Simeen Hossain Rimi, daughter of the first prime minister of Bangladesh, Tajuddin Ahmad, has journeyed back to India's tiny northeastern state, Tripura, to pay her respect to the people there for the support they offered back in 1971.
Rimi, now a Member of Bangladesh's Parliament, had been in Delhi to attend a programme in celebration of fifty years of Bangladesh's freedom and friendship between India and Bangladesh.
On her way back, she made a three-day detour to Tripura to pay her tribute to the people of the state, reported The Indian Express.
Tajuddin Ahmad, who is appraised as one of the leaders instrumental in the country's liberation, led the Provisional Government of Bangladesh as the prime minister during the 1971 liberation war.
After a cut-throat military crackdown during the 1971 liberation war, the former prime minister was sent off to India by the Awami League to lead the countrymen in war and Rimi's mother, Syeda Zohra Begum went into hiding along with their four minor children to escape the vulturine Pakistan army.
The family then moved from one safe home to another until they arrived in a small town bordering Cumilla called Sonamura.
Sub-divisional officer of Sonamura, Himangshu Roy Chowdury, arranged their stay at Sonamura and offered them breakfast the next morning. Rimi had a nostalgic reunion with Roy Chowdhury on Friday, who was awarded the Padmashree by the Indian government for his contribution to the war effort and towards refugee rehabilitation.
"I cannot believe that I am standing before the bungalow of the then Sub-divisional Officer, who arranged for our shelter and gave us security. My tears now are of joy… the educational institutions were closed in Tripura during that time to shelter us", Rimi reminisced the harrowing days of 1971.
During the war, the town sheltered thousands of refugees from then East Pakistan surpassing its own population, and also lodged a training camp and a makeshift hospital for Mukti Bahini (also known as Bangladesh Force - the guerrilla resistance movement faction consisting of the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians that liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan).
About the seven-day-long journey from Dhaka to Boxanagar, she said, "I was nine and started our journey from Dhaka by a motor launch with my mother, sisters, and one-year-old brother. There was not a single drop of drinking water, so I lifted water by a mug and drank … but after five minutes saw blood-soaked bodies floating in the river whose water I was drinking."
In another incident, she said, they were travelling in an open boat and suddenly a Pakistani soldier standing on a bridge opened fire at the boat killing passengers. Somehow the Ahmad family survived.
"Sometimes, we traversed through water-logged jute fields. At one point in time we were caught by Rajakars (militia working with the Pak army). They were poor and told us that if we paid a bribe they would guide us up to Boxanagar," she said.
Sometimes they had to cross rivulets through "Bansher Shako" (narrow bamboo bridges) with every possibility of falling into the rivulets. The Pakistani army camps were nearby and soldiers could be seen, any noise would have meant being discovered and "sure death" soon afterwards.
"When we reached near Boxanagar, firing was going on. We were starving for two days and thought that we would be caught in the crossfire and would not live anymore. However, we crossed the border and finally reported to the officer-in-charge of the Boxanagar police station, who provided us boiled rice, dal, and brinjal fry. I am trying to recollect his name to pay my respects," she said.