Glimpses of Eid-ul-Fitr in 1971

In Kolkata, a small Eid jamaat was held in front of expatriate Bangladesh government headquarters on Theatre Road

Sighting of crescent moon of month of Shawwal in Hijri calendar fills the heart of Muslims around the world with enormous joy and festivity. The night before Eid, as known as ‘Chad Raat’, is synonymous with joy as the day that follows is the day of Eid-ul-Fitr. But how was Eid-ul-Fitr in in 1971? Did the day of the biggest celebration of Muslims brought about any respite for the defiant freedom fighters that were fighting to free the motherland from Pakistani occupation forces, or for the stranded citizens in Dhaka? In fact it was not. The day was of sorrow, determination to attain independence and wish to celebrate the next Eid day in the motherland as free citizens.  

The day of Eid-ul-Fitr was on 20 November in 1971. Chad Raat of 1971 did not elicit any sympathy for the hapless Bangalees in the hearts of the Pakistani army.  On the very night, the bloodthirsty Pakistani army brought out  38 Bangalee freedom fighters detained in Brahnambaria jail and killed them in Poirtola Khalpar area in Brahmanbaria. They entered the bodies of the martyrs on the Eid dawn. Pakistani army’s auxiliary force Razakars earlier on 27 October detained Siru Mia Daroga, his son Kamal, Daudkandi thana BLF commander Shahid Nazrul Islam and others and handed them over to Pakistani army. The detainees were tortured indiscriminately for more than twenty days and killed the night before Eid.

In Kurigram, valiant freedom fighters led by sub sector commander lieutenant Abu Moyeen Mohammad Ashfaqus Samad reached Raiganj under Nageshwari thana in Kurigram in an attempt to free the area from clutch of Pakistani army on 19 November. Before the war broke out in March, Ashfaqus Samad was a student of Statistics Department at Dhaka University. He got commissioned as lieutenant in the First War Course on 9 October upon completion of course in India. Ashfaqus Samad and his team got entrapped on the night of 19 November in the direct confrontation. He continued the fight and repelled attack of Pakistani army and saved life of his fellow freedom fighters. Ashfaque with his machine gun alone covered a huge number of Pakistani armies. At one point army detected his position in a bush and a bullet pierced his head.

The war that started on 19 November morning continued till the evening of 20 November and 25 Punjab Regiment of Pakistani army finally retreated five miles to Nageshwari on 21 November dawn. East Pakistan Rifles’ sepoi Kabir Ahmed, Abdul Aziz and some other freedom fighters laid their lives in the strategically important battle of Raiganj along with Ashfaqus Samad on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr. After the war, Ashfaqus Samad was conferred second highest gallantry award Bir Uttam for his valiant fight.

On the day, Gono Bahihi freedom fighters of sector 2 attacked a Razakar camp at Companiganj’s Bamni in Noakhali. The leader of the team Ohidur Rahman Odud was martyred and several others freedom fighters were injured during the counter attack of Razakars.

Several freedom fighters and innocent villagers were killed in Satkhira’s Tala area in pitched battle with Pakistani army and their auxiliary forces.  Satkhira’s Kaliganj was freedom on the day while a large part of Debhata was also freed on the day.

Freedom fighters, with help of Indian army, launched an offensive to recover Sylhet’s Zakiganj area that First East Bengal freed on 15 November. The battled continued for whole night.

Bir Uttam Abu Moyeen Mohammad Ashfaqus Samad was martyred on the night before Eid

While war raged on different part of the country, government tried to give a false impression to the people that everything is alright here. According to a report on 19 November in the first page of Azad newspaper, the government on 18 November issued a press note saying the government has taken all out preparation so that people can celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr and prevent any untoward incident on the Eid day. “It has been noticed by the government that the anti-social elements have been spreading words that they will create obstacle in Eid celebration in general and Eid jamaat in particular. The government wants to assure all that it has taken all preparation possible to ensure people celebrate Eid festival and parry any attempt to create any untoward situation,” Azad published quoting the press note.

Was the Bangalees living inside the city really assured by the government press note?

Jahanara Imam, known as Shaheed Janani, left behind her experience of Eid day in her famous diary ‘Ekattorer Dinguli’.

She said no special arrangement was made for Eid celebration at their house, curtains were not washed, cobwebs were not cleared and no new clothes were bought on the occasion of Eid.

“No vial of Attar has been kept on the table of sitting room. Sharif and Jami didn’t even go to Eid jamaat. Yet I’ve woken up at dawn and cooked Shemai and Jarda. What if any fellow fighter of Rumi comes to this house? I’ve cooked Polao, Korma, Kopta Kabab lest I can feed them secretly if any of them turn up.”

Journalist and writer Abu Jafar Shamsuddin was in Dhaka on the Eid day. Shamsuddin, by then 60 years old, wrote he did not attend Eid Jamaat for the first time in his life that year.

“Saturday was Eid day. Jamaat is not jayez (obligatory) in times of war. I didn’t go to Eid jamaat. I headed to Siddique Bazar at 9 in the morning along with youngest son Kayes. After boarding a rickshaw, I find the roads deserted. The rickshaw was turned away in front of Television office (DIT building). Truck load of military is patrolling the streets.”

He wrote an Eid jamaat was led by Abdur Rahman Bekhud which was attended apparently by only five to seven hundred people, mostly Biharis.

“On my way back, I saw Eid jamaat is being held at Baitul Mukarram mosque at military guard. No more than around a thousand people perhaps attended this jamaat. On my way back from Siddique Bazar, the streets seemed deserted too.”

Ittefaq newspaper on 23 November published a picture of Eid jamaat at Outer Stadium where governor MA Maleque was seen attending the prayer.

The daily also ran a story titled ‘Machination of Indian agents foiled’ where it wrote ‘Eid was celebrated in every part of East Pakistan with usual festivity’.

A story published in Azad on the same day said ‘Dhaka city has not seen such spontaneous Eid celebration for last several years.’

In Kolkata, a small Eid jamaat was held in front of expatriate Bangladesh government headquarters on Theatre Road. Prime minister Tajuddin Ahmed, Muktibahini chief MAG Osmani and other officials attended the prayer. Joy Bangla, a weekly mouthpiece of Awami League, published a picture of the Eid jamaat which reads the a special prayer was offered seeking success of freedom fighters, long life of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and salvation of the departed martyrs in liberation war.

Joy Bangla weekly was published on 19 November, a day before Eid. It published news on the lead titled ‘Let our prayers be in this Eid….”. According to the report Tajuddin Ahmed in his Eid message towards the people of the country said, “The joy of Eid has become elusive from us this time; only mourning of losing near ones, a steadfast determination of a fierce fight and self-sacrifice remain with us…The lost joy of Eid would be regained only the day we can freed our country from enemy.”

He also added that the denouement of the liberation struggle is near.

Tajuddin maintained austerity on the day of Eid and forwent any celebration. He, however, went to visit a camp of freedom fighters in Kushtia that night. He embraced the freedom fighters, exchanged Eid greetings and handed them over sweets sent as Eid from West Bengal government.  

The provisional government’s president Syed Nazrul Islam seemed almost prescient on his message to the people of the country.

Joy Bangla weekly on its post-Eid edition on 26 November published Nazrul Islam’s message to the nation.

“We would celebrate Eid ul Fateh or the Victory Eid after freeing the country from the clutch of enemy. And I can pledge you the day not far away,” said Syed Nazrul Islam.

His pledge was kept, as the nation was freed within a month and people celebrated Eid ul Azha on 27 January 1972 in an independent Bangladesh.