Killed by razakars after warship bombed by Indian Air Force's friendly fire

On 6 December 1971 BNS Padma, BNS Palash and the Indian Naval Ship (INS) gunboat Panvel began their journey from Haldia Naval Base (in East Midnapore district of West Bengal), India, with the intention of capturing the Pakistan Naval Base PNS Titumir in Mongla Port in Bangladesh, south of Khulna city. Two days later they were joined by BSF patrol craft 'Chitrangada' from Arai Banki in the Sundarbans. They entered the Heron Point (now spelt Hiron Point, and also known as 'Nilkamal') without any resistance on 9 December.

In the morning of 10 December 1971 they started for the Mongla Port and captured the harbour by 6:00 am without much resistance. The patrol craft Chitrangada took position at Mongla, and Panvel, Padma and Palash began to sail north toward Khulna harbour. They were loudly cheered by the local villagers lining the banks and responding to the throaty cry of 'Joy Bangla' (Victorious Bangla, or Long Live Bengal).

By midday - around 11:40 am or 2:00 pm - they were close to Khulna Shipyard. As they were crossing the Rupsha river, three fighter aircrafts were spotted high in the sky. When the soldiers in Padma and Palash sought permission to shoot at the aircrafts, the commander of the naval crafts informed that these were Indian aircrafts. Suddenly the three aircrafts began hurling bomb over Padma and Palash. Mohammad Mohibullah, a staff of BNS Palash, died on the spot. Earlier that day the Indian Air Force fired at different places of Khulna city. The surprise air attack from their allies at war stunned the freedom fighters. Fire engulfed both ships so the crew members jumped into the river to save their lives.

During the Indo-Pak War 1971, Lieutenant Commander [Joseph Pius Alfred] Noronha commanded the Indian naval ship Panvel. It was attached to the naval force, code named 'Force ALFA', deployed in the Eastern waters. The Force was asked to mount attacks on the enemy targets at Mongla and Khulna [in Bangladesh]. At 06:00 hours on 10 December 1971, the Force led by INS Panvel captured the Mongla harbour without much resistance. The same day, it sailed north and entered Khulna harbour. The Force forged ahead despite close encounters with the enemy.

The Force was subjected to incessant air attacks while operating off Khulna. The enemy shore defences also opened up to engage Panvel. In these attacks two Mukti Bahini boats, forming part of the Force, were damaged and lost. During this difficult situation, Lt. Commander Noronha handled the ship very efficiently in the very restricted waters and effectively engaged the enemy on the water front. The enemy’s shores defences were extensively damaged and vital shore installations destroyed beyond repair. While engaged in the grim battle the ship also picked up 14 survivors from the river. It came out unscathed from the great fire ordeal.

Lt. Commander Noronha was awarded Mahavir Chakra for exceptional skill, courage and leadership.

B. C. Chakravorty, author of "Stories of Heroism: Param Vir Chakra and Mahavir Chakra Winners" (1995)

Single determination to save BNS Palash

The commander of the Palash ordered every one to leave the gunboat. But Ruhul Amin was determined to keep the gunboat active so he ignored the orders to abandon ship. He valiantly fought to save the ship. After all, it was the first warship of his beloved motherland and the freedom of his country depended upon it. Suddenly a bomb fell on the engine room of Palash and it was completely destroyed. Now his task became impossible.

The ships were on fire. The crews requested Rulul Amin to leave the ship but he did not. Even he defied the order of his officer in-charge Lieutenant Commander Roy.

To him it was more than his life. He could probably be able to extinguish the fire if not suddenly a shell of the ship exploded and took away his life.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Suffering from serious injuries from the explosion and burning, Ruhul Amin was forced to dive into the water in a last ditch effort to save his life. He swam nearly quarter kilometre to reach the river shore. While lying exhausted in the river bank of Rupsha, Ruhul Amin was caught by the local razakars (collaborators of Pakistan Army) who killed him using their bayonets. Six days later Bangladesh would gain its victory.

While the Bangladesh naval ships of Padma and Palash were destroyed in the bombing, miraculously the Indian naval ship Panvel "came out unscathed from the great fire ordeal". It picked up 14 survivors from the river while every other crew members managed to escape the clutches of the collaborators.

Burial

The next day after their killing (i.e. 11 December 1971), the people of Bagmara village buried Mohammad Ruhul Amin and Mohammad Mohibullah in their village under East Rupsha area of the district.

In 1997 the Khulna Development Authority (KDA) built a memorial complex surrounding their graveyard. Upon completion, the KDA handed the complex over to Bangladesh Nu-bahini (Navy) which now supervises the complex.

Graveyard threatend by river erosion

Over the years the graveyard of Ruhul Amin and Mohammad Mohibullah is being threatened by river erosion. Ruhul Amin's relatives and villagers have urged the Government of Bangladesh to shift his mortal remains to his birthplace of Baghchapra.

On 8 April 2012 freedom fighters and locals formed a human chain on Sonaimuri-Dhaka highway in Sonaimuri upazila demanding shifting of the graveyard from Khulna to his native village of Baghchapra.

People from all walks of life participated in the human chain which continued for about an hour.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

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