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Bangladeshi writer recounts days as freedom fighter at library

Dr. Nuran Nabi was 20 years old when he joined the Bangladeshi Liberation Movement in East Pakistan to fight the Pakistani military government.

Nabi, now 62 and a councilman in Plainsboro Township, N.J., has written a book — “Bullets of ’71: A Freedom Fighter’s Story” — that details his experiences of facing gunfire and helping Bangladesh gain its independence and along with his son read from the book Saturday at the Jamaica Library.

“Three million people were killed, 200,000 women raped, 10 million fled to India and 20 million people could not live in their homes” after the nine-month war, Nabi said.

“This book describes the Bangladeshi movement and genocide,” he said.

Nabi organized the movement and was the leader of the 17,000-strong Bangladeshi force against the West Pakistani government, which sent its military into East Pakistan when it wanted to secede..

“I brought arms and ammunition from India,” he said.

When the nation of Pakistan was created by the British in 1947, it split it into two sections — East and West Pakistan — which were separated by India and “had no common culture or language ´╗┐among them,” according to Nabi.

Nabi wrote his book with his son, Mush Nabi, who read from a passage titled “March 31st: The Rebellious Month.”

The passage described how Nabi and other student leaders of the liberation movement were setting up barricades in Daka — now the capital of Bangladesh — as military Jeeps opened fire on them with machine guns at the beginning of the conflict in 1971.´╗┐

Nabi jumped to a nearby sidewalk and fell into a ditch to escape the gunfire.

“Arguably, we were face to face with the first bullets of the Bangladeshi genocide,” Nabi wrote in the book.

Nabi started running after falling in the ditch and arrived at a cousin’s house when he heard more gunfire.

“It was a living hell,” he wrote.

Nabi hid in his cousin’s bathroom as a soldier moved toward the home when he heard a knock on the bathroom door.

“I began to pray to God,” Nabi wrote, but it turned out the knock came from his cousin, who greeted the soldier.

When the soldier questioned his cousin as to why he was flying a Bangladeshi flag on top of his house, his cousin told the soldier he was forced to put up the flag by Bangladeshi forces and the soldier believed the story and let them go.

Nabi said the Bangladeshi movement was similar to the recent Arab uprising in Tunisia and Egypt.

“Only difference is we didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have Twitter, we didn’t have Facebook,” he said.

Instead, Nabi said, he and others in the movement used graffiti to communicate with each other.

“I was just lucky to survive,” he said.

Nabi’s son, Mush Nabi, said he enjoyed working on the book with his father.

“It put me into his shoes ... and I got to see how much [my parents] had to suffer,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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