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The Political Leaders in Disarray (Part-3)

By this time, Capt. Haroon, Lt. Mahfuz and Lt. Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury along with their troops had taken a defensive position on the north bank of the river Karnafuli at Kalurghat. Capt. Matin of 4-E Bengal along with his company was brought by Zia from the Comilla area and asked to take up a defensive position at Sitakund about 30 km on the north of Chittagong City, While Capt. Muslim was fighting the Pakistani troops in the Chittagong University area. They had driven the Pakistani troops out of the city area in three different directions and directions and successfully divided their strength. The freedom fighters had an upper hand over thim, as the Pakistani troops did not get any support from the local people.

It was clear that during the period between 26 March and 11 April 1971, the whole of greater Chittagong district and Chittagong Hill Tracts remained under the control of 8 East Bengal Regiment. Oli knew for sure that there had been successes in their ambush and attacks. However, in the absence of external help, they were not certain as to how long they could endure the pressure of the War, despite their best efforts. Moreover, Major Zia could not come back because he wanted to remain near the Indian border and at a centrally located place from where he could coordinate the battles in the three greater districts of Chittagong, Chittagong hill tracts and Noakhali. Capt. Oli had contact with him by wireless. By 6 April, they started receiving small quantities of arms and ammunition from the BSF, although not on a regular basis. Since the departure of Major Zia for Ramgar, Oli had to remain particularly vigilant until the withdrawal of Bengali troops from the Fultala Primary School.

On 2 April 1971 the Occupation Forces attacked the defensive positions at the Court Building and State Bank areas causing heavy casualties to both sides. The combined troops of the freedom fighters lost ten soldiers in these battles. Between the period of 3 April and 6 April 1971 there had been relentless street fighting in Chittagong City. On 6 April 1971 the Pakistani troops attacked the defensive position at Chawk Bazar With tanks. Capt. Haroon and Lt. Shamsher Mobin fought the enemy with great courage, inflicting heavy casualties on them and lost five soldiers. On 7 April 1971 the Pakistan forces attacked the Kalurghat Transmission Centre. Consequently, the Bengali troops were withdrawn. Maj. Shawkat along with Capt. Khaleq came back on 7 March 1971. They started visiting different positions in the area from 8 April 1971. Capt. Khalequzzaman took a defensive position on the southern bank of river Karnafuli in support of others on the northern bank.

Maj. Shawkat took over the command of Chittagong from Capt. Oli. On 9 April 1971 one platoon of soldiers, led by Maj. Shawkat, raided and defeated the enemy positions at the Agricultural Building near the Kalurghat Radio Transmission Centre. It was a heroic action by him and the troops under his comman. 30 Pakistani soldiers were killed in this battle. Since the Headquarters was located at the Fultala Primary school of Kalurghat, it was the target of Pakistani Forces. At 6 AM on 11 April 1971 they attacked the defensive position at Kalurghat bridge area with artillery support and fierce fighting took place the whole day. The Pakistanis encircled the Bengali troops by the evening. The people of Boalkhali and Patiya were not safe and there could have been civilian sasualties later on. Therefore, Oli considered it to be suicidal for them to stay there. Besides the troops did not have enough arms and ammunition. There was also a danger of being forced to move towards the Burmese border and be isolated from rest of the freedom fighters. The Pakistan Army had the plan to set fire and burn the local houses. The freedom fighters were not in a position to confront them without replenishing ammunition. There was no other alternative for them but to withdraw from there. Under these compelling circumstances, Major Shawkat and Capt. Oli ordered a withdrawal of the entire forces in order to avoid a massacre of the civil population in the hands of Pakistani forces.

On 11 April 1971 Oli recorded in his diary: “Left Kalurghat Bridge and ordered the withdrawal of complete forces to Ramgar via Banderban, Kaptai, Rangamati and Mahalchari to avoid the massacre of civilian population. Boalkhali and Patiya are very thickly populated; hundreds of civilian population may be killed by the Pakistani troops. My troops will also be cornered in the hilly areas, if there is a Pakistani attack, if we cannot withdraw by this evening.” They had, therefore, to withdraw and leave for Ramgar to replenish arms and ammunition. Oli, Shawkat, Mahfuz and Khalequzzaman left for Ramgar on the night of 11 April 1971, along with the troops following the long, perilous and mountainous routes through Banderban, Kaptai, Rangamati, Mahalchari and Matiranga. Facing great odds, they did not lose heart. The savagery of the Pakistan Forces made them all the more adamant to face and crush the enemy. The Pakistani forces plundered the local villages one after another, destroyed houses and farms by setting fire recklessly, raped and/or killed innumerable women and massacred thousands of innocent civilians (Chowdhury & Kabir, 1991). The atrocities by the Pak Army were so grave that Lt. Gen. AAK Niazi, who headed the Eastern Command, himself acknowledged the nature of savagery committed by his soldiers. (See Appendix- 6, Niazi, 1998: 282-283. See also The Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report, 1971).

Faroop Aziz Khan puts the gruesome period in the following terms:

“Those of my readers who were not in Bangladesh on the night of March 25 and the following months would never appreciate fully the agony through which the 75 million Bengalis had gone. The terror that was unleashed by Yahya’s army and their Bengali henchmen, who were religious fanatics, cannot be matched by anything that we read in history or see in the movies. My own description of the real situation will fall far short of what had actually happened. The pen may be mightier than the sword but it can hardly draw the true picture of what the Pakistanis did in Bangladesh in the nine months following the Pakistanis do in Bangladesh in the nine months following the crackdown.” (Khan, 1993: 61)

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