Execution of a freedom fighter

Brig. Sharif confirmed me over phone that Rowshan Yazdani's execution had been carried out. He further added that till the last moment Yazdani was fighting and tried to climb the well with his tied up legs thus prolonging his death and suffering. He was a true freedom fighter, what else can be expected from him. Even in his death, knowing all the odds were against him, he still kept on fighting.

I knew this much that when a person was hanged in gallows if he was heavy, chances were that his body weight would create enough jolt at the noose and break his neck - the quickest way to die. But for a person who was light in weight, instead of broken neck he would have to die of strangulation and suffocation which may take quite some time prolonging the suffering. The lungs would desperately gasp for air. With tied up hands and legs and a black covering over the head, there was no way to even beg for a peaceful death. I couldn't think anymore.

After I hung up the phone, my mind went 20 years back in the past and I vividly saw Rowshan scolding me, "And you didn't do any thing, you didn't hit them back?" There was contempt in his eyes along with deep hurt at my suffering and humiliation. I realized how much he loved and cared for me. He was my room-mate at Faujdarhat Cadet College. The other room-mate was Schams, who was still crying - more from the humiliation than from the physical beating which was possibly just one or two slaps. Rowshan couldn't accept that two of his room-mates had been humiliated, assaulted and manhandled by their own class prefects and they didn't fight back. He was fuming with rage. He was smaller than both of us physically, but mentally braver than any of us. He certainly had a bigger heart.

The whole thing started from a small silly issue. It was just before our final Board examination. We belonged to the Dhaka Board instead of Chittagong Board, where the college was physically
located. Only class XI and XII were at the college, rest of the students were already having their vacation. We had to stay behind for our ensuing examination. That fateful day about noon, we were waiting in line to enter the dining room for our lunch, when some of us started picking up on Mesbah hinting his special interest on a junior student (who was not there that time). Mesbah was one of the a Prefects from our class and he didn't liked to be teased. He talked with other Prefects of our class and asked Schams, Mushfiq and myself to stay back after lunch.

The other Prefects in our class were Tanveer (now retired as Secretary, Energy), Bashar (a retired banker) and Nasim (a planter and a close friend of mine). I was also very friendly with Mesbah and during the last vacation, I had been to his house in Rajshahi and dined with his parents and sisters. So, the next action was unpleasant to all of us. Mushfiq and myself were put into two different bathrooms (they are large communal bathrooms) and locked from out side, when all the Prefects took up with Schams and tried to shake him up for the alleged  teasing of a Prefect. I didn't know exactly what had happened there, but I could see through the netted bathroom door that after about 5/10  minutes, Schams leaving the room with his head down and possibly crying. Then they took Mushfiq in. Again I saw Mushfiq leaving in a similar manner. All these were already making me very angry inside but I tried to keep my composure. I didn't want to pick up any fight with any Prefects as they were considered as extension of the College management and could have resulted in my immediate expulsion from the Collage.

After I was taken inside the room, Mesbah came to me and asked why I was teasing him. I said it was a joke and not a big deal. He said it wasn't a joke for him and he wanted me to promise that this would never happen again. I was always very particular about my promises and commitments and didn't like to give one easily. But he insisted that I must promise. I tried to make a conditional commitment and said - only if I remember.

- What do you mean, if you remember? - he charged.
- Do you remember every thing that the teachers teach you? - I retorted.

In our class, Mesbah wasn't that good a student (compared to the three of us). He took this to be a further insult on him. He came very near me, put his left leg on a small table in front (he was shorter than me) and reached for my hair.

- Don't touch my hair - I said.
- First you promise that you will never try to tease me - he insisted still keeping his finger inside my hair as if he was going to hold my hairs and shake me up.

Suddenly, my right arm surprised myself and also others and went for a powerful right jab straight to Mesbah's face and hit his nose. He stumbled down and all other Prefects came rushing to me. I started shouting at them - "Don't forget, you are four and I am alone". Normally I was a quiet type boy, and not at all a fighter type. I didn't know what had suddenly happened that moment that made me act like that. One of the Prefects said, "Let Saifuddahar go, we will have to report this to the Cadet Captain." They were convinced that I would meet with the ultimate punishment by getting expelled from the College, so it was not worth any more to use their hands on me.

Mesbah's nose may have been bleeding, because they took some time reaching the Cadet Captain. I did some quick thinking. What I had done on the spur of the moment was a capital offense in Cadet College norm and expulsion was the only punishment. Our Board exam was only 7 days away and if I was expelled at that moment, I wouldn't have enough time to relocate to another center for the exam. I also knew that my father would be very hurt. I knew that although I used to get some scholarship (it was dependent on parents income), my father had to sell one of his houses to cover my college expenses. So, I decided to immediately go to the Cadet Captain myself first. Mirza Raquibul Huda was the Cadet Captain and he had good opinion about me. I told him the whole story including that I hit a Prefect. He listened quietly. Then he said, "Make sure that no body comes to know that you hit a Prefect, otherwise I won't be able to save you". I promised him that I wouldn't tell any one. He then brought out a wooden ruler and asked me spread my hand and hit me three strokes with the ruler on my palm as my punishment.

Later when the prefects came to report to him, he convinced them that this story should not be made public. He said, "If this gets public, Saifuddahar will be expelled no doubt, but for the rest of the time all the students will point to Mesbah and say that he was beaten by a Cadet. In the history of the College, no Cadet has ever dared to hit a Prefect." I guess by this time the Prefects also realized what they did wasn't very right and they may also get into problem if further investigations was carried out. So, they agreed to follow the Cadet Captains suggestion.

That was the reason I couldn't tell the whole story to Rowshan. When he asked - Did they beat you? - I nodded.
- And like a coward you took the beating?
- Yes.
- Shame on you - he was almost fuming with rage. I suddenly felt so good. He was angry because he took my insult as his. He had so much love in his heart for his friends.

We have an epilogue to our story. The same evening after the games, all our classmates, excluding the Prefects, were asked to gather around the swimming pool. After an open democratic discussion it was decided that those Prefects would be given a lesson. Rowshan (executed), Habib (deceased), Shakoor (deceased), and a few others spoke emotionally and very strongly supporting an immediate action. Right after the dinner, when we were returning from the dining hall to our class, suddenly one of us jumped over Mesbah and he fell down on the hard ground. Rest, whoever could, stared kicking and punching him. All this happened in a very short time. But the damage was enough. Mesbah had to be admitted to the hospital.

The Principal, Col. Brown, came and brought all of us in the Assembly Hall. We all stood there in lines, very worried about our future. Our action was tantamount to mutiny or open revolt. Assaulting a Prefect was like assaulting the College authority. Col. Brown was visibly upset. He said all his years of work had gone to drains. He wanted to know who were responsible for beating Mesbah. First in the line was Sharif. When Principal asked, "Did you beat him?". Sharif showed his character and said, "Yes, Sir." The Principal looked at the next person and he also said, "Yes,Sir". All of us gave the same answer, "Yes, Sir." Nusrat (deceased) was physically small compared to others. So when he also said, "Yes, Sir", the Principal asked, "Physically?". The reply was still, "Yes, Sir."

Next the Principal wanted to know who were the ring leaders. He asked the question, "Are you the ring leader?". This time, one by one, every one said, "No, Sir". This was a very memorable moment of my life. I had never seen such a strong expression of solidarity in my life. By saying 'yes, sir' every one of us exposed himself for possible expulsion and ruining of their future. But at that moment, our friendship and camaraderie became more important than any thing else.

Some times I wonder, why could we not show similar camaraderie and strong fellowship in our later lives to save Rowshan's life? In Bangladesh it is said that having right connections was very important. Why it didn't work for Rowshan? Rowshan's closest friend in Cadet College was Ashraf. Brig. Ashraf was the Chief of Security Services and very close to the then strong man President Ershad. Brig. Sharif was PS to Ershad at that time. Amin (CSP) was a PS to the President and stayed with Zia when he was assassinated in the same Chittagong Circuit House. Anis (later Ershad's Foreign Minister) had spent the evening with Zia. All of them were very close to Rowshan and knew that Rowshan was not a type who could belong to be a conspirator or a killer. He would always fight for the right cause, the one he believed in.

As his last wish, the jail authorities allowed him to send a short telegram to the person he possibly still considered his closest friend. The then NSI Director Brig. Ashraf did receive the telegram. It just said, "SAVE LIFE".

Rowshan wanted to be a modern farmer - that was his dream. During our vacation period we used to travel by the same Rajshahi Express train. Our journey was long and took over 24 hours to reach North and South Bengal districts from Chittagong. College authorities made special arrangements for us with the railways authorities. As a result, we used to travel in reserved third class compartments. Towards the later part of the journey when most others had dropped down, Rowshan, Habib (deceased) and myself were the only passengers in our reserved compartment. It gave us a good opportunity to exchange our ideas and dreams. Rowshan's father was working in Dutta Nagar Government Agricultural Experimental Farm and Rowshan would tell us his exciting experiences of driving a tractor in the farm.  I don't remember him much talking about girls. All he talked about was how he dreamt his dream farm would be. He would try to use modern equipments like tractors and tillers for farming and irrigation pumps and improved seeds for making his farm an ideal farm which other farmers could emulate. He was also a good flute player. Late at night, he would bring out his flute and play it and we would still be thinking about his dream farm. I think he was the only one amongst us who wanted to be a farmer.  After graduation from the college, when most of us went to Military Academy in Kakul, EPUET and Dhaka University, he went to Mymensing to join the Agricultural University.

During the war of independence in 1971, he gave up his dream and joined the liberation war and later was given a commission in the Bangladesh Army. Because he had joined the army much later, he was still a Major when his other old friends were already Colonels and Brigadiers in the army.

 As far as I had gathered, he was not involved in the assassination of Zia. He was not one of the members of the group who had gone to the Circuit House that night or even involved in the planning. When he was arrested in the remote Chittagong village, he was with Gen. Manzoor's wife and family trying to find a secure place for them. By that time Manzoor had already being killed. Again, it was like Rowshan, always trying to help the underdog. When others had conveniently left Manzoor and joined hands with Ershad, Rowshan took it up on his shoulder the responsibility of saving the family of the fallen General.

After my College days, I had not met Rowshan any more. Once I was in Mymensing Agricultural University and had gone to his hostel to meet him. Unfortunately he was not available there that time. So, in my mind I still carry the picture of Rowshan, who on a moonlit night is playing his flute standing in a vast open rice field - his dream kingdom which never materialized. When that happy picture is replaced by the picture of him hanging helplessly at the end of a rope - all I can do is silently wipe the tears from my eyes.

[Please check the following link for the Bangla translation of above : http://www.cadetcollegeblog.com/999/15478]

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