Crack Platoon: Reckoning

1971 was a curious time for us as a nation. On one hand it was a time of despair filled with stories of death and destruction; on the other hand, it was a time of pride, filled with tales of courage and bravado. Nasif Tanjim brings you one such tale of bravery of the highest order.


The guerrillas of Crack Platoon of Sector 2, Dhaka, Bangladesh 1971.  Courtesy: Shumon Ahmed/ Bangladesh Old Photo Archive

The guerrillas of Crack Platoon of Sector 2, Dhaka, Bangladesh 1971. Courtesy: Shumon Ahmed/ Bangladesh Old Photo Archive

Fade in

9 June 1971. Dacca

7:40 PM Local Time


Sirens are wailing somewhere nearby and it’s heading closer, a police escort vehicle moves in from Mymensingh Road with two or three more vehicles behind it. The last car of the motorcade, a white Chevrolet, made sometime during the mid-sixties, has a chocolate colored strip going all the way from its middle to the back end. The occupants of the car are guests of the Pakistan army. The World Bank aid mission along with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, head of the UNHCR, is on the guest list for an event at Hotel Intercontinental. The well-oiled Pakistani propaganda machine has organised the event to reassure the teams from the World Bank and the UNHCR that everything is fine in East Pakistan, especially in Dacca city.

The escorted entourage passes a brand new blue Datsun 1000 and goes into Hotel Intercontinental. The driver of the Datsun is a cameraman working in the Film Development Corporation named Badal and he is about to be part of something more thrilling than a western thriller. He turns his car and stops at the small gate of the hotel, which stands on the footpath of the road. Pedestrians can walk in through that small gate which stands parallel with the portico and the revolving entrance of Hotel Intercontinental. The people who are lazily waiting and sitting on the boundary wall do not bother to look at the Datsun and the four young men, who are coming out quietly and are now standing near that small gate behind them.
Zia, Maya and Habib are standing about 3 to 4 feet apart, seemingly harmless. Shawpon is standing with his right hand inside his shirt, holding his pistol, ready to provide cover fire in case things go south. But what he does not know is the fact that pistols cannot be used to provide cover fire. And suddenly they get to work. By the time the leader of this gang Habib pulls out the pin from his grenade, Zia had already thrown his grenade. The white Chevrolet has rolled into the porch. Habib throws the second grenade, which lands near the revolving door. Maya lobs a third grenade near that very door. Zia pulls his second grenade out and lobs it at the Chevrolet. Like a football finding the goalpost it’s destined for, the grenade goes in through the side window. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! The grenades blast one after another. The rear of the heavy Chevrolet car had jumps about 3 to 4 feet above the ground and then falls flat with an almighty thud.


Maya, who will one day be awarded, the third highest Bangladeshi award for gallantry, Bir Bikarm, decides to leave a parting gift which he and his cohorts lovingly call ‘Pineapple’, and is known to the rest of the world as grenade.

The message is loud and clear: the war for liberating Bangladesh has begun and no place is safe for the occupying Pakistani force and its collaborators!

The group rushes back to their car. They do not even bother to observe the panic caused by their actions, their job is far from over. Once they are all inside, Badal turns the car towards its next destination. Sandals, lungis and even caps left behind by the people who fled in a hurry can be seen all over Minto Road and Hare Road. They cross the president’s house and take Bailey Road. Finally the vehicle moves right towards Motijheel to reach one of the army junta daily paper office, Morning News. The urban guerillas quickly lob two grenades over the high raised boundary wall and leave, like a bolt of lightning.

As the car accelerates towards the Ramna Thana, the guerillas can feel their heart pounding.  They cross the Ramna Thana and move forward to the Moghbazar Kazi office across which resides; Jamaat-e-Islam leader Golam Azam, a collaborator working for the Pakistani junta. Here they swiftly lob two grenades over the boundary wall towards the building. The car rushes towards safety with its jubilant occupants. One can almost hear the death bell of the unnatural state named Pakistan tolling.


10 June 1971 Matinagar, India

Sometime during midnight


BBC and All India Radio have been airing the news of the successful Hit &Run mission all night and the Mukti Bahini camp at Matinagar is ecstatic. Their brothers at arms have done it! And the man who trained the young guns, captain ATM Hyder, feels his heart swell of pride. He has trained them well indeed! ‘These all are crack people. I asked them to make the explosion happen outside Dhaka but they made the blast happen right inside Hotel Intercontinental!’, exclaims the mastermind behind the attack, Major Khaled Mosharraf, the Sector Commander of Bangladesh Forces Sector 2, when he receives the news.

And thus, the now legendary Crack Platoon is born.

Dear reader, next time you are stuck in traffic jam outside Hotel Ruposhi Bangla (soon to reopened as Hotel Intercontinental again) and feel bored out your wits, the hustle and bustle of the city feels agonising, just close your eyes and transport yourself back to the events that transpired here 46 years ago. Can you feel the adrenaline rush through your veins? Because I for one, certainly can!

Fade out.


Nasif Tanjim is a student of University of Dhaka


Comments are closed.