The Liberation War of Bangladesh had people from all walks of life coming together to fight for their motherland. A large number of freedom fighters during the war were school-going students. Sixty students from Dhanua Kamalpur Cooperative High School in Jamalpur, took part in the war. Being the only high school for students from several nearby villages, this institution contributed significantly to our fight for freedom.
Established in 1964, Dhanua Kamalpur Cooperative High School in Jamalpur, located only one mile from the Bangladesh-India border, was a crucial battleground. Being so close to the border, Kamalpur was one of the most targeted and busiest areas during the war. "The Pakistan Army set up their camp in our school premises, occupying the whole area," shares Khandaker Yakub, one of the freedom fighters from the school. "They surrounded the school premises at the very beginning of the war. Our primary school building was completely destroyed, after allied forces' Air Force attacked the camp."
Most of the students from this school who registered for the war were ninth and tenth graders. "When we signed up for the war, we did not know or understand patriotism," expresses Khandaker Yakub. "Back then, many of us signed up because of the excitement, some of us were forced to take part and a large number of students joined the war, following their peers into battle."
Three students from the school were recognised for their outstanding bravery with the Bir Protik title, after the Liberation War. They were: Bashir Ahmed, Matiur Rahman and Nur Islam. Nur Islam was rewarded with the titles, Bir Protik and Bir Bikram, for his contribution to the war.
During the war, students of the school were dispersed across the country, serving in different units of the Mukti Bahini. Kamalpur was one of the first areas to achieve independence in the country, after the Pakistan Army in the area surrendered on December 4, 1971. Bir Protik Bashir Ahmed was one of the two brave messengers who delivered the surrender letter to the Pakistan Army camp.
The war took away the lives of many students of Dhanua Kamalpur Cooperative High School, and left many others severely injured. "I don't recall the exact number of our classmates who died in the war, but the number was significantly high," shares Bir Protik Bashir Ahmed.
Matiur Rahman was in a wheelchair, as his left leg had to be amputated after the war. Bashir Ahmed and Nur Islam still have gunshot wounds on their stomaches. Nur Islam sustained seven bullets in his abdomen, and miraculously survived.
"We were ready to die 50 years ago; when we enrolled in the war, we expected to sacrifice our lives," says Khandaker Yakub. "The freedom fighters are patriots, who dared to sacrifice their lives. But now, I believe that we are moving further and further away from the values of the war, day by day."
"Although the situation is better than before now, there was a time when we didn't even dare to introduce ourselves as freedom fighters," shares Bir Protik Bashir Ahmed. "We used to hide our identity during the 90s. But today, we receive a lot of respect as freedom fighters." He spends most of time these days sharing his stories and experiences from the war with others.
"The newer generations will take this country forward towards prosperity and success, this is our expectation," he says. "We expect them to love and care for the country as we did, in 1971."
"If you want to help a country, you must help its people," adds Khandaker Yakub, who was a Bengali teacher at Dhanua Kamalpur Cooperative High School for more than 35 years, retiring in 2018. "For Bangladesh to move forward, we need development in the villages, as villages are the true lifelines of this country."
Despite the present challenges in Bangladesh, Khandaker Yakub and Bir Protik Bashir Ahmed are hopeful about the future. They hope that the newer generations help the people of our country, and contribute to our collective success.
On the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence, we salute these gallant freedom fighters, and pay tributes to all those who lost their lives in the Liberation War.