future missions. He also gave a fivepoint directive as to how the general people would help organise and support the war and to maintain their morale high. Dated also as per Bangla calendar: 1 Boishakh 1378, the notice was distributed throughout the region, specially at the oath taking ceremony on the same day. That was possibly the first official public notice of its kind issued by the fighting Bangladesh authority and an invaluable document of our liberation war. An original copy of the notice is however being preserved at Muktijuddho Jadughar.
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Following the Command headquarters being shifted to Meherpur town, venue of formal oath taking by the members of the Provisional Government was chosen by the Command to be at a peaceful and quiet mango-grove near the EPR border outpost at Baidyanathtala. On that day while Major Osman Chowdhury was highly busy with shifting of his force with all its logistics to the other side of the border, Dr Ashab Ul Haq was at Baidyanathtala to oversee the arrangements there. A makeshift small dais and an ornamented archway was made with articles along with a few sofas and a good number of small wooden chairs were borrowed from nearby private homes, EPR outpost and from Catholic mission of the century-old Church of Our Lady of Sorrows at Bhoberpara. At about 11:15 in the morning the leaders and a host of over hundred newsmen and TV crews from around the world reached the venue from the other side. Then following others Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Captain M Mansur Ali, A H M Kamruzzaman, Khondaker Mushtaque Ahmed, Colonel M Ataul Gani Osmani along with Prof M Yusuf Ali came to the venue. Syed Nazrul Islam, being Acting President of the newborn republic, was given the guard of honour by a mixed group of EPR, Police and Ansar led by the newly commissioned Captain Mahbub Uddin Ahmed. Then Syed Nazrul Islam ceremoniously hoisted the tri-colour national flag while national anthem Aamar Sonar Bangla Aami Tomai Bhalobashi was presented by a group of local singers. Thereafter the Acting President along with Colonel M Ataul Gani Osmani inspected the guard. As the leaders took their seats on the dais and after recitations from the holy scripts Prof M Yusuf Ali conducted the oath of office to the leaders. Then he read out the ‘Declaration of Independence’ followed by its copy, both in Bangla and in English, were circulated amongst an audience of about two thousand. Then the Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam addressed the function followed by Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed. Later the Prime Minister spoke to the press. Almost finished, when Tajuddin Ahmed was about to get into a car to leave, a journalist asked him whether the place would take any new name? Dr Ashab Ul Haq was standing next to. On hearing the question the Prime Minister looked at Dr Haq who suggested for a thoughtful assessment before any immediate comment. Then the next moment Dr Ashab Ul Haq said, how it would be in the name of the leader (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman)? The Prime Minister, Tajuddin Ahmed, with an afirmative expression instantly declared that the historic mango-grove, from that day, would be known as Mujibnagar. That was how the nomenclature of the capital of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh was made a reality. And during the period of our liberation war, though was on exile till final victory in December 1971, the provisional government was always called by that given name of the place where it was formally declared. At that day end the last group of armed personnel of the resistance force under the South Western Command crossed Ichhakhali border to India that concluded a 23 days' organised armed resistance on own land. But the honour and laurels that were bestowed on Chuadanga and on the South Western Command would always be remembered and shared by those who were once part of it and offered their best with unconditional selflessness for justice and freedom. Now against the backdrop of the shameless practice by a few for distortion of our history, that we take pride of, those selfless brave patriots demand nothing but only justice to history and for them. They

also call for establishment of not only the truth but the whole truth, as distortion of history whether by negligence, intention, ignorance or indifference does not really pay to anybody whatsoever.

The writer was a forerunner activist of the armed resistance movement holding special supervisory duties and later emerged as a valiant freedom fighter of the Bangladesh Liberation Force (BLF) in our liberation war 1971. Presently a senior bank executive.

Published in The News Today in 10 installments on 26, 27, 28, 30 & 31 March and 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 April 2007

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