Sunday, March 20, 2011

FLAMES OF FREEDOM : Beginning of Liberation War in Chittagong

Brig. Gen. Chowdhury Khalequzzaman (Retd.) This is the story of how the Liberation War started at East Bengal Regiment in Chittagong. The 25th March 1971 is a historic day. It is a day of great significance for the people of Bangladesh. The officers, JCOs and soldiers of the 8 East Bengal Regiment were in a restless and tense situation. The commanding officer of the 8 East Bengal Regiment, Lt. Colonel Abdur Rashid Janjua arranged inter-company sports competition to keep us busy in the last week of March.
   The inter-company basketball competition was taking place on the morning of 25 March. I myself, a Captain then, was playing for one of the basketball teams. Major Ziaur Rahman was the referee of the match. I was then acting as the sports officer of the 8 East Bengal Regiment. It was an extra duty. After the match I went back to my room, changed into military uniform and came to the office at around 9 A.M. The political situation of the country was restive and we were anxious to know what was going on. There was no peace in our minds.
   At 09.30 in the morning I met Major Zia and Captain Oli Ahmed. The nature of Captain Oli Ahmed's duty made him spend most of the time in the office. He was the quartermaster. Lt. Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury had the responsibilities of an under study adjutant. Lt. Mahfuzur Rahman was working as the company officer of HQ Company. I had many responsibilities in the HQ Company. Although we all came to the office in time, there was no progress in work.
   At around 11 in the morning, people barricaded Bayezid Bostamy Road in front of the level crossing of our unit line with a compartment of a goods train. Their intention was to hamper the movement of the army vehicles and thereby stop the communication between the city and the Chittagong cantonment.
   Our armed guards were present there but they did not try to restore train line in its normal condition. They were unconcerned because they were silently supportive of what the people were doing. They did not try to either remove the barricade or go against people's will. I was sent to remove the barricade. I was not interested in doing it.
   Major Shawkat told me that there was a barricade near the level crossing and the commanding officer had ordered to keep the road open. I went ahead with 10 soldiers. When I reached there, I saw that a goods train was lying there inactively. I took a look around the train and I thought that it was not possible to clear the barricade. I told the soldiers to keep an eye on the train and I came back.
   But my commanding officer was impatient. He said, "When will the goods train be removed by you?" Then he assigned Major Mir Shawkat to remove the train. There were a very few people there. Some were watching from a distance. At that time people crowded around to see wherever the army assembled, especially when it was the East Bengal Regiment. They kept a distance when the soldiers were non-Bengalee, Panjabi, Baluch etc. They considered the East Bengal Regiment as their own and came forward to see them with a good feeling.
   When I went there, people from nearby shops came out to observe the barricade. I pretended as if I did not notice. Two hours later, Major Mir Shawkat arrived with a team of 10 soldiers and dislodged the brake of the train, moving it from the east side to the west side. The road was then open for everyone. The Sholoshohor railway station was in the east, not more than 400 yards from there.
   After coming back, we kept ourselves busy listening to the radio, reading newspapers and trying to get information by telephoning people. I went to see Major Zia. He was working in the office sombrely. I asked, "Sir, what is going to happen?" He was very careful and talked little. He was under stern surveillance. The atmosphere was grave. He just said, "Wait and see".
   We could not contact the political leaders during daytime; not even via telephone; time passed in this manner. Later, Major Zia told me that the commanding officer had ordered to check on the soldiers keeping guard in various places of the city. He said, "Khalequzzaman, come with me, we will go to check the guards." We went out in a jeep at around 1.00 p.m.
   First we went straight to the cantonment. We headed north through Bayezid Bostami Road. Lt. Shamsher was on duty near the "Coca-Cola shop of K. Rahman. Major Zia exchanged words with Shamsher Mobin. Then we went up to the gate of Chittagong cantonment and came back. We were sitting side by side in the moving jeep. I told Major Zia that it would have been impossible to move the immobile train had Major Showkat not unlocked it. He said, "Shawkat already knew how to remove such things" Shawkat's father once worked for the Railway, so he might have had prior experience about these."
   Anyway, we went to the places where soldiers were on duty. We went to New Market area, near Agrabad, took a turn at the Chittagong Court Hill and came back to the Nasirabad Housing Society area through Andarkilla and Chawkbazar. It was not an easy jeep ride because there were many barricades on the way. There were barricades made of bamboo in many places. In some places one end of the bamboo was tied tightly and the other end was loose. We untied them ourselves to move around the city. Nobody came to help us.
   Alert officer
   Major Zia was a very alert and cautious officer. He listened silently when I talked or wanted to know something with enthusiasm, but he never stopped me either. At some places I asked people how they would resist attacks as they were putting on barricades and agitating without any guns or heavy weapons but sticks. Major Zia listened thoughtfully, but without any comment. The people didn't say much either. There were reports of collection of some unusable weapons from some places in Chittagong. Some of the people had pieces of bamboo or pieces of betel nut tree and slung from their shoulders as if those were weapons.
   During the Second World War, people had propped up bullock carts so that pilots from up the sky would think that they were guns. We met some people in the Chawkbazar area, among them was the student politician Mohammed Hossain Khan. He was from that area. His father had a sweetmeat shop that we frequented. I knew Mohammed Hossain Khan when I was studying at the Chittagong College. We also met Harun Khan; he too was a student leader from Chittagong. We met him at Nabab Sirajuddoula Road. They were in charge of this road so that they could handle any vehicle driven by the army or the adversary. I knew Harun Khan as well. I introduced them to Major Zia. Harun Khan later became an M.P. He was trying to encourage general people by parading and giving speeches in the roadside meeting.
   "It's our jeep"
   When we arrived there, people gathered around us. One or two persons touched the jeep, then said, "It's our jeep. It's a Jeep of the East Bengal Regiment." Major Zia talked with Harun Khan and Mohammed Hossain.
   They talked about the situation. I enquired about the on going situation everywhere. We did not know anything clearly yet. When we came back it was nearly 3 P.M. I dropped Major Zia at his house at Nasirabad Housing Society and came back to officers' mess. I stayed in my room after launch.
   Major Zia used to work in office in the evenings too. That day he came as usual in the afternoon. Our military programme went on as usual. Soldiers, who used to play, were playing, the officers who work in the afternoon were working, and those who had duty outside were on duty. According to the military rule I was supposed to go to the unit with my soldiers after the meal. I went to office in the afternoon. Captain Oli Ahmed was there. Major Shawkat and Major Zia were working as well. I was trying to talk and know about the situation from everybody. Oli too was always enthusiastic about the matter. But the others would not open their mouth. I did not have any talk with Major Shawkat. I came back to the room after talking to Major Zia.
   A company of the regiment was on duty in the city. Major Shawkat phoned me at the mess and asked me to go to the unit line. I reached there in the evening, before the Azan of Maghreb.
   I was having a walk and talking with Major Zia near the level crossing on the crossroads of Bayezid Bostami Road. Major Zia said, "Situation is bad, Khalequzzaman, who knows what will happen. We are in a critical situation."
   Colonel Hamid Hussain Shigri, deputy commandant of East Bengal Regimental Centre, was coming back from Chittagong Port to cantonment. Both of us knew him previously. He stopped the militaiy jeep when he saw us. He had worked with Major Zia in the 1st East Bengal Regiment. He was my commanding officer when I was a lieutenant in Comilla cantonment in 1966. Colonel Shigri knew that I come from Chittagong. So he asked about my welfare, parents and home. He appeared to be anxious and in great hurry.
   Shigri didn't talk to Zia
   I was surprised to see Colonel Shigri drove away his jeep without speaking to Major Zia. When he left Major Zia asked me what we talked about. Colonel Hamid was from Gilgit in Pakistan. Incidentally, in 1967 Lt. Col. Shigri once drove me to Chittagong city from Comilla cantonment when my mother was very ill.
   Major Zia seemed worried when we were walking and talking. I was very keen to know about what was going on and if we could do anything about it. Like hundreds of patriots around the country, I too had a determination in my mind. Suddenly I saw that a machine gun detachment arrived on the nearby crossroad on a three-ton truck. Night was falling. A machinegun detachment usually has four soldiers -- 1:3. One is a commander, and the other three men for firing. All four were sitting on a truck. Both of us were in military uniform. All the military men were ordered to wear uniform then because they could be called for duty anytime.
   I went close to the truck and saw that it had the driver in front and the four soldiers behind on the body of truck. I saw an NCO (non-commissioned officer) from 20 Baluch Regiment there and asked him what they were doing there.
   The non-Bengalee NCO stood up in the vehicle and saluted me. He said, "Sir, we are told to stay here with a machine gun."
   "You will start working when you are ordered," I asked, "what is your order?" He looked helplessly at me and said, "Sir, we are told to take position here and they will inform us later."
   I then said to Major Zia that it was not safe to let the machinegun and the four crew members to be there because the angry mob could snatch the weapons and attack them too. Who would be responsible then? The blame could come to our regiment.
   Major Zia said, "What can we do?" I said, "Sir, they should go to our unit line with the machinegun." I had another thought in my mind.
   Major Zia's silence was his approval. I told the detachment commander, "People are observing strike, they are not good people. Go and deposit your machinegun in the kote of the 8 East Bengal Regiment. You can take rest, wait for the order."
   They knew me and trusted my words. Without any protest they deposited the machinegun. There are rules to deposit a weapon. It had to be deposited in the quarter guard. They said, "Sir, we want to be certain." I said, "Tell them about us. Report to the quarter guard. Tell them that there is an uprising in the city and you want to keep the weapon there."
   The Baluch soldiers themselves were not feeling safe. I don't know where the four of them went from there, but I know that they deposited the machine gun and ran away towards the Chittagong cantonment.
   Major Zia smiled at me to convey that I had taken the right step. I came back to the unit line. Major Zia stayed in the office and I went back to the officers' mess. There I had a call from Major Shawkat asking me to go to the unit line in uniform. It was around seven P.M. I was told to assume duty in the Chittagong Port. Major Shawkat said, "Get ready for duty at Chittagong Port." I put on my uniform, had a cup of tea, and went out with just the purse. It was indeed the last time I left the officers' mess. I never went back there.
   It was around 8 P.M. I went to Colonel Janjua who told me to go to the port and report to new Area Commander Brigadier Ansari. Some soldiers should go with me. I was the Military Transport Officer. I said, "How would we go without any transport?" I was told that a navy truck would come and we could go by it. There were five companies. I took soldiers from the 'delta' company. Senior JCO was Subedar Mahbubur Rahman. He was transferred to 8 East Bengal Regiment from 4 East Bengal Regiment. I said to him, "Prepare a platoon to go to the port area" Then he asked, "Who'll go with them?" I said, "I'll go myself".
   Subedar Mahbub prepared a platoon in front of the quarter guard of the unit. A truck from Navy came soon. There was a driver and two navy personnel were there with an SMG and a rifle. Subedar Enamul Majid was ready to go as a JCO platoon commander with me. He boarded the truck with 30 soldiers. I was next. I saw that commanding officer Colonel Janjua was standing there, not to see me off but to make sure that I left on time. Major Zia, Major Shawkat, Capt. Oli were present too. I asked Subadar Majid, if everything was all right and if he had taken weapons, ammunition, ration etc. He said, "Sir, we didn't take any ammunition." I was angry because the commanding officer was standing there and I was getting late. I stood up in the truck and said angrily, "How can we go without ammunition?" Everyone was listening. Suddenly Colnel Janjua said, "Don't worry Khaleque, you go and we'll send ammunition. Brigadier Ansari is waiting." I said, "Thank you very much, sir, but no, the troops would not move without arms and ammunition."
   Colonel Janjua realised that I would not go without ammunition and said, "Bravo and hurry up, send Subadar Majid to get the ammunition quickly". When Majid came back with ammunition Colonel Janjua changed his mind and said, "Zia, I think you should go first. Khaleque will follow you." We were all standing.
   I was surprised because ordinarily the Second in command does not go for such duties and I was all prepared. Major Zia had a talk with the commanding officer and sat on the front seat of the truck, beside the driver, where I was supposed to sit. I was to go alone but Major Zia was given two officers with him --2Lt. Humayun Khan and 2Lt. Azam -both from West Pakistan. I went near his seat to shake hands with him and see him off. He said in an anxious voice, "If you hear anything let me know. Khoda Hafez". They started the journey.
   Capt. Oli went to the duty room on the first floor as the duty officer, Colonel Janjua dropped Major Shawkat off in the mess on his way to his bungalow, 'Al Hamra' at Nasirabad Housing Society.
   Company murdered
   It is worth mentioning that in the morning of 25 March Major Shawkat, by the order of Lt. Col. Janjua, assigned a company ('C' company) of soldiers (150 in number) in the Chittagong port to maintain security of the ship 'Swat' during the unloading of weapons. Brigadier Ansari was present there; Major Shawkat too was present the whole day and returned with Col. Janjua after sunset. They left the 'C' company under Subedar Abdur Rauf in the port. Later, the company was brutally murdered by the Pakistani army. Some of them saved themselves by jumping into the river Karnaphuli, swam to Kalurghat to join us in the morning of 26 March and described the barbarous massacre.
   I told Subedar Mahbubur Rahman, "We might have to go. Prepare arms, ammunition and the rest of the soldiers". Approximately at 10 p.m. Abdul Kader, a relative of mine, called me on phone and talked to me and Capt. Oli. He said that there was firing in Dhaka and EPR soldiers were attacked."
   Major Zia had already left, Major Shawkat was sleeping in officers' mess and Col. Janjua was at his residence. All the other officers were positioned in various places of duty in the city. In the office there were Oli, the duty officer and myself. I asked Mahbubur Rahman to keep a transport ready and I went upstairs. Except for Oli and I, everyone was a junior officer. I said, "Let me go and get our boss. Let's see what happens after I bring Major Zia back. "Oli agreed with enthusiasm.
   I didn't know whom to talk to, whom to call. But I realised that something grave was going to happen, we were angry and aggrieved because something unjust was going to happen to us. The age had its own virtue or vices. We knew we had to do something to stop anything disastrous from happening. Firing had started in Dhaka on the Police and EPR in the headquarters. Nobody can take out a vehicle without my instructions (the M.T.O). I ordered for a pickup to come and rushed for Chittagong port with a driver, a Lance Corporal and two soldiers to bring Major Zia back. Before starting I said to the guard commander, Lance Corporal Shafi. "Stay alert. The duty officer is upstairs and the situation is not good." I ordered the driver to drive fast towards Agrabad.
   There were some barricades on the way. There was one at Dampara, one on the west of Chittagong club. I had to remove them as I went forward. There was a strong barricade near Agrabad Railway over bridge that forced truck of the 8 East Bengal Regiment to stand in front of it and the soldiers were trying to remove the barricade. Maj Zia was walking beside the truck. I stopped the pickup and hurriedly went to him. I put a hand on his shoulder to take him beside for talking. I said, "Sir, you should not go to the Port tonight. Pakistani forces are already shooting in Dhaka. They have attacked EPR camp at Rajarbagh Police line. I strongly feel that you should not go to the port."
   "We will revolt"
   Zia thought for a while and said, "What should we do?" He did not want an answer from me, he was talking to himself. I said, "You know better". Major Zia then punched the left fist with the right and said, "In that case we will revolt and show our allegiance to the government of Bangladesh".
   I said, "That is the reality". Then he said in reply, "You go. I'll tell 2Lt. Azam and 2Lt. Humayun that the commanding officer has sent Captain Khaleque to take us back. I started towards the unit line and he followed me from a distance. When I reached the unit, I briefed the guard commander Lance Corporal Shafi. I said, "Stay here and carry out your duty. Our 2nd in command may come." I was standing there when Major Zia came back. With me were Lance Corporal Shafi and five soldiers.
   Major Zia signalled me to arrest Azam and Humayun. I asked the two officers to come with me. They were loyal soldiers of the Pakistan army and did not react to this. I took them to the quarter guard. Quarter guard is where the regiment keeps its money and it has an armed guard 24 hours a day. There was a table, a chair and a box of keys and a cell.
   The soldiers in the truck were very excited although they could not understand what was going on. Some of them were yelling, "Joy Bangla." We signalled them to stop and not to tell these to anybody because nothing had happened yet and we could get in trouble if the incident was discovered.
   The truck was parked and the drivers were arrested. We thought they were Pakistanis as they spoke in Urdu, but they were from Chittagong and Jessore. Azam and Humayun had personal weapons, which they handed over to me on order. I deposited the arms in the quarter guard.
   Major Zia said to me, "Get me a jeep." The jeep of the commanding officer had come back by then. Capt. Oli, who was working upstairs, did not know that we were back. Major Zia told me, "Let me go and get the commanding officer" and headed towards 'Al-hamra', Lt. Colnel Janjua's official residence.
   Zia arrests Janjua
   Major Zia told me later what had happened. He rang the calling bell himself. The military guards of the residence were Bengalee soldiers. When they saw the 2nd in command, their weapons turned from outward to inward i.e. against Lt. Col. Janjua. Janjua was a very clever person but he had nothing to do. He knew that something big was going to happen but did not take any self-precautions. He came out of the house wearing white pajama-panjabi and sandals. He was surprised as if he had seen a ghost when he saw Major Zia and asked, "What's wrong, Zia?" Zia said, "Sir, I need to talk to you."
   Janjua was wondering how Zia came back when he had sent him to the port to report to Brigadier Ansari. He could not grasp what had happened in the port. He said in Urdu, "Come Zia, sit. "Major Zia said, "No sir, we have something to talk about." He said, "All right, let's discuss it here."
   Zia said, "Sir, we should go to unit line, Captain Khalequzzaman and Captain Oli is there. They would like to discuss something with you." Janjua agreed. He sat in the jeep and Zia drove with the two soldiers sitting on the rear seat of the jeep, stopped in front of the quarter guard where I, Lance Corporal Shafi and sepoy Rabiul Anam were standing. Major Zia snatched the rifle from Rabiul Anam, pointed it to Janjua and said, "Sir, you are under arrest. Don't try to take leadership."
   Janjua did not say a word in utter surprise. Zia asked me to take him away. Shafi and I took him to the quarter guard. Shafi was a spirited and courageous soldier who always carried a rifle. He took part in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war.
   I made Janjua sit on a chair in the quarter guard. He said softly, "Khaleque, my family should know where I am." I realised that he was very nervous and afraid. We had left Colonel Janjua's wife at his home. I said, "Sir, surely she will come to know where you are". Later she was respectfully taken to the cantonment. There were Azam and Humayun with Col. Janjua; and Shafi was standing as guard. Major Zia said, "Hold them and keep an eye on them."
   Courage and speed
   Major Zia went upstairs to contact the political leaders and others. It was clear that we were revolting and it would not have been wise to keep our soldiers on duty outside. I sent message for Captain Sadek, Lt. Mahfuz, and Lt. Shamsher to bring back those who were on duty in the Bayazid Bostami Road and elsewhere. I sent word to the senior J.C.O. Subedar Mahbubur Rahman to fetch the Pathan officer Captain Ahammaduddin from the officers' mess. He too was arrested and put in the quarter guard. They did not create any trouble. We finished the work with courage and speed.
   Two Pakistani officers used to stay in the EPR mess to the south of the 8 East Bengal officers' mess. One of them was Captain Nazar with whom I once prepared for the Captain to Major examination. I asked my batman Nurul Amin to go and tell the Bengalees to get out of there. He knew where each officer stayed. When he went there at 12-30 A.M., Captain Nazar threatened him with a gun. Nurul shot him down at once.
   When he was bringing back Lt. Col. Janjua, Major Zia had waken up Major Mir Shawkat in the officers' mess. Major Shawkat came a while later and Major Zia said to him in front of the quarter guard, "Shawkat, I hope you are with us." He said it to ensure if Shawkat was with us in the rebellion. I don't know if the two of them had talked about it earlier.
   "Zia Bhai, I'm"
   Maj Shawkat said, "Zia Bhai, of course I'm with you." Major Zia replied, "Shawkat, it is good to settle everything before we go for a serious game." By then my batman Nurul Amin had gone to arrest the EPR officers. We did not know what to do with our arms and ammunitions. Major Zia brought Janjua upstairs with respect and asked him to sit on the chair of the commanding officer. The other officers remained in the quarter guard.
   The two navy men were there as well. I pushed one of them and said, "udhar jao". He said, "Sir, I'm Bengalee" "where are you from?" "I'm from Jessore" and the other said that he was from Chittagong.
   Major Zia had taken the rifle from the standing guard nearby to shoot if anybody comes. When we saw that no one was there he gave the rifle to me and asked me to be cautious. Then he went upstairs again to contact different persons/places. Shawkat went up too. I remained downstairs to foresee everything.
   The keys to arms and ammunition were still in the 'key box.' When I said that to Major Zia, he broke the glass door of the box with the butt of the rifle, extricated the keys and gave them to me. I could break the key box myself but according to the military rule I had to inform someone who was in charge. I said to the two Bengalee soldiers that we had arrested them by mistake, "Why are you sitting here like fools?"
   Later when we went to Potia the following day one of them slaughtered a cow to feed us. Allah saved two lives; otherwise they would have died with the others. I went upstairs and told Major Zia that the soldiers downstairs were scattered and that we should gather them all in the hall.
   Subadar Major Muhammed Ali was the senior most among the J.C.O.s I ordered him to assemble the battalion in the centre of unit line. Everyone came. Major Zia came downstairs.
   I told Major Shawkat, "Sir, tell them that the Second in Command has taken control of the unit and he would like to say something to all of us." At that moment nobody wanted to come forward to say anything. It was really a great moment of anxiety. But we could not go back now.
   Zia's first declaration
   Major Shawkat then told everyone that the Second in Command would say something. "He would depict the current situation of Bangladesh in front of you", he said. We had a company of soldiers in the Chittagong Port. Captain Sadeq, Lt. Shamsher, Lt. Mahfuz had arrived by then.
   Major Zia gave an emotional speech and explained the overall situation. He explained what the West Pakistani army attempted to do. He said, "They wanted to send Captain Khalequzzaman to the Chittagong Port, they had already sent me to the port. They planned to kill us and arrest everyone in the 8 East Bengal Regiment."
   He then went on to say, "We express loyalty to Bangladesh. Now we are an independent country. We declare war in the name of our motherland Bangladesh".
   Zia asked everyone for approval. The soldiers yelled "Joy Bangla" and "Bangladesh Zindabad" in agreement. In fact it was the first announcement of Liberation from Major Zia. The slogans echoed so loudly that the inhabitants of Nasirabad Housing Society woke up from sleep and peeped through their windows. It was about 3 to 4 AM. After the speech, Major Zia gave a jeep to Major Shawkat and asked him to contact the leaders of Awami League and inform them of our decision.
   As far as I know, Maj Shawkat contacted leaders of Chittagong Awami League such as Abdul Hannan, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury, M. R. Siddiky etc.
   There was announcement in the city by the orders of Major Zia from 4 A.M. in the morning; it started announcing that the 8 East Bengal Regiment had revolted in the name of the Liberation of Bangladesh. Major Zia called over phone the D.C., S.P. and other officers in Chittagong and informed those whom he could get, about the revolt. He said, "I hope you are with us. Otherwise we shall not spare you."
   Telephone operator
   Then he told the telephone operator to inform those whom he could not get on phone. As far as I know the telephone operator carried out the job to some extent. When we left the unit line it was dawn and we could hear the morning Azan. We heard people shouting slogans.
   Maj. Shawkat had returned by then. We planned to take all the arms and ammunition to a new place by truck because it was very dangerous to stay in the unit lines as it was also not possible to resist from the unit line because the area was only three miles away from the cantonment and it fell within its range of mortar or shell fired from there could ruin everything here as well as injure many civilians.
   We made a plan but not in paper. Major Zia was standing there, we were standing beside. Major Zia said that we would leave the present place of the 8 East Bengal Regiment and go to a place named Gumdandi on the other side of the river Karnafuli. We can resist if they try to stop us from western side.
   We also planed to get hold of the radio station. Major Zia said, "Khaleque, you should be around the radio station". I had the responsibility of protecting the Chittagong radio station and the east bank of the river Karnafuli.
   We left the unit line for Kalurghat area on the east bank of the river at 6.00 a.m. in the morning. Major Shawkat had left the Charlie Company in the port. They were in charge of loading and unloading the arms and ammunition from the ship. When the 8 East Bengal Regiment revolted, our soldiers in the ship jumped to the river to save their lives. Some of them were killed and some joined us by swimming across in the river. We loaded the arms and ammunition on the truck of navy, two trucks and two pickups that we owned and left the unit line.
   We carried all the small arms and ammunition boxes. Major Shawkat brought his personal belongings but others could not bring theirs. Major Zia too came only with the uniform on. Begum Zia was still in the rented house at Nasirabad Housing Society. When I went to bring Major Zia, firing started in Dhaka. By the time we came back to the unit line, there were shootings in the Chittagong cantonment as well.
   There were around a thousand Bengalee soldiers in the East Bengal Regimental Centre (EBRC). Among the Bengali officers were Captain Subed Ali Bhuiyan, Capt. Amin Ahmed Chowdhury, Capt. Abdul Aziz and Capt. Enamul Haq. Some of them lived at the Shershah colony with their families and the bachelor officers stayed in the EBRC officers' mess. Those who lived in the mess had already come out. Subed Ali and Mohsin joined us later. Amin Ahmed Chowdhury went to Agartala via Ramgarh by himself. The Indian soldiers at Agartala thought he was a 'Nakshal' and arrested him. Enam joined the EPR. On the night of 25th March, Major Zia contacted captain Rafiq. Captain Rafiq sent message by wireless that the EPR had revolted. Captain Harun Ahmed Chowdhury came from Kaptai to Kalurghat to join us on the morning of the 26th March. He had left all the Pakistani officers at Kaptai arrested. Capt. Harun Abmed arrested Major Dost Muhammed and locked him in the room when he was still asleep. He arrested all the others and came here with three Bengalee EPR men. Harun grabbed me and hugged me saying. "Joy Bangla", on the east side of the Kalurghat bridge where we had already reached.
   When I went to bring Major Zia, the Pakistanis of the Chittagong cantonment had already arrested Bengalee soldiers in the East Bengal Regimental Centre, Lt. Col. M.R. Chowdhury who was senior to Major Zia, was the chief instructor in EBRC. Pakistanis arrested him and later killed him ruthlessly. They attacked the centre instead of the 8 East Bengal regiment.
   Plainclothes Pakistani soldiers entered the houses of non-BengaIees at Nasirabad Housing Society. Our officers' mess and the house of Major Zia were near the park. But they could not attack because they were not well organised. But it is true that they had taken position in plainclothes in the houses of the non-BengaIees at Nasirabad Housing Society, Shershah colony, Bayezid Bostami Colony etc. We went out of the unit and walked on foot through Sholoshohor to the other side of the river Karnafuli. We walked through Chawkbazar, Bohoddar Hat, the radio station; Chandgao to the east bank of the river Karnafuli.
   We re-organised on the morning of the 26th March. All companies took position. I had the responsibility of the radio station and a part of the river. I had Lt. Mahfuz on my north; on the left of my company was 'A' company of Lt. Shamsher.
   A company of the EPR was deployed on the West Bank of the river as screen. A JCO was the leader; the 8 East Bengal Regiment took position of resistance on the Karnafuli - Cox's Bazar axis Major Shawkat Ali took position on the west bank of the river at the Ispahani Colony at Kalurghat temporarily. Major Zia and Captain Oli took position in the Village of Gudmandi near Patiya where the temporary headquarters of the 8 East Bengal Regiment was established. Major Zia was the commanding officer and Captain Oli was his Staff officer.