Name: Baharuddin Khan
Father’s Name: Momtazuddin Khan
Vill: Sonamukhi, P.O. Mehdiganj
Union: No.5 Mehdiganj, P.S. Mehdiganj
Q. Did you know anything about the post 1970 election events, what was your reaction about them?
A. As General Secretary of the Mehdiganj Thana Awami League I directed the local elections on behalf of the Awami League.I found 90 per cent of the people voted for Awami League. In this constituency the Awami League candidate Mohiuddin Ahmed won the elections. But the Pakistanis did not allow the Awami League to assume power.
Q. What did you think in the month of March 1971? What was the reaction of the general masses of your area?
A. Since they voted for Awami League naturally they thought Awami League will go to power. When the Pakistanis started killing time for one reason or the other instead of transferring power to them, people became angry. They were very anxious about when Awami League would finally go to power and kept on asking us innumerable questions about it while they themselves were awfully busy analyzing the situation. We had to continuously answer their questions.
When they became sure that power would not be transferred to the Awami League, they took a strong resolve and became determined to get their political rights through armed struggle. We formed a “War Council” for running our struggle.
Q. Did you hear about the military crackdown of 1971 by the Pakistani Military Junta, when and how did you come to know about it?
A. At around 10 p.m. the wireless operator of our area Mr. Mujibur Rahman sent us message to come to his office and accordingly we went to his office. We were 7 or 8 Awami League activists together. Mr. Rahman started contacting various wireless centers throughout the country. It was about 12 midnight that a message came from Moghbazar (Dhaka) Wireless Gate. The message said that incessant firing had been going on targeting the Rajarbagh Police Lines (Dhaka) and EPR Headquarters (Dhaka).
“The Pakistan army is indiscriminately killing and torturing thousands of our men (women and children)”, the message said.
We understood the situation very clearly. And then innumerable people started pouring in from Dhaka and adjacent areas for fear of life.
We got lots of stories information from them. They also confirmed that thousands of men, women and children had been massacred by the Pak Army without rhyme or reason. Those who came losing everything, we arranged dry food like, puffed rice, gur etc for them At the same time we began dispatching them to their respective destinations. Then we started setting up camps to meet the grave situation..
Q. When did the Pakistanis attack your area? And how did they do it?
A. On April 28, at around 11 a.m., under the leadership of the future Razakar chief and the Rajakars of Patarhat, the Pak army entered Patarhat. After they arrived here, they moved towards Rukundi village. On the way they set fire to Yarbeg village and burnt down the Hindu paras (areas inhabited by Hindus). Several people were killed. Later on they killed 3/4 men on their way to Ghordi village.
Q. What did the Pakistani soldiers do in your area?
A. With the help of the Razakars the Pakistan army came to Mehdiganj village from Barisal. The Razakars wore veils while they were guiding the Pak soldiers so that they were not recognized. The Pakistani soldiers burnt down many houses. The freedom fighters were not there at the time. They were a little distance away. The Pakistanis were armed with heavy firearms while the FFs (freedom fighter) carried only light weapons and naturally they had to maintain some distance from the Pakis who raided the homes of the FFs and Hindu families. Hindu homes were burnt down. The Pakis also burnt down many homes of the Awami League supporters. One day a veiled
Razakar named Mohammad Ali shot and killed four boys of one Jamadar family after tying them together with a piece of rope.
That Mohammad Ali is not alive to-day. Latr on they burnt down Aliganj and Patarhat market. When the Patarhat market was burning the flames could be seen from as far as Bhola and Barisal town. I was at Hijla then. We could also see the burning red flames from Hijla.
On that day they shot and killed an estimated 4 to 5 hundred men, women and children. I never returned towards Mehdiganj. Only once I went there 5 or 6 days before Sabebarat (a Muslim religious festival). There wasn’t even a single house in tact, only the Police Station and the High School buildings were unhurt. Everything else was reduced to a heap of ash and dust.
Q. In your locality when did he Muktibahini activities begin?
A. After the 7th March speech of Bangabandhu, we constituted the ‘Sangram Parishad ‘(War Council) on Mar 11. I was made the chief and several others were on this council. We collected some people to organize Muktibahini. We also had some Bengali army men who had come on leave before Mar 25. Among them were Commander Khalek, Baten, Abdul Alim and some others. One Mukim Talukder was very active in organizing Muktibahini. We organized Muktibahini with some young men of the villages around and a retired army person named Khalilur Rahman Molla. We set up a camp in the Jubilee School. About 70 to 80 young men started taking training in the camp.Within a week or so we succeeded in raising a corps of almost 200 freedom fighters. The we recived a message on April 3 or perhaps 4 to send the FFs to Barisal. We loaded two launches with these 200 FFs and sailed for Barisal. We transferred these FFs under Maj. Jalil’s command at the Barisal Rail Park. Only 10 or 12 FFs returned with me. At the time we could only give Tk 5/- to each of the FFs. Once a rumor spread that a Pakistnai ship was coming towards Barisal. A thousand of us ran with only bamboo sticks in our hands to attack the ship. Such was the extent of anger amongst the public against the Pakistanis.
Q. Were all the anti-independence forces caught, if so, how did they get away?
A. Ant-liberation force were caught and they were sent to prison. But those Awami Leaguers who were in power managed to get some of their relatives released. Later on many were freed on ‘General Amnesty’ granted by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. But those who had specific cases against them and still carrying those charges have not yet been tried.
Q. After the war when you returned to your home and what was the condition of your village? What happened to the schools, colleges, madrashas, temples, bridges and homesteads etc?
A. Everything of Patarhat Bandar(port) was burnt down. There was not a single house to be seen. Those who were connected with Awami League had their homes burnt down. The Hindu para (area) was destroyed; culverts and bridges were in broken condition. Many of the mosques and temples were damaged. The schools, specially the Patarrhat school, were Rajakar camps. This school suffered damage but the other schools remained somewhat in tact. The Rajakars looted the Patarhat port and surrounding areas and stored their booties in this school.
Q. Which are the villages and areas around your village which suffered most damage and where most of the killings, raping and arson took place?
A. The most badly affected areas are the Patarhat port and the adjacent villages; Yarbeg, Kalikapur, Sonamukhi Badrpur, Chargana, Kashipur and Sadatpur were some of the worst affected areas
Interviewer: Niranjan Dasgupta Anu
Date of Interview: Aug 17, 1996
Translator: Faruq Aziz Khan