The Man Was a Razakar *
Imdadul Haq Milon
Translated by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam
A fter taking off the knot from his eyes, they realized that the man was of a very stupid kind. Languid and stress-free in look, he didn’t know many things happening on earth. Cut in kadam style, his hair wasn’t rough – oily and tidied up. Dense and black beard and moustache were carefully shaven. Kohl was no more visible in the eyes since they had been bound so long. A full-sleeved singlet and blue striped lungi were all he put on. Neither the singlet nor the lungi was old. His hands were bound from back. Even in this situation, everyone understood how brawny and stout he was.
Two young freedom fighters – about 22 or 23 in age – were standing on both sides of the man. Rough hair fell over their necks. Their faces sagged down for overwork. Virus affected eyes turned scarlet. Their eye corners got black. It’s clear they didn’t sleep even a single night without tension. Both of them had rifles on their shoulders. Their bodies and rifles looked almost the same. Slender and unbent. Beside the man, they were looking very frail and exhausted, still their bodies and rifles on the shoulders formed a distinctive view – nobody could say which one would suddenly rage.
There was a strange silence inside the school. November afternoon was dying fast outside. Light cold and darkness created such an ambience in the room that people, especially criminals, were to feel choked, but the man was indifferent. His hands were still tied up. With rifles on shoulders, two freedom fighters were standing next to him, another one sat on a chair before him, and there was a Sten gun near his hand on a table. In this situation, the man was supposed to feel extremely scared, but he didn’t seem to fear at all – rather, his face and eyes revealed a pent-up curiosity. Moving his head, he was looking at the freedom fighters.
The freedom fighter sitting on the chair was Rafiq. Over thirty in age. His sunburnt face turned tawny – one could easily understand he had been fair. His eyes weren’t affected by virus yet. Like two other freedom fighters, his eye corners got black too. Despite this, his keen and penetrative look was noticeable – many things were playing in the look.
Like two other freedom fighters, Rafiq had long beard and moustache – he’s pretty tall as well, and his body got past the armchair in the school room. He was watching the man acutely. When he attempted to ask something, the man said very straightforwardly – why’ve you brought me here? Who’re you?
Rafiq said in a deep voice – stop, don’t speak a single word. Only answer the questions we ask, otherwise we’ll shoot you. Can’t you see it?
Rafiq showed the Sten gun on the table. Strange enough, the man seemed not to fear, only looked at Rafiq with a smiling face, and said in a tender voice – yes. Gun. I’ll also get one like this after a few days. Commander sahib said.
Rafiq flared up instantly. Stop. Didn’t I tell you to remain silent?
Yes, you did.
But I want to say something. Why’ve you caught me? What’ve I done? Who’re you?
One of the two freedom fighters standing next to him was Mojnu, and the other was Bachchu. Jovial by nature, Bachchu laughs loudly now and then. Hearing his words, he now laughed. Rafiq immediately took a cold look at him and said in a grave voice – Bachchu!
Bachchu realized he shouldn’t make any sound without Rafiq Bhai’s permission, and he should remain as silent as stone.
Bachchu turned a stone.
Looking at his eyes, Rafiq asked the man – what is your name?
Like an indulgent child, the man moved his lips – I can’t say. My hands are tied. How can I speak!
Rafiq, himself a serious man, doesn’t laugh easily, but who cannot but laugh hearing such words. He laughed too, but neither Mojnu nor Bachchu did – without Rafiq Bhai’s permission, they shouldn’t laugh. But both of them were struggling to repress laugh. Understanding this, Rafiq became a bit lenient, looked at Mojnu and Bachchu with a smiling face and said jokingly – you have brought an interesting thing. We can have a lot of fun. During war, having fun is at times important – it boosts up energy. Call Nasir and others – let us have fun together, and then take him to riverbank.
In a frolic voice, Bachchu said – okay.
Within a minute, 10 to 12 freedom fighters came in, stood here and there around the man. A bit older than Rafiq, one of them, named Ajmot, said gesturing the man – shall we take him?
Smiling, Rafiq said – a bit later. I called you all just to see the thing. When asked, he said he could not tell his name. Can a man with hands tied up speak?
Hearing this, everyone except Ajmot burst into laughter. He said – his style of speaking indicates he might be a cheat. You don’t know the razakars! These shalas – dirty fellows – cheat beyond limits.
Frowning, the man looked at Ajmot before Rafiq had spoken. Clearing throat, he said – hey Mia, whom do you call shala? Me?
Slightly embarrassed, Ajmot took a cold look at the man. Yes, then I’ve addressed you wrongly – you don’t deserve to be anyone’s brother-in-law, you swine!
Forgetting the situation, the man burst with anger – be careful, don’t scold me. My hands are tied, otherwise, I’d see how you scold. If you’ve courage, untie my hands.
Looking at Rafiq, Ajmot gave a smile – you were right, he’s indeed a thing!
Rafiq said – then untie his hands. Let us have fun.
Ajmot followed Rafiq.
Rafiq said – don’t try to flee away. Then it won’t be necessary to go to riverbank.
It wasn’t clear if the man understood him or not. He was rubbing right hand now and then the left one and was making sipping sounds – oh, can human beings tie up a man like this? Look, what you’ve done to my hands! Hey, am I any thief that you’ve brought me here this way?
Mojnu said – not thief, you’re father of thieves. Razakar.
So what? Can’t man be rozakar?
Everyone burst into laughter again.
Bachchu said – scoundrel, he can’t say his own name properly. He’s saying rozakar instead of razakar.
Rafiq said in a grave voice – stop, no more fun, now I’ll speak.
Everyone became silent at once.
Looking at his eyes, Rafq asked the man – what is your name?
The man made a guffaw – now I can say. Before that, tell me who you are. Like robbers, you all have guns. If you’re robbers, then why have you held me? I can’t give you a paisa even if you kill me. A street beggar, I can’t live hand to mouth, so I’ve become a rozakar. Tell me the truth who you all really are.
Rafiq didn’t say anything, slowly got up from the chair and gently stood before the man. At everyone’s amazement, he landed two slaps on his face tight with two hands. Your destroyers, we’re freedom fighters, you swine!
Getting slapped so hard, the man became bewildered. Yet hearing the word freedom fighter, he looked at Rafiq’s face in bafflement and said in an astounded voice – you’re freedom fighters? But you all look like the sons of our country. I had a desire to see how freedom fighters really look!
Now Rafiq landed a kick at the man’s abdomen hard – you speak again!
Getting kicked, the man went down and looked at Rafiq with a weeping face. Scared, he didn’t speak anymore.
Sitting on the chair, Rafiq asked – what is your name?
How long is it you became a razakar?
A month 12 days.
Why have you become a razakar?
Impelled by hunger.
Hearing this, each and every freedom fighter in the room got stunned.
Nizam faltered in speaking – I’ve four small children. We all pass days without food. No work anywhere. Riot all around.
Rafiq said – what would you do before?
As a day laborer, I’d work in rice fields, jute fields and also plough land. There were various kinds of work in landlord’s house even though it wasn’t a harvesting month. We could earn our bread, but there’s no work for a long time. It’s very difficult to survive. Hungry, children cry day and night for food.
Who told you to become a razakar?
Why did you go to him?
With a hope of getting work. When in troubles, village people go to Chairman. When I sought work to him, he said there’s good work for you. So I wrote my name as rozakar.
Is your crisis over now?
Yes, we no more remain unfed. As soon as I wrote my name, Commander sahib gave me 100 taka to buy food. Then there’d be training.
Did you have training?
No, not yet. They gave lungi, singlet, warm clothes and shoes – wearing them and taking a bamboo stick in hand, I roam around the market, go to riverbank and collect information about freedom fighters. I only heard about freedom fighters before, but can see for the first time today.
Have you seen military?
No, Commander sahib has seen. He has a good term with military. We’re petty rozakars, how come we see them?
Nizam sounded earnest as he spoke. He was speaking as if with his near and dear ones. Astounded, the freedom fighters were listening to him. They understood this naive village man wasn’t telling lies.
Why didn’t they give you a rifle?
Commander sahib said they’d give me one after a few days, when I become a bit skilled. But again they can’t give me too. All rozakars aren’t given rifles. There’re some frivolous rozakars, I’m one of them. But as rozakar, I’m very happy, sahib – whenever needed, I get flour and money. Children don’t cry in hunger anymore. In a month’s time, my look has improved too.
Smiling a little, Nizam said in a fearing voice – does anyone of you have bidi, sahib? My throat has dried up since I was beaten. It’s easy to speak while smoking bidi.
Rafiq took out a cigarette pack from his chest pocket, threw away one at Nizam and gave him a matchbox. Lighting the cigarette, Nizam had two puffs quickly and sat on dust comfortably – I should sit comfortably, sahib, and take the bidi sitting.
Then you became razakar for survival?
Nizam gave a quick reply – yes, sahib, there’s no other reason.
Do you know what other reasons there might be to become a razakar?
Do you know military? And who are called freedom fighters?
Yes, I know. This country belongs to the military, and freedom fighters are . . .
Nizam stopped before finishing his words and looked at Rafiq in fear. I won’t tell you, sahib. You’re freedom fighters. If I tell you, you’ll kill me. But I didn’t understand these things, only knew the pangs of hunger. Chairman sahib told me all this.
He persuaded you with lies.
You may be right. Chairman sahib often tells lies. We’re poor people, sahib, but we don’t tell lies.
We’re freedom fighters. What do you think seeing us?
I said before, you all look like the sons of our country.
What does it mean? We’re people of this land. People of Bengal. We speak in Bengali.
And what about the military?
I’ve heard they speak in a different language. They’re people of another country.
Yes, they’re people of another country. Coming from there, they want to occupy our country.
Yes. But there’re many other matters about all this, many twists – you won’t understand. I tell you a few things very simply. Suppose you’re an owner of a piece of land that you cultivate to harvest crops. During harvesting time, people of another village loot the crops. Then what will you do?
Nizam’s eyes suddenly flamed up – do you think we’ll let them loot the crops as long as we’re alive? We may die, but we’ll never let them take away our crops.
The military are such a few evils. Coming from a different country, they’re looting our properties, killing our people, torturing our mothers and sisters. So we’re fighting against them. We want to drive these satans away from our country. We’ll free our motherland.
Nizam winked a few times quickly. What, military are so bad? Chairman shala is telling me all lies.
Yes. Now I tell you what razakar means. Razakars are the satans of this country who are working for the military in greed of money, power and properties.
Then rozakars are enemies of the country too. Traitors. Evils.
Oh, without understanding anything, what have I been doing only because I’m pressed by hunger? Why have I become rozakar? Then I’m a worse traitor?
You have committed a crime.
People shouldn’t commit such a crime. It’s not a human act to betray the homeland.
What punishment should traitors be handed down? Now you tell us how razakars should be punished. How would you punish the razakars if you were a freedom fighter?
Pressing teeth hard, Nizam said – I’d kill them, would destroy them all. I wouldn’t let a single evil rozakar live. Betraying the country!
In a cold and solemn voice, Rafiq said – we’ll kill you too. Taking you to the riverbank, we’ll shoot you, and then throw the dead body into the river so other razakars fear seeing your dead body, so no one else dare to become a razakar.
Nizam got up hastily and said in a firm voice – then don’t delay. Take me to the riverbank soon.
*Armed collaborators of the Pakistan occupation arymy
Translated by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam
teaches English at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet, Bangladesh.