The night of March 23, 1971 was a quiet one. Seven Bangalee officers of the East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) intelligence sneaked out of their rooms and gathered under an oak tree on the parade ground in Pilkhana.
The entire barrack was quiet after all officers but these seven had fallen asleep.
The seven young men still looked around to make sure nobody was watching. They could hear no sound except for their ticking watches and racing heartbeats.
Under the oak tree, the men looked around once again before pulling out a piece of cloth from a bag. They hung the cloth on a tree branch.
They looked at the fluttering cloth for a long moment with deep conviction in their hearts. That was the National Flag of Bangladesh.
After a few minutes, the seven men left the spot.
The next morning, Pakistani officers of the EPR saw the flag and immediately took it down. Enraged, they called the intelligence officers and quizzed them about it.
"We all could have been killed that day if they found out who were behind it," said Subedar Major (retd) Rejaul Haque, one of those seven brave Bangalee officers.
The National Flag of Bangladesh was first hoisted on March 2, 1971 on Dhaka University campus by ASM Abdur Rab, the then vice-president of the Dhaka University Students' Union.
"Five days after the flag had been hoisted on the campus, I went to the Race Course Maidan [now Suhrawardy Udyan] along with two other comrades from the EPR intelligence wing to listen to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's address to the nation," said Rejaul Haque.
That one speech changed everything for Rejaul and the other officers. At 31, Rejaul had already served eight years in the EPR and became a Naik before the Liberation War began in 1971.
His father Najirul Haque was a police constable and mother Asiya Begum was a housewife. The family lived in Ghatiyara village of Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila, where Rejaul was born on August 10, 1940.
The veteran recalled memories from March 25, 1971 when the Pakistani military launched the Operation Searchlight and killed thousands of unarmed Bangalees in Dhaka.
"It started as a sporadic pistol shots but then turned into a barrage of brushfires," Rejaul said.
Rejaul fled Pilkhana through the window of a toilet at the back of his office on the night of March 25. Many officers were killed as gunshots continued to sear through the night.
For the next three days he had hidden in Dhaka before leaving the city for his ancestral home.
He reached Brahmanbaria on March 29 and soon afterwards formed a team of freedom fighters. Meanwhile, Captain M Ainuddin also arrived in Brahmanbaria and a winter training camp was organised there.
Rejaul joined Ainuddin's troops at East Bengal Regiment along with his brother Saidul Haque and paternal uncle Abdul Kader.
A few days later on April 17, 1971 Rejaul crossed the border into Agartala, Tripura. He was among 70-80 other freedom fighters who had gone to Agartala and trained for the war.
After his training Rejaul joined Mantali sub-sector of Sector 2 under Sector Commander Major Khaled Mosharraf and Sub-Sector Commander Captain M Ainuddin.
"I prepared an elaborate battle plan and engaged in a face-to-face combat with the Pak military," he said, adding that he fought in Akhaura, Kasaba and many other fronts under Sector 2.
"We blew up a number of bridges to block movements of the occupying Pakistani soldiers and many of them were killed during these operations," he told The Business Standard.
But this brave soldier fell quiet when asked about the freedom fighters who lost their lives to save their country.
The war veteran kept going back to his memories from 48 years ago.
"On the dawn of December 6, 1971, we attacked a Pakistani military camp beside Gangasagar Railway Station in Akhaura and killed as many as 35 soldiers," he said, adding it was his most significant operation.
"The Pakistanis had been hiding under a bunker. So, we used grenades and rocket launchers among other firearms. Later, we captured six soldiers and three Razakars and took them to our camp in Agartala," he said.
Three days later Rejaul went to the Cumilla Cantonment with some strategic plans for combat. But their mission did not pan out because the Pakistani soldiers surrendered to the battalion on December 17.
The 79-year-old war hero said he does not want anything more from life. He said he risked his life to save his motherland and did not feel any fear even for a moment.
"I joined the war for my love for the country and fondness to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," he said, adding that he does not want any tags of heroism.
The ruling party has honoured Rejaul Haque as a freedom fighter.
"This honour is enough for me," Rejaul said.