It's difficult to imagine how such a peaceful place could signify the horrors of war. The border stretch beyond Senarbadi village in Brahmanbaria's Akhaura uapzila, adjacent to Ramnagar village in Tripura, is thankfully quiet. But ten yards into no-man's land near the 2021/S border pillar is the site of a Liberation War graveyard. The final resting place for around 250 freedom fighters and civilians, for the most part names unknown, is gradually being reclaimed by jungle.
The Akhaura upazila's Muktijoddha Sangsad freedom fighters' association recalls how in 1971 critically injured freedom fighters from frontier areas such as Montala, Akhaura, Kasba, Comilla and Belonia, were routinely taken to Tripura's GB Hospital for treatment. The bodies of those who did not survive were sent to Ramnagar-Senarbadi for burial. At this time each year, community groups and residents of Akhaura visit the site to honour the sacrifice of the fallen.
“I didn't actively participate in the liberation struggle,” says one Senarbadi villager, Hossain Molla, “but I personally buried the bodies of at least fifty freedom fighters at this place. The bodies were brought by van to an adjacent brickfield. Many were wrapped only in lungi, with three or four dead sharing some graves. In total around 250 people are buried here.”
“The identities of most of the departed are unknown,” notes freedom fighter Abdur Rahman. “But one day, at the time of burial, a local youth identified one of the bodies as 'footballer Aziz.' He had seen Aziz playing football at the nearby Debgram Pilot High School playground. Aziz was killed by a mortar shell.”
At an earlier time, the locals of both countries used the area as a graveyard. Later, out of respect for the martyred freedom fighters buried there, general use of the site was discontinued.
Today the graveyard is overgrown with trees and bushes. The site, which is to the west of a pond abutting the border, is difficult to identify unless someone with local knowledge is there to point it out. Around sixty yards into India beyond the graveyard, that country's Border Security Force has installed fencing and a number of other constructions. It seems that maintaining the graveyard hasn't been prioritised by either country.
“Why has Bangladesh not implemented any plan to protect this graveyard in remembrance of our martyrs?” wonders Md Mukhlesur Rahman, the deputy commander of the Brahmanbaria Muktijoddha Sangsad.
Commanding officer of the Bangladesh Border Guard's 25 Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Md Shah Ali agrees that the local administration should take action to protect the graveyard. He says his organisation is willing to assist in any such endeavour and can arrange flag meetings with the Indian border authorities as required. “But alone, we cannot take the initiative,” he says.
“As the graveyard is on the border,” remarks Akhaura's upazila nirbahi officer Mohammad Shamsuzzaman, “there is an international dimension to protecting it. At the moment, all the necessary formalities are being completed. Preservation action will be taken.”