WAS Ouderland Bir Pratik

December 16, 2012 10:29 pm 216 comments __
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By Kamrul Ahsan Khan

Mr WAS Ouderland was born in December 1917 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  He worked with the Bata Show Company when he was called up to serve as a sergeant in the Dutch Royal Signals Corps on the eve of Nazi invasion in 1940.  He was taken prisoner by the Nazis, but he soon escaped from the POW camp and joined the Dutch resistance.

Following the end of the World War II, he returned to work for Bata. He was posted as the production manager, and then managing director, of Bata operation in the then East Pakistan on the eve of our War of Liberation. Brutal repression and occupation of unarmed Bangladeshis by the Pakistani occupation army reminded him of the similar brutalities perpetrated by the Nazis in occupied Europe. He fully appreciated the legitimacy of Bangladeshi resistance against the brute forces of occupation.

He felt the acute need to make the world aware of the extent of genocide. As he was able to move freely as a foreigner, he took photographs of the atrocities committed by Pakistanis and their agents. He then passed these photographs to the world press.

As an executive of a major multinational, he enjoyed close access to higher echelon of the occupation forces. Indeed, he had close personal relationship with both Gen Tikka Khan and Gen Niazi. He maintained the appearance of friendship with the Pakistani top brass in order to avail sensitive information. He then passed these vital information on to the Mukti Bahini.

As the War progressed, he secretly began to train and assist local youths around the Tongi area in the art of guerrilla resistance. He sent his family away from occupied Bangladesh so that he could turn his residence into a safe haven for our freedom fighters and their weapons.

He was awarded gallantry award Bir Pratik for his contribution to our War of Liberation — the only foreign citizen to receive the honour.

Mr Ouderland remained in Bangladesh till 1978 and was transferred to Australia thereafter. He later settled in Australia and died after prolonged ailment at the age of 84 in a hospital at the Western Australian city of Perth on 18 May 2001.  His love and concern for Bangladesh was undiminished until his last days.

In February 2010, the Dhaka City Corporation named Road 84, Gulshan adjoining the Australian High Commission in honour of Mr Ouderland.

Further information on this valiant freedom fighter and true friend of Bangladesh can be availed at: http://www.banglaweb.com/ouderland/

( Kamrul Ahsan Khan; Convener Bangladesh Environment Network,Australia Chapter; Join Convener, Climate Action Canberra  Australia; Convener Ouderland Memorial Committee; General Secretary Bangladesh Seniors Club; Activist )

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