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What motivated them to join the War? (Part-2)

Lieutenant General Mir Shawkat Ali has said that their decision was correct at that point of time, but he would have been happier if the right kind of political environment could have been fabricated by the decision-makers of Bangladesh after independence. Major General Ejaj feels greatly gratified. “Now we are independent; we are controlled no longer by the Pakistani junta; we decide our own fate and we take out own decisions”. Like Lieutenant General Mir Shawkat, Shafaat Jamil added that things could have been better in Bangladesh “with dedicated and honest leadership and by skillful handling of state-craft.” Major General Mohammad Abdul Halim has said that he is proud to have been a participant in the war. In his own words, “I consider myself one of the luckiest man as I could join and fight for my country”. He has also stated that “it was a rare occasion for anybody who gets the opportunity to fight the Liberation War”. Major Hafizuddin feels extremely gratified about his role in the war. He related that his life has been meaningful as “a citizen of a free country”. The reason being, as he sees is that “he could take part in the Liberation War”. It is a matter of great pleasure and deep satisfaction for him that he could “form a small part of the independence movement”.

What do they mean by patriotism?

The freedom fighters of Bangladesh have been identified as the greatest sons of the soil of Bangladesh. The regard in which they are held, even the veneration, have been profound, and so has been the hatred or indifference to those who were opposed to the Liberation War of 1971. The nation has always looked at her valiant sons with a deep sense of gratitude. They are identified as great patriots because they joined the war against the heaviest of odds by risking their secure jobs, comfortable living, even the security of their lives and those of their family members. The researcher has, through this structured interview, tried to get their views on it. When asked how they conceptualize patriotism, the respondents answered differently on this issue. Shafaat Jamil thought of it as an “act of an individual to stand beside his own people and his own land, against all forms of aggressions.” To Abdul Halim, a patriot is one who “upholds the truth and never bows down to any wrong doing”. A patriot, “always stands by the oppressed and fights against injustice”. In this ease, the indifference by the West Pakistani ruling elite towards the Bengalis’ legitimate rights, their deprivation and sufferings during the last two decades gave rise to patriotism among the Bengali military officers”. Hafizuddin thought about it as the “love for his country, love for his countrymen”, and he feels strongly that a patriot is supposed to “fight and die for his own country”. To him, “my country right or wrong” and “my country, above everything else” constitutes the solid basis of patriotism. Ejaj Ahmed Chowdhury, without philosophizing the concept of patriotism, stated that “I considered myself as a patriot and as such joined the Liberation War.” Mir Shawkat Ali has conceptualized patriotism as the love for his country. In his own words, “you are born in some place, you live there, you grow up there, you speak the language and that’s your birth place. You love your country like your mother.” General K M Safiullah, much like Mir Shawkat Ali, has said, “Bangladesh is my country; in this land I was born; this is my birthplace. So I have all the love and affection for this country and people.” Patriotism, being a state of mind to General Ibrahim, means “a commitment towards the people and the country”. He said that “patriotism is a feeling by which we sacrifice our own interest, our family’s interest, our group interest for the sake of the nation”. Mohammad Ainuddin has taken it as a kind of pride in his integrity, his birth place, his own language and the culture he is enriched with. He joined the war when he thought his sentiment was mauled by the conduct and actions of the Pakistani military junta in flouting the election result of 1970 and suppressing the legitimate demands of the Bengalis by force. In sum, patriotism to those military officers is nothing else than deep love for the people of East Pakistan and strong commitment for upholding their rights which were violated brutally by the oppressive regime of Pakistan. They joined the war to liberate East Pakistan, which was their motherland with a distinct life style, separate cultural pattern and value system. The independent Bangladesh would enable the people to fashion their lives in accordance with their value system. In fact, these officers thought in terms of nationalism and fought as Bengali nationalists in the sense of being different from the people of West Pakistan both in language, culture, life-style and ethnicity and identifying themselves as sons of Bangladesh.

What would have happened if they had not succeeded?

Did they ever think of the consequences if the War of Liberation had failed? While joining the war, along with their troops, did they ever take into consideration the consequences that might follow in case of failure? In answer to the question – “Did you know that failure in the war of independence would mean not only an end of your career but also an end of your life?” – Ejaj Ahmed Chowdhury has said that he was fully aware of its dire consequences. He would have been definitely court-martialed and put to death. Even then he revolted because he was convinced of the justness of the cause. He thought it right to give his life “for the right cause of the country”. He knew that participation in the Liberation War would amount to gross breach of discipline and because it was, to him, “a question of our prestige, our identity; as a patriot I could not be a silent spectator to all these barbaric actions of Pakistan Army”.

General Ibrahim representing the same view has given out that joining the war amounted to a mutiny against the Pakistan Army and failure meant death penalty for the mutineers, yet he did it only for the independence of Bangladesh. So “my career, my life, my destiny” – all were enmeshed with the fate of “my country”. Shafaat Jamil has said more emphatically that he knew full well of its implications, yet having a firing squad in view, he could not be a silent spectator to the relentless “decimation of my people and land”. He responded to “the silent call” of “my people and land” – and “came for help with arms” Mohammad Abdul Halim elaborated it further by saying that in case it failed, “the politicians, businessmen, students and other people who joined the war could come back and re-start their normal activities”, but “for us, in the armed forces, punishment” was sure death. Yet he joined the war and “our consideration was 70 million people and their fate”.

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