Kolkata: “We ran to save our mothers, sister and to protect our father’s honour’, said Premtosh Dutta Choudhury, at his Kolkata residence on Friday.
The 79- year-old freedom fighter was a member of Mukti Bahini- the militia dedicated to liberate East Pakistan from West. Dutta was driven out from Bangladesh and has hoped return to his motherland ever since.
In 1965 at a young age of 19 he left his princely estates in Silette and migrated to India. He landed in Kolkata and spent the following year in search of livelihood. But his cries went in vain. Hopeless with his condition he returned home and joined National Student’s Federation (NSF) established under Field Marshall Ayub Khan. During the Indo-Sino war of 1967 he entered into the freedom struggle by joining Awami League. For the next three years he was responsible for numerous missions that included mobilisation of troops, arms and ammunitions helping to fight the Bangladesh war of 1971.
Their efforts were backed by the Bengal regiment, Ansar and East Pakistan Rifles, who joined the league at the call of Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman. But after Rahman’s arrest under the aegis of Ataul Gani Usmani, Major general C R Dutta the Mukti Bahini was formed. Dutta had assumed the position of General Secretary of Silette district. They fought against West Pakistani forces in the subsequent ten months before India joined their battle. In the end of 1971, Premtosh Dutta with his comrades landed at 11, Theatre Road in Kolkata and constituted a cabinet ministry.
But after the assassination of Mujibur Rahaman the country plunged into chaos. And it was an end for those associated with the Mukti Bahani to live a normal life. Many were caught by the then Bangladesh administration and subjected to torture, while some flee the country. However, Chowdhury eloped to Delhi with help of R&AW in August 1975. He was accompanied by Qader Siddiqui. They received shelter from then prime minister Indira Gandhi, and urged her to assist them to take back their country from hostile internal forces. With the prime minister’s assurance a new struggle was conceived. Dutta was in-charge of Garo Hill. An army of 550 soldiers was raised. But to their dismay those efforts were foiled after Morarji Desai assumed power. And they were handed over to the Bangladeshi forces upon promise of life. For eight months he and his men were held captive in Man Mohan Singh cantonment. He went through strong interrogation. Search parties were sent to corroborate his statements. The army combed through places where he lived. Finally, due to lack of proof he was released. But that was not last of his struggles.
He re-joined Mukti Bahani and was responsible for conducting meetings in border areas to foster the spirit of pro-Indian masses. In 1978 he received a tip that the Bangladeshi army is on the lookout for him. He eloped again and landed in Assam and since has never returned.
In his struggle to freedom he lost his younger brother. Many of his accomplices were electrocuted in captivity. He sustained a bullet injury in the stomach, but did not lose courage. After returning to India, Dutta opened three educational institutions, namely; Belmont School, Little Flower School and Auxilliam Public School. He also founded the Netaji Commercial Institute, a research centre in Assam dedicated to Netaji. He may have won the battle to liberate his motherland but is still fighting for himself. The 3rd in line of ten brothers and sisters dedicated his life for the freedom of his country and development of society, leaving behind all the worldly treasures he was born into.
But even today his fight for survival continues from his daughter’s house in Kolkata without any government assistance from either country.