April 18, 1971. A company of freedom fighters took a determined defence position in a village called Daruin to resist the advancing Pakistan occupation army. But everything was not favourable for the freedom fighters. Continuous rain for three days had drenched and damaged most of their ammunition and food supply. Darkened by heavy clouds with sudden glow of lightning, the sky over Daruin resembled the calamity that Bangladesh would suffer for the entire year of 1971.
After repeated attack Pakistani soldiers failed to capture Mukti Bahini's position at Daruin. But the situation was worsened. Shells from the enemy's heavy artillery started to shatter Mukti Bahini's position. Under the cover of heavy artillery fire, Pakistani soldiers surrounded the freedom fighters from three sides leaving only a narrow gap. One of the valiant freedom fighters Sepoy Muhammad Mustafa, manning a light machine gun, was firing incessantly at the enemy and inflicted heavy casualty which prevented them from encircling the Mukti Bahini's position. The Freedom Fighters started to withdraw using the gap but Mustafa stayed back with his machine gun providing the covering fire.
Thanks to Mustafa's determined covering fire for which the whole company of freedom fighters managed to retreat. But Pakistani soldiers surrounded Mustafa's bunker. They ordered him to surrender but Mustafa refused. Mustafa stood up, and shouting Joy Bangla and Ya Ali, charged on to the enemy and sacrificed his life for the nation. Mustafa was awarded with “Bir Sreshtho” the highest gallantry award of Bangladesh for his bravery and sacrifice. But his story doesn't end here.
Four decades have gone by when an officer of Bangladesh Army named Colonel Md Farid Uddin, psc, G found that the actual name and Bir Sreshtho Mustafa's heroic contributions are not properly reflected in many places. Colonel Md. Farid says, “I am very proud that Bir Sreshtho Mustafa and I hail from the same Upazila Doulatkhan under Bhola district. While working in the Comilla Cantonment which was the location of Mustafa's 4th East Bengal regiment during the liberation war, I found that there was not enough information on Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Sepoy Muhammad Mustafa from where we can know about this great son of our soil. So I myself started to research on him that resulted in the publication of my book 'Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Sepoy Muhammad Mustafa and Comilla Cantonment at Liberation War'.”
One of the most curious findings from Col Farid's book is that in most of the places we do not use the correct name of the martyr who has received the country's highest gallantry award. Colonel Farid says, “While researching on the life of Muhammad Mustafa I have discovered that his name is wrongly used as Mustafa Kamal. His actual name is Muhammad Mustafa. But in textbooks, history books on liberation war, even in many memorials he has been named as Mustafa Kamal, forgetting his actual name, which is Muhammad Mustafa.”
The book includes accounts of Bir Sreshtho Mustafa's mother who is still alive, Statement of Service Record of Bangladesh Army, the citation sent by Bangladesh Army to the government recognising Mustafa's heroic contribution, the gazette published by Bangladesh government and accounts from the government and local sources that prove the actual name of the martyr was Muhammad Mustafa, minus the word Kamal.
Then what was the source of “Kamal” that has been tagged with Mustafa's name? Farid's research suggests that may be some people wrongly uttered his name as Mustafa Kamal. Later Mustafa was popularised in the media as Mustafa Kamal that has been wrongly used as his actual name in many historical records and memorials that have been erected and named after him.
In some places like the 2nd largest football stadium of Bangladesh, the district launch terminal of Bhola etc. have been named after this martyr and bear his name as Muhammad Mustafa Kamal. Again in the military museum, in the memorial library and museum and in some authentic records the correct name--Muhammad Mustafa--has been mentioned. Both the names have been used so frequently that it is quite tough to understand that Muhammad Mustafa and Muhammad Mustafa Kamal are one person.
It is very unfortunate in some cases we mention the names of our heroes without their ranks or gallantry title, in some places we misspell their names and in many cases we don't actually use the correct name at all.
A nation emerges through the sacrifice of its heroes. A nation lives on because of the sacrifice of her heroes. If we can't preserve the names of our national heroes, our new generation will learn a distorted version of our history.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org