I had known for a while that Samad bhai was not doing well. I called him up a number of times but no one picked up the phone. I asked a mutual friend about him who said, Samad bhai was increasingly retreating into a shell. I wanted to say hello and listen to him, perhaps one last time. But this morning the news ticker informed me that it would never happen again. At 80, the man who was so much part of the 1971 war bureaucracy is gone. I mourn a senior friend of many of us including Dhaka Courier and UNB Editor-in-Chief Enayetullah Khan and many of us much younger than him.
Dr. Syed Abdus Samad was posted in Rangamati when the war broke out. He describes the moment in our interview this way, “On the night of the 25th, the District Commissioner, Hossain Towfiq Imam, asked me to go over to his residence. I found the SP of police and other officials already there. The wireless set was on and through that we could hear the sounds of the attack on the police lines, the screaming, shouting…gun fire… We immediately set up a provisional HQ and I was asked to go to Chandroghona and disarm the Pakistani elements there…..”
Not many know of the situations such people faced during 1971 including how the civilian administration functioned. The Mujibnagar government split the country into 9 zones and each was put under a Zonal Administrative Councils (ZACs). Samad bhai was in charge of the South East Zone -1 and was the formal representative of the Mujibnagar government. He was the person who would maintain direct contact with the War Sector Commanders. What and how he and others did was what makes their life an essential and integral part of history.
Older than me by more than a decade, we became friends over the years. When I met him in the early 80s, he was still under the shadows of regime transitions and still feeling vulnerable. But later as things improved for him, he became more relaxed and became a person very generous with his friendship. There is no doubt he was close to Sheikh Mujib whose PS he was but it's 1971 that defines him. His greatest period in life was certainly 1971 when he stood up to be counted and became what he shall always remain – a freedom fighter.
So farewell Samad bhai, it was time to go perhaps. But your deeds have been recorded and one day they shall remember you as you understood yourself- a man who loved Bangladesh and was ready to sacrifice it all for the land.
We'll meet again.