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Battle of Chapai Nawabganj

Strategic importance of Chapai Nawabganj

The town of Chapai Nawabganj is located on the southern bank of the Mahananda Nodi (Bangla for river). The mighty Ganges River also enters Bangladesh at close proximity to the west and becomes the Padma Nodi. Thus due to its strategic location, the Pakistani 34 Infantry Brigade led by Brigadier M. A. Naeem was deployed along the Naogaon-Rajshahi and Chapai Nawabganj-Rajshahi axes to stop the advance of the recently formed Mitro Bahini (Allied Forces, an alliance of Bengali Mukti Bahini and Indian Army officers) and to guard against any allied riverine movement along the Padma Nodi into Bangladesh.

One company of 25 Punjab Regiment along with East Pakistan Civil Armed Forces (EPCAF) were deployed at Chapai Nawabganj on the home bank of the Mahananda Nodi. They prepared a series of trenches on the embankment with strong overhead protection. In addition, the home bank was higher than the surroundings and the Pakistani troops were well prepared in defiladed position (i.e. their forces were protected against enemy observation or gunfire).

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Qazi Nuruzzaman divided Sector 7 into three strategic groups: Major Giasuddin Ahmed Chaudhury was to lead the first group. He was tasked with cutting the communication of Nawabganj from Rajshahi by blocking the Chapai Nawabganj-Rajshahi highway connecting these two places. The second group was led by Second Lieutenants Bazlur Rashid and Rafiqul Islam and they were tasked with advancing along the Rohanpur-Nachole-Ammura axis and assisting in capturing Chapai Nawabganj by acting as cut off party. The third and arguably the most important group was to be led by Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir. They were vested with the main task of capturing Chapai Nawabganj by advancing through Sona Masjid-Shibganj axis.

Indian Brigadier Prem Singh was appointed the Commanding Officer of the Mitro Bahini in Sector 7. The Indian 165 Mountain Brigade, whose primary task was to protect Indian districts of Maldah and Balurghat, was ordered at this stage to advance towards Rajshahi.

According to the plan agreed with Brigadier Prem Singh, the Indian artillery would provide fire support to the muktijuddhas on 11 December 1971 in order to make the enemy weak and disorganised. Captain Jahangir and his troop would then go for assault.

Captain Jahangir took his task as a challenge and was determined to accomplish his task at all cost.

Captain Jahangir's drive

  • Giasuddin Ahmed Chaudhury ()
  • Bazlur Rashid ()
  • Rafiqul Islam ()
  • M. A. (Mir Abdul) Naeem ()
  • Prem Singh ()

Indian artillery support does not come as agreed

Thus, on 10 December 1971 Captain Jahangir, Lieutenant Karim and Lieutenant Awal Chowdhury and approximately 50 freedom fighters crossed the international boundary and got inside Bangladesh.

They took up their position at Barogoria, located to the west of Nawabganj and next to the Mahananda Nodi, expecting the Indian artillery fire to come to their aid on 11th December. But when the 11th came there was no artillery shelling on to the enemy position at the predetermined time as agreed. Captain Jahangir tried his level best to make communication over wireless set with Indian Force on 12th and 13th December 1971. But he failed to establish any communication or liaison with Indian Force. Not one to be disheartened, Captain Jahangir was determined to carry on – with or without Indian help.

On 13 December 1971 evening Captain Jahangir and his troops crossed the Mahananda Nodi and joined the muktijuddhas at Tikrampur. Captain Jahangir decided to launch attack on the Pakistani positions at Rehaichar Moholla (Area) early following morning at 6 am.

Jahangir was not the man to fall back. He took decision at his own that he would go for attack without Indian artillery fire support.

Captain Jahangir's brave stance

  • Karim ()
  • Awal Chowdhury ()

14 December 1971

On 14 December 1971 the muktijuddhas led by Captain Jahangir launched a dawn attack on Chapai Nawabganj. It was a cold and foggy morning with visibility restricted to only a few meters. Around 6 am Captain Jahangir came on the radio set. It was learnt that his radio set got soaked in the canal water as the boat which was carrying the wireless operator sank during the crossing. The wireless set had to be cleaned and put into operation again. The listeners were finding it difficult to hear anything clearly as the voice of Captain Jahangir was fading.

The Mukti Bahini attacking force was about a 1,000 strong, with three columns. Second Lieutenant Awal Chowdhury and his company were holding the defensive line on the southern bank of the Mahananda Nodi. Second Lieutenants Bazlur Rashid and Rafiqul Islam were mounting a diversionary attack on the EPCAF lines on the eastern perimeter of the town with their companies. The main attacking force was of two company strength with Captain Jahangir commanding one company and Second Lieutenant A. Qayyum Khan commanding the other. They were attacking the town from the western side.

The night was unexpectedly foggy and one could not see a person properly even from a distance of 5 yards. This lack of visibility slowed down our movement. Own force was to open fire with their weapons when they reach the small arms range of enemy and the expected time of which was 4.15 am. It was already 4.30 am and later it became 5 am. One of the task force i.e. Alpha and Bravo Companies (A and B Coys) under Captain Jahangir was supposed to come from behind the enemy. Other task force of two companies (C and B coys) was commanded by Lieutenant Qayyum.

Plan of action under difficult weather

The battle of Chapai Nawabganj was unique in that it was conducted entirely by Mukti Bahini troops without any participation by the Indian Army with the exception of a BSF field battery.

A. Qayyum Khan

The battle of Chapai Nawababganj was one of the most daring operations undertaken by the freedom fighters a few days prior to the liberation of Bangladesh.

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Passing & burial

The Mukti Bahini men did not have the weapons or training to attack the town or fight in a built up area. They were practically restricted to attacking the town with grenades only. They faced strong Pakistani resistance. However, after clearing bunkers and pill boxes on the western perimeter of the enemy's defence, they were fighting the enemy’s rooftop positions. A LMG (Light Machine Gun) from a rooftop was firing at Captain Jahangir’s men and preventing his company from advancing. Unable to break through the Pakistani defences, Captain Jahangir broke cover, crawled forward of the defence line, got close to the building and lobbed a hand grenade into the Pakistani trench in a brave attempt to neutralize the LMG. Suddenly a sniper from another building shot him through the left eye and pierced through his forehead. Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir died on the spot. He was 22 years old.

It was a tough fight. We laid siege to the town. On 14 December 1971, we flushed them out. But Jahangir was killed.

A. Qayyum Khan

His dead body fell to the enemies’ trench. The death of Shaheed Captain Jahangir made the freedom fighters more aggressive. Other comrades of Shaheed Captain Jahangir crossed the river by swimming and gave the message of his death. A new attack was launched with more freedom fighters and by last light they could successfully capture Chapai Nawabagonj by destroying enemy.

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At the first given opportunity his colleagues recovered his dead body. Finally, by 12 am on 15 December 1971 Chapai Nawabganj town had fallen into the hands of the Mukti Bahini and they clinched victory.

As the news spread, people from the adjacent areas came to the town and rejoiced freedom by chanting "Joi Bangla" (Victorious) slogans with the freedom fighters.

On 15 December 1971 the heroic sons of the soil hoisted flag of the independent Bangladesh in the district town after a 9 month fierce fighting with the Pakistan troops.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Two days after Captain Mohiuddin Jahangir was killed Bangladesh officially became victorious.

The capture of Chapai Nawabganj allowed the Mitro Bahini to advance towards Rajshahi city and bring it under Bengali control.

Buried at Chhoto Sona Masjid premise

On 15 December 1971, a day after he was killed, the dead body of Captain Jahangir was carried by muktijuddhas from the Reichar area and was taken for burial at the premises of the famous Chhoto Sona Masjid (Small Golden Mosque), an ancient mosque built over 450 years ago. He was laid to rest near the graveyard of another valiant freedom fighter, Major Nazmul Haque (Tulu), Commander of Sector 7 prior to Lt. Col. Nuruzzaman before his unfortunate death on 27 September 1971 following a jeep accident. Amongst those attending the janaza were Sector 7 Commander Lt. Col. Qazi Nuruzzaman, other muktijuddhas and local Awami League leaders.