Post war 1971

Writer: Belaluddin Category: আত্মজীবনী (Memoir) Edition: Dhaboman - Winter 2020

It was 1972. The country was wrecked. Families were wrecked. People had become emotionally, psychologically and financially bankrupt. The economy was wrecked, the government was wrecked. In fact, the whole country had been turned upside down with the Liberation War. There were vigilante groups everywhere. Killings on the streets by mobs was almost an everyday thing. Many young people had automatic & semi-automatic weapons - and they were using them.

 It was the same everywhere and FCC immediately after the war, was no different.  When we went back to school (FCC class 11) early ’72, there was nothing. No plates, no cutlery, no tablecloths, no bed sheets, no shoes, no blankets, no uniforms, no books, nothing! They even took the guts out of the college clock. Everything was gone! All looted by the Indian army. Bunch of losers & drunks. How do I know?  I know because I worked with them during the latter part of 1971. Almost all of them stayed drunk most of the time. They were supplied free booze for courage!

 The college was in total disarray and there was virtually no governance. It was so bad that many of the class 7 & 8 kids were going to see all night JATRAs at Faujdarhat bazar ! It was so bad that FCC “elected” the cadet captain that year! The following are some of the incidents that occurred during FCC’s “ayyam e jahiliyya” (1972).

 During 1972 three students from Lowertopa were introduced into class 9. As soon as they arrived, they made their own gang and started bullying some of the smaller FCC kids. One night after dinner I had returned to my room close to the dining hall (Shahjahan House) when I heard a commotion outside. The noise was coming towards me from the dining hall area. It was getting louder so I decided to check it out. When I stepped out, I saw a group of about ten cadets surrounding the three Lowertopians. The duty master was trying to diffuse the issue and walking everyone towards the acting principal’s office.

 Withing a few minutes, the crowd grew to at about 20, then 25 and then 30. Everyone seemed extremely agitated. The cadets were screaming at the Lowertopians accusing them of dislocating a little boy’s arm in the dining hall’s washroom after dinner. Soon there were almost 100 kids on the verge of attacking the three Lowertopians. Something drastic was feverishly escalating to the point of no return. Something was about to go down that we would all regret forever. I realized that if I didn’t act immediately, the 1972 “mob mania” would kill someone that night. Without speaking a word, I grabbed the three Lowertopians and darted towards the last room of Shahjahan house. On the way I saw my friend Anis Qadri (FCC 13) near Babar house and shouted at him to help me.  He immediately realized the seriousness of the matter and ran straight into the room. I followed him with the three boys. The crowd started chasing us. I knew they were a little hesitant to pick a fight with me but crowd frenzy is an adrenalin rush like no other. As soon as we got inside the room, I locked the door and put the three boys between two cupboards. I told them “don’t step outside if you want to live”. I shouted at Anis “guard the back windows”. I wedged my foot on the door like I had been taught during my training and it held the pressure of the cadets pushing on the door.

 I looked back to check on Anis and saw that the cadets had broken the back windows and were streaming into the room. Anis had taken off his heavy belt with metal buckles and was swinging it wildly to fend off the onslaught. The glass French door I was blocking was flimsy. Although my foot was fine, the door hinges started coming off from the all the pushing. I realized that if I held on any longer, I would be badly cut up by the shattering glass. I had to let go. I screamed at the boys “stay in between the cupboards”. I stood in front of them and started punching anyone who approached them. Six years of FCC boxing training came to fruition that night. Straight lefts, jabs, crosses, hooks, I used everything in my arsenal. We were swarmed and everything seemed to have become slow motion.
I remember glancing back and seeing one of the boys doubled over bleeding from his nose and mouth (he was the younger brother of our house captain - who didn’t come to help!). I remember slamming one of the Cadets so hard against a cupboard that the door came off. I still remember who it was! I punched and I punched, until my arms became so heavy that I felt I couldn’t punch any more. Right then, a murmur went up “principle is here” and the onslaught started easing up because the principle promised that “justice would be served”. He asked the cadets how they wanted it handled. They said the Lowertopians should be expelled - after being whipped in the assembly hall and that they would also have to spit on the ground and lick it up. The principle agreed to all the terms and the attack subsided. The three boys were herded and taken to the Assembly Hall and I believe “justice was served.” I don’t exactly know because I felt that my job of saving some lives had been accomplished and whatever happened after that would be water under the bridge as far as I was concerned. One thing I still remember is that even with all the craziness and frenzy that went down that night, not one punch, nor a kick nor even a push or shove was directed towards me. The only pain I had was that my knuckles hurt from all the punches I threw. That says something about the respect the cadets had for me! Everyone was a victim that night. The Lowertopians were victims because of their actions and the cadets were victims of an emotionally and psychologically bankrupting war.

 Another day, one of my friends informed me that three prominent FCC teachers had filed a police case against his dulabhai at the Shitakundu thana on a fictitious “dalal” charge. His Dulabhai was also an FCC teacher of long-standing repute. I was shocked to realize that the accusing teachers didn’t care at all about the college reputation, nor the family of this teacher. It was just internal politics. They wanted to get rid of this teacher in the most brutal way possible, hence the false allegation. I was informed that since the charge was extremely grievous, given the back drop of the liberation war, he was about to be taken into custody by the Shitakundu police at any moment.

 Almost instantly, the “valiant” Freedom Fighter in me arose and to “protect the oppressed” and “defend the honor of my Alma Mater” I took the first train to Shitakundu, walked into the police station, pushed past the armed sentries and fearlessly, walked straight into the OC’s office. You should have seen his face! I wasn’t brave, really, I just played the part of a being brave. It was easy, because I took six of the biggest guys from class 10 with me. It was quite an entourage and we made an impressive entrance. The fact that I was the VP of Chatro League Shitakund branch at that time also made things a little easier.

 We took the young OC by surprise. I “told” him that as VP of Chatro League of Shitakund thana, my authority superseded his. No one wanted to mess with Chatro League at that time. The poor guy didn’t know what hit him - and I capitalized on that by demanding “where is the file for Mr. ……..from Faujdarhat Cadet College? Do you have it?” He spontaneously stood up and said “yes, sir”. I said “GIVE IT TO ME”. Believe it or not, he almost ran to the filing cabinet, quickly grabbed the file and as soon as he gave it to me, I ripped it to pieces – and everyone, mostly myself, was shocked! I told him “there is no DALAL at Faujdarhat Cadet College, are we clear on that?’ He replied “yes sir”. Then with as much dignity and poise as I could muster, I walked out with my “gang”. Incidentally, my “gang” members turned out to be writers, bank MDs, journalists, etc. in later life. However, there in fact was one dalal at FCC at that time, but that’s a story for another day.

 Quite frankly, FCC was going down the toilet. So, one day I approached the acting principal and told him that our institution was going down the tube. There were no prefects, no house captains, no Cadet captain. There was no discipline, cadets were smoking, leaving the campus at day and at night and no one was listening to authority. He agreed. I told him “if you make me the Cadet Captain, I’ll have everything back to normal within a week”. His reply shocked me more than the liberation war! He said he’ll hold an election for Cadet Captain! The Cadets would elect their own Cadet Captain! Well, it turned out to be an election with all the trimmings, gossip and drama of any state election…..and that my friends, is also a story for another day.