Random Photo with History 1971

We Always Mourn for you

Ashrafuzzaman Khan

__ One of the chief al-Badr (Jamai Death squad in 1971) executioners. It has been clearly proved that he himself shot to death 7 teachers of Dhaka university in the killing zones at Mirpur. A certain Mofizzuddin, who drove the vehicle that carried those hapless victims to Mirpur, has clearly identified Ashrafuzzaman as the “chief killer” of the intellectuals.

After Liberation, Ashrafuzzaman’s personal diary was recovered from his residence, 350 Nakhal Para. Two pages of his diary registered names and residential addresses of 19 teachers as well as the name of the medical officer of Dhaka University. Of those 20 persons, 8 were missing on December 14: Munier Chowdhury (Bengali), Dr. Abul Khair (History), Ghiasuddin Ahmed (History), Rashidul Hasan (English), Dr. Faizul Mohi (IE R) and Dr. Murtaza (Medical Officer).Mofizuddin confessed that Ashrafuzzaman himself shot all of them. As per Mofizuddin’s description, the decomposed bodies of those unfortunate teachers were recovered from the swamps of Rayer Bazar and the mass grave at Shiyal Bari at Mirpur. There were also other names in the diary including Dr. Wakil Ahmed (Bengali), Dr. Nilima Ibrahim (Bengali), Dr. Latif (IE R), Dr. Maniruzzaman (Geography), K M Saaduddin (Sociology), AMM Shahidullah (Math), Dr. Sirajul Islam (Islamic History), Dr. Akhtar Ahmed (Education), Zahirul Huq (Psychology), Ahsanul Huq (English), Serajul Islam Chowdbury (English), and Kabir Chowdhury (English).Another page of his diary recorded the names of 16 collaborating teachers of Dhaka university. Apart from that there were also names of Chowdbury Moinuddin, the chief of operation for elimination of the intelligentsia, and Shawkat Imran, a member of the central Al-Badr command, and the head of Dhaka Al-Badr forces.

The diary also contained names and addresses of several other prominent Bengalis. All of them lost their lives at the hands of Al-Badr forces. On a small piece of paper the name of the member finance of the Pakistan Jute Board, Abdul Khalek, was written down. On December 9, 1971, the Al-Badr forces kidnapped Mr. Khalek from his office. They demanded Taka 10,000 as ransom. They saw Mrs. Khalek for ransom money. But at that time she was unable to pay the kidnappers more than 450 taka. She promised that she would give them the rest of the money later, and begged them her husband’s life. But Mr. Khalek never came back.

Ashrafuzzaman has also been implicated in the murder of some journalists. It was Ashrafuzzaman who kidnapped the shift-in- charge of the Purbadesh, and the literary editor, Mr. Golam Mustafa.

Ashrafuzzaman Khan, was a member of the Central Committee of the Islami Chhatra Sangha. After liberation he went to Pakistan and worked for Radio Pakistan. Recently Ashrafuzzaman has moved to New York and presently heads the Queens branch of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)

Moinuddin Chowdhury

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The chief executioner of the Al-Badr and Al-Sams forces. The key person behind the brutal murder of hundreds of progressive Bengali intellectuals in 1971. Moinuddin and his cohorts picked the enlisted intellectuals from their residences between 12-14 December,1971 and killed them at Rayer bazaar and Mirpur. It is said that those who were still alive after being shot by Moinuddin’s henchmen, Moinuddin himself used to slit their throats in his own hand like slaughtering bulls for Korbani.

Moinuddin was the mastermind among his criminal peers as nothing much has been found against him. One of his razakar mate said he saw Moinuddin taking away all the money and important documents from the Al-Badr head office in Dhaka after the victory of Bangladesh. Presently Moinuddin is a British citizen and the special editor of the Jamat publication- the weekly Dawat. He is expatriate Bangladeshi elite and travels to Bangladesh frequently.

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Courtesy : Muktodhara

Some Historic Photo

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The Bangladesh war of independence in 1971 was one of the bloodiest conflicts in living memory. In an attempt to crush forces seeking independence for what was then East Pakistan, the West Pakistani military regime unleashed a systematic campaign of violence that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Bangalis.
In 266 days Bangali, hill people and Adivasi resistance fighters and their allies defeated the military forces of Pakistan. The result was the birth of a new nation – Bangladesh – and the dismemberment of Pakistan.
It was only after the 16th of December 1971 when Pakistani troops surrendered in East Pakistan, that Bangladeshis began to realise the scale of the atrocities committed during the previous nine months.
1971 was a year of national and international crisis in South Asia. The history of Bangladesh is implicitly tied to the partition of India in 1947 and therefore the tragic events of 1971 are linked to Britain’s colonial past. For Bangladesh, ravaged by the war and subsequent political turmoil, it has been a difficult task to reconstruct its own history.

Women marching in the streets of Dhaka. 1971. © Rashid Talukder/Drik/Majority World

Dismembered head at the Rayerbajar Killing Fields where intellectuals were slaughtered on the 14th December 1971 © Rashid Talukder/Drik/Majority World

Pakistani soldiers surrendering on the 16th December 1971. © Aftab Ahmed/Drik/Majority World
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on his return to Bangladesh from Pakistan. 10th January 1972 © Rashid Talukder/Drik/Majority World

Children amidst shells. © Abdul Hamid Raihan/Drik/Majority World

Victorious Mukti Bahini returning home at the end of the war. © Jalaluddin Haider/Drik/Majority World
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Courtesy : Muktodhara

Skewing the history of rape in 1971 A prescription for reconciliation?

__ Nayanika Mookherjee runs a critical eye over Sarmila Bose’s controversial analysis of the violence committed during the Liberation War

This is a discussion of Sarmila Bose’s article: “Anatomy of Violence: Analysis of Civil War in East Pakistan in 1971” (EPW, Oct 8, 2005). A version of this paper was first presented by Dr Bose at a two-day conference, on June 28-29, 2005, organized by the historian branch of the United States Department of State titled “South Asia in Crisis: United States Policy, 1961-1972.” This was arranged to mark the release of declassified US records relating to the theme of the conference.

As an Indian working in Bangladesh for nearly a decade on the public memories of sexual violence during the Bangladesh war of 1971, I was particularly struck by the author’s use of the phrase “civil war” to refer to the Bangladesh war. Most Bangladeshis denounce the use of the term “civil war” to refer to the Bangladesh war as it deflects attention from its genocidal connotations.Instead, they semantically and politically distinguish the Bangladesh war as either muktijuddho (liberation war) or shadhinotar juddho(independence war).

It is also important to note that occurring at the juncture of Cold War politics, with the United States government supporting Pakistan during 1971, and the Indian government assisting the East Pakistani guerrilla fighters, the genocidal connotations of the Bangladesh war remains unacknowledged, till date. The use of the phrase “civil war” in the title of the article suggests that the author was in agreement with the Pakistani and US government’s version of events of 1971. Yet the paper was claiming to provide “an impartial account.” I was intrigued.

Through what Bose refers to as “case studies,” she tries to highlight how violence was inflicted by both sides — the Pakistani army and the East Pakistani liberation fighters — during the 1971 war. She also refers to the lack of incidents of rape during the Bangladesh war in her “cases” in a small paragraph found at the end of her long article. She suggests a prescription for reconciliation through an acknowledgement of violence inflicted by all parties involved.

Soon after the Washington conference, the points made in her paper were promptly picked up by the Pakistani newspapers: The Daily Times (Hasan, June 30,2005; Editorial, July 2, 2005) and Dawn (Iqbal, July 7, 2005). Both refer to the violence inflicted by both sides, and the absence of rape during the Bangladesh war. The entry on Sarmila Bose in Wikipedia, the popular internet encyclopedia, reiterates only the brief paragraph on rape.

In a response to Uttorshuri, a Bangladeshi web mail group, on July 2, 2005, Bose said: “The heading given to the Daily Times, Pakistan, report is incorrect and not the finding of my study.” Her work unleashed a barrage of criticism in Bangladesh and her research methods have been attacked as being shoddy and biased.
Collingwood (1945) has shown that historical “facts” are the reconstitution of the past in the historian’s minds, involving the selection and interpretation of the past, as history is the choice of a particular expository style that is itself determined historically.

My discussion of Bose’s article here, nearly ten months after the publication of her article in EPW, is an attempt to show the various responses to Bose’s work, her response to these feedbacks and to highlight Bose’s expository style which is appropriated by varied configurations.

In this discussion, I critically address Bose’s exposition about: a) violence being inflicted on both sides, b) the lack of instances of rape in her “cases,” and c) interrogate her formulation of reconciliation and highlight its implications on sub-continental politics.

Violence inflicted on both sides
All parties involved are shown to “commit acts of brutality outside accepted norms of warfare, and all had their share of humanity …with Bengalis, Biharis and West Pakistanis helping one another in the midst of mayhem,” in Bose’s article. This is evidenced by the Pakistan army targeting adult males while sparing women and children. However, local Bengali “loyalists”/collaborators, and not the Pakistani army, are involved in inflicting violence on their fellow Bengalis and the killing of intellectuals.

According to these accounts the Pakistani army did not inflict all the violence. This decontextualized account of Bengali collaborators does not recognize the triggers and advantages that the presence of, and collaboration with, the Pakistani army created. It misses the analytical point that in all wars local collaborators become the indispensable foot-soldiers of the institutionalized military paraphernalia.

The Pakistani army is portrayed as kind, but violent when provoked, whereas the Bengalis inflict violence “for unfathomable reasons.” The situation in Bangladesh during 1971 is described through phrases like: “widespread lawlessness during March,” “encouraged to break the law,” “urban terrorism,” and “rebels.”
The treatment of the Pakistani army namely: “refusal of Bengalis to sell them food and fuel, being jeered and spat at … and the widespread disregard of curfew orders, murder of army personnel,” are not considered to be examples of resistance and opposition, but are cited as instances of the suffering of the Pakistani army and an exhibition of “extraordinary restraint of the army under provocation.”

The “rule of law” remains with the Pakistani army as they “secure” and “gain control” over territories. Army reaction is cited as “overwhelming” while the rebels are “disorganised and amateurish” who for “unfathomable reasons … take pot-shots at the advancing units in the bazaar which triggered an overwhelming reaction from the army.”

There is no commentary on the contestations that exist in Bangladesh in relation to the varied national narratives of 1971. As a result, the observation by the former liberation fighter Iqbal: “This must be the only country in the world where there are two views on the independence of the country,” remains unanalysed.
As in-depth reading of various critical literature on war and violence (Butalia 1998; Das 1995; Nordstrom 2004) would show liberation and independence of countries are not homogenous narratives, and contain within their folds multiple contesting interrogations of wars through which countries become free. This is more so the case in Bangladesh (Hitchens 2001), given its fractured histories of partitions and independence.
Also, Nixon’s reference to Bangladesh as the “god-damn place” remains uncommented upon. This article, which was first presented in a conference hosted by the US department of State, is particularly conspicuous in the absence of any critical examination of the US support for Pakistan’s role in the Bangladesh war of 1971, in the context of Cold War calculations.

The article is helpful in addressing the ethnicization of the army as “Punjabis,” and in bringing out some of the nuances of the Pakistani army. That wars and conflicts are rife with instances of violence, kindness, cowardice, complicity, contradictions by the same individuals is not anything new and has been highlighted by various feminists, critical researchers and filmmakers within Bangladesh (Akhtar et al. 2001; Choudhury 2001; Kabir 2003; Masud 1999, 2000).

They show the multiple, contradictory, subjectivities of the Bangladesh war experience, and the violence inflicted upon the poor, women, Biharis, and adivasis. In my own work, I have encountered similar complicities and contradictions. Rather than citing these experiences as ahistorical and apolitical “facts,” they need to be located at the crossroads of local and national politics and histories.

The earlier mentioned formulation by Collingwood is significant here. In her other writings, Bose has attempted to go beyond Indo-Pakistani enmities. She highlights the various symbolic roles of a flag, and the possible repercussions of possessing a Pakistani flag in India (Bose 2003). In the Christian Science Monitor she argues (Bose and Milam 2005) in support of the sale of F-16s to Pakistan as a stabilizing factor within world and sub-continental geo-politics. In the EPW article, the nature of her expository style and presentation of “facts” make her “cases” representative of war-time experiences of all in Bangladesh.

Skewing the history of rape
The small paragraph, located in the last page of the article, relating to the absence of rape in the “cases” has been highlighted as evidence that the Pakistani army did not rape. In her response to Uttorshuri, Bose says: “The issue of rape amounted to about 100 words out of a nearly 6,500 word paper on the subject of patterns of violence in 1971.” An issue as contentious as the “patterns” of violence of rape can be claimed to be absent, through only 100 words! Bose explicates: “As I pointed out in the discussion that followed, there is evidence elsewhere that rape certainly occurred in 1971. But it seems — from this study and other works — that it may not have occurred in all the instances it is alleged to have occurred.”

Bose’s comment that rapes did occur elsewhere in 1971 is absent in her EPW article. In it she emphasizes the need to distinguish between the instances where rape occurred and where it did not. Throughout, it shows that the Bengalis raped Biharis while the Pakistani army did not rape anyone during the war. Also, it is not very clear which “cases” are being referred to in the statement: the rapes “may not have occurred in all the instances they are alleged to have occurred.” Rather than this generalized statement, it would have been more transparent scholarship to cite the specific “cases” where the rapes were alleged which the research instead finds, is absent.

Bose shows, in the case of “mutinies” by “rebels,” that “there was assault and abduction” of women. The Pakistani army however, “always” targeted adult males while sparing women and children. The Hamdoodur Rahman Commission (2000) established by the Pakistani government, while referring to the attack and rape of pro-Pakistani elements by Bengalis, also cites various instances of rape.

Eyewitness accounts can also be found in the eighth volume of the Dolil (Rahman 1982-85: 106, 192, 385). There is literature from the 1970s (Greer 1972; Brownmiller 1975) and recent scholarship and films based on oral history from within Bangladesh (Akhtar 2001; Choudhury 2001; Guhathakurta 1996; Ibrahim 1994, 1995; Kabir 2003; Masud 2000) which shows that the Pakistani army committed rapes and highlights the complexities of these violent encounters. Bose makes no reference to any of these documentations.

Recently, in Bangladesh, various women from different socio-economic backgrounds have narrated their violent experiences of rape by the Pakistani army and local collaborators. The well-known sculptor, Ferdousy Priyobhashini, has been vocal about her war-time experiences and the role of Pakistani army and Bengalis. My own work with various women who were raped during the war shows the contradictions of the war-time experiences while highlighting their violent encounters. All these documentations emerge as important counter-narratives to the various prevalent Bangladeshi nationalist accounts of the war. Emphasizing these war-time contradictions is not tantamount to a denial of the incidents of rape perpetrated by Pakistani army and their local collaborators.

A prescription for reconciliation?
Reconciliation, according to Bose, is possible through an acknowledgement of violence inflicted by all parties involved. However, for her, this is hinged on an unequal reliance on literally accepting the various viewpoints of the Pakistani army and administration, drawn from secondary sources (only one interview with General Niazi is briefly quoted).

While referring to the innumerable publications on 1971 as a “cottage industry,” Bose seems to negate the emotive expressions of her informants as “the cultivation of an unhealthy victim culture” and a “ghoulish competition with six million Jews in order to gain international attention.” This highlights a lack of empathy with her informants, and insensitivity to their comprehension of violence.

Primo Levi’s work on Auschwitz shows that individuals who have encountered and survived violence make various complicated, competitive and contradictory negotiations to inhabit their survival and “victimhood.” Here, Bangladeshi testimonials are ironically the means through which war-time narratives are negated.

The various individual accounts of violence, in turn, become muted with the prescription of “reconciliation.” Significantly, for many Bangladeshis, “reconciliation” has a jarring resonance, as it is perceived to be the objective of various war-time collaborators, who are currently rehabilitated in the Bangladeshi political landscape.

Seen only as a “god-damn place” (Nixon), a “basket case” (Kissinger), Bangladesh is stereotypically viewed internationally, and in South Asia, as a country ravaged only by poverty, floods, cyclones and, hence, in need of the saviour, interventionist, developmental paradigms.

Here, Bangladeshi histories and politics are again delegitimized as a result of sub-continental dynamics, as there is no engagement with the wider picture in Bangladesh.

The expositions in this article itself stand in the way of reconciliation between Bangladesh and Pakistan, and cannot provide a prescription to resolve these hostilities. War-time contradictions, complicities, nuances can be highlighted without negating the foundational violence of the history of rape of the Bangladesh war perpetrated by the Pakistani army and the local collaborators.

While the Bangladesh war might be a “civil war,” or Indo-Pakistan war for India and Pakistan, for most Bangladeshis it is the war of liberation and independence, even though that liberation might be interrogated in post-colonial Bangladesh. Only by recentring the issues which concern Bangladesh, along with highlighting the contradictions of wartime experiences, rather than proffering an argument which caters to Indo-Pakistan geo-political concerns, could one help the cause of reconciliation between Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This piece is adapted from “Bangladesh War of 1971: A Prescription for Reconciliation?” EPW, Vol. 41 No 36: 3901-3903. We have reprinted it here by special arrangement with EPW due to the intense interest within Bangladesh generated by the original Bose article that Dr Mookherjee discusses.

Dr Nayanika Mookherjee is a Lecturer in the Sociology Department in Lancaster University and a Research Fellow for the Society of South Asian Studies, British Academy.

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References

Akhtar, Shaheen, Suraiya Begum, Hameeda Hossain, Sultana Kamal, and Meghna Guhathakurta, eds. 2001. Narir Ekattor O Juddhoporoborti Koththo Kahini (Oral History Accounts of Women’s Experiences During 1971 and After the War). Dhaka: Ain-O-Shalish-Kendro (ASK).

Bose, Sarmila. 2005. “Anatomy of Violence: Analysis of Civil War in East Pakistan in 1971,” Economic and Political Weekly, October 8, 2005.http://www.epw.org.in/showArticles.php?root=2005&leaf=10&filename=9223&filetype=html

Bose, Sarmila and WB Milam. 2005. “The Right Stuff: F-16s to Pakistan is Wise Decision.” Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 2005. http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0411/p09s02-coop.html

Bose, Sarmila. 2003. “What’s in a Flag?” The Daily Times (Pakistan), September 23, 2003. http://www.countercurrents.org/ipk-bose230903.htm

Brownmiller, Susan. 1975. Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, pp. 78-86. London: Secker & Warburg.

Butalia, Urvashi. 1998. The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. New Delhi: Viking Penguin India.

Collingwood, RG. 1945. The Idea of History. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Das, Veena. 1995. Critical Events, pp. 55-83. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Greer, Germaine. 1972. “The Rape of the Bengali Women.” Sunday Times, April 9, 1972.

Hamdoodur Rahman Commission of Enquiry. 1971. Published in August 2000. Pakistan Government.

Guhathakurta, Meghna. 1996. “Dhorshon Ekti Juddhaporadh” (Rape is a War Crime). Dhaka: Bulletin of Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (ASK), February 6-8.

Hasan, K. 2005. “Army Not Involved in 1971 Rapes.” June 30, 2005. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_30-6-2005_pg1_2

Hitchens, Christopher. 2001. The Trial of Henry Kissinger. London: Verso.

Ibrahim, Nilima. 1994-5. Ami Birangona Bolchi (This is the “War-Heroine” Speaking), 2 Volumes. Dhaka: Jagriti.

Iqbal, Anwar. 2005. “Sheikh Mujib Wanted a Confederation: US Papers.” July 7, 2005. http://www.dawn.com/2005/07/07/nat3.htm

Levi, Primo. 1996. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity. Translated from the Italian by Stuart Wolf. New York: Touchstone Books.
Mookherjee, Nayanika. (forthcoming). Specters and Utopias: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971. Durham: Duke University Press.

Mookherjee, Nayanika. 2006. “Remembering to Forget: Public Secrecy and Memory of Sexual Violence in Bangladesh.” Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI), 12 (2), June 2006: pp. 433-450.

Mookherjee, Nayanika. 2004. “My Man (Honour) is Lost but I Still Gave my Iman (Principle): Sexual Violence and Articulations of Masculinity.” South Asian Masculinities. R Chopra, C Osella and F Osella, eds. New Delhi: Kali for Women: pp. 131-159.

Nordstrom, Carolyn. 2004. Shadows of War: Violence, Power, and International Profiteering in the Twenty-First Century. California Series in Public Anthropology, University of California Press.

Rahman, Hasan H, ed. (1982-1985). Bangladesher Shadhinota Juddho Dolilpotro (Documents of the Bangladesh Independence War). Sixteen Volumes. Dhaka: People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Information Ministry.

Films

Choudhury, Afsan. 2001. Tahader Juddho (Their War).

Kabir, Yasmin. 2003. Shadhinota (A Certain Freedom).

Masud, Tareque and Catherine Masud. 1999. Muktir Katha. (Words of Freedom). Dhaka: Audiovision.

Masud, Tareque and Catherine Masud. 2000. Women and War. Dhaka: Ain-O-Shalish-Kendra (ASK) and Audiovision.

Web-sites

Discussion Forum: Story of Pakistan http://www.storyofpakistan.com/discforum/topic.asp?topicid=89&forumid=11&page=1

Drishtipat: http://drishtipat.org/sarmila/sarmila.htm

IndPride: Sarmila Bose: In Praise of Pakistan http://www.indpride.com/mediamonitor.html

The Daily Times (Pakistan), July 2, 2005. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_2-7 2005_pg3_1

US Department of State South Asia in Crisis: United States Policy, 1961-1972 June 28-29, 2005, Loy Henderson Auditorium, Tentative Program. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/46059.htm

Uttorshuri: “Revisionist Historian on Rapes of 1971,” July 2, 2005.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/uttorshuri/message/4090

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarmila_Bose

Source: The Daily Star Forum

Blood flows in a painful birth for Bangladesh

__ From the archive: Blood flows in a painful birth for Bangladesh
April 4, 1971: Nicholas Tomalin witnesses a massacre as Pakistan is torn apart

From 1947-71, eastern Bengal was a province of Pakistan. In 1955 it became East Pakistan; in December 1971 it won independence as Bangladesh after Pakistan was defeated by India.

IT was around midday on Thursday – April Fool’s Day – at the Jessore headquarters of the East Pakistan Rifles, who are fighting on the rebels’ side in this civil war. In a confusion of hysteria, enthusiasm and sudden waves of terror, the population was mustering with shotguns, bamboo staves, long spears straight from a Kipling tiger hunt and elaborately patterned sabres.

Among each contingent arriving at headquarters were tall, usually bearded Punjabis. Their hands were tied and they were being pushed along by rifle butts. These men from West Pakistan were the hated usurers and bosses at the local jute mills who, in the words of a captain in the East Pakistan Rifles, were “bleeding us dry for years and years and now killing our wives and children”. They were all “spies”, said their captors, who had picked them up in their homes during the past few days. And as we watched, they were marched off into town.

A crowd of the enthusiastic local soldiers we had seen earlier dashed into hiding as we drove up. We thought the West Pakistan soldiers were attacking and scattered, only to discover, on a grass patch beside the road, men freshly stabbed and bludgeoned, lying in still-flowing pools of blood. Four of them were still just alive, rolling over and waving their legs and arms. None made any noise.

At this moment our guide became hysterical and tried to rush us back to the local Rifles HQ. He said it was not safe, the West Pakistanis were attacking. He tugged us away from the bodies. Suddenly we realised who these dead and dying men were. They were not Bengali; they were – we were convinced – the Punjabi prisoners we had seen under guard an hour before.

The victims could not have been killed by anyone but local Bengali irregulars, as these were the only people in central Jessore that day.

Even as the locals began to threaten us and we were forced to drive away, we saw another 40 Punjabi “spies” being marched towards that same grass plot with their hands above their heads.

Our introduction to Jessore, a city of some 50,000, was the sight of a dozen village huts on the outskirts burnt to the ground. We were escorted by Bengali soldiers to an old British police station to be shown the victims. They dragged out five bodies to be filmed. One old man with a beard, three girls and a baby.

A Punjabi patrol had passed through the area during the night, said our guides. They had blown up the electricity substation, burnt down the huts at the direction of Punjabi informers, raped the girls, then killed the entire group. Other bodies lay elsewhere.

Until about Thursday the West Pakistan garrison, which is about battalion size, was in some kind of control. But these troops started killing people for no discernible reason. The local hospital is filled with 35 wounded men, women and children, who claimed that Punjabi troops fired indiscriminately.

If Jessore is typical, East Pakistan is in for a terrible time in the next months and Karachi’s great gamble – to crush all opposition by one big attack – has failed.

Our stay in Jessore confirmed all the original feelings about this war. It was created by geography but was nonetheless a tribal conflict between the small, volatile Bengalis and the dour, firmly disciplined Punjabis. The Bengalis have, alas, none of the military virtues, and the Punjabis have, alas, all the military vices.

How can these extraordinary, delicate, childishly excitable Bengalis form themselves into any kind of coherent force to oust the regular West Pakistan army from its strongholds?

As we left Jessore in an armoured jeep, with rifles poking in all directions and guns banging off from time to time, I suddenly heard a voice coming from underneath a second world war British Army helmet five sizes too large for its wearer. The voice – in perfect Peter Sellers style – said: “Excuse me, sir, but may I say how much I have always appreciated your English Shakespeare? And your Shelley, sir, truly great poetical artist with words! Truly sublime. Sir, I am studying for accountancy . . .” Bang!

Tomalin was killed in October 1973 covering the Yom Kippur war. He was 41.

in Samuel Totten, et al.
Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views
New York: Garland Publishing, 1997
Chapter 10, pp. 291-316

This testimony is from Abdul Gofran’s “Faiz Lake-Gonohataya” (“Massacreat Faiz Lake”), which first appeared in Rashid Haider (ed.), 1971: Terrible Experiences. It was translated by Sohela Nazneen.

I own a shop near Akbar Shah mosque in Pahartali. On November lOth, 1971, at 6. A.M. about forty to fifty Biharis came to my shop and forced me to accompany them. I had to comply as any form of resistance would have been useless against such a large number of people. They took me to Faiz Lake. As we passed through the gates of Faiz Lake I saw that hundreds of non-Bengalis had assembled near the Pump house and wireless colony. The Bengalis who had been brought in were tied up. They were huddled by the side of the lake which was at the north side of the Pump-house. Many of the Biharis were carrying knives, swords and other sharp instruments. The Biharis were first kicking and beating up the Bengalis brutally and then were shoving their victims towards towards those carrying weapons. These other group of armed Biharis were then jabbing their victims in the stomach and then severing their heads with the swords. I witnessed several groups of Bengalis being killed in such a manner. …When the Biharis came for me one of them took away my sweater. I hen punched him and jumped into the lake. …I swam to the other side and hid among the bushes. .. The Biharis came to look for me but I was fortunate and barely escaped their notice. From my hiding place I witnessed the mass murder that was taking place. Many Bengalis were killed in the manner which had been described earlier.

The massacre went on till about two o’clock in the afternoon. After they had disposed off the last Bengal victim, the Biharis brought in a group of ten to twelve Bengali men. It was evident from their gestures that they were asking the Bengalis to dig a grave for the bodies lying about. I also understood from their gestures that the Biharis were promising the group that if they completed the task they would be allowed to go free. The group complied to their wish. After the group had finished burying the bodies, they were also killed, and the Biharis went away rejoicing. There were still many dead bodies thrown around the place.

In the afternoon many Biharis and [the] Pakistani army went along that road. But the Pakistani soldiers showed no sign of remorse. They seemed rather happy and did nothing to bury the dead.

When night fell I came back to my shop but left Chittagong the next day.

Remembering Sriramshi and Raniganj Bazar massacres

__ 31 August 1971

It was Tuesday. About 20 to 30 members of Pakistan Army on 8 to 9 boats came to the Srairamshi bazar of Jagannathpur thana at about 10 AM. They asked the villagers of Sriramshi and the adjacent ones to gather at the just attached Sriramshi High School building immediately for joining a discussion to form peace committee. Some of the local collaborators also made an announcement. They also said, the measure had been taken to avoid any untoward incident and for ensuring peace in the remote villages. Otherwise, there would be a mass killing, they warned. Accordingly, the villagers about 200 in number with a sincere belief, reached the school ground. A Rajaker leader from the nearby Hobibpur-Ahmed Ali Khan whispered an army man something, resulting in an action by some others with Sten gun and other weapons.

As the villagers were waiting for the so-called meeting with great anxiety, the army men took some young students, teachers and others to a separate room in the school. Again they picked up groups of 15 to 16 people to separate groups kept along the narrow canal, that flows between the school and the small bazar. Also the army tied their hands,pulling them behind their back. Within a short time, the killers stood them up in a square and asked them to recite their Kalema. Things went wrong and before the innocent villagers could realize any thing, the Pak army opened brush fire on the Bangalees. As many as 126 innocent people were shot dead and they embraced martyrdom. The unknown village became a part of the great history of the nation’s liberation war.

The water in the narrow canal became reddish with the blood of peace loving men, who were just cheated by the killers. The dead included, Post master, Tahsilder, UP Member, students, youth, traders and local elites. Then the army men poured kerosene oil in the shops in the market and set those on fire. There was no sound or any cry of protest.

Then the occupation army men went on rampage at the
village. Also they set some of the dwelling houses and shops at the bazaar ablaze. With the spread of the news of such a mass killing, the rest of the people also left their homesteads in the remote villages nearby.

However, after 3 days, a handful of people from the nearby villages managed to reach the village and found some of the remains of the human bodies and buried those somehow. Meantime, dogs and foxes had done a lot on those bodies.

Some of the dead were identified as Headmaster Saad Uddin, Tahshilder Ahea Chowdhury, Satya Narayan Chakravarty, Syed Ashraf Hossain, Shafiqur Rahman, Firoze Miah, Sunu Miah, Ala Miah, Nozir Miah, Abdul Mannan, Waris Miah, Manik Miah, Abdul Jalil, Dobir Miah, Morom Ullah, Montaj Ali, Sarwar Ullah, Rais Ullah, Abdul Majid, Abdul Latif Ekhlas Miah, Mokhtar Miah, Samir Ali, Abdul Hai, Shamsu Miah, Soab Ullah, Rufu Miah, Rusmot Ali, Asab Miah, Taiyab Ali, Roab Ali, Tofazzal Ali, Mosoddor Ali, Abdul Hannan, Abdul Barik member, Shudhangshu tailor, Syed Jahir Uddin, Post Master of Sriramshi post office.

Crippled Amjad Ali with bullet on his body still bears the black memory of that day. The other bullet wounds include Soil Uddin, Haji Alkas Miah, Zoahir Chowdhury, Amzad Ali, Topon Chakravarty, Sundar Ali,, Hushiar Ali, and Alkas Ali.

The incident got a wide coverage in the world media including the BBC also. Same way, the Pak army men enacted a similar incident at Raniganj bazar in Jagannathpur upazila on 8 September when 30 people were shot dead in a brush fire. Also they burnt out the Raniganj bazar soon after.

After the end of the liberation war, Commander in Chief of the war-Gen MAG Osmani and the then Agriculture minister Abdus Samad Azad visited the Sriramshi village to pay homage to the luminous sons. Azad was born at the same upazila. Also he was elected to the parliament from that constituency. Besides, there had been many commitments to take measures for remembering the martyrs. The remote village was once named Shahid Nagar, but it did not continue. Some of the important personalities told us about many other things that has happened there.

With the assistance from the Sunamganj district unit of Bangladesh Muktijodha Sangsad, a small plate inscribing the names of the great sons was constructed in 1980 at the premises of the school. Later, the locals gave up the hope of getting government assistance and locally managed things. They formed Sriramshi Shahid Smriti Sangsad in 1987 for commemorating the martyrs and their sacrifice. Since then, the Sangsad organizes annual events to remember those valiant sons of the soil. It also publishes annual magazines styled ‘Chetona’ as a yearly event.

Two small monuments have been constructed at the area. One was constructed 2 years ago at the very place where the killing took place. It is in the Biswanath Upazila. The earlier one was constructed at the school premises, which falls in the Jagonnathpur upazila.

Click here
Asad shut by Pakistani police
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18th January 1970
Click here
Bangabandhu, right before the independence war
23rd March 1971
Click here
Pre-war procession by young’s against Pakistani aggressions
Click here
Women freedom fighters
Click here
Daily Bangladesh Observer, not Pakistan
Click here
Pakistani army shooting at innocent Bangladeshi civilians
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Genocide by Pakistani army
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People heading towards India

to save their lives

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People are protesting against
Pakistani aggression in London
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Freedom fighter training camp
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Freedom Fighters
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Mass genocide by Pakistani army
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Genocide by Pakistani army
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Freedom fighters in action
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Freedom fighters strikes back to
well-armed Pakistani forces
Click here
Seven braves heroes of 1971
Click here
Freedom fighters celebrating
after beating Pakistan
Click here
Freedom fighters celebrating victory
Independent Bangladesh
Click here
Bangabandhu returning home as he
was freed from Pakistani jail
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