In coversation with Dhaka Tribune, two freedom fighters recall their time when they took up arms to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971
Geetasree Choudhury was sitting in silence on a dinghy boat in the dead of night and ready to take her own life with a knife.
She had completed her training as a freedom fighter by then from India and entered Bangladesh with a group of other freedom fighters. But their travel was interrupted by another group. Geetasree and others on the boat thought it was a group of razakars (a para-military force loyal to Pakistan during the liberation war in 1971).
“My heart was in my mouth but I was sure about that. I knew taking my own life would be much better than surrendering to our enemies. I wanted a glorious death,” she told Dhaka Tribune.
However, the group soon discovered that it was another group of freedom fighters. Geetasree put down the knife and went on to fight for her country.
Two freedom fighters who fought in Sector 2 during the Liberation War in 1971 were speaking to Dhaka Tribune, recollecting some valiant tales of their time when they took up arms to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistan.
Geetasree was one of two women among a batch of 150 freedom fighters who undertook training in India. People around her tried to tell her that she should be on the “soft side” in that fight.
“I was told to be a cultural freedom fighter and sing at the camps to keep people’s spirit going. But I knew my true calling was to fight as a frontliner. I wanted to turn my rage into strength to avenge all the sufferings the Pakistani army and its paramilitary forces had caused to my country,” she told the correspondent.
Geetasree’s father and sister were shot when they were trying to enter India but she managed to enter India with her other siblings.
She never thought she would meet her parents again, but one day she saw two people carrying a body at a hospital in India. Getting closer she saw it was her parents carrying a wounded freedom fighter disguised as a dead body to avoid being attacked.
“Their children were wounded and everyone’s lives were at stake during the war but it did not stop them from helping others. That selflessness taught me to risk my life for the greater good,” she told Dhaka Tribune.
Geetasree is now in her 70s, but that memory of reuniting with her parents is still so vivid in her mind that she can describe it in minute detail even today.
“In these 50 years of independence, religious intolerance that we see in practice today hurts me the most,” Geetasree told Dhaka Tribune.
She quit her job as a teacher at an English medium school in Dhaka when her only son got a job at an airline.
“I thought my days of struggle had come to an end but then the airline shut down its business due to the Covid-19 crisis and my son lost his job last year,” she told the correspondent.
‘People masquerading as freedom fighters hurts me the most’
Abdul Momin Sarker saw his childhood friend die right before his eyes in a frontline battle.
He thought they had freed Comilla and the Pakistani army had backed off from the battlefield. But then a few angry villagers tried to attack them. They started firing and his friend was caught in the crossfire.
He did not get enough time to mourn his friend’s death in the battlefield. However, when he thinks about him now, he feels sorry that his friend could not get to enjoy the freedom he had earned for his country with his blood.
“However, there are too many like him who sacrificed their lives for the Bangladesh we have today,” he told the Dhaka Tribune correspondent.
Abdul was one of those young people in his village who used to mobilize people to fight against discrimination. When he heard the March 7 address by Bangabandhu, he did not hesitate for a moment to fight for his country.
He mobilized more than 100 people from his village in Comilla and headed for India to take guerilla training.
A war-ravaged Bangladesh was another battlefield for him. Too many people had arms and were dealing with post-war trauma in his village but he said he successfully restored order in his village.
As Bangladesh celebrates 50 years of its independence, Abdul, who later served as a director at Bangladesh Water Development Board, feels content about his journey.
However, what irks him the most is that there are people who are listed as freedom fighters but they had never really fought for this country’s independence.
“My heart aches when I see people masquerading as freedom fighters,” he said
He said that one of the worst days of his life was when he saw the national flag on a razakar’s car.
“It broke my heart and for a moment I felt that this was not the Bangladesh we had fought for,” he said.
However, Abdul calls himself an optimist and believes Bangladesh will thrive by overcoming all hurdles in the coming years.