Life's ultimate test brings out the best and the worst in man. In 1971, for the people, except only a handful, of this land life was on the razor's edge. Each individual was apprehensive of surviving the day to go to bed and wake up to see the rising sun next morning. This was true even in a large part of the country's rural area. The Hindu-majority area along the Barishal-Faridpur border-now the triangle where Agailjhara, Kotalipara and Madaripur meet-was no exception to this lurking fear. At daytime the marauding Pakistani troops in different groups from Gournadi and Madaripur camps set out on their pogrom of the freedom fighters, minorities and Joy Bangla (Awami League) followers and torching houses.
Initially, there was no resistance to the invaders' forays but gradually freedom fighters started returning to the area on receiving short military training. Then there were brigades of brave young men who relied on their indigenous weapons. In one such unequal but unique fight between a group of four Pak invaders and 10-12 local defenders at a village called Nabagram, the marauding gang was killed. One defender was shot dead and the leader of the group sustained grievous injury only to succumb to it later on. If improved medical treatment could be arranged for him, he would not perhaps have died.
By July, the arrival of redoubtable freedom fighter Hemayet Uddin on the scene changed the equation between the freedom-loving people and the collaborators who used to create a reign of terror and guided the Pakistani troops into the rural interior. His formidable group known as Hemayet Bahini swooped on the collaborators and unmercifully did away with them one after another. Yet a notorious gang incited the Pakistani troops to conduct a ferocious raid in order to settle scores with Hemayet. But the valiant fighter was ready for them and pumped out magazines of his LMG (light machine gun) on about 150 Pak troops and collaborators on two racing boats. Only a few on the boats could go back alive. In the fierce fight, Hemayet also received a bullet wound. A bullet pierced through her cheeks. But he survived the injury.
The generation that was part of this grand history knows how precious life is. Hemayet could die, so could this scribe. When bullets flew past inches away overhead or on either side of the head or body, what sense is at work? Just one metallic death agent right into your chest or head and you are done for. This was the condition when the post-fight salvage operation was on at Nabagram and a fresh reinforcement of the Pak marauders was sent to the spot.
It was the time when impermanence of life left a sobering lesson for all -irrespective of creed and cast. People felt humbled and also drew strength from a sense of unity that bound them together. They could do no wrong because it was sacrilege to them. In the heart of hearts they felt for other's pain and sufferings. Humanity was at its unreserved best. That is why a people at the receiving end could emerge triumphant ultimately, courtesy of the dedication and bravery of men like Hemayet.
On the other hand, the war brought out on display the worst in man too. The collaborators thought they got the opportunity of their lifetime to stake a claim to everything they craved for. So they sacrificed their values and even distorted the teachings of their religious scriptures to go on a rampage and sought collaboration of the Pakistani troops.
For people on both sides of the divide, the war of liberation has left an unmistakeable message. The message is that life is transient and it should not be abused. When promising young people went to war they did not know if they would survive ever to return home. Many became martyrs and no tribute is enough to sanctify their sacrifice because theirs is a mission that leaves no room for ennobling. What the posterity can do is to be honest and humble so that generation after generation can live up to their cherished dream.
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