Mohammad Ruhul Amin was born in village of Baghchapra in Sonaimuri upazila (then Begumganj thana) of Noakhali district in British India on 1 February 1934, few years before the advent of Second World War (1939 - 45). He was the eldest son of Mohammad Azhar Patwary and Zulekha Khatun.
Like many children during that period, Ruhul Amin began his education in the local village maktab, an Arabic elementary school. He later studied in Baghchapra Primary School and passed his passed his matriculation from Sonaimuri High School in 1949.
Mohammad Ruhul Amin married and had three daughters (one called Noor Nagher) and one son, Shawkat Ali. All four children grew up and got married. Sadly, Shawkat has struggled to maintain his family financially and lives in poverty. He struggles to make a living and works as a day labourer and van-puller.
Shawkat's three sisters take three-fourths of the government assistance meant for the family and so, he often passes hard time with his scanty income.
Engine Room Artificer with Pakistan Navy
In 1953 Ruhul Amin joined the newly created Pakistan Navy as a junior mechanical engineer and went to Karachi in West Pakistan (Poschim Pakistan in Bangla) for training. He took his training at the Pakistani Naval Base at Manora Island and later finished his professional training from the PNS Karsaz at Karachi, a technical school and arguably the largest establishment in the Pakistan Navy.
He successfully completed his professional training five years later in 1958, and in 1965 was selected for the mechanical course. On completion of the course, Ruhul Amin was posted as Engine Room Artificer, a person who worked on the ships engines, boilers and basically anything below decks that was mechanical. In 1968 he was transferred to PNS Bakhtiar Naval Base in Chittagong, near his birthplace. PNS Bakhtiar (now renamed to 'BNS Issa Khan') was the largest Pakistani navy base in East Pakistan.
East Pakistan (Purbo Pakistan in Bangla) and West Pakistan (Poschim Pakistan) tension come to boil in 1971
By the late 1960s the tension between the two wings of Pakistan, separated by over 1,000 miles of India, had reached boiling point. The East Pakistanis were aggrieved by the economic, social and cultural stifling and domination of their West Pakistani brethrens. In November 1970 a disastrous cyclone, Bhola Cyclone, hit the Ruhul Amin's region and surrounding areas. Over half a million people died. The Government, led by General Yahya Khan, a West Pakistani, were slow to react to the disaster. In the General Election the following month Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led Awami League party won a decisive victory. However, they were denied their victory and the government declined to pass over the power to the East Pakistanis. The next three months the Bengalis of East Pakistan campaigned for the transfer of power, while the West Pakistanis covertly prepared to halt any such demands by transferring the military to the east wing.
Fight war from Sector-3 and join newly formed Bangladesh Nu-bahini (Bangladesh Navy)
On 25 March 1971 the Pakistan Army attacked the residents of Dhaka. With that began Bangladesh Liberation War.
Like any true patriotic Bengali, Ruhul Amin decided to join the war. He immediately resigned from Pakistan Navy and left 'PNS Comilla' at Chittagong and came back to his village in Baghchapra. As the village's seniormost experienced military officer, 35 year old Ruhul Amin successfully organised local youths and soldiers for the war.
By now the first government of Bangladesh, 'Mujibnagar Shorkar' (also known by 'Probashi Shorkar') was formed with its headquarter in Calcutta, India. Bangladesh was divided into eleven military zones, known as 'Sectors', and General Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmani was elected as the Commander-in-Chief, tasked with guiding 'Mukhti Bahini' (Liberation Forces, or Freedom Fighters) and spearheading Bangladesh to victory.
In May 1971 Ruhul Amin and 500 others fled Bangladesh and joined Sector-3 (Brahmanbaria – parts of Sylhet) under Major K. M. Shafiullah across the border in neighbouring Tripura, India. He fought a number of battles for next six months.
By June-July 1971 the Bangladesh Nu-Bahini (Bangladesh Navy) was formed by a handful of Bengali courageous sailors who had defected from their submarine training in Toulon, France. Around 357 freedom fighters were recruited from various training camps to join the Naval Commando which was led by Rahmatullah and A. W. Chowdhury. Among these were Ruhul Amin.
During the course of the war various marine commando operations were carried out to destroy the Pakistani navy and ships. Arguably, the most famous among these attack was 'Operation Jackpot' in August 1971 where a group of young men destroyed 26 merchant ships with limpet mines in Chittagong and Mongla (Chalna) maritime ports.
The Naval Commando inflicted a crippling damage on the East Pakistan ports, inland waterways and shipping. They also caused serious damage to the Pakistani war efforts by sinking ships or damaging jetties and immobilizing of ports and navigable channels. A vast amount of international shipping was kept away from East Bengal ports in spite of the high rates of compensation announced by the Government. The Naval Commando held East Pakistan in a state of siege in the highest traditions of war at sea and that too without possessing a single oceangoing vessel.
In four months, the frogmen attained their aim of closing the major ports of Chalna/Mongla and Chittagong, which paradoxically was mined by the departing Pakistani authorities using mines almost on the day prior to their surrender. There is little doubt that the naval commando frogmen accelerated the liberation of Bangladesh. The highly motivated frogmen, mostly students, did not seek any kudos or political recognition or reward except the liberation of there beloved 'Sonar Bangla'. Freedom fighters from Mozambique, Libya and Somalia eagerly sought the details of these unique riverine naval commando operations of Bangladesh.
Chalna was the main port for the inland waterways transport system for the Khulna region...
'Padma' and 'Palash', the first two warships of Bangladesh Navy as gifted by India
In September 1971 the Government of India presented Bangladesh Navy with two pilot boats. These tugboats were converted into riverine patrol craft at Garden Reach Shipyard, Calcutta, India. Named 'Padma' and 'Palash', these became the first two warships of Bangladesh Navy. These craft were manned by 49 valiant Bengali sailors under the command of Indian Navy Officers and deployed in the river routes of Sundarbans. Mohammad Ruhul Amin was posted as Engine Room Artificer-1 of Palash and worked as the Squadron leader for both Padma and Palash.
In September 1971 with the object of setting up the Bangladesh Navy, all members from the Navy were assembled in Agartala and the initial structure of the naval force for Bangladesh was formed. They were then carried to Calcutta along with Ruhul Amin. The Indian government presented two tugboats to Bangladesh Navy. These were transformed into gunboats by attaching buffer gun and mine pod at the Calcutta Gardenreech Naval workshop. The two gunboats were named as 'Padma' and 'Palash'. Ruhul Amin was posted as Engine Room Artificer of Palash.
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.
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.
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.
'Bir Srestho' honour
After Independence, the Government of Bangladesh honoured Mohammad Ruhul Amin and six others posthumously with the title of 'Bir Srestho', the highest gallantry award of the state, in recognition of their patriotism and supreme sacrifice for the country.
Mohammad Mohibullah who was killed in the bombing of Polash, was awarded Bir Bikrom gallantry award posthumously. A heavy gunboat of the Bangladesh Navy has also been named in his honour, 'BNS Shaheed Mohibullah'.
Nation will always remember Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Ruhul Amin with great admiration and pride. There were many other heroes whose names have gone into oblivion as there had not been a true record of naval commando actions. However, the BN remembers with honour and pride all those great Freedom Fighters whose undaunted bravery and sacrifice paved the way for the independence of the country.
Bir Srestha Ruhul Amin Memorial Museum and Library
In a bid to preserve the memories of its seven greatest heroes, the Government of Bangladesh decided to construct memorial museums and libraries at the birth places of the Bir Sresthos.
In 2008 the Government built the Bir Srestha Ruhul Amin Memorial Museum and Library at Baghchapra of Sonaimuri in Noakhali. But the museum contains only few artifacts used by Ruhul Amin. Among these are the several medallions conferred upon Ruhul Amin by the government and various organisations, including the Bir Srestho medallion. The museum also contains many posters on independence war and periodicals.
The library contains about 3,500 books http://www.newagebd.net/article/4520/bir-sreshtha-ruhul-amin-memorial-museum-and-library-no-librarian-since-inception on various subjects, especially those relating to the Liberation War.
Sadly the museum-cum-library has been without a librarian since its inception http://www.newagebd.net/article/4520/bir-sreshtha-ruhul-amin-memorial-museum-and-library-no-librarian-since-inception. The lone caretaker, who works on a temporary basis, looks after the museum and library and also visitors.
The poor condition of the museum and the inadequate number of artifacts on display was also a source of disappointment for family members, locals, and visitors since it was not befitting of a tribute to a national hero.
Just after their inception, the museum and library fell to the indifference of the government. At the beginning, there were no galleries. We on our own built a gallery and put some articles used by Ruhul Amin on display.
We requested the authorities to appoint an assistant librarian but the post remains vacant till now.
Sohel Chowdhury, a grandson of Ruhul Amin
A museum named after a Bir Sreshtha cannot run in this way.
Village of Baghchapra renamed to 'Ruhul Amin Nagar'
The Government of Bangladesh renamed the village of Baghchapra to 'Ruhul Amin Nagar' (Abode of Ruhul Amin) in honour of Mohammad Ruhul Amin.
Rememberance on death anniversary
Each year on 10th December the death anniversary of Ruhul Amin is commemorated by his various supporters and organisations, such as Bangladesh Navy in Khalishpur headquarters (BNS Titumir), Rupsha Press Club, Bir Sreshtho Ruhul Amin Orphanage Committee, and the Bir Srestha Ruhul Amin Memorial Museum and Library.
To mark the day, they arrange day-long programmes which includes recitation from the Qur'an, placing wreaths at the martyr’s graveyard and his statue, discussion meeting, and dua and milad mahfil (prayer session). Various small events are also held, e.g. badminton tournament and prize distribution.
On 10 December 2015, on the 44th death anniversary of Ruhul Amin, his daughter Noor Nagher inaugurated a 'Bijoy Mela' (Victory Festival) http://www.theindependentbd.com/printversion/details/26300 at his native village to mark the day.