Name: Keramat Ali Biswas
Father’s name: Late Imarat Ali Biswas
P.O: Chuadanga, Municipality: Chuadanga
Age in 1971: 18 yrs
Occupation in 1971: Student
Present Occupation: Business and Music.
Q. What do you know about 1970 general elections and the flow of subsequent events?
A. I was a student of Chuadanga College at the time. Before the elections in 1969 there was a very big political movement in the country. Chuadanga had also felt the impulse of that movement. In those days people used to listen to Bangabandhu Sh. Mujib very seriously. Whatever instructions he gave were obeyed by everyone. I had noticed that with the exception of the Muslim League supporters, every one else obeyed Bangabandhu. There were not very many parties then and the Muslim League was not very acative. Leaving aside the Awami League the only other active party was NAP(National Awami Party). The Communist Party was banned. Among the students’ political parties only the Students’ Union was active alongwith the Students League. The Students’ Union was split into two parts; one was the Menon Group known to be the followers of China(Peking panthy)and the other was known as Motia Group who were followers of the USSR (Moskow panthy).
These two parties were more less active. On the question of establishing our rights, they had identical views as of Bangabandhu.
In the 1970 elections the Awami League won a massive victory. But as the rulers of those days were not inclined to hand over power to the Awami League, the situation in the country became very hot. A fresh political movement started in the country. And then on Mar 7, 1971 Bangabandhu addressed a huge public meeting held on the Dhaka Race Course and delivered a historic speech. In his address Bangabandhu urged the nation to face the enemy with whatever implements they can lay their hands on. He declared,’ this struggle is the struggle for independence this struggle is the struggle for freedom’. Those of us who were reasonably conscious and those who were educated and active politically could sense that a change in the country was imminent. After Bangabandhu’s speech, in different areas of Chuadanga committees were formed and volunteer corps were organized. We had very little knowledge about weapons, we thought a lathi (stick) was a big weapon. We thought we could drive out the Pakistani army from our soil with sticks. And then we learnt how to make bombs. We used to break electric bulbs and make bombs and test them. We thought if the Pakistani army really attacked us we would throw these bombs on them. Not only us, the common people also thought in similar lines like us. I remember the villagers were sharpening their scythes. He who had a spear sharpened it. To be frank, none of us was aware of the ferocity of modern warfare. In a situation like this, the Pakistan army launched an all out attack on us.
Q. When did the Pak army attack Chuadanga?
A. I do not remember the exact date. Most likely on 16 or 17 April they attacked Chauadanga and captured the town. There is a place called Bishoykhali near Jhinaidah town. Here a big battle was fought between the Pak army and a unit of local defenders. I also took part as an aide. Most likely on April 14 Bishoykhali fell to the enemy. After the fall of Bishoykhali the Pak army slowly advanced towards Chuadanga. In the mean time Pakistani war planes dropped bombs on Chuadanga twice causing extensive damage. Some people were killed and many homes were destroyed and damaged. After this air attack a large number of people left for India out of panic. Our family was somewhat large, so we couldn’t go to India. While I was inside Bangladesh I tried to contact my friends who had already left for India.
Alaul Huq Khokon and Shaheed Abul Kashem were my friends. I had several other freedom fighter friends. But I was stuck up in a place from where there was no way to go to India. Later on I was arrested by Pak army and was ruthlessly treated by them.
Q. How did the Pak army arrest you?
A. I will have to answer this question in details. My elder brothers were doing business in Chaudanga since 1970-71. My father was also a businessman. After the Pak army captured Chuadanga our business was closed down. Later on when the situation became somewhat normal my father returned to Chuadanga. We had medicine business. When my father returned he found everything was gone. There was no medicine in the store. Just before the Pak army came to Chuadanga my father had hidden some medicine with which he started doing business again. We are four brothers. None of us had come back to Chuadanga town. We were still hiding in the village. I think at one time Pak army had received some report against us. In our area only we four brothers belonged to Students’ League. We were the better educated in the locality. There were also some non-Bengalis in our village. It was quite likely that they had reported against us to the army. I was also a music artiste. I could sing very well: specially those songs which give inspiration to the people. This is the reason the Biharis used to brand me as pro-Indian.
In the beginning of May some police men came to our house and took my father to the police station. They asked my father how many sons he had. My father replied, “I have four sons.” Then they asked my father to produce all his sons to the thana (police station), or else he would have problems. My father then sent message to the village and three of my brothers presented themselves to the thana. I was away from home and no one could find me. Then the thana people told my father that if I could not be presented to them then my three brothers would be handed over to the military. Some of the Biharis also gave my father the same message. Then my father frantically started looking for me. I was then staying in my elder sister’s house. No body knew this. I was then frantically trying to cross over to India.
But I was not getting any one to help me. And then I was afraid of traveling alone because if the Pak army found a young man he was immediately taken into custody. A sense of fear was working in my mind. My father frantically looking for me everywhere finally came to my sisters house.
It was the month of July. My father told me everything. Then he took me to Chuadanga town. Before this happened my father talked to the members of the peace committee of Chuadanga. They told my father, “Bring your son, there would be no problem.”
The day after we reached Chuadanga my father took me to the thana. I found most of the policemen were non-Bengalis. A non-Bengali policeman kept me waiting. The officer-in-charge of the thana was a Bengali and there was another sub-inspector who was also a Bengali. I was kept in the hajat(thana prison). There were another 13/14 men in the hajat. I was kept in the hajat for about 28 days. There was no torture or repression on us. While I was in the hajat the O.C. and the sub-inspector helped me in some ways. My food used to come from home everyday and I was allowed to have it although it was out of thana rule. But they let me take it secretly.
On 28th day O.C. Mr Daud Hossain told me, “Keyamat, may be you will be released”. But later on I came to realize that it was just consolation. Pak army had a temporary camp near the present Chuadanga Hospital. The Chudanga Sub-divisional hospital was not yet operational then. The O.C told me that I would have to shift to that camp. There was another boy with me in the hajat who was known to me. His name was Sentu; he was the younger brother of the F.F commander of Mongla port area. A few police men took Sentu and me in a rickshaw to this temporary camp. As soon as we reached the camp we were subjected to terrible torture. At the gate a sepoy started hitting us with the butt of his rifle. Then they took us to a place that I cannot recall to-day. Both of us were unconscious. When we came to some kind of sense we found ourselves in a small room. Sentu got a little less beating but they did not spare me. Sentu did a little bit of nursing to me and somehow I regained my senses. I felt there was pin-drop of silence all around. Then I could sense that I was brought to an army camp.
As the sun went down, a sentry brought a small bucket full of water and some bread in a pot and pushed them towards us. We thought we were only two persons, what would we do with so much of bread! Then soon we sensed that we were not the only occupants of the room; there were so many others, their faces bore the clear marks of torture. The room was dark. We spoke to each other in a very low voice. There were 47 of them and with two of us we were 49 in total. They split each bread into two pieces. There was some spiced liquid in the bucket. We were told they got used it; we also joined them and shared the same food.
Three or four days later an officer came to our cell who probably belonged to the Intelligence Branch. There was a Bihari fellow with him. I knew him. I was somewhat relieved. I thought since he was around I would get some help from him. The intelligence man made all of us sit alongside the walls of the room. Then he called rolls. When he was calling rolls he said to me, your name is Keyamat Ali, tum Keyamat Ali(in urdu). But he did not say anything to Sentu. Then again he said your name is Keyamat Ali, then in Urdu he said,” Toom gana gata hai, (You are a singer), all right you come here.” I did not say anything. Then he said, “Tom kitna Bihari…How many Biharis have you slaughtered? You are a Mukti (FF)”. I did not reply, I refrained from replying.
The non-Bengali man who was with him was a member of the Razakar force. He was dressed in Razakar tunic; uniform of a commander. Razakars used to be dressed ordinary clothes. But those who were given status of a captain or commander had dress like those given to the Rakshi bahini after liberation, of dark brown color. I thought the intelligence fellow was giving him importance. Then this non-Bengali Razakar started interrogating me. I have said before that I knew him, he was like a friend. He asked me,” Keyamat, hen did ye come back from India?” I said,’ I did not go to India. Why ye(slang of you) are saying this?”
He said he saw me at some place drinking water from a tube-well. He thought I was then returning from India with another fellow accompanying me. I told him why he was telling lies. I said,’ It is wrong for you to talk like this.”
When I was talking like this the man from the intelligence branch slapped me very hard on my face. My ear became blocked with his slap. He said, ”Osko respect karo, …Show him respect.” “He is like a friend of mine,” I said, “I always talked to him like this. It has become my habit. How can I change now? ”The intelligence man gave me another slap, this time on my ear. Both my ears became def. Then he asked me where the muktijoddhas were camped, where I had taken training, what kind of training I had received etc. He said he would release me if I gave them the information. I said again that I did not go to India., I didn’t even know where the training was given. Then he asked the sentry outside the room to bring a lathi (a hard stick). The sentry brought a stick. It was a green branch of a tree. In front of me he took off the skin of the branch. I thought they were trying to scare me, may be they won’t beat me.
But it is a matter of regret that the Razakar commander who was known to me was the first man to start beating me up. He was hitting me with all his strength. He first started hitting on my back and then he was indiscriminately beating all over my body. He was not least bothered where he was hitting me. I tried to save my face. When he became tired, the army intelligence man took off his belt and started hitting me with it and dragged me into another room. There were three rooms side by side, at the end of the hospital building, in a residential quarter. They took me into a room and told me to take off all my clothes.
Q. What about he others who were with you?
A. They ere watching. They were all sitting close to the wall and scared. Sentu was also watching. They took off all my clothes and started beating. In the beginning I was feeling pain but after some time my whole body became numb and I could not feel anything. I was only trying to protect my face. Then I noticed my whole body was bleeding and soon I lost my senses. I do not remember anything more. When I regained my senses I saw other prisoners all around me. There was no water there. It was rainy season . It rained everyday. The others stretched out their palms through the window, collected water and sprayed on my face, eyes and lips. When I regained sense I felt terrible pain all over my body. I could feel muscles around my buttocks and back had become spongy. I still bear those marks on my body left by the cruel treatment given to me by the Pakistanis. I couldn’t lie down. I couldn’t sleep through out the whole night. There were no pillows in the room. The floor was bare. The moment I tried to lie down I was feeling terrible pain all over my body. There were 5/6 others from Saratganj in the cell. They stretched out their legs throughout the whole night and I somehow managed to sit on their legs.
The following 3/4 days they didn’t torture me. I was very lucky. Within 3/4 days I was feeling better without any medication. I became well again. I had a yellowish Panjabi(like a shirt) on me made of khadi(course cotton) material. It turned almost black by soaking blood oozed from my wounds. It was torn at 2 or 3 places due to beating.
After four days that very intelligence man came back. He said, how are you? I said , I am well. Then he said,” Tom cigarette peeta.., Do you smoke cigarette?” I said, I don’t smoke cigarette. But he gave me a cigarette. Out of fear I accepted it and he lit it. After the very first pull I felt like coughing and then he gave me a hard blow with his fist. I fell down. He then stood on my neck with his boots on. The entire weight of his body was on my neck. I felt my entire tongue would come out and that would be the end of me. But I survived. And then he shifted his boot from my neck onto my jaw. I still had my sense. Then he took me to the next room. Then he made me undress and then again he took out his belt and started beating me with it and asking me repeatedly what sort of training I had taken and who else were with me and what were their names. He also wanted to know where were they last stationed. I simply replied that I did not know anything. In fact I did not know anything he was asking for. And even If I knew I would not have disclosed it to him.
When he got tired of beating me with his belt he called the sentry. After the sentry came he was asked to bring some rope. The sentry came back with a piece of rope. I was then lying on the floor with my face up. Then the two of them tied my legs with the rope and tied the other end with the ceiling fan. My head was still touching the ground. At one stage they pulled my head a little above the ground. I was hanging then. I was feeling as if all my blood would drip out through my mouth, nose and ears. In that state they whipped me for quite some time. After two vicious strokes I felt as if my whole body was in fire. In a little while I lost my senses. When I regained my senses I was lying on the floor. Then there was a respite for two three days.
After I was taken to this camp I saw every day 2/3 new prisoners were arriving. And every day some of the prisoners were shifted elsewhere. Where they were taken and for what, I had no clue. Everyday in the evening after food was served, about an hour or 50 minutes later, 4 army men would come and 3/4 of the prisoners would be called out by their names and escorted out of the prison. I never saw them again. Most likely they were killed because almost every day in the morning the sentries talked of 3 men have been khatammed(killed) yesterday or four men…etc. ”You will also be finished,” the sentries used to tell us. At the end we found out that many of these unfortunate men killed by the Pakistanis were victims of village dispute. Those who were high on their list of suspects, they were also killed within a short time. Seeing these I used to ask Allah almost everyday when my turn would come. I wished my own death in my own mind. I also thought of the heaven and hell. Since I did not commit any sin I thought if I died I would go to heaven; I tried to console myself. Because it was not possible for any man to suffer that kind of torture day in day out. I thought surely death would come, “to-day or tomorrow” (expressed by the interviewee in English). So at that moment I accepted death as inevitable, and thought how soon would it come. I used to pray to Allah to hasten my death. The truth is, after all these I didn’t die.
Q. When did this feeling come to your mind?
A. The first day when the Pakistan Army tortured me, I didn’t feel like this. On the second day when they tortured me again this feeling started growing stronger inside me with each passing day. When they did it again for the third time, I begged of them to spare me. I said, shoot me down. I don’t remember anything more. They used to laugh aloud (as if it was a big joke). With a gap of 3 or 4 days they tortured me for 7/8 times. And then there was a respite of 8/10 days. They did not torture me during this period.
Q. What happened then?
A. After this respite one day they called my name. It was perhaps the middle of September. They called the names of five of us. Four Pak soldiers came with rope. My name was at serial five. I was sitting in the corner of the room. Those whose names were called were blind folded and their hands were tied. After they did this to four of us there was no more rope left for me. I was wearing a lungi(sarong) and a torn panjabi(like a shirt) which was not in a condition that they could use it as a substitute for rope. Then one of them said that he would take me (to the destination) a little later. Then they left with the four leaving me behind. When they left I told the others in the room that my name was on the list and I was so happy because to-day I would go to Allah. All of you please pray for me. All these days we were together. You have helped me a lot. Some of them broke down into sobbing. They knew they wouldn’t return. I was standing near the door for quite a while, no Pak soldier came. How long could I keep on standing. The room was locked. I sat down beside the door. I do not know how long I was there because tired of waiting I fell asleep. When I woke up it was morning but they did not come to take me away. I did not know why they didn’t come.
There used to be 4/5 sentries beside our room. I thought the environment that day was somewhat lull. There were only 2 sentries around. When the sun was creeping up in the sky I called one of them. By this time I had built up good relations with the sentries because I could speak a little bit of Urdu and Hindi. They did not understand even a word of Bengali.
They used to feel happy if some one spoke Urdu or Hindi with them. So they used to talk with me once in a while from a little distance. There were also some Sindhis and Baluchis among the sentries along with the Punjabis. The Sindhis and Baluchis were somewhat better.
Some of them used to like talking. They had so much of hatred for us; even then they used to talk with us. The sentry I had called said to me, “Ali bhai, there is very bad news.”. I said ”Keya bat.., what is the matter?”. He said that all the army troops who were stationed around had gone to the border. He also said in Urdu that there was a very big battle around Darshana the night before. There was a lot of damage. Then I sensed that many of the Pak soldiers must have died in the battle. That is why there was a lull around the prison area. The sentry also said that we would have no food that day. Really we didn’t get any food. Within the next few days the situation in the prison became somewhat bearable. From then on there were no torture sessions like before.
Dr.A.M. Malik of Chuadanga, of our home town, was the Governor of East Pakistan at the time. The Govt. of Pakistan declared general amnesty. I think it was said in the announcement that the prisoners may be released using discretion. From then on prisoners were released from our camp in ones and twos. At the end 22 of us, including Sentu, still remained un-released. One day the Park army took us to another building blindfolded and our hands tied behind our back. It was 8’clock in the morning. We were allowed to sit down. They took off the piece of cloth from over our eyes. We were all sitting down in a line. With a long piece of rope our hands were still down behind our back.(so that we couldn’t run away). They were taking 3/4 of us by installments into a room and the rest of us were looking on. We found after a few minutes that every one was released. Those who were released were giving full throated slogan “Pakistan Zindabad”, and then they walked away. My heart was filled with the hope that may be they would also release me. And then in seconds I remembered my mother, my father and brothers. I thought after all these days I would be going home. After all the tort-tures and cruelty that I suffered I had almost forgotten them. I thought, so I would be going home soon. It was also not possible for them to enquire about me.
Anyway, after some time I was called in and I entered the room. It would be about 3 p.m. Two army officers were sitting on chairs. I thought both were colonels. Four of us entered together. After we entered they opened our files and were going through them. They asked me what was my name. I replied that my name was Keyamat Ali. I think one of the colonels was from Meherpur. He shouted, “What is written here, you see? ”His face suddenly turned grave. Then Capt. Ansari looked into the papers. Without uttering a word he took hold of my hand and started walking away. Then one of the colonels said, “Stop, wait”. Then they talked among themselves. I thought I was not to be still alive, why was I not dead? A little later I don’t know why one of the colonels looked at my eyes with a fixed stare. Once he was looking at me and the next moment he was looking at the file. Then he discussed something with the colonel who had come from Meherpur. The other colonel was simply nodding his head. It meant he was simply disagreeing. Then I thought there was something “negative”. At first I thought the colonel from Chuadanga was trying to save me. But that didn’t happen. I was then taken out of the room and was kept standing on the verandah. There was a sentry around on duty.
There were a large number of Pakistani soldiers all around. I thought all those men must be thinking that I was the only culprit in the group. This was another problem for me. Some of the soldiers were kicking me, some hit me with rifle butts, some slapped me on my face, others gave me blows as if a bunch of kids were throwing brick bats at a monkey. I was standing quietly without any reaction. The sentry who was on duty at the spot was a good man. He was the one who used to be on sentry duty around the room where we were locked. We some times spoke to each other and I had a good relation with him. He told the soldiers, ”Why are you beating him? Don’t “disturb” him. Colonel saab will speak to him later on, that is why he has been asked to wait here”. His words worked, they stopped beating me.
It was already four o’clock. Both the colonels were walking away. Then the sentry told me, “Why don’t you tell the colonel sahib to let you free?” .Then I thought, let me try. So I went up to them and said, ”Excuse me Sir,” hearing my voice they turned their faces towards me, and I continued in broken Urdu and English, “Sir, you let all of them free but you have not freed me”. Then one of them turned around and said that there would be another investigation on me and if the report was good I would be released. Then I said, I was confined for such along time, so much of torture I suffered. It is better you kill me. “Please pass an order to kill me”, I said. Then the colonel from Chuadanga said in Urdu, to the other colonel, “ Mujhe risk le.. I am releasing him at my own risk”. Then the other colonel said, Ok, thik hai”. Then I felt like dancing. I thought finally I got free. Then the colonel called the captain and told him,”Take a bond from Keyamat and call the Chairman, Peace Committee.
Dr. Mofizuddin was the Chairman of the local Peace Committee. When he was called he came running. I was then seated in front of Capt Ansari’s office. Capt. Ansari was not in the room. Dr. Mofizzuddin was also in front of his room. His son was a friend of mine. He knew me very well. Capt. Ansari told Dr. Mofizuddin that they were releasing me under his responsibility “You have to take his responsibility”, Capt. Ansari said. When Cpt. Ansari said this Dr. Mofizuddin immediately reacted, “No,No Orey baba (Oh my father) No no. I cannot take his responsibility. He has contacts with Mukti- joddhas and as soon as he gets released he will go to India tomorrow. You are releasing him”. Capt. Ansari replied, ”It is not my order, It is the order of the colonel. You will have to take his responsibility”, he repeated. After he heard this Dr. Mofiz kept quiet. A little later the colonel returned to his office and asked if the bond was taken. Capt. Ansari replied that Dr. Mofiz was unwilling to take the risk. “Why shouldn’t he?”, the colonel asked. Dr. Mofiz was unable to speak in front of the colonel. He was simply muttering sir, yes sir etc, like a cat behaves in front of his master. A little later he said, alright I am taking the responsibility, but he will have to present himself to the thana(police station) everyday. The O.C of the thana will have to take the responsibility. The OC was called and a bond was taken from me and I was released. When they released me I had the same panjabi on me, full blood and pus stains. It was torn everywhere and was in a wretched condition. The lungi was even in a worse state. I could hardly walk out with these clothes on me. I walked to my home. No one thought I was alive. They had taken for granted that the Pak army had killed me.
Q. What kind of a bond did you sign?
A. The bond was written in English. It said that I wouldn’t go out of Chuadanga. This was the first condition. Another condition was that every day I would present myself to the thana twice, once in the morning and again in the evening.
Q. During your captivity in the torture cell, how many arrestees in total were brought there?
A. Well, the number will be around 170/180, no less.
Q. What did you do after you were released?
A. I used to report myself to the thana everyday. Daud Sahib was still the O.C. of the thana. There was another officer, a sub-inspector. I had to report to him. One day in the evening O.C Mr. Daud told me that he was called to the office of the Captain and he didn’t know if we would meet again. The O.C and the sub-inspector went to meet the captain, but they never returned. Later on their dead bodies in uniform were found behind the hospital building after the country became independent.
Q. What else did the Pak soldiers do in your area?
A. Chuadanga town was almost completely destroyed. Our home was completely burnt down. About 60 to 70 percent buildings, business offices, shops, roads, bridges, culverts etc of Chuadanga were destroyed by the Pakistan army.
Q. Did any one of your family become Shaheed?
A. An in-law of ours through my sister was killed by the Pakistan army.
Q. When did the activities of the Muktibahini begin at Chuadanga?
A. Mainly it started in October when in every locality the muktibahini members started going around and then gradually their activities were intensified. Then a planned attack was made on a petrol-pump. I had advance knowledge about this operation. Then slowly their activities were gathering momentum.
Q. What was the people’s perception like about their activities?
A. The people in general felt that the country must be liberated. No one was in peace then. People were ready to do everything that would be needed to free the country. Those who could not directly take part in the war, helped the freedom fighters as best as they could. So did our village folk.
Q. Who were the peace-committee members in your area?
A. I do not remember all of their names now. It happened a long time ago. Dr. Mofizuddin was the chairman of the peace-committee. Noazesh Ukil was a member of Dr. Malik (Governor) cabinet. Then there was another fellow named Shahadat Kanthal. They were Bengalis. Besides them, there were a lot of non-Bengalis associated with the peace-committees. And in every locality, all those who were Muslim Leaguers, assisted the peace-committees.
Q. Where are these anti-independence elements now?
A. I have no knowledge abut them.
Q. Were the anti-liberation elements arrested after liberation?
A. No. When they realized that the country was about to be liberated, they disappeared. They could not be traced. Years later some information about a few of them came trickling down.
Q. What was the condition of Chuadanga immediately after liberation?
A. One incident often comes to my mind very often. There was a cloth store owned by an Aggarwala(One belonging to business community) in a big building in Chuadanga in those days. That building was bombed. The entire middle part of the building was blown away. It became a long room. A non-Bengali man occupied the building and had opened a hotel. In the beginning there was not too much of destruction. When the Pak army was withdrawing from Chuadanga, that was the time Pak army carried out most of its destructive activities. First they entered homes and did looting and then set fire to homes and hearths. They had burnt down over sixty percent of homesteads in Chuadanga. They had set fire to the arms and ammunition they had in stock. They burnt down petrol pumps. In short, they destroyed every bit of important areas.
Q. What did you do when the war finally ended?
A. I was a student to start with. I again returned to my student life. I got back some friends, some were lost. It was a different feeling then; the joy of freedom, the joy of independence.
Interviewer: Rajeev Ahmed
Date of Interview: October 26, 1997
Translator: Faruq Aziz Khan