Legendary actor Mamunur Rashid has aced his performances with his brilliant screen presence both on the silver screen and theatre. The Ekushey Padak awardee has also earned praises for his impeccable direction and screenwriting over the years. Being the chairperson of the Bangladesh Group theatre federation, his plays have received positive criticism from audiences both home and abroad. On the occasion of 50 years of independence and the birth centenary on the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Mamunur Rashid walks down his memory lane and recounted the horrific memories of March 1971.
“I still have that horrible memory of March 50 years ago. I was 23 years old then. Glimpses of those days flash in front of my eyes as soon as March arrives,” he shares. “The month of March is worth remembering multiple reasons, the prime one being the historic speech on March 7 where one of the greatest orators of all time Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called upon our independence and millions joined his cause without a second thought.”
During the night of March 25, 1971, the Pakistani army launched their attack on innocent of the then East Pakistanis in their sleep. “Fifty years have passed since I witnessed that dreadful event but I have lived a free life for the last 5 decades. What more could I ask for! In exchange for the blood of millions of martyrs and the honour of thousands of mothers and sisters, we have got independence,” he adds.
Mamunur Rashid recalled his account of the night of March 25, often referred to as ‘Kaalo Ratri’ in the history of this nation. “I was at Abdus Samad’s residence located at the city’s Green Road that day, working on the script for a film named ‘Shurjo Grohon’. ‘Joy Bangla used to be the nation’s favourite slogan back in those days,” he recalls. “We started hearing gunshots suddenly at around 10:30 pm. Farmgate was surrounded with barricades, but tanks started to roll in, crushing the barricades into dust. We were close and saw some tanks moving towards Dhanmondi while some made way towards Rajarbagh.”
The actor had to spend the night at Abdus Samad’s residence where they locked themselves in and no one dared stepped outside. The sound of gunshots and rifles became louder as the night deepened.
“Chaos and cry took over the nation as the bodies laid in masses at the roads of Dhaka University, Rajarbagh police line, and Peelkhana. “It was dawn, time for Fajr prayer, and yet neither did they cease-fire not did they spare the masses.
Mamunur Rashid spent the next day indoors, hearing the scream of people as the Pakistani army burned down slums and rained rifle shots on the citizens. While the fear in my heart made him tremble in fever, the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s words for March 7’s speech inspired him to take up whatever he could find and fight for our existence. The next day the curfew was released.
“I used to live with my sister at Gulistan Railway Quarters back then and finally decided to return to her. I took the road to Nilkhet and New Market, coming across hundreds of dead bodies, lying like butchered cattle on the streets,” he says. “Hundreds fleed Dhaka that day and afterwards, and I decided to move to Keraniganj. Soon the army made way to Jinjira and I had to move to the village of Shinepukur by boat. After roaming and hiding for days, I finally managed to reach my home in Tangail.”
While staying in Tangail, Mamunur Rashid started to help Abdul Kader Siddique by equipping them with weapons for the war. Later he decided to move to Kolkata and started working for the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. “These memories still wet my eyes. Today we are celebrating our independence, but the days of our struggle never manages to fade away from my mind,” he concludes.
Translated by Ashley Shoptorshi Samaddar