Abdul Haleem Chowdhury Jewel (the name is also sometimes spelled Chaudri) was a gifted Bangladeshi cricketer who regularly played first-class cricket for various teams in what was then called East Pakistan during the 1960s. But when he heard his motherland’s cry for freedom, he was one of the first to put down his bat and pick up a gun to fight for independence.
He became a folk hero whose story inspired many others to make sacrifices to build the nation of Bangladesh. After his execution, he became known in the annals of the freedom struggle as ‘Shaheed Jewel’.
He made his first-class debut in May 1966, representing Dhaka (then Dacca) against the Rijkswaterstaat team. Overall, in 7 first-class matches, he scored 259 runs at an average of 21.58. His best performance in first-class cricket came in 1971. He played for East Pakistan Whites against Dacca University, scoring 47 and 65 in the match.
But that may have been the last major cricket match he played in his life. Within a few weeks, he joined the Bangladesh freedom movement and easily gave up his cricket career without thinking about what lay ahead. “My country needs freedom. That should come first. Cricket will follow later,” he said.
He picked up a rifle and proved to be just as adept at using it as he was with the bat. He joined the legendary Crack Platoon, a highly trained and specialized commando unit of the Mukti Bahini. They were led by a commando named Major Khaled Mosharraf. The officer who had served in the Pakistani army before plunging into the freedom struggle in Bangladesh was an experienced and capable leader. He and his group of highly motivated fighters carried out guerrilla actions deep in the jungles of Melaghar.
The Crack Platoon of the Mukti Bahini used guerrilla tactics to fight against the Pakistani army. India provided arms support to the Mukti Bahini. As the fighting intensified, nearly ten million residents of the country fled across the border and fled to West Bengal, Tripura and other Indian states. Haleem went into hiding when the Pakistani military launched a massive nationwide manhunt for the Crack Platoon commandos.
Many years later, his sister Suraiya Khanam recalled that during that time he occasionally changed his appearance to disguise himself. Once, when he got home, he had grown his beard very long and was wearing a lungi. In his hands he carried a shopping bag full of grenades and pistols. He took part in Operation Farmgate, a highly successful attack that proved to be a major setback for the Pakistani military.
Ultimately, it was his wish to see his mother that led to his downfall. The super commando returned home to see his mother and spent that night chatting with old childhood friends. But it’s very likely that one or two of them were just pretending to be his friends. It is not known who the traitor was who gave him away. Because the Razakars got the news of his presence there and rushed at him. One of his friends had betrayed Haleem and passed the news of his arrival to his enemies.
He was captured along with a few other freedom fighters. The prisoners were tortured to obtain information. His parents ran from pillar to post, trying to use influence to get him out of custody. But he was a man who had been involved in many commando actions and the police refused to release him. On August 25, 1971, he was executed and buried in an unmarked grave. His family found out much later that he was gone.
According to his sister who played cricket with him when they were children, Haleem was a boy who loved to play cricket. He always dreamed of becoming a great cricketer one day. He also had exceptional talent. If he hadn’t sacrificed his life for his homeland, he could have become a famous cricketer, she says. But the call of patriotism was too strong for him, and he responded with heroism and determination. He made his family and his nation proud.
After Bangladesh became independent, Haleem was honored with the Bir Bikrom Prize by the Government of Bangladesh. It is the country’s third highest gallantry decoration and was introduced after the liberation to honor the freedom fighters who gave their lives to make their country independent. Part of the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Mirpur near Dhaka, where many cricket matches have been held, is named after Haleem as the Shaheed Jewel Stand.