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The Role of the Military Officers in the War of Liberation (Part-4)

Iqbal disclosed to him that more and more Punjabi officers and soldiers were scheduled soon to enter East Pakistan with arms and ammunition.

Capt. Oli communicated the news separately to Lt. Col. Chowdhury and Major Zia immediately and they were in no doubt that the Pakistanis were planning an armed crack down on the Bengalis. The 8 East Bengal Regiment was originally scheduled to be stationed in the Kharian Cantonment of West Pakistan.

Since it was originally planned that the 8 East Bengal Bengal regiment would be stationed at Kharian in West Pakistan, they were not provided with the arms and ammunition. There were 12 LMGs (Light Machine Guns) and 300 three-naught three rifles for training purposes only and the arms were not in good condition besides there were only 5 vehicles for the whole regiment.

By the first week of March 1971, Major Zia and Capt. Oli were having frequent discussions about future course of action. On the 2nd March 1971, some Punjabis of the 2nd Commando Battalion and the 20th Baluch Regiment killed some Bengalis in the non-Bengali Area of Pahartali, Chittagong. Both Zia and Oli were worried. Tension enveloped the whole cantonment and beyond. In the evening, on Oli’s return from the Hill District of Banderban, Havildar Abdul Aziz entered Capt. Oli’s room in the officers’ mess. He closed the door, informed Oli about the killing of the Bengalis and waited for his orders. Capt. Oli told him to prepare for the fight and promised to keep him informed of the right moment for action. On the 1st and 2nd March 1971, Oli hurriedly recorded in his diary the following:

“Had a discussion with Major Ziaur Rahman about the future of the Bengalis and the present situation and the behavior of the West Pakistani Officers (01.03.1971).”

“All West Pakistani Officers had a secret meeting at the Chittagong and troops when the time demanded. We somehow got this information and they were bringing more and more troops from Pakistan. Myself and Major Ziaur Rahman had a long discussion on th subject and decided to revolt if situation so demanded to liberate Bangladesh (02.03.1971).”

It became a major part of Capt. Oli’s duty to communicate everything secretly to Lt. Col. Chowdhury, whose encouragement helped him to take this audacious decision. Oli coordinated their activities towards mobilizing support from other fellow Bengali officers. On 4 March 1971 Oli noted in his diary: “Major Ziaur Rahman asked me to inform Captain Khalequzzaman Chowdhury and Lt. Shamsher Mobin chowdhury about the present situation of Bangladesh and find out their feelings about it. I found them in the same wave length. But I told them to keep their mouth shut for them and they would be informed of everything they should know.” On 5 March 1971 Capt. Oli met Lt. Col Chowdhury to update the information on the situation. Meanwhile, Major Zia advised Oli to exchange views with the Bengali Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs), Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and soldiers of the Regiment. Capt. Oli gave the responsibility to his most trustworthy JCO, Naib Subedar Abdul Hamid (Later on Subedar Major). Hamid brought to his notice that all Bengali soldiers were disgusted with the way they were being treated by the Pakistanis and they would readily join the struggle for independence, if ordered by the researcher or called by Sheikh Mujib.

Lt. Col. Janjua, the Commanding Officer of 8 East Bengal Regiment, made it a regular habit to visit the Officers’ Mess. Sometimes his visits were sudden and surprising. The Bengali officers were also conscious about Janjua who kept a sharp eye on them and used to engage apparently in idle gossip in the Mess. One day he opened his mind to Capt. Oli and said: “You have all turned into Hindus and we shall have to reconcile the truth to you.” Oli knew well what the truth might be.

The researcher started keeping a vigilant eye on the movements and activities of the Punjabi Officers. After the 2nd March 1971, Brigadier Majumder, Lt. Colonel Chowdhury and Captain Amin Ahmed Chowdhury (Now Major General) were deputed to Chittagong city. They stationed their troops at the Chittagong Circuit House and the Chittagong Stadium in order to control law and order. Captain Amin Ahmed Chowdhury could not tolerate the humiliation and torture of the local Bengalis by the Pakistani soldiers belonging to 20 Baluch regiment deployed in the city. He personally went to the Non-Bengali area to help the Bengalis. He instructed them to be prepared to face greater odds.

Meanwhile, Major Zia and Oli decided to brief Mustafizur Rahman siddiqui, one of the senior most leaders of the Chittagong City Awami League, about the designs of the Pakistani forces. They subsequently made contact with many Awami League leaders and came to know that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would make a public speech in the Race Course field of Dhaka on 7 March 1971, wherein he would declare the future action plans. The speech of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, however could not give the people any clear guideline about the future course of action. He might have had his compulsions, but he failed to convey any definite signal for revolt or rebellion. People expected that Mujib would declare some direct action for liberation of the country. Fakhruddin Ahmed has remarked in his book, Critical Times:

Yahya announced the postponement of the National assembly meeting scheduled in early March 1971. Dhaka reacted sharply. Many foreign observers in Islamabad were eagerly waiting for the announcement of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 7, 1971. They also predicted that Sheikh Mujib would declare independence on that day. I remember a BBC commentator hinting that possibility. If this was done without any ambiguity the cost of sufferings would have been less. One can now say with certainty that the Pakistan army was not yet ready to strike. They were simply bluffing. Reinforcements were still continuing. Furthermore, the declaration of independence on 7th March 1971 would have alerted the Bengali armed forces in the East to remain constantly vigilant. Thus the Pakistan army could hardly move out of the cantonment. Personnel of the East Pakistan Rifles and Police could have movedto safer areas instead of being slaughtered on the night of 25th 26th of March 1971. (Ahmed, 1994: 57)

 

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