“To Each My Blood and Other Hymns”- 1971 poems from Papua New Guinea

bangabandhu finest hour-rrajowan
bangabandhu.com.bd : The immense struggle, sacrifice and bravery of the Bangalee nation in 1971 war of liberation emotionally moved the intelligentsia of Papua New Guinea and prompted this Oceania nation to publish a collection of poems titled, “To Each My Blood and Other Hymns” and attract world attention in favour of Bangalees.
It was published from Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea in 1971 and was edited by Prithwindra Chakroborti.
There were 16 poems written by 15 poets in the collection of poems. Prithwindra Chakroborti and Ulli Beier translated the Bangla poems into English. The poets whose poems were published in the collection were: Jasimuddin, Subhash Mukhopadhyay, Al Mahmud, Abdul Gani Hazari, Anisuzzaman, Asad Chowdhury, Ram Basu, Hasan Hafizur Rahman, Siddheshwar Sen, Ahsan Habib, Tushar Moulik, Shamsur Rahman, Kaisul Haque, Sanat Bandyopadhya and Alwal Joy. Ahsan Habib was the only poet whose two poems were published in the collection.
The book was dedicated to martyrs of Language Movement of 1952 and freedom fighters of Liberation War of March in 1971. The poem of Alwal Joy was the largest one in the collection and it covered five pages. He (Joy) is not familiar as a poet. The last line of his poem was “Joy Bangla for each drop of blood.”
Few lines of Sanat Bandyopadhya’s poem titled Bangladesh were: “I cannot leave you, even if I want to. Cannot efface your memory, Engraved in me even if I want to. When I leave you. You follow me like the fairy girl. Winds of gold and silver in the hands, you reach me quietly, my Bangladesh.”
Noted historian Professor Dr Muntassir Mamoon in an article “Papua New Guinea Thekeo Bangladesher Kabita Sangkolon Ber Hoi” (Collection of poems of Bangladesh even published in Papua New Guinea) in his edited book “Muktijuddher Chhinna Dalilpatra” gave a description on it.
Immediately after the nine-month war that began on March, 1971, thousands of people of different countries stand behind Bangladesh. George Harrison, an English musician, singer and songwriter organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with Ravi Shankar while Poet Allen Ginsberg will also be remembered by Bangalees for calling the world’s attention to the suffering of victims during the Liberation War in 1971.
Ginsberg wrote his legendary 152-line poem, “September on Jessore Road”, after visiting refugee camps and witnessing the plight of millions fleeing the violence. Hundreds of others people held rallies and processions supporting the war and collected donations for the 1971 victims.
BY Asraful Huq and Mahmudul Hasan Raju

Bangabandhu family was in risk of being last 1971 casualty

bangabandhu.com.bd : Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other members of Bangabandhu family, who were in Pakistani captivity even until a day after the December 16 Victory, were exposed to high risks of being massacred by frightened enemy guards, as last casualty of 1971, two crucial witnesses said.
“The Pakistani soldiers guarding the house were looked frightened but arrogant . . . visibly they were unaware of the surrender even on that morning of December 17,” one of the top Bangabandhu aides, Hazi Golam Morshed, told BSS in an interview coinciding with the Victory Day anniversary.
Morshed, now 85, was the man who escorted the four-man squad of Indian soldiers led by gallantry award winning Major Ashok Tara to the house at road number 18 of Dhanmandi where Begum Mujib, Sheikh Russel, Sheikh Rehana and Sheikh Hasina and her newborn son were in captivity at that moment.
“Major Tara approached the (Pakistani) soldiers in bare hands keeping his weapon to his men behind . . . One of the guards shouted, asking him not to proceed a single step further if he wanted to avoid being shot,” he recalled. Morshed described the subsequent few minutes to be highly delicate as it appeared that the “frustrated, frightened and directionless” Pakistani guards were going to kill the Bangabandhu family. In separate media interviews, Tara, 29, at that time, supplemented him saying from a close distance he also understood how the captive inmates of the house were desperately seeking to be rescued sensing the Pakistani guards could kill them all.
“It was a very sensitive and important operation, and had anything gone wrong, it would have brought a very bad name to the Indian government and the Indian Army,” recalled Tara, now 71, whom Bangladesh honoured conferring the “Friend of Bangladesh” award on him two years ago.
Morshed happened to be also the last man to accompany Bangabandhu until the Pakistani troops invaded his 32 Dhanmandi residence on the black night of March 25 and himself too was arrested to languish in Dhaka cantonment and subsequently in Dhaka Central Jail until November 25. On his release he found out that Bangabandhu’s family was detained in that house at Road No 18 of Dhanmandi, heavily guarded by the Pakistani troops even on December 17 morning, a situation that prompted him to bring to the notice of the allied force about their captivity.
“I heard that the Indian army has setup a (makeshift) camp at the Circuit House in Kakrail . . . my cousin Engineer Abu Elias Majid, now staying in the United States, drove me there in his car and we found Major General BF Gonzales sitting on a chair on the veranda,” Morshed recalled. After some initial conversation, he said, the Indian general asked him if we had any car with us and getting an affirmative reply he wanted a lift to the airport, which was being guarded by Indian soldiers to secure VIP movements with Tara being their commander.
“Gonzales introduced me to Tara and then entrusted him with the task of rescuing the Bangabandhu family,” Morshed recalled. According to Morshed, the Indian troops right that moment did not have vehicles at the scene and therefore they had to approach a Bengali gentleman who happened to be there with a car and driver and “the man instantly agreed to lend his car for the rescue mission”.
“Tara got onboard in our car driven by my cousin while three Indian soldiers including a JCO (junior commissioned officer) followed us in the other car,” he said. As the two cars reached near the house a crowd stopped them and cautioned Tara about the situation pointing towards a bullet-ridden car near the house with its unknown dead driver inside, whom they killed overnight apparently due to fright or nervousness. They also told him that on the previous night they also killed five people including a woman as they were passing by the house. Tara then came out of the car and handed his sten gun over to the JCO and asked his three men to stay on one side of the road and began a slow walk to the house when a sentry on the rooftop warned him that he would be shot if he took another step further being visibly confused seeing the Indian army appearance at the scene.
“See, I am an Indian Army officer standing unarmed in front of you . . . If I have reached unarmed in front of you, it means your army has surrendered, you can ask your officer,” Tara recalled shouting back in a mix of Punjabi and Hindi. After few moments the Pakistani havildar shouted back saying “I have no contact with the officer”. The Indian major recalled that he later came to know that a Pakistani captain had abandoned his post and the news of the surrender had not yet reached the lower ranks as communications were disrupted. Incidentally at that time, he said, few Indian helicopters flew overhead and “I pointed to them and shouted — look our helicopters are flying in the sky and look behind me, our jawans are inside Dhaka”. Tara again started walking slowly towards the house telling the guards “you have a family with children as I do; if you lay down your arms and come out peacefully, I guarantee you a safe passage to your camp or wherever you want to go to”. But as he reached the entrance a young Pakistani soldier aged only about 18 appeared from the bunker at the gates pointed his rifle at him.
“The young boy was shivering. It was probably the first time he saw an Indian army officer at such close quarters . . . I locked eyes with the boy even as I was talking to the havildar on the rooftop . . . I kept up the conversation and softly pushed the barrel of the gun away from my body,” he said. Tara, a Bengali who retired as a highly decorated colonel of Indian army later said the conversation lasted for about 10 minutes when he spoke to the captors in fluent Hindi and Punjabi and the tense situation was finally dispelled without any casualties.
“And as soon as I entered the house, (Bangabandhu) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s wife hugged me and said I was her son sent by God from the heaven (to save the family),” he recalled. Tara also recalled that an Indian newspaper later commented “the release of Begum Mujibur Rahman along with the other family members has been as thrilling as the fall of Dacca or for that matter the liberation of Bangladesh”.
“Many a time I thought that neither I nor the Indian officer (Tara) will survive this. It is a new lease of life for us,” the report quoted Begum Mujib as saying later in an interview. Tara remembered that inside the house, there was barely any furniture and the family had been sleeping on the floor and “there were hardly enough rations either . . . I saw only biscuits”.
Tara recalled clicking a picture of the 24-year-old Sheikh Hasina with her baby in her arms. The Pakistani troops tracked Bangabandhu family down from a house in Moghbazar area few days after the war began and his elder son Sheikh Kamal joined the Liberation War in the first chance as he left 32 Dhanmandi hours ahead of the March 25 crackdown. His younger brother Sheikh Jamal later also managed to escape the makeshift Dhanmandi jail and eventually joined the resistance, while the rest of the family members were detained until December 17 and for the last two days Sheikh Hasina’s nuclear scientist husband also could not enter the house where he too was staying with the family. A would be mother Sheikh Hasina was in her advance stage, deprived of proper food and care required during the pregnancy and she was eventually allowed to be admitted at a hospital but her mother was debarred from accompanying her.
“When my mother wanted to come with me, the (Pakistani troops) was plainly told her ‘what you will do in the hospital? There are nurses and doctors in hospital. Are you a nurse or a doctor? You can’t go.”
“When my mother told them being the mother I want to stay beside my daughter to give her courage. But her appeal carried no value to them,” Sheikh Hasina later wrote in an article recalling her critical those days in 1971. Sheikh Hasina’s son – Sajib Wajed Joy — was born on July 27, 1971. She named her “Joy” which in Bangla means “victory”, in line with the desire of her father during her early days of pregnancy as the nation was heading towards the Liberation War.
By Anisur Rahman

Gaoler hid Bangabandhu to avoid execution in Pak jail

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
bangabandhu.com.bd : A jailer hid the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, by whose name the nine-month long War of Liberation was fought, in his personal apartment for two days to avoid Bangabandhu’s execution in Pakistan jail. It was told in a report published in British newspaper ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ titled “Sheikh Mujib flies in and sees Heath, Plea for aid” with a sub-heading “Gaoler ‘Hid Sheikh'” by its diplomatic correspondent Ronald Payne on January 9, 1972.
The report said, “A Bangladeshi official said in London last night that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman avoided execution with the help of a gaoler (jailer). He knew Yahya Khan was about to abdicate, and he hid the Sheikh in his personal quarters for two days.”
A spokesman with the Bangladesh delegation at Claridge’s said a shallow grave was dug in the cement floor next to the Sheikh’s cell in the closing days of the war, according to the report. The Sheikh was told later that Yahya Khan’s execution squad arrived with false documents intended to show that the Sheikh had been hanged at the end of October, the report added. The report quoted Bangabandhu as saying “I was ready to die. The day I went to gaol (jail), I didn’t know whether I was to live or not, but I knew that Bangladesh would be liberated.”
According to the report, Bangabandhu admitted he was not physically harmed in prison but the intense heat and solitary confinement were almost unbearable. Another report titled “Bangladesh: ‘I’m Alive!’ Is Still Big News” published in ‘The New York Times’ on January 23, 1972, by Sydey H. Schanberg, quoted Bangabandhu as saying, “…and how in December his jail superintendant in West Pakistan whisked him out of his cell into hiding less than two hours before the other inmates, all West Pakistanis, who had joined in a government plot, were scheduled to murder him.”
The Pakistan army arrested Bangabandhu from his Dhanmandi residence at 1:10 am and whisked him away to Dhaka cantonment. On 26 March he was flown to Pakistan as a prisoner. The same day, General Yahya Khan, in a broadcast banned the Awami League and called Bangabandhu a traitor. Earlier, between August and September of 1971, the Pakistani junta held a secret trial of Bangabandhu inside Lyallpur jail in Pakistan. He was sentenced to death.
The Pakistan government freed Bangabandhu on 8 January 1972. Bangabandhu was seen off at Rawalpindi by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, by now Pakistani’s President. The same day Bangabandhu left for London en route to Dhaka. In London, British Prime Minister Edward Heath met him. On his way back home from London Bangabandhu had a stop-over in New Delhi, where he was received by Indian President V.V. Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandi.
A memorable reception was accorded to Bangabandhu when the Father of the Nation reached Dhaka on 10 January. From the airport he drove straight to the Race Course ground where he made a tearful address before the nation. On 12 January, Bangabandhu became Bangladesh’s Prime Minister. On 6  February he left for a visit to India at the invitation of the Indian government.
… By Asraful Huq and Mahmudul Hasan Raju …

War could have ended a week earlier: journalist Gavin Young

bangabandhu.com.bd : The war could have been ended a week earlier, but President Yahya Khan convinced General Niazi (Pakistani commander in then Dacca) that China and the United States would intervene. This was demonstrated in an account by Gavin David Young, a reporter of The Observer, London, who spent fourteen days during the Liberation War in Dhaka and was in close contact with A.A.K. Niazi and other Pakistani Generals.
Young, who died on January 18 in 2001, wrote in The Observer that the generals in the East were ready to ask for a ceasefire on December 10 and for a “peaceful transfer of power” to the elected Bengali leaders. They sent sent message to Yahya, but he replied with the story that China and America were about to intervene militarily on Pakistan’s side.
Niazi said Young, “We are off the hook.” That ended the hope of an early ceasefire. Two times Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Lewis revealed this in his article titled “Not to Be Forgotten” published in ‘The New York Times’ on December 20, 1971. Lewis, who was also known as an American public intellectual, died on March 25 in 2013.
The article was quoted as saying, “Thus according to the authorized version, the United States was able to exercise a moderating influence over Yahya Khan by saying nothing publicly when he arrested the elected leader of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his troops murdered thousands of Bengalis and turned millions into refugees”
The article also added, “The position of Sheikh Mujib (Father of the Nation) is another revealing matter. The United States never criticized his arrest, apparently believing that Yahya Khan had no political alternative. But now the former commander-in-chief of Pakistani Air Force, Asghar Khan, a politician who is hardly an Indian stooge, has said that Yahya should never have arrested Sheikh Mujib and could have made a political settlement with him.” As for the Indians, it is a doubtless true that there are hawks among them. But the correspondents who have dealt with the leading Indian generals have found them a sober group, with an understanding and even sympathy for the Pakistanis and no desire to crush their country. Very few armies have fought a war under such difficult emotional circumstances with so much control,” the article said.
… BY Asraful Huq and Mahmudul Hasan Raju …

Kissinger compared Bangabandhu to Allende


In his book “The Trial of Henry Kissinger” noted journalist Christopher Hitchins, former editor of Harper’s magazine, wrote “Kissinger had received some very bad and even mocking press for his handling of the Bangladesh crisis, and it had somewhat spoiled his supposedly finest hour in China. He came to resent the Bangladeshis and their leader, and even compared (this according to his then aide Roger Morris) Mujib to Allende.”

“As soon as Kissinger became Secretary of State in 1973, he downgraded those (the US diplomats stationed in the US Consulate in Dhaka) who had signed the genocide protest in 1971,” the book says. About Kissinger’s trip to Bangladesh, Hitchins says, “In November 1974, on a brief face-saving tour of the region, Kissinger made an eight-hour stop in Bangladesh and gave a three-minute press conference in which he refused to say why he had sent the USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal three years before.”

“Within a few weeks of his departure, we now know, a faction at the US embassy in Dacca began covertly meeting with a group of Bangladeshi officers who were planning a coup against Mujib. On 14 (15) August 1975, Mujib and forty members of his family were murdered in a military takeover. His closest former political associates were bayoneted to death in their prison cells a few months after that,” the book says.