UNTOLD STORIES OF 1969 MUST BE OUT – TOFAIL
Tofail Ahmed, veteran Awami League leader, has said that the six-point movement launched by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had acted as the main catalyst to enthuse the independence war in Bangladesh.
Ahmed, who was a firebrand student leader in those turbulent days, recalled that after the mass uprising and non-cooperation movement in 1969, four student leaders, including himself, were instructed to form the Mujib Bahini to create a force that would be able to lead the Liberation War.
In 1970, Ahmed became the political secretary of Bangabandhu. He was a freedom fighter and one of the organisers of the Mujib Bahini or Bangladesh Liberation Force(BLF). This guerrilla group fought against the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971.
“Four of us – Sheikh Moni, Abdur Razzak, Sirajul Alam Khan and myself – began to follow Bangabandhu’s orders and there were sporadic efforts to train the Chhatra League cadres for an armed struggle. Banagbandhu, in his speech on March 7, 1971, asked the people to prepare for the Liberation War. When the West Pakistani rulers refused to hand over power to the Awami League, in spite of the latter’s outright victory, we sensed the war to be at hand,” reminisced the AL leader.
“We went to India and started recruiting freedom fighters. A training camp was formed for the Mujib Bahini in Dehradun. After the training, each cadre was sent to Bangladesh to take part in the country’s war of independence,” Tofail said.
“I was in charge of Kushtia, Jessore, Khulna, Barisal, Patuakhali, Pabna and Faridpur districts. I operated from Kolkata. Sirajul Alam Khan was given the charge of the northern districts and he set up headquarters in Balurghat. Abdur Razzak looked after greater Mymensingh and Sirajganj and his headquarters was at Dalu in Meghalaya. Sheikh Moni was in charge of the eastern districts, including Sylhet, Chittagong and Comilla and his headquarters was in Agartala,” he added.
Highlighting the importance of the mass uprising in 1969, he observed: “Asad, Motiur, Sergeant Jahrul and Zoha did not have a free Bangladesh to live in. But Bangladesh will live forever through their sacrifices, by remembering their principles. The chain of events that took place in January 1969, had instigated the movement for autonomy and eventually paved the way for the country’s independence.”
“In 1969, Ayub Khan had talked to Bangabandhu on equal terms. Before that, Khan used the state machinery to persecute the great leader. So, it will always remain a special year for Bangladesh,” he pointed out.
“Actually, 1969 was also the year when Pakistan started to fade away from the Bengalee consciousness. The untold stories of that year must come out in the open. Our new generation barely knows about it,” he added.
He said that in 1969, students formulated 11 points to reassert rights for Bengalee people and added that it was symbolic of the overall Bengalee desire to break free from the provincial straitjacket.
“Student politics at the time was honest and people loved student leaders. Like other students, I used to take money from my father and never thought of doing any harm to anyone. But student politics has undergone a change. Some leaders have demolished the party’s image,” Ahmed rued.
He alleged that after Bangabandhu’s assassination, a systemic effort had been launched to destroy the spirit of the Liberation War.
“After assuming power in 1996, the Awami League, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, started the process of restoring the spirit of the Liberation War. However, in 2001, the BNP-Jamaat alliance government started a vicious campaign to bury the spirit of the liberation War,” he remarked.
At that time, several persons, who were accused of war crimes during the Liberation War, were made cabinet members, he added.
Ahmed said that under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, the present government is all set to fulfil the objectives of the Liberation War through poverty alleviation as well as taking steps to attain economic growth.