One of my closest friends always used to tell me jokingly, “Pal, we achieved the liberation for you, if you hadn’t taped the speech of father-of-the-nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and played it on the Radio; people of our country would never have heard about the declaration of Independence, consequently they could not have fought for liberation”- I said” its not exactly so, dear”, the liberation was achieved solely due to the sacrifice of the struggling people for nine months, whatever I did was for the love for my country and our freedom.
Before the onset of the liberation, the preparations were going on in full swing, as such the Radio played a significant role to support the movement. I used to be the Program Organizer in those days in the then Radio Pakistan Dhaka. My duty was to record all the events that took place outdoors and broadcast it from the Radio; Mir Raihan had assisted me too, as he was the Program Producer.
After winning the election, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was supposed to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan, but somehow he along with the student leaders could sense that it was not going to be so. West Pakistan would never allow such a thing to take place. Thus, we started to undertake the liberation movement. East Pakistan Radio staff did not falter behind – we took a very bold step to change the name of our radio station “Radio Pakistan” to “Dhaka Betaar Kendro”, and subsequently started to broadcast programs with the new name. It was such an audacious role, I didn’t understand it then…Well, without the help of the Program, News and Engineering Department, such a feat could not have taken place. The names of these people are worth mentioning, who were actively engaged in carrying out this event.
Mr. Ashrafuzzaman Khan-Director
Mr. Ahmeduzzaman Asst. Director
Mr. Mofizul Huq Asst. Director
Mr. Mobzulul Hussain – Assistant Director
Mr. Saiful Bari- News Director
Mr. Jalaluddin Rumi – Program Organizer
Mr. Ashfaqur Rahman Khan– Program Organizer
Mr. Taher Sultan – Program Organizer
Mr. Shamsul Alam – Program Organizer
Mr. Kazi Rafique – Program Organizer
Mr. Bahramuddin Siddiqui- Program Organizer
Mr. Mir Raihan – Program Producer
Mr. Faiz Ahmed Choudhury- Assistant News Director
Let me now shed some light on 1971’s historical 7th., March speech, of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The preparation to broadcast the speech directly from the Race Course Field was taken diligently. Mr. Ashrafuzaman Khan (Director, Radio Pakistan, Dhaka) formed a strong team of Radio officers and asked everyone to carry out their respective duties. I myself along with the Director and the Asst. Director Amheduzzaman got ready to take our positions on the stage. I remember the name of a significant staff from the Engineering Dept., Mr. Samad. Below the stage were Shamsul Alam and Kazi Rafique, and at the Savar transmitting Center, Mir Raihan were posted along with the Engineering staff, Ashfaqur Rahman khan and Bahram Siddique were at the Dhaka Radio Station. From the morning it was being broadcast repeatedly, that the speech would be heard directly from the Race Course Field, subsequently the whole field was jam-packed with people. We put the micro-phone into position; and with me, I kept a portable EMI tape-recorder. Bongobondhu Sk. Mujibur Rahman arrived a bit late that day, and as he was gearing up to deliver his speech we heard a plane zoom past over-head. It was the plane on which Lt. General Tikka Khan was supposed to arrive. The whole mob got fairly excited in the field. Bongobondhu had almost started his speech, when suddenly,we got a call from the duty-room through the intercom to stop broadcasting immedietely. Major. Siddique Salek threatened Ashfaqur Rahman…that, if we carried on with the live broadcasting of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s speech, they would blow up the Radio Station. Abruptly, the broadcasting was stopped. Despite the threat, I continued to record the speech secretly on my own. Mr. Ahmaduzzaman (Asst. Director) quickly scribbled on a piece of paper that the Army strictly forbade us to broadcast the speech and handed it to the Radio Director; who then passed it on to the member of the Parliament of Tangail. The speech was already mid-way when it reached Bongobondhu’s hand. Those of you who were present there that day, must recall that at one point Bongobondhu said…”Just now, I have been informed that they are preventing the media to broadcast my speech”- He then requested the staff of the Radio and Television not to report to work unless they allow us to broadcast the speech over the media. The offices and administration were shut down immediately according to his request, but in the meantime, the entire mob in the field got panicky hearing the declaration of independence, and started to run amock, dispursing which-ever way they could. Yet, I finished recording the whole speech and managed to slip both the tapes inside my shirt. Then I packed up the recorder-stand and descended from the stage to join with Alam, and Kazi Rafique on the ground – I also found the director standing there and went up to him and whispered “Sir, I have recorded the whole speech on tape”. He said “Good Job” and praised me profusely. Then he conveyed the message to the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information about it who was present there and asked him what should be our next step.
The Joint Secratary ordered us to leave the place and run away, but not to our homes; and added should there be any question, tell them, “I said so!” We all went to Kazi Rafique’s house in Hatirpul and from there, we instructed the Savar Transmitting Service to shut down the transmission. Within minutes the broadcasting went off the air. I now realized the grave importance of shutting down the Radio Broadcast. It sent a very strong message to the W. Pakistanis because the only link they had between them, was the Radio, has been totally severed. They got restless to learn as to what was happening in East. Pakistan.
We spent the entire night at Kazi Rafique’s house and eventually learned that the Army got hold of the Director of Radio Ashrafuzzaman Khan and surrendered to him fully. They even allowed the Director to broadcast whatever he wanted to, in return for the favor, that the Radio Station should not be shut down.
Mr. Ashrafuzzaman Khan came to us and announced that, “Victory is finally ours, the army has surrendered to us fully, but I told them that its not possible to restart the transmission right away, it has to be done tomorrow and on the pre-condition that you must let us broadcast Shiekh Mujib’s speech.” They agreed. The preparation for the whole event started to take place, the Engineering Dept., was notified accordingly to restart the transmission again in the morning, my recorded tapes were played after repeated announcements to the public. Gradually the people of East Pakistan geared up and made all the arrangements for the fight for liberation. From then onwards all the speech of Bongobobdhu which was delivered from his residence at Road-32 Dhanmondi and other places were recorded and broadcast without any objection from the Army.
Then came the horrendous night of 25th March, 1971. Prior to this, there were several meetings held in Hotel Sheraton where President Yahya Khan, Bhutto and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman sat down for a negotiation. Actually, the West Pakistanis were buying time to import some soldiers from the West in civillian-attire. We learnt later that they had proposed to Bongobondhu to accept the proposition to become the Prime Minister of the East while Bhutto should be the Prime Minister of the West. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not give in to such a nonsensical idea. So, they left without an agreement for West Pakistan around 8:00 or 9:00 pm on that day. Then at midnight we spotted Army trucks full of soldiers heading towards the Radio Station and other significant places along with tanks and machine guns. Before anyone could make out what was going on, they started to shoot at sight, killing everybody at random, the most heinous and treacherous act against the innocent people of East Pakistan. In the morning we learnt that the news-paper office, Ittefaq, Rajarbagh Police Line and East Pakistan Rifles were under attack, and bullets were flying like crazy. At 9:00 o’ clock in the morning, the Commander of the Army ordered the staff of the Radio to report to duty. Nobody had any idea what had happened to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and his whereabouts were unknown. We resumed our work in the Radio, but in the meantime the Independance Movement got underway and continued for 9 months.
From Dhaka Radio station, Taher Sultan, Ashfaqur Rahman, Ashraful Alam and others fled to join Shadhin Bangla Betaar Kendro (Newly formed independent radio station of Bangladesh). We stayed back to assist under-cover. My colleague Jalaluddin Rumi left the job and joined the liberation movement as Freedom Fighter.
In order to support independent movement, patriotic songs, plays and speeches of Sk. Mujibur Rahman were carried by me and Faiz Choudhury, sneaking past the Army on bus and headed to Narayanganj to deliver them to Jalal to take them to Shadhin Bangla Betaar Kendra. The Army used to search me sevaral times and ask me question like where I was going with the Tapes, etc… I would lie to them that I was assigned to interview the Adamjee Jute Mill workers to make sure things were working there normally. They would let me go.
It was learnt that the director of the Radio Mr. Ashrafuzzaman Khan, who was pioneer of the movement, has been replaced by Syed Zillur Rahman by the Army. The new director Mr Zillur Rahman used to like me a lot. One day, I was summoned to his room, and when I entered, I saw an army officer sitting there. Mr. Rahman introduced me to the officer as Colonel Kashem and also added that the colonel had some charges against me. The Colonel said, “You were involved with the betrayal against the country”. I denied the accusation flatly. The Colonel asked me sharply again, “On 7th of March, were you involved in the recording of the speech of Sk. Mujibur Rahman defying our order, and wrote a note and passed it to him informing that the Army was refusing to let you broadcast the speech?” I denied everything. But admitted “Yes, I have recorded the speech. But I have not written any note, nor I did pass it to anyone.” Then Mr. Zillur Rahman spoke on my behalf and said, “He recorded the speech may be after getting the green signal from his boss. Because no one can record anything without prior permission.”. Hearing this the Colonel pretended to extract a photo out of his briefcase, saying, “I have a photo to prove it. You were handing over the note”. I strongly denied the allegation, knowing well that I was not the one to pass the scribbled note to Bongobondhu. He didn’t open the briefcase any more. Mr. Zillur Rahman added that, “He is a Govt. officer, he is not involved with any party, I know him very well. Let him go”. Then the Colonel said,” Okay, but write down whatever you know about that day and bring it back to me”. I wrote down a bunch of fabricated stories and handed it to him, and he left.
Mr. Zillur Rahman was a special friend of my maternal uncle Mr. Ali Hasan C.S.P who was the Communication Secretary of Pakistan at that time. Both of them decided and transferred me to Chittagong Radio Station, knowing that my name was in the army-list and that they may pick me up later from my residence and torture me to get all the information necessary. He said, “Go to Chittagong immediately. We will deal with the situation here”. So, I joined the Radio in Chittagong. Unfortunately over there they did not assign me with any duty, rather kept me as Officer on Special Duty. Maybe everyone there could sense something fishy, and they kept a distance from me.
Seeing no other option, I phoned my friend Faiz Choudhury to wire me a telegram stating, “Mother serious, come sharp!” I didn’t feel like staying in Chittagong anymore, wanted to go back to Dhaka to finish my incomplete work; after a lot of coaxing I managed to snag a week’s leave from work and returned to Dhaka. In the meantime, I found out that they had barred me from entering the gate of the Radio Station Dhaka according to the instruction of the director. So, I used to stand near P.G Hospital (prevoiusly Hotel Shahbagh in front of Radio) and wait for my colleagues to deliver me more tapes as usual and then I would proceed to Narayanganj to Jalaaluddin Rumi. By this time freedom fight was in the peak. One of my friends Sherajuddin Bhuiyan was a Freedom Fighter… he always used to confide in me about his everyday mission and what would be next agenda, where would he be likely to explode a hand-made bomb, etc… he would say, “Today at Hotel Shereton and tomorrow at the Azimpur girl’s High School” This way the freedom-fighters upset the whole administrative system.
Thinking back in restrospect, I feel amused how one day, while I was still a member of the staff at the Dhaka Radio, the freedom fighters had exploded a bomb on the runway of the Dhaka Airport. All the flights had to be cancelled but, somehow a plane carrying relief goods landed using a portion of the runway miraculasly to the tarmac. Immediately, we were ushered to the airport by the Capt. of the Army; myself and all the journalists. There we were shown from a distance that the plane had actually landed with goods. He then asked us to go back, broadcast and report it through the media that no bomb had exploded there, this was nothing but a propoganda and a false statement from the Shadhin Bangla Betaar Kendra. Nothing had upset the system, and everything was running smoothly in the country. Despite all this, Mr. A. B. M. Musa, a renowned journalist marched in the front and we followed him behind towards the plane. Suddenly a security guard stopped us and asked “Kidhar jata hai?” (Where are you going?). Mr. Musa replied in broken Urdu, “Woh plane ke pass jata hai, woh Pilot ke saath baat-chit karega. News-paper me chapega”. “ News-Paper, woh kya hota hai?” he inquired. Mr. Musa explained, “Woh jo ‘Jang’ jaisa Akhbaar, jo maghrabi Pakistan se nikelta hai, waisa hi yehan ke akhbaar me chapega”. He didn’t understand anything and said, “Yehaan koi jang wung nahi chalega, bhago!”
Since, I had the tape recorder with me, I proceeded to him and said. “Hum Radio Pakistan se aya hai”. He looked at me quizzically, and replied “Woh kaunsa Pakistan hai? Yaha sirf ek Pakistan hain, dusra koi Pakistan nahi. Bhago.”
We had no choice but to return because he simply wouldn’t let us go near the plane. Next day, the media did reveal about the landing of the plane but along with the fact, that we were not allowed to interview the Pilot, and runway has been partially damaged by the freedom fighters.
So little a time just in nine months, the Freedom-Fighters waged a war against Pakistan on 3rd. of December 1971. We used to watch the confrontation of the Indian M.I.Gs and Pakistan’s Saber Jets from the roof of our residence. We could see how one-by-one, the Saber Jets were shot down by the M.I.Gs. And also fires were shot at Saber Jets by freedom fighters from the roofs of the surrounding buildings.
On 7th of March, in the Race-Course Field where Bongobondhu delivered his historical speech and at the same venue on 16th of December 1971, the Pakistani Army surrendered to the joint command of Bangladeshi freedom fighters and Indian Army. Everything came to an end. This was the day Bangladesh got liberated from the West Pakistan and became a new country, and this was the day all the injustices came to a standstill.
Well, those two historical tapes which I recorded, where declaration of independence was said, used to be played from Shadhin Bangla Betaar Kendra everyday for 9 consecutive months during the war to boost and encourage the freedom fighters until the liberation was achieved.
Nasar Ahmed Choudhury
1278, Epson Oaks Way
Orlando, FL – 32837