Remembering a brave heart
Rochoita's recent book in memory of martyr Shaheed Badiul Alam Bir Bikram, titled Dipro Bodi, is an adroit bi-lingual publication of 384 pages. It is an addition to the burgeoning literature on liberation war and a testament to the fact that 1971 is an inexhaustible source for the historian.
The book is divided into ten parts with a comprehensive preface by its tireless editor Rubina Hossain. In addition, a message of good wishes from the noted novelist Selina Hossain is a glittering crown to the book. The first section consists of write-ups from those who fought with Bodi in 1971 or somehow associated with him in the war. The second part is mainly from his batch mates.
Born on June 26, 1948, to Abdul Bari and Rowshan Ara Khanam, the first among seven brothers and sisters, Badiul Alam had his first schooling in Kishoreganj. In 1960 he got admitted into the then East Pakistan Cadet College, Fourzdarhat, doing his SSC and HSC in 1964 and 1966, respectively. Subsequently, he did his BA (Hons) in economics from the University of Dhaka in 1969 and his masters from the University of Karachi in 1970. Then, instead of sitting for public services examination, he continued with his changed political line. It had been evident since the split in his student-day party, the National Students' Federation (NSF) in 1968. He opted for the wing of anti-government leaders like Mahbubul Huq Dolon and Nazim Kamran Chowdhury. While still in Dhaka before going to Karachi, he was picked up by the pro-government faction of the party and tortured in confinement in what is now Shahidullah Hall. So it was natural that in the turbulent days of late 1970 and early 1971, he would not sit idle and plunged into immediate action. As his Jinnah Hall (now Surjo Sen Hall) friend Lutfar Rahman Chowdhury, a participant in the anti-government and 11-point movement of the students, has mentioned in his reminisces: "Bodi could not stay cool whenever he saw anything wrong been done. He would dive headlong into action, without considering the consequences." This aspect of Bodi's personality has been underlined by other batch mates, not only in politics but elsewhere in social interaction. His fearless attitude and indomitable courage have been termed as the main factors behind his being a brave fighter without formal military training, as Quazi Mohammad Anwar Hossain, another freedom fighter, has noted in his recollections.
The uniqueness of 1971 was that it initiated an armed national liberation struggle with the participation of regular army units that had revolted, as well as sparked an urban guerrilla war in Dhaka. Being in the thick of things, Bodi helped build the city-based 'crack platoon' that was a nightmare of sorts for the occupation forces. Not that he only operated in the capital city, his operations in the early months of the war extended to the rural areas he knew.
Indeed, Bodi was one of the first to decide to revolt, a fact that had surprised his left-leaning co-fighters. Shahidullah Khan Badal reminisces in his piece, Smritipote Shahid Comrade Badi, that to allay his fears, Badi took out a blade from his pocket and cut veins from both of their hands and mixed the blood and declared that they were blood-friends from this day, March 27, 1971, onwards. Other group members included Ashfaqus Samad and Towhid Samad, the latter donating his precious marital wristwatch for the war effort. Among their daring raids were the Firm Gate Ambush on an occupation army camp and an attack on an army checkpoint on the Mirpur Road. While on a survey, the group ambushed an occupation forces boat on the river Dhaleshwari, Badiul Alam was taking the leading role.
Bodi's classmate at the Cadet College, Gowher Rizvi, writes an exhaustive reminiscence. He is a Rhodes Scholar and now an adviser to the government. From the 'discomfiture' they both felt on the playground of the cadet college the first day, he remembers almost everything about Bodi. He mentions Bodi's liking for fish more than meat in the cadet college dining room and his penchant for reading books even under the quilt with the help of a torchlight after the house prefects enforced light-outs under their rigorous rule. Not that he was just a bookworm, as Rizvi mentions, he loved films and soon 'developed a most extraordinary writing skill and wrote delightful short pieces marked by an earthy juvenile sense of humour.' As he tells us, "I still remember in one of the pieces, Bodi asked, "What is the height of noise?" His answer: "Two skeletons making love on a hot tin roof." Rizvi praises his classmate's writing even at that early age to be elegant, witty, irrelevant, and insightful with an eye for the absurd. Rizvi laments: "He had all the promise of becoming a great writer, but before he could fully flower, his life was snatched away in the prime of youth".
Rizvi's words are resounded by Mustafa Chowdhury's piece where he writes about the magazine Bodi brought out during the varsity days named 'The World from Crazy Angles' in which he noticed 'wit and humour with a sardonic note.' Another of his close friends at the University, Sajjad Hussain, has written similar words in his write-up about the magazine. He adds that Bodi's pieces were 'witty and sardonic but deeply insightful.
Besides her editorial, Rubina Hussain's 'Ek Surjo Santaner Kotha' in the articles series summarises Bodi's whole life and actions for the crack platoon leading ultimately to his arrest from Principal Jalaluddin's house in the Dhanmondi neighbourhood on August 29, 1971. Hussain tells us how Bodi saved at least one life in captivity by advising a fellow fighter not to confess anything to the captors. As a result, nobody knows what the Pakistani occupation forces did with his body.
The book is unique in its genre in that it is devoted to a single martyr. Badiul Alam's co-fighters including Major General Sayeed Ahmed Bir Pratik, cadet college and university classmates and others who came to love him during the war and afterwards combined to write. His mother's piece, Amar Tapan, selected from the book 'Shahid Badi O Amar Smritite Ekattar' has been sensibly placed as the starting article. This brave lady's words visualise how a mother feels while waiting for her son eagerly even after December 16. There is a plethora of rare photographs at the end.
The short life that Bodi lived had indeed 'so much on the plate' to borrow Sajjad Hussain's words. Many of those who fought with him and survived 1971 are now gone. But he would live in memory with other fighters who had espoused the cause of Bangladesh. The twenty-four years of Pakistan's rule in East Bengal unwittingly created some heroes for our remembrance, among whom Badiul Alam BB would stand out tall. This volume would go to perpetuate his memory and should open the door to future efforts on other martyrs.