Memorialisation: Maj Gen CR Dutta

We honour you in the sun, in the rain, in the winds for all time

by Anwar A. Khan

We are deeply saddened to have heard of the sudden demise of our valorous freedom fighter Maj Gen C.R. Dutta at a hospital at the age of 93 in Florida, USA on 24th August last.

Like all other freedom fighters of 1971, Maj Gen CR Dutta, Bir Uttom (second highest gallantry award), had honour, he had valour, and he along with his co-fighters had found glory that had changed us forever in 1971 through establishing Bangladesh.

He stood tall and proud for an independent and sovereign country behind him in a solemn sea of love and patriotism. So, let the Flag of independent Bangladesh fly unfurl in his Majesty High: In the sun, in the rain and in the winds across this land of Bangladesh.

Tears have brought us together to hear the sound of your death in a far-distanced foreign soil.

May his spirits rise with the flag of Bangladesh today!

Glory to the Bangladesh’s Flag, long may she wave; so many have been covered with his mortal soul when people would to his cremation spot; so many of us have taken for granted that our freedom will always be. We do not want to tend to forget those who have kept that right for all of us.

Chitta Ranjan Dutta, (1 January 1927 – 24 August 2020), also known as C R Dutta, was a Bangladeshi war hero and retired as Major-General of the Bangladesh Army. He was a key sector commander of the Mukti Bahini during the Bangladesh Liberation War.

In January 1971, he had taken his three months leave from Pakistan army. He was then stationed in West Pakistan as Major and headed to his village home on leave in Habiganj, Bangladesh. What he was about to experience, being back to home, was going to change his life upside down.

Major C. R. Dutta was shell-shocked to witness the political decline within Pakistan. Living in West Pakistan, he was not aware of the great movement that was taking place in the-then East Pakistan. Like many of him stationed in West Pakistan as residents, they were not informed of the agitation and injustice that were taking place in the-then East Pakistan. There was also no way to find out.

While he was on leave and had been passing his time Habiganj, General Rab gave Major Dutta the orders to conduct a war against the Pakistani military junta. He accepted it gladly. As Major, he began as the Commander of Sector 4 and started the war. Dutta eventually retired in 1984 after over 30 years’ service in the armed forces.

On 15 December 1973, the Government of Bangladesh introduced the ‘Bir Uttam’ (literally meaning “Better among Braves” in Bengali) award in recognition of the bravery and dedication shown by an individual during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. Amongst the prestigious list of awardees were CR Dutta.

And without those men, just like Gen Dutta, we would never had won the war in 1971 to establish Bangladesh.

Wars are as old as history. Over two thousand years ago, Herodotus, wrote, "In peace, sons bury their fathers; in war, fathers bury their sons." Today, we should gather together as one, to praise someone's son and he is our own man – Gen CR Dutta. If death is a debt, we all must pay.

We have a wealth of witnesses in Bangladesh to describe to us the unspeakable horror and frightening maelstrom that the 1971 war by Pakistan’s military junta brought to our people.

Our war veterans, who are still with us today, know what it is to have been in battle and to have seen their friends cut down in their youth. That is why, remembrance is so necessary and yet so difficult. It is necessary because we must not forget and it is difficult because the pain is never forgotten.

A eulogy for this 1971 war veteran:

“Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the Gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the mornings hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.”

Whatever dreams we have, they are shared in some measure by Dutta, the man, by all the virtues that we respect – selflessness, honour, courage and commitment.

The war that you and we fought in 1971 was not fought for the purpose of forging in the smithy of sacrifice. We will not forget that.

This great soldier was able to live out his allotted span of life to contribute to his country. But in giving himself totally through duty, commitment, love and honour, he has become part of us forever. As we are part of him.

Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death, can erase his good deeds. More often than not, a hero’s most epic battle is the one you never see; and it’s the battle that goes on within him or herself.

That’s the life, being a freedom fighter. When I recall the face of Dutta, Thucydides’ words peep into my mind, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

He was a hero who has faced it all: he needed not to be undefeated, but he must be undaunted. I think he was a hero who found strength to persevere and endured in spite of overwhelming obstacles in 1971 to defeat the marauding force of Pakistan.

A freedom fighter never dies; they just burn forever in the hearts of the people whose lives they saved.

Like William Shakespeare’s words, “He fought till the last gasp.” Gen Dutta was a man who really counted in the world of Bangladesh; he was the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually did the work, even not the man who only talked or wrote about how it ought to be done.

I wish to borrow the prominent words of eminent journalist and celebrated column Syed Badrul Ahsan (SBA), “The great fighter’s passing revives thoughts on our lost values” which veritably personify what this valiant freedom fighter along with his co-fighters was in 1971 to liberate Bangladesh from the wretched hands of Pakistan’s military junta and its local despicable anti-Bangladesh liberation squads, especially Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI).

If possible, PM Sheikh Hasina should take appropriate steps to bring back the mortal remains of revered Dutta to his homeland for which he fought in 1971 for its creation - for his cremation.

All Freedom Fighters are heroes of the finest kind. Not all of them are given the opportunity to perform heroic acts but, within the scope of their duties, they put their fellow human beings lives and safety, most of whom they have never met, ahead of their own.

I again remember SBA’s most towering words, “Chitta Ranjan Dutta’s death revives thoughts of lost values. It is also a moment for us to reflect on the long distance we yet need to traverse to reclaim those values. The general falls silent, but the hope he kindled in himself and in us shines bright. He believed in Bangladesh’s ability to rise above the pettiness of the tinpot dictators who tried to beat it into fearful silence. That was his confidence, infectious in its optimism.”

Our dead brothers still live for us and bid us think of life, not death-of life to which in their youth
they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As we listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more. A note of daring, hope and will; and we see them now, as once we saw them on this earth. They are the same bright figures that come also before our eyes and when we speak of those who were the country’s bravest and patriotic sons, the same words describe yours, Gen Dutta.

Many horrors you had endured and seen during the Pakistani regime. Many faces had haunted your dreams. You cheered as your enemies littered the ground; you cried as your brothers fell all around. When it was over, you all came back home, some were left with memories to face all alone; and some found themselves in the company of friends as their crosses cast shadows across the land.

Those who survived were forever scarred emotionally, physically and permanently marred. Those who did not now sleep eternally beneath the ground they had given their lives to keep us free. With a hand upon your heart, we feel the pride and respect; our reverence is revealed in the tears that now stream down our upturned faces.

As our flag waves above you, in her glory and grace, freedom was the gift that you unselfishly gave. Pain and death was the price that your compatriots ultimately paid. Every day, we give our utmost admiration to those who had fought to defend our nation in 1971.

After his death news, there are tears in the fabric of our beings ... where the memories lie waiting to remind him ... of the horror and the carnage that is cataloged as war in 1971 to attain Bangladesh for us. We paid heavy price for defending our nation in 1971, but the dreams are never ending!

As a bantam FF of the 1971 war field, I salute him.

-The End –

The writer is an independent political observer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh who writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.

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