As the nation prepares to celebrate another anniversary of its Independence Day on Monday, freedom fighter Hamidul Haque, Bir Pratik is unable to join in, languishing away with severe illness.
The 74-year-old freedom fighter, a native of Kochua village in Tangail's Sakhipur upazila, took up arms in 1971 to liberate his country from the clutches of the occupation forces. He walked mile after mile with no regard for his own life.
After all the sacrifices he made to ensure that his countrymen earn independence, today he lies wasting away in his bed due to a lack of proper treatment – waiting for death in silence as he does not have the means to get advance treatment.
Hamidul Haque has a longstanding career in teaching, having worked in several institutions throughout his life. He never sought wealth and riches; he was content with the respect and admiration he received, and never felt helpless.
However, nearing the end of his life, he is unable to afford advance treatment and is spending his last days suffering from various illnesses.
His ailments include hazy vision, difficulty in hearing and lack of appetite. He can hardly move about without someone else aiding him. On top of all these, he has been suffering from fever for three months.
Reminiscing about the war, the freedom fighter said: “On March 5, 1971, I was leaving for Dhaka from my village at dawn. I intended to hear Bangabandhu's historic March 7 speech.
“I went over to my childhood friend Abdul Samad's hall in Dhaka University. From there, we went to Racecourse Maidan,” he added, saying how deeply affected he had been hearing the speech up close.
He was teaching at Kochua High School when the Liberation War began. He left everything to join the war, and joined the “Kaderia Bahini” formed in the heart of Tangail, fighting several battles in the district, including the battle in Bolla of Kalihati upazila. He also played several key roles in the Kaderia civilian forces.
While speaking of his life, he was overwhelmed talking about how Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman used to be very fond of him.
Hamidul was accorded the status of “Bir Pratik” - the fourth highest award for individual gallantry in Bangladesh – for exhibiting courage and valiance during the Liberation War. His name is registered at No 422 in the 1973 national gazette.
Hamidul, who was elected chairman in the 1990 Sakhipur Upazila Parishad election, now lives in a rented house in Ward 7 of the upazila. His family includes his father Habil Uddin, mother Kamrun Nesa, wife Romesa Begum, and his son and four daughters.
When contacted, former commander of Sakhipur upazila unit of freedom fighters MA Gani said: “Hamidul was in charge of Private Sector 11 in Kaderia Bahini. He is the very definition of a freedom fighter.
“Unfortunately, he is now bedridden and is in a destitute condition. I urge the government to come forward and arrange for his treatment,” Gani said.
Sakhipur Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Moushumi Sarkar Rakhi said: “We will notify the relevant government authority of Hamidul Haque's condition.”