In Conversation with Masud Ahmed, author of Dusk Dawn and Liberation: A Historical Fiction on the Liberation Struggle of Bangladesh

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Ishtiaque Hossain speaks to the media-shy author of Dusk Dawn and Liberation, the most recent addition to Liberation War literature published from United Kingdom

Masud Ahmed is currently serving the People’s Republic of Bangladesh as the Comptroller and Auditor General. He is also a celebrated classical musician, and author of several other books that focus on social issues and Liberation War. “Dusk Dawn and Liberation” is his first book written in English, and published by AuthourHouse; a prominent publishing house in the UK.

This literary work by Masud Ahmed will be a broad window for foreign readers interested in knowing Bangladesh’s bloody liberation struggle of 1971. Anthony Mascarenhas’s “Legacy of Blood” was a post-1971 depiction, but this one has 1971 at the center in addition to the nation’s psychological genesis, tracing it back to the thirteenth century AD. Core literature provides a plethora of palace conspiracies, murder, perfidy, and hyperboles relating to destruction of human life and property. This book is involved with humanity and humane love, trust, relationships, and the value of family and homes. Coterminously the bravery and heroism of a rising nation, having received a colourful treatment by the author.

What was your inspiration for writing this book? And that too in English, since all your previous work is written in Bengali?

Well the reason for writing this book in English would be the benefit of global exposure. I wanted the international community to know about our Liberation War struggle in vivid detail. My inspiration for this book would be “Freedom at Midnight” a masterpiece by  Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. Freedom at Midnight describes the events in the Indian independence movement in 1947-48, beginning with the appointment of Lord Mountbatten of Burma as the last Viceroy of British India, and ending with the death and funeral of Mahatma Gandhi. The book is a result of deeply scanned and researched events, which often are left out by other historians. I wanted to create an in-depth account of our own liberation struggle, which includes the hopes, dreams and sufferings of Bangladeshis going through terrifying times.

What are the sources you consulted while writing this book? It’s a work of fiction is it not?

Yes, it is a work of fiction; but it is deeply rooted in historical facts. I have gone through every single volume on 1971 Liberation War published by the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs. I have done extensive research on Liberation War literature written by local, sub-continental and British authors. Some of the notable names include Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood by journalist Anthony Mascarenhas. The Betrayal of East Pakistan by A. A. K Niazi, last governor and martial law administrator of East Pakistan.
But more importantly, I have interviewed people from that time period for eye-witness accounts and have come across remarkable tales of Pakistani soldiers refusing to shoot innocent people, showing mercy against the risk of being court-martialed. One such individual would be Punjabi Havilder Sherbet Jong Majari, whose incredible true story you can find in the book along with many others.

Liberation War literature usually depicts Pakistanis as merciless beasts devoid of humanity. On the flipside we see movies like “Meherjaan” that are overtly fanciful in nature. Which school of thought did you follow while writing this book?

That’s a very good question. Many people are not aware that there are many accounts of Pakistani civilians aiding and sheltering their Bangladeshi counterparts. In fact, a lot of Pakistani soldiers were not cold blooded killers. The Pathans, the Beluchis, the Sindhis were amongst them. Most atrocities and brutalities were committed by the Punjabis. But even amongst them, there were shreds of humanity, like the story of Punjabi Havilder Sherbet Jong Majari. This book primarily focuses on two things: Victory of the exploited over the insane hatred of a murderous enemy and triumph of humanity over inhuman cruelty of war.

In his book “In the Line of Fire” Gen. Pervez Musharraf was quoted saying, “I broke down and cried the day we lost East Pakistan. I could not believe we withdrew from the war with two third of our firepower and three quarters of our manpower intact.” Why do you think that’s the case?

Winston Churcill once said, “War is too important an issue to be left over to the generals.” This man Pervez Musharraf is someone not really known for his intellectual ability. There are more powerful forces than tanks and assault rifles or manpower. He forgot to take into account the psyche of the people of East Pakistan, the people united behind one single leader, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Also, the direct intervention by India and the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. These factors were far more powerful than any war-machine or warmonger. Musharraf simply exhibits his ignorance and short-sightedness with the aforementioned comment.

Who are the protagonists of your book?

Well, this book has a hefty list of protagonists. Starting from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (referred to as “Nabab”), Lt. Gen Yakub Khan, Vice Admiral Ahsan, and last but not the least Mrs. Indira Gandhi; who is referred to as Madamme throughout the book.

Would you like to comment on the current anti-Pakistan sentiment of a large portion of our youth? How do you feel about Shahbagh Protests being labeled as “Second Liberation War”?

Firstly the term “Second Liberation War” is a gross overstatement. Secondly, I don’t blame the youth for harbouring anti-Pakistani sentiments. Pakistan has never formally apologized for the atrocities committed against our people. Their condemnation of war crime trials and Imran Khan’s public support of Jamaat-e-Islam has done nothing to assuage the feelings of resentment. Unless Pakistan rectifies these issues, these feelings of resentment will linger on.

First published on The Independent, 24th January; 2014

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