…. there was a time when acknowledging Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s unquestioned leadership in 1971 did not stop one from acknowledging the significance of Ziaur Rahman’s broadcasts from Chittagong. Chashi Nazrul Islam’s film Sangram is from that time. It’s a fictionalised account of the experiences of the 4th East Bengal Regiment during the onset of the Liberation War.
In March 1971, the seniormost Bengali officer in the 4th Bengal, stationed in Comilla, was Major Khaled Mosharraf. Just before the 25 March crackdown, he was sent to border regions in Sylhet, ostensibly to fight Naxalites but really to be ambushed by the Pakistanis. Khaled avoided the trap and returned to Comilla where Captain Shafaat Jamil and others had already rebelled.
In the movie, Khaled is renamed Major Hassan. Jump to about 44 minute mark in the video below to see how the major addresses his troops — Pakistanis have attacked us, Sheikh Sahib has declared independence, our job is to defend that independence.
Immediately after that, he is shown as listening to Zia’s radio speech and noting that his is not an isolated mutiny. That is the real significance of Zia’s March broadcasts, to tell the world that Bangladesh was an independent but occupied land and a war of resistance had begun against that occupation.
When Mr Islam made that movie in 1974, he understood the significance perfectly well, as did his leading man Khasru — both were freedom fighters, the actor was and remained an Awami League activist, the director ended up in BNP. In the last scene, Sheikh Mujib is seen as taking salute from the Bangladesh army, with Khaled, Zia and other senior officers behind him.
According to google, Bangla movie Tin Kanya refers to either the 1961 Ray adaptation of Tagore or the 2012 risque Rituparna starrer. The 1986 Bangladeshi film starring Suchanda, Babita and Champa is completely ignored. That’s a shame, because it deserves to have a cult following, if Dhallywood had cult following that is.
Sir Roger Dowler of Bengal was a terrible, terrible guy who used to spend all his time boozing and doing wicked, wicked things with women, all the while his countrymen were impoverished by rapacious men of avarice who loafed around in the capital. What? Never heard of Sir Roger? Sure you have, except you know him by his real name — Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent nawab of Bengal.
John Company’s men anglicised Siraj’s name. They also wrote about him being a very bad ruler, from whose misgovernance the people of Bengal had to be delivered by Clive and his men. And that historiography essentially continued with the orientalists of the 19th century all the way to 20th century Indian historians like Jadunath Sarkar and Ramesh Chandra Majumdar.
Of course, that history is not what any school child in either Bengal learns. What we learn is this: