53 years and counting, family searches for remains of Captain Bashar who vanished in 1971 war

Iqbal and Gul Nahar commemorate their father's death anniversary on May 29 each year, but they never found his remains

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 25 March 2024, 08:55 PM
Updated : 25 March 2024, 08:55 PM

Captain RAM Khairul Bashar went missing while his wife was pregnant during Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971.

Nurun Nahar Bashar welcomed her son, Iqbal Bashar Babu, into the world in July of that year, amidst a tumultuous backdrop. With war raging all around, her husband's whereabouts unknown, intelligence agents closely monitoring her, and faced with isolation, she navigated through these adversities with resilience. 

A Pakistani colleague later provided Nurun Nahar with her husband's khaki army uniform, but they refrained from disclosing his fate.

After the war ended, they learnt through his acquaintances in the army that Captain Bashar was bayoneted to death during interrogation on May 29, 1971 at a torture cell at Dhaka Cantonment by the Pakistani army.

However, his remains were never found. 

Iqbal and his sister, Gul Nahar Bashar Panna, commemorate their father's death anniversary on May 29 each year, but they have no place to offer prayers or place flowers in because he has no grave.

Nurun Nahar died in 1992 without ever learning the truth about her husband's fate. 

Iqbal, as old as the country, feels a deep regret for never having seen his father's face.

He feels a lump in his throat whenever he speaks about his father. 

Iqbal mentioned that his father's ancestral home in Nilphamari has a gate named after martyred Captain Bashar, and a road in Dhaka Cantonment and the main gate of Khulna Jahanabad Cantonment have also been named in his honour. 

Despite feeling proud of these tributes, Iqbal still harbours a longing to learn about his father's fate.

He relies on accounts from his mother, relatives, and his father's friends for information, as no official documents about his death have been found.

In March 1971, Pakistan's Baluch Regiment launched multiple attacks to seize control of the Station Supply Depot (SSD) in the Chattogram Cantonment. Captain Bashar, then in charge of the SSD, along with Bengali soldiers loyal to him, resisted fiercely.

However, when the situation became untenable, he went into hiding and attempted to establish contact with political leaders of the time, said Iqbal. 

The Pakistani forces swooped down on unarmed Bengalis 53 years ago in a brutal attempt to crush their struggle for freedom. 

Codenamed ‘Operation Searchlight’, it carried out genocide in the early hours of Mar 26 in Dhaka. At least 7,000 Bengali were killed only in the capital. 

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared independence before being arrested by the Pakistani forces the same time. 

Bengalis retaliated with spectacular resistance and fought for nine months of the Liberation War to snatch the victory on Dec 16 when the occupation army surrendered to the allied forces backed by India. 

Regarding his father's fate, Iqbal said: "We don't have much information. I was still in my mother's womb at the time, and she was away due to her pregnancy. So, we don't know the specifics of when he was captured. We heard he fled the cantonment, but what transpired afterward remains unknown." 

"After he was captured by the Pakistani army during the war, some of his comrades informed my mother that he was taken to Dhaka Cantonment from Chattogram, where he suffered severe torture during interrogation." 

Iqbal's voice trembled with emotion, and his eyes were filled with tears.

After a brief halt, Iqbal shared: "I was born on Jul 7 in Dhaka. My mother was alone at the time, staying at one of her uncles’ houses. After the war, she faced many challenges moving to Panchagarh. Since then, we have lived in my grandfather's house, where we grew up. Our ancestral home was in Nilphamari, and both families decided to settle us here.

“My grandfather, Dr Salimullah, was a prominent figure in the local anti-British movement. My mother died in 1992 while I was still a student." 

When asked about their lives after losing both parents at a young age, Iqbal said, "Life goes on, it doesn't really stop. We've just been moving forward." 

"When Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for independence on Mar 7, army officers and soldiers were inspired just like the rest of the Bengalis. They were also organising internally. We heard he even affixed a Bangladeshi flag to my sister's perambulator," Iqbal said. 

"There are no official records, only anecdotes from his friends and my mother." 

Iqbal’s sister Gul Nahar has penned articles in media outlets seeking information about their father's fate. In these writings, she consistently states that their father was killed on May 29, 1971, by the forces under General Tikka Khan, known as the butcher of Bangladesh. 

Gul Nahar mentions that Major Sarfaraz, acting on Tikka Khan's orders, attempted to coerce their father into testifying against Bangabandhu, but he adamantly refused. 

She also said their mother remained under house arrest at a relative’s residence in Dhanmondi Road No. 20, closely monitored by Pakistani Captain Moazzem, who later handed over their father's military uniform to them in early June. 

RECORDS AND PEER MEMORIES 

Captain Bashar's situation during Chattogram's liberation struggle was discussed in the ninth volume of the classic collection the Bangladesher Swadhinata Juddha Dalilpatra, edited by Hasan Hafizur Rahman, as recounted by Captain Enamul Haque Chowdhury Bir Bikrom, a lawmaker from Sylhet. 

However, what happened to Captain Bashar afterwards remains unknown. 

In the interview, Captain Enamul recounted an encounter with four officers stationed near the East Bengal Regimental Centre. These officers, including Major Rezaul Rahman, Major Ashraf, Captain Bashar, and Captain Mohsin, were surprised to see him there and asked about the situation inside the EBRC. 

One of them remarked, "We thought the West Pakistanis were just making empty threats at the EBRC." 

Captain Enamul informed them about the West Pakistanis' brutality, revealing that they had mercilessly killed over a thousand people at the EBRC. 

When Major Rezaul heard this, he immediately told everyone to come with him to the city. “So, we all travelled together with our families, like nomads.” 

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, a lieutenant at Chittagong Cantonment during that time, remembered meeting Captain Bashar briefly after Mar 26 at Kalurghat Bridge. However, there was no contact afterward. 

Later, while Shamsher Mobin was held prisoner of war by the Pakistanis, he heard from fellow prisoners that Captain Bashar had surrendered to them. Captain Bashar was then taken to Dhaka, where he faced fatal torture during interrogation, according to what Mobin heard. 

[Writing in English by Arshi Fatiha Quazi; editing by Osham-ul-Sufian Talukder]