Eternal Flames: The Legacy of Bangladesh’s Seven Bir Sreshthas

December 16, 1971, marks the birth of a free and sovereign Bangladesh, emerging from the crucible of the Liberation War. It was a time when the hearts of the Bengali people pulsated with the rhythm of freedom, echoing the spirit of a nation yearning to break free from the shackles of oppression. The struggle for independence, spanning nine months, witnessed the sacrifice of over 30 lakh lives, each drop of blood contributing to the birth of a new nation. Among these unsung heroes, seven individuals stand as towering symbols of bravery and selflessness—the Bir Sreshthas.

These seven heroes, by embracing the eternal embrace of death, etched their names in the golden pages of our nation’s narrative. Let us delve into the stirring accounts of these valiant warriors, who, in the face of adversity, chose to defy the oppressor and paved the way for the birth of Bangladesh.

Bir Sreshtha Shaheed Mohiuddin Jahangir:

Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir, a true hero in the annals of Bangladesh’s liberation war, exemplified unwavering courage and selflessness in his pursuit of freedom. Born on March 8, 1949, Mohiuddin pursued higher education and joined the University of Dhaka. However, driven by an indomitable spirit of patriotism, he opted to serve in the Pakistan Army, attending the Pakistan Military Academy in 1967.

The turning point came in 1971 when the call for Bangladesh’s liberation echoed. Unable to ignore the cries of his motherland, Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir, along with three fellow officers, orchestrated a daring escape from Pakistan, reaching the Mukti Bahini in Mehdipur, West Bengal. Assigned the pivotal role of Sector 7 Commander, he played a crucial part in the Battle of Chapainawabganj. Undeterred by the absence of Indian artillery support, Captain Jahangir fearlessly led his group in a courageous assault on December 14, 1971. Tragically, he fell in action, but his sacrifice spurred the freedom fighters to seize victory.

Bir Sreshtha Shaheed Hamidur Rahman:

Born in the tumultuous aftermath of the partition of India, Hamidur Rahman’s life became intertwined with the struggle for freedom. Hailing from Khardo Khalishpur village in Jhenaidah, he joined the East Bengal Regiment in 1971, leaving an indelible mark on the pages of Bangladesh’s fight for independence. His pivotal role in the Battle of Dhalai Border Outpost showcased his extraordinary bravery. When faced with the daunting challenge of capturing the heavily fortified outpost, Hamidur Rahman fearlessly led the charge, crawling through hilly canals under the cover of darkness. Despite sustaining injuries, he single-handedly silenced the enemy’s machine gun, enabling the East Bengal Regiment to seize the strategic position.

The return of Hamidur Rahman’s remains to Bangladesh in 2007 marked a poignant moment of remembrance and honor for the fallen hero. Reinterred at the “Buddhijibi Koborsthan” in Dhaka alongside fellow Bir Sreshtho Matiur Rahman, his legacy continues to inspire generations.

Bir Sreshtha Shaheed Mostofa Kamal:

Shaheed Sipahi Mostofa Kamal emerged as an indomitable hero in the tapestry of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence in 1971. Born in Poshchim Hajipur village, Bhola district, in 1947, Mostofa Kamal’s journey toward becoming a valiant warrior was marked by determination and sacrifice. He joined the East Bengal Regiment in 1967, igniting a fervent commitment to his dream of serving in the military.

Mostofa Kamal’s defining moment occurred in the Battle of Gangasagar-Brahmanbaria, where he showcased unparalleled courage and tactical brilliance. Stationed at Akhaura, his platoon faced a relentless Pakistani offensive, and Mostofa Kamal’s unwavering stand at Gangasagar disrupted the enemy’s advance. Subsequently, in the Battle of Daruin-Comilla, he displayed extraordinary resilience. As the Pakistani forces closed in, Mostofa Kamal, holding the rightmost position, became the linchpin in the defense. Refusing to retreat, he unleashed a torrent of fire with his light machine gun (LMG), single-handedly neutralizing a significant number of enemy soldiers till his last breath and ultimately securing the victory.

Bir Sreshtha Shaheed Matiur Rahman:

Bir Sreshtho Matiur Rahman stands as an indomitable symbol of courage and sacrifice in the annals of Bangladesh’s liberation war. Commissioned as a pilot officer in the Pakistan Air Force on 22nd June 1963, Matiur Rahman displayed exceptional proficiency as a Jet Pilot in Peshawar. However, his unwavering patriotism and dedication to his homeland led him to embark on a daring mission to hijack a T-33 aircraft, codenamed “Blue Bird,” from Karachi to join the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

On the fateful day of 20th August 1971, Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman executed his audacious plan, attempting to defect from the Pakistan Air Force and contribute to the struggle for Bangladesh’s independence. Despite facing a fierce struggle for control of the aircraft with Pilot Officer Minhaj, Matiur managed to take off undetected by radar. Tragically, the T-33 crashed near Thatta, close to the Indian border, signaling the heroic end of Matiur Rahman’s life. His sacrifice became a poignant chapter in the nation’s history, and Bangladesh, recognizing his selfless devotion, posthumously honored him with the highest state insignia of “Bir Sreshtho.”

Bir Sreshtha Shaheed Mohammad Ruhul Amin:

In the annals of Bangladesh’s history, the saga of Mohammad Ruhul Amin stands as a poignant testament to the indomitable spirit and selfless sacrifice of the nation’s heroes. Born on February 1, 1934, in Noakhali district, Mohammad Ruhul Amin embodied qualities of obedience, courage, and sincerity from his early years. His thirst for knowledge led him to join the then-Pakistan Navy as a sailor in 1951, where he rose to the rank of Artificer-1 by 1968.

After the start of the liberation war, Ruhul Amin didn’t hesitate to abandon his post to join the fight for independence. When he joined Bangladesh Navy’s warships, Padma and Polash, under Indian command. On December 10, 1971, tragedy struck as Indian aircraft, mistaken in their targets, bombed the ships. Despite the perilous situation, Mohammad Ruhul Amin’s unwavering commitment to the Bangladesh Navy’s survival kept him on board the burning Polash. His ultimate sacrifice, refusing to abandon ship, reflects the unwavering dedication that earned him the revered title of Bir Sreshtho.

Bir Sreshtha Shaheed Munshi Abdur Rauf:

Lance Nayek Munshi Abdur Rauf, born on May 8, 1943; epitomizes the selfless courage and sacrifice that defined the Liberation War of 1971. Born in poverty and facing adversity after his father’s death, Rouf displayed an indomitable spirit from a young age. Joining the East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) at the age of 20, he quickly earned a reputation for his disciplined and dedicated service.

Rouf’s defining moment came during the Battle of Rangamati-Mahalchari, where he valiantly stood against the Pakistani forces to safeguard the Mukti Bahini’s defensive position. Facing a relentless enemy attack on April 18, 1971, Rouf, armed with an automatic machine gun, held his ground to provide covering fire, allowing his fellow freedom fighters to retreat safely. His unwavering commitment and the ultimate sacrifice he made in the face of overwhelming odds saved the lives of nearly 150 Mukti Bahini soldiers.

Bir Sreshtha Shaheed Nur Mohammad Sheikh:

Nur Mohammad Sheikh, known as Shaheed (martyr) Lance Nayek, etched his name in Bangladesh’s history as a fearless hero during the liberation war of 1971. His journey from local schools to joining the Ansar Force and eventually the East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) portrayed his unwavering spirit. Tragically, he lost his life in the Battle of Goalhati in Jessore, showcasing unparalleled bravery and sacrifice.

The Battle of Goalhati unfolded with strategic significance as freedom fighters monitored Pakistani movements, aiming to capture them. However, on September 5, 1971, the Pakistani Army discovered Nur Mohammad’s squad. In the face of a three-sided attack, Nur Mohammad, patrolling with only four comrades, exemplified extraordinary courage. Despite sustaining injuries and losing a fellow soldier, he carried on, providing covering fire for his team. When urged to retreat, Nur Mohammad steadfastly refused, passing his Light Machine Gun to a comrade to prevent its capture. Bleeding and seriously injured, he fought till the end, epitomizing the selfless sacrifice that defines the spirit of Bangladesh’s liberation war heroes.

These seven Bir Sreshthas, through their acts of unparalleled bravery, became the bedrock of inspiration for countless others who fought for the freedom of Bangladesh. Their stories, etched in the collective memory of the nation, serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made to secure our independence. As we reflect on the heroic deeds of these valiant souls, we must acknowledge that our debt to them is immeasurable. Their sacrifices go beyond the medals and awards; they are the cornerstone of our national identity. The legacy of the Bir Sreshthas lives on in the hearts of every Bangladeshi, inspiring future generations to cherish and uphold the hard-won freedom for which these heroes laid down their lives.

Written by-

Prof. Dr. Abu Nasir Rizvi
Dean BSMMU and Advisor, Diplomats World Publication

 

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