I still remember Khurram, my elder brother, classmate, friend and a freedom fighter ….

Enayetuddin Md. Kaiser Khan, former student of Dhaka College

Abu Nayem Md. Nazibuddin Khan Khurram embraced martyrdom during the course of our historic Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. Khurram Bhai was my elder brother, classmate, a very close friend, and eventually a martyr in the war that paved the way for our sovereignty as a nation.

We are the descendants of the family of Late Md. Jalaluddin Khan from the Village of Hossain Nagar, under the Upazila of Belabo in the district of Narshinghdi. Our father, Late Md. Alauddin Khan, served as a Director of the Jute Board in the Ministry of Jute. Due to the nature of our father’s occupation, our family had to relocate to different parts of the country. This acquainted us to different towns, rivers, ports, norms and culture.

Khurram Bhai was born in 1954, the fourth amongst seven brothers and sisters. From a very young age, it was clear that he was a free spirit and a catalyst of social change. Khurram Bhai and I were students at Narayangonj High School till class nine. Then our father had been transferred and we shifted to different places. I moved to my maternal Grandfather’s house at College Road of Bhairab Bazar Town. Our grandfather, Mohiuddin Bhuiyan, popularly known as Modhu Mia, was an eminent businessman at the time. I got admission into Bhairab Railway High School in Science group, and Khurram Bhai went to Mymensingh and got admitted into Mymensingh Zilla School in Commerce Group. I passed S.S.C. exam with letter marks in four subjects and Khurram Bhai passed with letter marks in two subjects. In 1970, I was admitted to Government Titumir College and Khurram Bhai in Dhaka College. We resided in the Central Government Staff Quarters at Eskaton Garden in Dhaka from 1968 till 1982.

From a young age, Khurram Bhai took great interest in a range of political and social activities. He led the Scout team of Narayangonj High School in 1965 and participated in Jamboree held in Karachi, Pakistan. He was deeply inspired by the ideology of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as was our eldest brother, Iftekharuddin Khan Khashru, who was fortunate enough to spend a significant amount of his time with Bangabandhu as his comrade in his political endeavors.

Our parents, however, were not aware of Khurram Bhai’s interests and active participation in such matters. While studying in Dhaka College, Khurram Bhai’s participation in various political-oriented activities kept him very busy. He was elected as a member of Dhaka College Students’ Union.

On 25th March 1971, Pakistani Occupation Army carried out Operation Search Light. Khurram Bhai and I went to Bhairab Bazar with fervid intentions to participate in the Liberation War. We met Mr. Nasim, then Captain of the East Bengal Regiment. Under his leadership, armed training started in Bhairab K.B. Pilot High School field, and several noteworthy individuals such as Flight Lieutenant (later Birshrestha) Motiur Rahman participated there. On 12 April 1971, under the supervision of Captain Nasim, Khurram Bhai and I went to Ashugonj crossing over Bhairab Railway Bridge. Then we stayed in a jute warehouse and received training with 303 rifles. We met my younger maternal uncle Hanif Bhuiyan and his friend Altaf Mia. On 15 April (1 Boishakh), early in the morning, Pakistani fighter planes carried out a heavy bombardment on Ashugonj. At the same time, Paratroopers filled the skies, descending from helicopters and falling onto croplands near Ashugonj. The Captain ordered us to retreat towards safety, sensing the imminent danger surrounding us.

Up until this time, Khurram Bhai and I remained together, but unfortunately, a Subader divided us in two groups. As we were separated due to this grouping, we bade farewell to each other, not knowing whether that would be our final farewell. As fate would have it, it would indeed be the last time we would see each other. Both Khurram Bhai and I became very upset at being separated from one another, but we had no choice but to accept the situation.

Before we realized it, the battle against the Pakistani Occupation Army began, and I vividly remember the image of a freedom fighter being shot with a bullet. I was overcome with emotion at the smell of blood and ammunition. As we moved along the Meghna River, the bullet-hit freedom fighter breathed his last breath, embracing martyrdom as we experienced the life escape from his body. It was at that moment when I could not help but think of my brother, where he was, how he was, and whether he had shared a similar fate.

As I kept walking along the village, I saw many Bengali soldiers along the way. They were dressed in civilians’ attire, and not in combat uniform. They were moving towards Shahbazpur. Physically and mentally torn, I slowly started walking towards my maternal Uncle’s (my mother’s first cousin) house in Chilikut Village. The villagers initially mistook me for a Pakistani soldier and confronted me, many almost ready to kill me, but stopped as I shared my identity with them. Upon hearing about my grandfather, popularly known as Modhu Mia to the local villagers, they released me to my maternal uncle who had rushed to the scene upon hearing about the situation.

I stayed with my uncle for a few days, after which I started my journey on foot back to our village Hossain Nagar. While at Chilikut, I witnessed firsthand the harsh brutalities enforced upon the villagers by the Pakistani forces. These were the real atrocities and inhumane depictions of the different types of torture that were being forced upon the people around us. These ill- treatments which I witnessed at that young age were symbolic of the cruelty and the inhumanity that the Pakistani forces carried out on innocent lives.

By this time, news of these war crimes had reached our village, and the knowledge of Khurram Bhai’s death in battle had also reached my father and family members. This was arguably the most difficult moment in our lives, and the emotions of such loss resonated throughout as a nation wept and death was all around us.

After staying in our village for a few months, during which my father also came to see me and reason with me to remain there for some time, I returned to Dhaka to our EskatonGarden residence. In the meantime, I stayed in touch with my friend, Shah Mohammad Ziaur Rahman (who was to eventually serve as Chief of Air Force in years to come), about going to India for formal military training. Around the same time, my youngest brother, Salahuddin Mohammed Tarek Khan, had already taken the decision to leave for India. Our maternal grandmother, Mrs. Lili, the wife of Advocate Aftabuddin Bhuyan (my maternal grandfather’s younger brother), the then newly elected member of Pakistan National Parliament, decided to accompany him on the trip to India.

My eldest brother, Khasru, actively involved with Bangabandhu and his movement, moved to a safe shelter for some time. These were extremely trying times, especially difficult on my father, knowing that three of his four sons could end up losing their lives during the course of the war. It was primarily out of this sentiment that my father asked me to stay with him, but I remained in constant contact with my friend Zia regarding the possibility of going to India. Eventually, Zia left for India, and I could not.

Eight students from DhakaCollege, named Nazrul Islam, Abdus Sabur Sikder, Nazibuddin Khan, Ali Ahsan, Muazzem Hossain, Nijamuddin Ajad, Azizul Islam Babul and M.A Kayum attained martyrdom in the Liberation War. It saddens my heart to have lost my brother in the War, yet this is our pride, and this is the story of hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters who have sacrificed and lost so much in the War that liberated us and gave us a voice as a nation.

I did not get a chance to say goodbye to so many family members and friends and acquaintances, but many memories of those individuals will stay with me till my last breath. I can still remember my beloved Shamsu Nana (my maternal grandmother’s brother) of Kamaura village, a physically handicapped person who could not walk, yet he could not escape the cruel death that he suffered due to the mercilessness of the Pakistani forces. Uncle Sohrab, Shamsu Nana’s son, received a bullet in his leg, but was fortunate to be sent to Germany for medical treatment under Government finance at the end of the war. Another cousin, Md. Azmal Bhuiyan, suffered from a sprinter in his shoulder during battle, while another cousin, Golap Ahmed of Jalkusha village, was killed by Pakistani Army while held captive in Brahmumbaria Jail.

It is estimated that close to 30 lakh people laid down their lives, that more than 2.5 lakh women lost their chastity during the liberation war in 1971. Bangladesh achieved her Independence on 16 December in 1971 through a long sojourn of sacrifices and losses of human lives.

After the War ended, the next phase of our lives began. I passed the H.S.C. Examination in 1973 from Dhaka College, and consequently obtained a scholarship to go to India for higher studies. In the same year, my good friend Shah Zia joined Bangladesh Air Force as a GD Pilot. My classmates Shoaib went to Germany, Harun to Bulgaria, and Dilu got admitted to Dhaka University. I completed my Bachelors Degree from University of Agricultural Science in Bangalore in 1978 followed by an admission for the Masters program in Bangladesh Agriculture University in 1979. During that tenure, I joined the department as a Lecturer, my first steps into my professional life.

In 1982, I got married and left for Japan the following year in pursuit of postgraduate academic opportunities. My wife and I were blessed with a son soon after, and my father-in-law offered me to join in his company (a garments-manufacturing facility in Dhaka city). We came back to Dhaka in 1985, and I started a new career track with my father-in-law. From 1985 till present day, it has been a long association for me in the garments trade. I am currently serving as the Managing Director of a Group of garments-manufacturing companies here in Dhaka.

Allah blessed us with two children, a son (Md. Ehsanuddin Khan) and a daughter (Farisa Parveen). Both my children have completed their respective Bachelors/ Masters degrees, and my son has been working in our company since he returned from America, while my daughter is working at a local bank.

More than 42 years have passed since the historical Liberation War took place. Much has changed in our society, our culture, our perceptions, our aspirations, yet the memories of the time during the Liberation War remains vivid in my mind. I remember my brother at every stage of my life, and I honor his memory by remaining vigilant in trying to make meaningful contributions to projects of welfare and social change and charitable foundations. Though it has been many years since we left our village, I try to remain involved in some of the development projects relevant to our village. Along with others, we helped to establish the Nazibuddin Khan Khurram Academy and Shaheed Nazibuddin Khan College in our village.

If Khurram Bhai had been alive today, I am certain he would have taken an active role in our society, to help bring about positive change and to work at the grassroots level to help the process of true economic, political, and social freedom. These are the ideals which I strongly believe in, and it is my hope that the current and future generations help to support this vision for a truly Independent and free Bangladesh.

I remember my brother Khurram when I am alone and when I am amongst people, and it gives me some comfort to know that perhaps he is already in a better place waiting to meet us when it is our time as well.