Quamrul Alam Khan Khasru

Tue Dec 28 2021 05:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

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It was June 6, 1970. After sunset, Chhatra League leaders had gathered in Room 116 in Iqbal Hall. There, they decided on the first flag, signature color green, a red circle in the center symbolizing the sun, and within that, a gold map of Bangladesh. Chhatra League leader Shib Narayan Das traced the flag’s concept on paper. For precision, Das was sent to room 410 of the Engineering Colleges (now BUET) Sher-e-Bangla Hall. In the middle of the night, he passed the final drawing to Serajul Alam Khan.

Around 2 am, I was summoned to Room 116. Seraj Bhai gave me the monumental task of constructing the flag. I would collect the cloth, find a tailor, and have the flag sewn. He trusted me to have this done before the night ended.

I quickly moved along an escape route with the drawing in hand. I went past the railroad tracks by the slums of Nilkhet, towards the Home Economics College, up and down the boundary walls of Azimpur Graveyard, north of New Market, towards the Kacha Bazaar. At the time there was a tin-shed mosque by the wet market (currently SuperMarket). Next to the tin-shed mosque were a few shops, one of which was owned by a non-Bengali. He was a tailor who usually slept in his shop.

I got there and knocked on his door. He screeched, “Who is it so late at night?”

Speaking in Urdu, I told him who I was and explained, “I need to get a flag made, please open your door.” The tailor responded, “You can get flags at Gulistan, go there.”

I asserted, “I need a different kind of flag, open your door.” I spelled out the consequences that would occur if he didn’t do as I commanded. Finally, he cracked open the door.

I was excited and perspiring heavily, with no time to waste. I showed him the drawing and explained that I needed a flag with that design right away. I proceeded to look for red and green fabric in his store, but could not find any. The tailor then mentioned that I might be able to find some at Khaleq’s Tailoring Shop located on the third floor of Balaka Bhaban, next to Chhatra League’s office. The shop's name was Pak Fashion Tailors, and Khaleq slept in his shop.

I instructed him to go to Khaleq’s shop, make the flag there with the help of the drawing, and bring it back to me. He pulled his shop’s shutters close and set off to Khaleq’s store. I sat on a stool in front of his store and pretended to wait for him. A few moments after he left, I climbed on top of New Market’s roof, keeping my head down, and ran across the roof with a close watch on Balaka Bhaban. I was worried that the tailor might take the drawing to Pakistani soldiers and bring them straight to me. No one could be trusted. Pakistani spies were everywhere, and I would have proof of that shortly.

From New Market’s rooftop, I could see lights turning on at Pak Fashion Tailors. Within minutes, I heard the sounds of a sewing machine running, flowing through the silence of the night. At one point, the sewing machine stopped and the lights went off. I headed back to the non-Bengali tailor’s shop and waited for him there. He arrived and said, “Here Khasru Bhai, found the cloth at Khaleq’s, he made it himself.”

I quickly glanced at the flag. Satisfied, I hid it within my shirt and started heading towards the east side of New Market by Azimpur Graveyard’s boundary wall. Pakistani soldiers were quickly surrounding the area. They must have gotten information about my activities.

I had almost been caught fighting for the country countless times before this. Every time, I had survived by the edge of my teeth. This time would be no different.

I grew up in Azimpur’s Nutan Paltan Line area and knew the area by heart. Azimpur Graveyard was a large jungle—you could hear the foxes howling at sunset. I quickly moved through the graveyard and climbed the boundary wall into Azimpur Colony. Hanging like a monkey, I scaled the Home Economics College boundary wall to go towards the Nilkhet slums. I passed the rail lines, climbed over the Iqbal Hall boundary wall, and unlocked Iqbal Hall’s west gate with my duplicate keys.

Once I entered the hall, I headed straight to Seraj Bhai. Chhatra League leaders huddled around, waiting for me with bated breath. When I handed the flag to Seraj Bhai, he hugged me and said, ‘I knew you could do it.’

A few days later, Seraj Bhai told me to come to Bangabandhu’s house with the flag. We presented the flag of our dreams. Bangabandhu was exuberant, his joy infectious. Standing behind him, Serajul Alam Khan, Sheikh Hasina, and Sheikh Rehana greeted us with a round of applause.

Bangabandhu said he would let me know when and where to fly the flag out in the open, but I would have to keep it hidden for the time being. We brought the flag back to Iqbal Hall.

On March 1, 1971, when Yahya Khan announced the postponement of the National Assembly session, the people of Dhaka were enraged. That evening, following Bangabandhu’s orders, the student organization Swadhin Bangla Chhatra Sangram Parishad was born and held a protest at the Bot Tola of Kala Bhavan.

Chhatra League leader Jahid Hossain tied the flag to a bamboo stick and took it on a procession from Iqbal Hall to Bot Tola. Rab Bhai raised the flag and waved it left and right from Kala Bhavan’s garage roof, eventually tying it there. A huge crowd cheered and clapped to welcome our new flag.

We had crossed the first mile of our path to independence. We kept crossing mile markers like this, one after another, building our way towards ultimate victory.

- Quamrul Alam Khan Khasru, as transcribed by Rohena Alam Khan

Rohena Alam Khan is the daughter of freedom fighter, BLF Member and Dhaka City Guerilla Commander during 1971, Quamrul Alam Khan Khasru.