Munshi Abdur Rouf was born on May 1, 1943 in Faridpur. After his father’s death, he joined the East Pakistan Rifles in 1963 and became a Lance Naik
Everything was peaceful. The sky was clear.
A 20-member patrol of Pakistani soldiers was moving towards Burighat area in Chattogram Hill Tracts via the Chengi River. They were very careful, keeping a watchful eye for any attack by the Mukti Bahini.
There was no sound, except for the flowing water of the river. It was as silent as a grave, as if birds had also forgotten to sing.
The military patrolled the Chengi River in Khagrachhari as they used the river to communicate between their camps in Rangamati and Khagracchari districts.
Suddenly gunshots began. The freedom fighters, who were hiding in the bushes on the bank of the river, attacked the patrol, killing most of the soldiers.
"It was the most heroic machine-gun operation by Rouf. Because of his planning, precision and perfect timing, the military could not retaliate and retreated," Commander Robert Ronald Pintu, a valiant freedom fighter from Rangamati, said during a recent interview with The Business Standard.
Munshi Abdur Rouf was born on May 1, 1943 in Faridpur. After his father's death, he joined the East Pakistan Rifles in 1963 and became a Lance Naik. He was killed by the Pakistan Army on April 20, 1971. The government honoured him with the title of Bir Sreshtho, the highest award for war heroes, for his bravery and contribution during the Liberation War.
Pintu went down memory lane and continued his story.
"Three days after the sudden attack, the military came back to Burighat area armed with heavy weapons, including three launchers. They opened fire from two gunboats targeting the hideouts of freedom fighters," Pintu said, adding the freedom fighters responded with silence.
"When the army came closer we attacked them. The sounds of bombs and mortars rocked the entire Burighat area forcing locals to flee their homes for safety," he added.
A battle began.
Shelling continued from every side and the freedom fighters had to change their plans and decided to retreat, although it was not risk-free. But Rouf had other plans.
"Rouf shouted 'you all go back. I will resist the army alone," Pintu quoted Rouf as saying. He continued firing till all the freedom fighters had moved out of the place.
His firings caused two launches and one gunboat to sink in the Kaptai Lake and as many as 80 freedom fighters left the battlefield safely.
"Meanwhile, the army retreated to a nearby hill and fired a mortar on the trench where Rouf had taken position, killing him instantly," Pintu recalled adding, "we are alive because of Rouf", he told this correspondent as he broke down in tears.
Pintu said that they had to leave the spot without taking Rouf's body. The valiant freedom fighter was laid to rest on an island in Kaptai Lake of Rangamati by one Doyal Krishna Chakma, a resident of Bhangamura village of Naniachar.
Twenty-six years have passed since then.
"When the Awami League government took initiatives to identify the graves of the Bir Sresthas, Doyal Chakma came forward and helped them locate Rouf's resting place," Pintu added.
Talking to the Business Standard, Doyal Chakma said that he had climbed on a tree and watched the entire battle that lasted for three hours.
"After everything had calmed down, the freedom fighters headed to Mohalchari from Bhangamura. I guided them through at night and the next morning when I came to see the battlefield again, I found the body and buried him," Doyal told The Business Standard.
Doyal told this correspondent that the government contacted him after the signing of the 1997 peace agreement.
"When they contacted I showed them the spot where I buried Rouf. My consolation is that I could lay this brave hero to rest," Doyal said.
The administration has made a statue beside the mausoleum near Rouf's grave at Manikchari of Rangamati to commemorate the memory of Rouf.