Two big trucks stopped at the gate of Maharaja Girjanath High School in Dinajpur. A group of men were busy preparing for unloading the vehicles.
The trucks were filled with mines, which the Pakistani Army had set up all over the country. Three weeks after the country had been liberated from the occupation forces, the mines were being collected from all over the country to be buried in a trench.
The war was over, the army was gone. There were celebrations of the victory. Everything looked normal.
On January 6, 1972, a group of five freedom fighters – Mizanur Rahman Manu, who later became a whip in parliament, Asaduzzaman Kabir, Rejaul Islam Khaja, Abdur Razzak Sona and former mayor of Dinajpur municipality Shafiqul Haque Chhuttu – were hanging out at the Dinajpur Polytechnic Institute.
The evening was calm but very cold. The fog was dense but still they could see the trucks being unloaded from afar.
"Suddenly we heard an explosion some 200m away," Chhuttu recounted, adding that the sound came from the school.
"Dust and smoke filled the air. People were running," he said, reminiscing the horrific mine blast tragedy in Dinajpur just three weeks after the country's Liberation War had ended.
"Several hundred freedom fighters were residing at the transit camp in the school. They all died in the blast," Chhuttu said, adding that the blast was so strong that almost 80 percent of the school building was destroyed.
"Perhaps one of the mines slipped through someone's hands while being unloaded and triggered the series of blasts," said Chhuttu.
The Pakistani military had planted mines and other explosives in Dinajpur and adjacent areas before leaving Bangladesh. Many people died even after the war because of these mines, freedom fighter Abul Hashem told The Business Standard.
"The freedom fighters residing at the camp collected the explosives and kept those at the school."
The army had also destroyed the main power station of Dinajpur on December 16, 1971. There was a power cut in the whole area.
"The rescue operation became very difficult. We used headlights from trucks, jeeps and other vehicles for the rescue," said President of Dinajpur Sectors Commanders Forum Abul Kalam Azad.
Locals including advocate M Abdur Rahim, then west zone chairman of the Mujibnagar government, freedom fighter Mirza Anowarul Islam Tanu, Language Movement veteran Rafiq Chowdhury and farmers' leader Abdus Sattar took part in the rescue operation.
The injured were rushed to Dinajpur Sadar Hospital and Saint Vincent Hospital.
The bodies were buried in the graveyard of Chehelgazi shrine in Dinajpur town the next day.
A monument has been built on the school premises to commemorate the freedom fighters who had lost their lives in the mine blast. There is another monument on the Chehelgazi shrine premises.
Theatre personality Kazi Borhan, who is from Dinajpur and who witnessed the incident and took part in the rescue operation, said more than 800 freedom fighters were in the camp. Most of them died in the blast.
The joy of victory was shrouded with pain following this tragic explosion.
Such a large number of freedom fighters did not lose their lives at a time during the nine months of the war.