CHITTAGONG: Whenever the month of independence comes in our lives, we regrettably tend to pay little heed to the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, which carries such mammoth of importance in our national identity.
None can ignore the saintly relationship between Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra and the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 for which these two matters has become inseparable!
We should acknowledge the fact that any place of worship can infuse a sense of righteousness into the mass in such a way that elevates their spirit higher.
In a similar way, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra’s role during the war period could also be analogised where the righteous idea was the declaration of independence itself for which this broadcast station has got a stature of holiness within our nation-state.
Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra is located at the northern part of Chittagong city, Kalurghat with 3.4 acres of land.
The Chittagonian people recognise the location of this station not as Kalurghat but as Chandgaon beside the only heritage park of Chittagong called Shaheed Zia Memorial Complex and Mini Bangladesh.
Today, it is just a memorial of our liberation which was renamed Bangladesh Betar on 6 December 1971 after the formal recognition of Bangladesh as an independent country.
Afterwards, the Bangladesh government moved to Dhaka on 22 December 1971 and Bangladesh Betar started broadcasting in independent Bangladesh on the same day keeping the legacy of Swadhin Bangla radio station behind.
The role of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra will always remain at the core of the heart of the people alive at that period and for future generations as well. When despair and gloominess was about to engulf the mass people and freedom fighters of our country through the invasion and mass killing of Pakistani army, this Betar Kendra kept the morale high of our people.
This nation was in a state of uncertainty with the arrest of Bangabondhu on the 25th March in 71 together with mass onslaught by the Pakistani armies.
At that critical juncture, few words came out from the dark corner of the cave which showed the light to this nation – ‘Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra Theke bolchi’.
From that moment on till the victory in December, this radio station had played a role of legend and kept its legacy behind for forthcoming generations.
I met a very politically mindful young law professional named Chowdhury Saiful Alam who resides just behind the radio station and I was curious to what value this memorial radio station has in his life being a member of this young generation.
He replies, ‘Though I have not seen the liberation war and the affect of this station upon our people of that time, but anyone can sense that if they are aware of our history. To me personally, it is really saddening to see that this station did not get the proper respect which it deserved by any means’.
When I asked what could be the possible reasons for his statement, his replies went as follows, ‘I think both the political parties –Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) failed to establish the desired image of it.
There was no need for BNP to spend crores of Taka to build a revolving tower which is being used for marriage and other occasions; rather amounts should have been spent to make the radio station a kind of war museum so that our generation could get to know the importance and role of ‘Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro’.
And when he has been asked about Awami League’s role in this regard, he said, ‘I think this government ignores this matter intentionally because Ziaur Rahman’s name is related to it’.
He concludes by saying that ‘no wonder why we are so backdated and our politics has become a curse for us! Any of the political parties of Bangladesh failed to give the due status of this radio station.’
After the interview with this young lawyer, I was looking for someone who belongs to the time 1971. After waiting for a long time, I very fortunately got an elderly woman who is a housewife named Rokeya Begum, age around 64.
When I asked her the same question about the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro, she seemed to dive into the past, ‘I was a young pregnant mother with 20 years of age during 1971. We were in a joint family living across the river Karnafuli and that is my village as well named Kadurkhil.’
She continued, ‘My uncles were freedom fighters and we would hear all the time the stories of Zia as how he was crossing the river and organising a team for war. We knew from our uncles that Zia declared the independence from this radio station wearing a genji (t-shirt) and pants. Pretty much excited we were at that time after that declaration also senses of uncertainty were also there in our mind’.
On 30th March, 71 Kalurghat 10 KW station was bombed by Pakistani Air Force but some of the fearless sons of this nation like Belal Muhammad, Syed Abdus Shaker, Mostofa Anowar, Abdullah Al Faruque, Aminur Rahman, Rashedul Hossain, Kazi Habib Uddin Moni and Rezaul Karim Chowdhury dismantled a 1KW transmitter from the ruined and kept on the feeble transmission.
They all demonstrated a classic example of love and dedication for the cause of the nation, and definitely they will always be remembered along with the songs of inspiration till the existence of this nation.
No one can forget the words ‘Purbo digantey surjya uthechey’, or Teerhara ey dheuer sagor pari diborey’ or for that matter ‘Joi Bangla Banglar Joi!’
How true were these words!
BDST 1817 HRS, MAR 25, 2012
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