It was around 9pm on March 25, 1971. I, along with several other student leaders were heading towards Bangabandhu's Dhanmondi-32 residence from Mohammadpur. On our way, we saw about a dozen tanks rolling on Mirpur Road. After seeing those, we decided not to go through the main road and reached Bangabandhu's house through different alleyways.
We briefed him [Bangabandhu] about the ongoing situation. We had a plan to take him with us to a safe place if the situation worsened but, Bangabandhu turned down our offer and said that he would not go anywhere leaving his home. He cautioned that if he went somewhere, then the Pakistani forces would kill many people. He also said that the people who were ready to fight for independence would lose morale.
I still believe it was the greatest virtue of leadership that Bangabandhu showed on that fateful night. I think if he went somewhere with us at that moment, the velocity of the movement would have gotten weak to a great extent. Questions would also arise about our earnest effort.
Bangabandhu stayed at his home and we, the student leaders went out for safe places. Abdus Quddus Makhan and Obyed bhai (KM Obaidur Rahman) and I went to Manik bhai's (Ittefaq editor Tofazzal Hossain Manik Miah) house in Dhanmondi-23.
Bangabandhulater was arrested by the Pakistani soldiers on that night of March 25. He was then taken to Pakistan on an airplane.
On the morning of March 26, Zainul Haque Sikder, came to Manik bhai's house to take me to his Rayer Bazaar home. I was wearing a lungi and a half shirt. He helped me cross the Rayer Bazaar khal on a small boat. Alone, I went to Kalatali in Keraniganj. It was pre-decided that if there were any crackdown, we would meet at Kalatali in the house of Gagan-Ratan, who were our party men. One of them, either Gagan or Ratan, was a member of the legislative assembly.
After reaching Kalatali, I saw Moni bhai (Sheikh Fazlul Haq Mani), Serajul Alam Khan bhai, Shahjahan Siraj, ASM Abdur Rab, Abdul Quddus Makhan and some other leaders were already there. We started chalking out plans on how we would fight against the Pakistani forces.
They gave me the responsibility of organising and taking full preparation for war in Jhenaidah and Kushtia area. Obaid bhai was given the responsibility of looking after the war preparation in greater Faridpur and Rajbari, ASM Abdur Rab was given Noakhali and Cumilla and Shahjahan Siraj was assigned for the same for Tangail and Mymensingh.
I immediately went out to reach Chuadanga. On the way, I took shelter at Faridpur Circuit House with Shahjahan Siraj.
On the night of March 27, Keraniganj came under attack. After dodging the bullet there, Mostafa Mohsin Montu came to Faridpur as well. We all took refuge at Faridpur Circuit House. We held a mass rally in Faridpur. By that time, we started getting news from Dhaka that the Pakistani army had wreaked havoc there.
Before the breakout of the liberation war, Shahjahan Siraj was one of the frontline leaders of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal. Shahjahan wanted an armed revolution but we wanted our mandate to power through an election. As we were not on the same page, we earlier had a lot of debate amongst us but there in Faridpur, after witnessing what happened in Dhaka, we forgot our differences in opinions and started working in unison to free the country from the clutches of the Pakistani occupied forces.
On March 29, we reached Chuadanga from Faridpur riding on a railway locomotive. We stayed in Chuadanga for a couple of hours. Dr. Ashab Ul Haq Heba bhai was leading on behalf of Awami League in Chuadanga. Seeing us, Heba bhai, pulled out a pistol from his waist and fired several blank shots in ecstasy. We declared Chuadanga free.
Heba bhai arranged our meals at noon. As, at that time, our popularity was at its peak. Awami League leaders and influential people in the area came and forcibly gave us money. We took the money with us in India.
At late noon on that day, we set out for India riding on a locomotive to cross the border. We were around 10 to 12 people. Shahjahan Siraj and Mostafa Mohsin Montu were with us. We crossed Darshana border and the locomotive took us at the Gede station in India.
From Gede, we went to Kolkata on a regular train. We got down at the Sealdah Railway Station at the wee hours. We tried hard to get room in a hotel near the Sealdah Railway Station. But, we could not.
During that time in 1971, Naxalite attacks were common incidents in Kolkata. As a result, most of the hotels were heavily guarded by police whose weapons were chained with their bodies so that Naxals couldn't carry out a surprise attack and snatch the weapons from them. As the locks of the chain were kept in police headquarter, polices had no option but to fight until death if such an attack occurred.
Finding no options to check-in into a hotel, we slept at a mosque in that night. However, before the Fazar azan, a muezzin woke us up and told us to get ready for prayers. We were severely sleep-deprived and tired. After walking several miles, we found a private boarding house where medical students used to live in. Seeing us, one student just uttered "Joy Bangla?". We said yes. They became happy and invited us for breakfast. As we were exhausted, we told them that we would not need food, rather if they could arrange some beds for us, we would take a nap. They provided us with some beds. We all slept until late afternoon.
After waking up, some of us went out in search for a rather permanent shelter. Shahjahan Siraj, Mostafa Mohsin Montu and I stayed in the boarding house. Those medical students informed us that a committee was formed in Kolkata for the refugees from the then East Pakistan.
Later we came to know that a civil society in Park Circus area formed a committee called 'Sohayak Samiti' to help the refugees. We went there and introduced ourselves. The committee members managed us two rooms at the provincial assembly hostel in the Park Circus area.
There, our main tasks were monitoring the conditions in which refugees were living in different camps, searching for recruits and motivating and training them to fight the war of independence. We used to send regular updates to the Provisional Government of Bangladesh whose office was set up on the Theatre Road. Later, I was given a small room beside the room of Osmani saheb [Muhammad Ataul Goni Osmani] on the Theatre Road.
I was never a member of Mujib Bahini. I formed a separate force which took commando training to fight the liberation war.