Remembering the Colonelby Kaiser Haq
I KNOW it is objectively true that a year has gone by since Lt Colonel Kazi Nuruzzaman, BU was laid to rest. Yet to me the Colonel — I always liked to refer to him thus — is as much of a living presence as ever. I am sure many will share my sentiment, among kith and kin, and friends and fellow freedom fighters. To those of us who fought under his command in the independence war, he was a well-loved, respected, paternal figure; easily approachable and ever ready to lead from the front. It is worth reminding readers that he was older by a long chalk than any of the other sector commanders, and could have opted for a staff job at HQ.
A seasoned artillery officer, more than once the Colonel persuaded allied batteries to let him take the shoot. I was with him at the attack on Khanpur BOP in Dinajpur; after the infantry assault led by my course-mate Amin had overrun the enemy bunkers he quickly went right up to the frontline to deliberate tactical questions with junior officers. Once as I was cutting across a field on my way to the sub-sector HQ for a much-needed night of undisturbed sleep, I was surprised to come upon the Colonel, accompanied by a sepoy. He was visiting the sub-sector and wanted to go to the frontline to have a cheering word with the raw recruits who made up my company, even though this would have taken him within range of enemy snipers.
Clearly, the Colonel had the qualities of an inspiring commander — qualities in themselves quite remarkable. But what makes him more remarkable is that he was also a well-read man, a thinker, though not — thank God — the stereotypical intellectual. In politics he had always inclined to the Left, though he never belonged to any party. The war led him to ponder practicable ways of bringing about social reorganisation.
Just after independence the Colonel was full of ideas about mobilising the freedom fighters for nation-building activities. I believe there was some talk along these lines in the corridors of power, but the idea was quickly aborted. The sector troops were doled out a measly 50 taka each and sent home; none can blame them if they felt betrayed. The tremendous collective energy that had been generated through the independence struggle was allowed to dissipate itself.
The Colonel too went home, as did my sub-sector commander, Captain Idris, BP. Neither had been a serving officer at the outbreak of the war, and had no place in a professional peacetime army. But the Colonel remained steadfast in his commitment to the values that had driven him to take part in the war. He was instrumental in setting up the Muktijoddha Sangsad and the Nirmul Committee. He never ceased to believe in the possibility of positive social change. That is why he is still a living presence: he lives in his ideas — ideas that chide us as we slide from one form of anomie to another.
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