170 eyewitness accounts of the atrocities committed by Awami League militants and other rebels on West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis in 55 towns of East Pakistan in March-April 1971.
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For the first time, the pathetic, grisly and untold story of the massacre of more than half a million non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis by the Awami League-led insurgents in East Pakistan (breakaway Bangladesh) in March-April, 1971, is bared in “BLOOD AND TEARS”. The details of the genocide waged by the rebels in those murderous months were concealed from the people of West Pakistan by the then federal government to prevent reprisals against the local Bengalis and also not to wreck the prospects of a negotiated settlement with the Awami League. The danger of such a reprisal has now been eliminated by the repatriation to Bangladesh from Pakistan of all the Bengalis who wished to go there. The 170 eye-witnesses, whose tragic accounts of their splintered and trauma-stricken lives are contained in this book, were picked from amongst nearly 5000 families repatriated to Pakistan from Bangladesh between the autumn of 1973 and the spring of 1974.
Although they hail from 55 towns of East Pakistan, their narratives and the published dispatches of foreign newsmen quoted in this book, cover 110 places where the slaughter of the innocents took place. The majority of eyewitnesses consist of the parents who saw their children slam, the wives who were forced by the rebels to witness the murder of their husbands, the girls who were ravished and the rare escapees from the rebel-operated human slaughterhouses. While the focus in “Blood and Tears” is on the rebels’ atrocities in the infernal March-April, 1971, period, the brutality of the Indian-trained Bengali guerrilla force, the Mukti Bahini, after India’s armed grab of East Pakistan on December 17th 1971, is also recounted, though in less detail. The book highlights the courage and heroism of many Bengalis who saved their non-Bengali friends from the fire and fury of the bloodthirsty insurgents.
In the first week of March 1971, when the Awami League had fired the first salvo of revolt in East Pakistan and it triggered off a forest fire of lawlessness, arson, loot and wanton murder all over the province, a senior official of the federal Information Ministry instructed me that my news service should not put out any story about the atrocities that were being committed on non-Bengalis by the rebels in the eastern half of the country. All other press services and news¬papers in West Pakistan were given similar instruction.
When I remonstrated with the Information Ministry official that it was unethical to damp a blackout on the news, he explained that press reporting of the killing of non-Bengalis in East Pakistan would unleash a serious repercussions in West Pakistan and provoke reprisals against the Bengalis residing in the western wing of the country. “It would exacerbate the current tension in the relations between the two Wings", he argued, "and it would also undermine the prospects of a negotiated settlement with the Awami League". The argument had an element of sound logic and a humanitarian veneer. Conse¬quently, the news media in West Pakistan faithfully followed the federal government’s instructions to suppress all news pertaining to the genocidal frenzy unloosed by the Awami League against the hapless West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis in rebellion-hit East Pakistan.
The Awami League militants had gained control over the telecommunications network in East Pakistan during the first few days of their uprising and they showed meticulous care in excising even the haziest mention of the massacre of non-Bengalis in press and private telegrams to West Pakistan and overseas world. Word of the mushrooming, organised violence against non-Bengalis in East Pakistan reached West Pakistan through the West Pakistanis who fled from the Awami League's terror regime in planes and ships. But no newspaper in the Western Wing of the country dared report it in print.
Early in the third week of March, a shipload of some 5,000 terror-stricken West Pakistanis and other non-Bengalis reached Karachi from Chittagong. Not a word of their plight filtered into the daily press in West Pakistan. In fact one of the local newspapers had the audacity to report that the arrivals from Chittagong said that the situation in the province was normal -as if this broken mass of humanity had run away from an idyllic state of blissful normalcy.
For days on end all through the troubled month of March 1971, swarms of terrorised non-Bengalis lay at the Army-controlled Dacca Airport, awaiting their turn to be wafted to the safety of West Pakistan. But neither the world press nor the press in West Pakistan reported the gory carnage of the innocents which had made them fugitives from the Awami Leagues grisly terror. Caskets containing the mutilated dead bodies of West Pakistani military personnel and civilians reached Karachi with the planeloads of non-Bengali refugees from Dacca and their bereaved families milled and wailed at the Karachi Airport. But these heart-rending scenes went unreported in the West Pakistan news-papers because of the federal government’s order to the Press not to mention the slaughter of the non-Bengalis in East Pakistan.
The Bengali Secretary, who headed the federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting at Islamabad, threatened to punish those newspapers which at one time felt impelled to violate his Ministry's fiat. Responding to my plea, retired Justice Z. H. Lari, a Karachi leader of the Council Muslim League, who had migrated to Pakistan from India in the 1947 Partition and whose party was toying with the idea of a political alliance with the Awami League in the National Assembly, issued a mildly-worded press statement, in the second week of March 1971, in which he appealed to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to protect the non-Bengalis in East Pakistan.
Looking at the tragic events of March, 1971 in retrospect, I must confess that even I, although my press service commanded a sizeable network of district correspondents in the interior of East Pakistan, was not fully aware of the scale, ferocity and dimension of the province-wide massacre of the non-Bengalis. Dacca and Chittagong were the only two cities from where sketchy reports of the slayings of non-Bengalis had trickled to me in Karachi, mostly through the escapees I met at the Karachi Airport on their arrival from East Pakistan. I had practically no news of the mass butchery which was being conducted by the Awami League militants and their accomplices from the East Pakistan Rifles and the East Bengal Regiment in many scores of other cities and towns which were caught in the sweep of a cyclone of fire and death.
In my dispatch on the deepening East Pakistan crises published in the Daily Christian Science Monitor and reprinted in the Daily Milwaukee Journal of March 14, 1971, I wrote:
“..........Dacca reports say widespread mob violence, arson, looting and murders mushroomed in the wake of the Awami League's protest strike call. Destruction by Bengali militants of property owned by West Pakistanis in some East Pakistan towns has been heavy.........”
“....The telephone link between East and West Pakistan remains nearly unusable and only a skeleton air service is being operated between Karachi and Dacca......”
Skimpy references to the blood-letting of untold proportions, undergone by the non-Bengalis during the Awami League’s March 1971 uprising in East Pakistan, percolated into the columns of some newspapers in Western Europe and India in the first week of April 1971. The Times of London reported on April 6th, 1971:
“Thousands of helpless Muslim refugees settled in Bengal at the time of Partition, are reported to have been massacred by angry Bengalis in East Pakistan during the past week..........”
The Daily Statesman of New Delhi reported in its issue of April 4, 1971:
“The millions of non-Bengali Muslims now trapped in the Eastern Wing have always felt the repercussions of the East-West tensions, and it is now feared that the Bengalis have turned on this vast minority community to take their revenge.....”
The hundreds of eye-witnesses from nearly three score towns and cities of East Pakistan, whose testimonies are documented in this book, are unanimous in reporting that the slaughter of West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis and of some pro-Pakistan Bengalis had begun in the early days of the murderous month of March 1971. There were some 35 foreign newsmen on the prowl in Dacca right up to March 26, 1971. But strangely their newspapers and news agencies reported barely a word or two about the spiralling pogrom against the non-Bengalis all over East Pakistan. Many of the American journalists in this motley crowd of foreign reporters (whose souls were saturated with compassion for the Bengali victims of the November 1970 cyclone tragedy) were so charmed by the public relations operatives of the Awami League that they were just not prepared to believe that their darlings in this fascist organization could commit or instigate the murder of the non-Bengalis.
Peggy Durdin, a writer for the Magazine Section of the New York Times and her husband, also a reporter for the NYT, were attached in the first week of March 1971 by Bengali demonstrators “with iron bars and long poles” in the heart of Dacca when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had just triggered the Awami League’s rebellion. But she wrote not a word about their manhandling by the Bengalis in any issue of her great newspaper either in March or April 1971. It was in her article of May 2, 1971, in the Magazine section of the New York Times, about the Pakistan Army’s alleged atrocities on the Bengali rebels that Peggy Durdin referred to the xenophobia unloosed by the Awami League’s agitation and admitted for the first time that she and her husband were attacked by Bengali demonstrators in Dacca in the first few days of March 1971.
Some Biharis in Dacca, whose relatives had been murdered in the city and at other places in the province, tried to contact foreign press reporters based at the Hotel Intercontinental. Awami League toughs who controlled all the access routes to the Hotel prevented their meeting. Conversation over the telephone had become a hazard for the non-Bengalis because of the Awami League's seizure of the Telephone Exchange and the tapping of telephone lines. A British press correspondent, who was in Dacca in March 1971, told me that a Bengali telephone operator cut off his long-distance conversation with his newspaper colleague in New Delhi in the third week of the month the moment he made mention of the blood-chilling massacre of non-Bengalis all over the province.
The Pakistan Government paid very dearly for its folly of banishing from Dacca some 35 foreign newsmen on March 26, 1971, a day after the federal Army had gone into action against the Awami League militants and other Bengali rebels. Amongst them were quite a few American journalists of eminence and influence. They bore a deep grouse against the military regime in Pakistan, and all through 1971, no good word about Pakistan flowed from their powerful pens. They inundated the American press with grisly, highly exaggerated accounts of the Army’s toughness towards the rebels and ignored the virtual annihilation of a massive segment of the non-Bengali population by the Bengali rebels in March-April, 1971.
For millions of gullible Americans and West Europeans the printed word in the daily press is like gospel truth and they readily believed the many fibs about the Pakistan Army's conduct in East Pakistan which surged across the columns of their newspapers.
The forced exit of the foreign news corps from Dacca, the ire and anger of these articulate newsmen over their banishment from East Pakistan and the reluctance of the American and the British newspapers to give credence to the censored despatches from Karachi on the military operations in the eastern half of the country prevented, to a great extent, the world-wide publication of the harrowing details of the bloodbath undergone by the non-Bengali population in the Awami League's March 1971 uprising. Thus one of the bloodiest slaughters of modern times went largely unreported in the international press.
Late in the first week of April 1971, the federal Information Ministry took a group of Pakistani press correspondents on a conducted tour of the rebel-devastated parts of East Pakistan. I was invited to go with the group but just then I was busy completing the Report of the Sind Government's Social Welfare Evaluation Committee (of which I was the Chairman). As I was keen to submit it to the provincial administration before the deadline of April, 12, 1971. I politely declined the invitation.
One of the Pakistani newsmen who went on this tour of East Pakistan was Anthony Mascarenhas, Assistant Editor of Karachi's English Daily Morning News and Pakistan Correspondent of the Sunday Times of London. On May 2, 1971, the Sunday Times published, though belatedly, his write-up on the Awami League's March-April, 1971 revolt and the trail of devastation it left behind. It shed at least a kink of light on the vast dimension of the widespread and sadistic massacre of some 100,000 non-Bengalis in East Pakistan by the Bengali rebels. But a month later, its impact was neutralised and its authenticity was eroded by his second article entitled “Why the Refugees Fled?”, which was prominently displayed in the Sunday Times of June 13, 1971 and reproduced, through Indian manipulation, in many newspapers in the United States and Canada. Seduced and tempted by the Indians, Mascarenhas and his family arrived in London early in June from Karachi and the Sunday Times published in a score of columns his venomous blast at the Pakistan Army for its alleged genocide against the Hindus of East Pakistan.
In a bid to give his June 13 article the veneer of objectivity, Mascarenhas made this cursory reference to the slaughter of the non-Bengalis by the Bengali rebels:
“Thousands of families of unfortunate Muslims, many of them refugees from Bihar who chose Pakistan at the time of the partition riots in 1947, were mercilessly wiped out. Women were raped or had their breasts torn out with specially fashioned knives. Children did not escape the horror: the lucky ones were killed with their parents; but many thousands of others must go through what life remains for them with eyes gouged out and limbs roughly amputated. More than 20,000 bodies of the non-Bengalis have been found in the main towns such as Chittagong, Khulna and Jessore. The real toll, I was told every-where in East Bengal, may have been as high as 100,000; for thousands of non-Bengalis have vanished without a trace......”
The reportage of the Pakistani newsmen, who toured East Pakistan in the first fortnight of April 1971, as published in the West Pakistan press, bared no details of the gruesome extermination of a large segment of the non-Bengali population in the Awami League’s genocide. The reason was the federal Government’s anxiety to prevent retributive reprisals against the Bengali populace in West Pakistan.
I was stupefied when I heard blood-chilling accounts of the butchery practised by the Awami League rebels on their non-Bengali victims in Chittagong from friends who escaped to Karachi in mid-April. I was shocked beyond words because I rather like the Bengalis for their gentle and artistic traits and it was very hard for me to believe that any Bengali would indulge in the savagery which my informants from Chittagong attributed to the Awami League militants such as M. R. Siddiki, a high-ranking member of the party’s hierarchy. I counted amongst my esteemed Bengali friends his illustrious father-in-law, Mr. Abul Kasem Khan, a former federal Minister and legislator, and was impressed by his sartorial perfection and his amiable manners. As I browsed last month in the heaps of harrowing eye-witness accounts from Chittagong of the rebels' savagery in March 2971, I became aware of the reasons which made the non-Bengali victims nickname M. R. Siddiki as the “Butcher of Chittagong”. He gave a new dimension of cold-blooded violence to the Awami League’s terror apparatus.
In the third week of April, the federal Information Ministry (whose Bengali head had been replaced by a West Pakistani) requested me to proceed post haste to the United States on deputation to the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington D. C. and to project before the American public the rationale for the federal military intervention in East Pakistan. India's well-organized propaganda machinery and the liberally-financed India Lobby in the United States were working in top gear to malign Pakistan and to smear the name of the Pakistan Army by purveying yarns of its alleged brutality in East Pakistan.
Pakistan's Public Relations difficulties in the United States were compounded by the unremitting hostility of the American press correspondent who were bundled out of Dacca on March 26. When I spoke to a friendly Senator at Capitol Hill about the massive burst of violence let loose all over East Pakistan by the Awami Leaguers on West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis during the murderous month of March 1971 and told him that more than 100,000 non-Bengalis had perished in this dreadful carnage, he looked at me in disbelief “Why was not the massacre reported in the press in March?” was his logical query.
Late in April, 1971, the Pakistan Embassy in Washington published a booklet containing a chronology of the federal intervention in East Pakistan. It highlighted the Awami League's pogrom against West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis which was waged in March 1971. The immediate impact of its mass distribution in the United States was that many legislators and academicians sought information from the Embassy about the genesis of the word Bihari and the ethnic background of the Biharis.
On May 6, 1971, a group of six foreign correspondents representing the New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press of America, TIME Magazine, the Financial Times of London and the New China News Agency (Xinhua) flew to Dacca and made a fairly comprehensive tour of the rebellion-damaged areas of the province. Their uncensored despatches from East Pakistan spoke of the widespread killing of the Biharis by the Bengali rebels in March-April 1971 and gave harrowing accounts of the rebels' brutality narrated by eye-witnesses and victims of the pogrom. The Embassy of Pakistan promptly published and widely distributed a booklet containing excerpts from “on-the-spot despatches" of the foreign newsmen who had toured East Pakistan in the second week of May, 1971.
American, Indian and Bengali protagonists of the secessionist cause cast aspersions on the integrity of these foreign newsmen by charging that they were duped into believing that the mass graves they were shown were of non-Bengalis although, according to the phony claim of the secessionists, they were of Bengalis liquidated by the Army. Indian propagandists dished out to foreign correspondents in New Delhi pictures of burnt houses and razed market places as evidence of the devastation caused by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan although in reality most of the destruction was caused by the well-armed Bengali rebels when they went on the rampage against the non-Bengalis in a bloody and flaming spree of loot, arson and murder. Some pictures were claimed to be of the Bengali female victims of the Pakistan Army's alleged atrocity; a close look at the physical features and dresses of the pictured females disclosed that they were West Pakistanis, not Bengalis.
India's official propaganda outfit and its front organizations in the United States and Western Europe unleashed a spate of books and pamphlets in which the Pakistan Army was accused of the wanton slaughter of millions of Bengalis, of waging genocide against the Bengali Hindus and of ravishing 200,000 Bengali girls. West Pakistanis were branded in these Indian propaganda books as worse than the Huns and the Nazis. This miasma of lies and fibs, innovated by Indian publicists, was so ingeniously purveyed and sustained that the massive abridgement of the non-Bengali population by the Bengali rebels in March-April 1971 faded into the background and lay on the dust-heap of forgotten history.
The White Paper on the East Pakistan crisis, published by the Government of Pakistan in August 1971, failed to make any significant international impact. It was inordinately delayed and gave a disappointingly sketchy account of the massacres of the non-Bengalis by the Awami Leaguers and other rebels. Dozens of places where, it now appears, non-Bengalis were slaughtered by the thousands in March-April 1971 were not mentioned in the White Paper.
The Government failed to give this belated post mortem report of the Awami League's genocidal campaign against the Biharis adequate and effective international publicity. The White Paper -would have made more impact, in spite of its inadequacy of details, and its foreign readers would have reacted in horror over the Awami League's racist pogrom if it had been published before the end of April 1971.
In psychological warfare, the element of time is often of crucial importance, especially when one is pitted against an unscrupulous enemy with scant regard for truth and ethics. By August 1971, India had so virulently poisoned a large segment of public opinion in the West by blatantly magnifying the refugee influx and blaming the Pakistan Army for this exodus that our White Paper neither set the record straight nor did it counter the many scores of books and pamphlets with which India flooded the world to malign Pakistan and its Army.
The federal Information Ministry's film documentary on the restoration of normalcy in East Pakistan was a timely effort. Although shot in the second half of April 1971 and despatched to Pakistan's overseas missions in May, it was viewed by small audiences abroad. If adequate funds were available, it could have been shown on important television networks in the United States by buying time. It showed the rubble of homes and shopping blocks shot up or put to the torch by the rebels but it gave very little evidence of the infernal slaughter-houses and torture chambers set up by the rebels in March 1971 to liquidate many thousands of their non-Bengali victims. The blood-chilling savagery of the Awami League's genocide and the colossal wreckage of human lives it had left in its trail were not fully exposed.
“The Great Tragedy”, written by Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party and published in September 1971, shed revealing light on the genesis of the East Pakistan crisis, the secessionist ambitions of the Awami League's leadership. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's obdurate and uncompromising stance in the constitutional talks in Dacca in the third week of March 1971 and the Pakistan People's Party’s efforts for forging “a Grand Coalition of the majority parties of the two Wings” within the framework of a single, united Pakistan. Mr. Bhutto's vindication of the constitutional stand and role of his Party was forceful and logical. “The Great Tragedy” deserved global circulation on a mass scale -which, to our loss, was then denied to it.
After my return to Pakistan from the United States late in November 1971, I spoke to one of the ruling Generals at Islamabad about the urgent need for the publication and mass distribution of a book based on eyewitness accounts of the survivors of the Awami League's holocaust of March-April 1971. I learnt that some reliable evidence had been collected from eye-witnesses but the Generals were then too busy with India's virtual invasion of East Pakistan and the preparations for a full-scale military showdown with India.
Early in 1972, I met a number of non-Bengali war-displaced persons from East Pakistan who had taken up abode in shacks in the shanty township of Orangi in Karachi. I was horrified by the accounts they narrated of their suffering in East Pakistan during the Awami League's bloody rebellion and the gaping vacuum this genocide had caused in the non-Bengali population in the country's eastern half. Their testimony showed that the Awami Leaguers and the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles and the East Bengal Regiment were the first to massacre the non-Bengali innocents and that the tornado of violence and death which swept the province in March-April 1971 stemmed from the Awami League's lust for power. I thought of writing a book based on their testimony but I did not have eye-witnesses from all of the many scores of towns in East Pakistan where non-Bengali communities were wholly or partially exterminated.
In the meantime, I started work on “Mission to Washington” which was an expose of India's intrigues in the United States to bring about the dismemberment of Pakistan. On the basis of my personal knowledge and experiences, I detailed in this book the diabolic work of the India Lobby in the United States and its collaborators to turn American public opinion against Pakistan and to block American military supplies to Pakistan's Armed forces preparatory to India's armed grab of East Pakistan in December 1971. It was published in January 1973.
In “The East Pakistan Tragedy”, written by Prof. Rushbrook Williams, a well-known British journalist and author, and published in 1973, the political aspect of the East Pakistan crisis was lucidly discussed and Pakistan's case was cogently explained.
Major-General Fazal Muqeem's book, “Leadership in Crisis”, which also appeared in 1973, dealt at length with the politico-military aspect of the East Pakistan crisis, India's military and financial help to the Bengali secessionist rebels and the disastrous war with India in December 1971.
Pakistan's rejoinder to the flood of anti-Pakistan literature which has gushed from India's propaganda mills since the Ides of March 1971 has been tragically weak and inadequate. In the summer and autumn of 1973, when I travelled extensively in the Middle East, Western Europe and the United States, I saw a number of books derogatory to Pakistan and its fine army in bookshops, especially those which sell foreign publications. Two books which I read and which provoked my ire are Indian Major-General D.K. Palit's “The Lightning Campaign” in which he has heaped invectives and abuses on the Pakistan Army units stationed in East Pakistan, and Olga Olson's “Doktor” in which she has exaggerated the suffering of the Bengali population during the Army operations in 1971. I also glanced over two fat volumes of the Bangladesh documents, mass distributed by the Indian Government in the United States, in which India is projected as an angel of peace who showed Job-like patience in the face of Pakistan's alleged villainy and barbarity in East Pakistan. I did not see in these overseas bookstalls a single book about the gruesome atrocities perpetrated by the Bengali rebels on the hapless Biharis and other non-Bengalis in East Pakistan in March 1971.
The general impression in the United States and Western Europe, at least until the autumn of 1973, was that the Biharis had joined hands with the Pakistan Army in its 1971 operations in East Pakistan and that after the defeat of the Pakistan Army in the third week of December 1971, the Bengalis had a lawful right to inflict retributive justice and violence on the Biharis.
In the Middle East, some politicians and journalists, although sincere in their friendship for Pakistan, asked me whether the stories they had read about the Pakistan Army's alleged brutality in East Pakistan were correct and whether ruthlessness was an ingrained quality in the Pakistani psyche and temperament. I was appalled by the doubts which India's smear campaign against Pakistan had created about us as a nation even in the minds of our brothers-in-faith and friends.
Late in September 1973, the exchange of Bengalis in Pakistan with Pakistanis in Bangladesh and the repatriation of the Pakistani prisoners of war and civilian internees from India was commenced under the previous month’s New Delhi Agreement. As the Chairman of an official Committee for the relief and rehabilitation of war-displaced persons from East Pakistan in the Orangi township in Karachi, I met many hundreds of non-Bengali repatriates—men, women and children. Their evidence gave me the impression that the non-Bengali death toll in the murderous period of March-April 1971 was in the vicinity of 500,000. I was profoundly touched and moved by their heart-rending accounts of the terrible suffering they had undergone during the Awami League's insurrection in March 1971 and in the months after India's armed seizure of East Pakistan in December 1971. It was then that I decided that the full story of this horrifying pogrom and the atrocities committed on the hapless non-Bengalis and other patriotic Pakistanis in East Pakistan (breakaway Bangladesh) should be unravelled before the world. Hence this book.
The 170 eye-witnesses, whose testimonies or interviews are contained in this book in abridged form have been chosen from a universe of more than 5,000 repatriated non-Bengali families. I had identified, after some considerable research, 55 towns and cities in East Pakistan where the abridgement of the non-Bengali population in March and early April 1971 was conspicuously heavy. The collection and compilation of these eyewitness accounts was started in January 1974 and completed in twelve weeks. A team of four reporters, commissioned for interviewing the witnesses from all these 55 towns and cities of East Pakistan, worked with intense devotion to secure their testimony. Many of the interviews were prolonged because the witnesses broke down in a flurry of sobs and tears as they related the agonising stories of their wrecked lives. I had issued in February 1974 an appeal in the newspapers for such eye-witness accounts, and I am grateful to the many hundreds of witnesses who promptly responded to my call.
The statements and interviews of the witnesses were recorded on a fairly comprehensive proforma, along with their signatures. In selecting a witness, I exercised utmost care in assessing his background, his reliability and his suitability for narrating faithfully the details of the massacre he had witnessed or the suffering he had borne in March-April 1971. I have also pored over mounds of records, documents and foreign and Pakistani press clippings of that period.
Although the eye-witness accounts contained in this book put the focus on the largely-unreported horror and beastiality of the murderous months of March and April 1971, I have, in many a case, incorporated the brutality suffered by the witnesses after India’s occupation of East Pakistan and the unleashing of the Mukti Bahini’s campaign of terror and death against the helpless non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis from the third week of December 1971 onwards. For their full exposure, another book is needed.
I regret that it was not possible for me to accommodate in this book the many hundreds of other testimonies that I received. Aside from the overriding consideration of space, another reason was my keenness that the witnesses, whose evidence is recorded in this book, should be the parents who saw their children slaughtered, the wives who were forced to see the ruthless slaying of their husbands, the girls who were kidnapped and raped by their captors and the escapees from the fiendish human slaughter-houses operated by the rebels. I was also anxious that the witnesses I select should have no relatives left in Bangladesh.
I have incorporated in this book the acts of heroism and courage of those brave and patriotic Bengalis who sheltered and protected, at great peril to themselves, their terror-stricken non-Bengali friends and neighbours. On the basis of the heaps of eye-witness accounts, which I have carefully read, sifted and analysed, I do make bold to say that the vast majority of Bengalis disapproved of and was not a party to the barbaric atrocities inflicted on the hapless non-Bengalis by the Awami League’s terror machine and the Frankenstein’s and vampires it unloosed. This silent majority, it seemed, was awed, immobilised and neutralised by the terrifying power, weapons and ruthlessness of a misguided minority hell-bent on accomplishing the secession of East Pakistan.
I must stress, with all the force and sincerity at my command, that this bock is not intended to be a racist indictment of the Bengalis as a nation. In writing and publishing this book, I am not motivated by any revanchist obsession or a wish to condemn my erstwhile Bengali compatriots as a nation. Even today there are vast numbers of them who are braving the pain and agony of endless incarceration in hundreds of jails in Bangladesh because of their loyalty to Pakistan — a country in whose creation their noble forebears played a leading role. Just as it is stupid to condemn the great German people for the sins of the Nazis, it would be foolish to blame the Bengali people as a whole for the dark deeds of the Awami League militants and their accomplices.
As a people, I hold the Bengalis in high esteem. In the winter of 1970-71, I had dedicatedly laboured for months, as the Secretary of the Sind Government’s Relief Committee for the Cyclone sufferers of East Pakistan, to rush succour of more than ten million rupees, in cash and kind, to the victims of this cataclysmic tragedy.
Time is a great healer of wounds and I hope and pray that God, in his benign mercy, will reunite the Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh, if not physically, at least in mind and soul. Knowing a little of the Bengali Muslims' psyche and social milieu, I devoutly believe that no power on earth can snap permanently their Islamic moorings and that, in spite of the trauma of 1971 and its painful aftermath, they remain an inseparable part of the mainstream of the globe-girdling Muslim fraternity. “Blood and Tears” is being published at a time when all the Bengalis in Pakistan who opted for Bangladesh have been repatriated to that country and the danger of any reprisal against them has been totally eliminated.
The succour and rehabilitation of the multitudes of Biharis and other non-Bengalis, now repatriated to Pakistan, is our moral and social responsibility. They have suffered because they and their parents or children were devoted to the ideology of Pakistan and many shed their blood for it. Even as the victims of a catastrophe, not of their own making, they are entitled to the fullest measure of our sympathy, empathy and support in restoring the splintered planks of their tragedy-stricken lives. In projecting their suffering and of those who are sadly no more and in depicting the poignance and pain of their scarred memories in “Blood and Tears”, I have been motivated by humane considerations and by a humanitarian impulse. Theirs is, indeed, a very sad story, largely untold, and this book mirrors, in part, the agony and trauma they suffered in the not-too-distant past, and the raw wounds they still carry in their tormented hearts. “Blood and Tears” is the story of the rivers of blood that flowed in East Pakistan in the infernal month of March 1971, when the Awami League’s genocide against the non-Bengalis was unleashed, and also of the tears that we shall shed for many a year to come over the massacre of the innocents and India’s amputation of our eastern wing.
May 30, 1974 Qutubuddin Aziz
The Awami League held East Pakistan’s capital city of Dacca in its ruthless grip from March 1 to 25, 1971. During this dark period of loot, arson and murder, more than 5,000 non-Bengalis were done to death by the Awami League militants and their supporters. For months, before the Ides of March 1971, the hardcore leadership of the Awami League had primed its terror machine for confrontation with the authority of the federal government. Fire-breathing demagogues of the Awami League had saturated the consciousness of their volatile followers with hatred for the West Pakistanis, the Biharis and other non-Bengalis. They propagated a racist and obscurantist brand of Bengali nationalism. Secession from the Pakistani nationhood was undoubtedly their camouflaged goal.
On March 1, 1971, within an hour of General Yahya Khan’s forenoon announcement of the temporary postponement of the March 3 session of the Constitution-framing National Assembly, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman fired the first broadside of revolt against the federal government. At a hurriedly summoned press conference in Dacca, he ordered a general strike in the provincial capital to paralyse the administration and to usurp the authority of the lawfully-established Government in East Pakistan.
As he gave the “Go Ahead” signal to his party’s storm troopers, the Awami League militants went on the rampage all over the city, looting, burning and killing. They looted arms and ammunition from the Rifle Club in the nearby industrial township of Narayanganj. They turned two dormitory blocks of the Dacca University, the Iqbal Hall and the Jagannath Hall, into operational bases for their regime of terror.
On March 2, armed Awami League jingoes looted guns and ammunition from arms shops in the New Market and Baitul Mukarram localities of central Dacca. They trucked the looted weapons to the Dacca University Campus where student storm troopers practised shooting on an improvised firing range.
Frenzied mobs, armed with guns, knives, iron rods and staves, roamed at will and looted business houses, shops and cinemas owned by non-Bengalis. The lawlessness and terror which the Awami League had unleashed in Dacca compelled the provincial administration to summon the help of the Army units garrisoned in the Dacca cantonment.
The Awami League’s militants incited the Bengali populace to defy the dusk-to-dawn curfew. Six persons were killed when a riotous mob attacked an army unit in the Sadarghat locality of Dacca. A posse of troops saved the Dacca television station from being wrecked by a violent mob.
On March 3, the general strike ordered by the Awami League all over the province, paralysed life in Dacca. Rampaging mobs, led by gun brandishing Awami League militants, carried fire, terror and death into the homes of thousands of non-Bengalis in the populous localities of Dacca, such as Nawabpur, Islampur and Patuakhali Bazar. Many shops and stores in the posh Jinnah Avenue shopping centre, owned by non-Bengalis, were looted. Fifty non-Bengali huts in a shanty suburban locality were put to the torch and many of their inmates were roasted alive. Thugs started kidnapping prosperous non-Bengalis and extorted ransom money from their relatives.
Under the orders of the Awami League High Command, the Radio and Television stations in Dacca gave up playing Pakistan’s National Anthem and replaced it by the “Bangladesh Anthem”. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced in Dacca the launching of a Civil Disobedience Movement, an euphemism for rebellion, throughout East Pakistan, Thus, in three days, the Awami League succeeded in establishing a full-blown terror regime whose principal goal was to liquidate the authority of the federal government and to abridge the population of the non-Bengalis, preparatory to the armed seizure of the entire province. The telecommunications and air links between East Pakistan and West Pakistan were snapped under the orders of the Awami League High Command.
From March 4 to 10, violent mobs, led by Awami League jingoes, looted and burnt many non-Bengali houses and shops and kidnapped rich West Pakistani businessmen for ransom. In a jail-break at the Central Prison in Dacca on March 6, some 341 prisoners escaped and joined hands with Awami League militants and student activists in parading the main streets of Dacca. Gun-swinging Awami League cadres and activists of the East Pakistan Students League stole explosive chemicals from Dacca’s Government Science Laboratory and the Polytechnic Institute to make Molotov Cocktails and other incendiary bombs. Defiant students of the Salimullah Muslim Hall of the Dacca University tried to burn the British Council office in Dacca but the troops arrived in time and the jingoes escaped. Awami League militants and student activists took away at gunpoint jeeps, cars and microbuses owned by non-Bengalis. They erected “check posts” at nerve centres in the city and outside the Dacca Airport where they frisked the persons of non-Bengalis fleeing Dacca and seized their cash and jewellery, watches, radio sets and every other article of value.
On March 7, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced his long-range action programme against the federal government at a mass meeting on the Ramna Race Course ground. Unfurled on the speakers’ platform was the new flag of Bangladesh—a map of the province set in a red circle against a dark green background. The crowd yelled ‘Joi Bangla’ (Long Live Bengal) and ‘Bangladesh Shadheen’ (Independent Bengal). Prompted by Awami League volunteers, the crowd shouted slogans against Pakistan, its President, the new Governor of East Pakistan, General Tikka Khan and the Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, Mr. Z. A. Bhutto. The multitude sang Tagore’s old song: “Bengal, my Golden Bengal”.
While ordering the continuance of indefinite strikes in Government offices, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman set up a parallel government directed by the Awami League. He instructed the people of East Pakistan not to pay Central Government taxes but to make payments to the provincial coffers. He asked his storm troopers to set up road blocks against military movements and to prevent the military from making use of railways and ports. The Awami League took over the radio and television stations, telecommunications, foreign trade and the banking system, including the control of money transfers from East to West Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for the organization of Revolutionary Action Groups in labour unions, villages and urban neighbourhoods to buttress the Awami League’s defiance of federal authority. In effect, the Awami League leadership had on that day chosen the path of secession and loosed forces whose goal was an independent, racist Bengali state. In a despatch from its correspondent, Kenneth Clarke, London’s Daily Telegraph reported on March 9, 1971:
“Reports said that Dacca collapsed into complete lawlessness on Sunday night (March 7) as Sheikh Mujib took the province to the edge of secession”.
From March 11 to 15, the day on which General Yahya Khan flew into Dacca for constitutional talks with Sheikh Mujihur Rahman, the Awami League consolidated the parallel administration it had set up in Dacca. More non-Bengali businessmen were shanghaied and their houses looted. Non-Bengali passengers were intimidated and detained for questioning by Awami League militants at the Dacca Railway Station.
A Government office near Kakrail in Dacca was set on fire. Non-Bengalis fleeing Dacca by air were frisked by Awami League cadres at their “Search and Loot” check post close to the entrance to the Dacca airport. Bottles of acid, pilfered from the science laboratories in closed educational institutions in Dacca, were flung into Government offices where some conscientious employees dared work. Armed thugs, claiming links with the Revolutionary Action Groups set up by the Awami League, extorted money from affluent non-Bengalis.
From March 16 to 23, while General Yahya and Sheikh Mujib engaged in ding-dong constitutional negotiations, the Awami League continued to operate its parallel administration and trained its cadres in the use of automatic weapons at a number of training centres in Dacca and its suburbs. The incidence of raids on the homes of non-Bengalis mounted sharply. A riotous mob ambushed an Army jeep in Dacca and hijacked the six soldiers riding in it. Guns were looted from the Police armoury in the town. Awami League gunmen clamped a ban on the supply of food grains to the Pakistani military in the Dacca cantonment.
March 23, Pakistan’s national festival day, was designated as “Resistance Day” by the Awami League High Command. Instead of the Pakistan flag, the Awami League militants hoisted the new Bangladesh flag atop all public and private buildings in Dacca. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took the salute at an armed March Past at his residence on which the Bangladesh flag was ceremoniously unfurled. The Awami League held displays of its strength, and bellicose mobs, shouting ‘Joi Bangla’, went on the rampage in localities where non-Bengalis were concentrated.
More West Pakistani businessmen were kidnapped and their Bengali captors demanded huge sums of money from their relatives as ransom. Violent mobs, waving guns and other lethal weapons, brick-batted Karachi-bound passengers near Dacca Airport. Awami League demonstrators marched past the Presidential Mansion in Dacca where General Yahya was staying and shouted obscenities against him and the federal Army. Young thugs, enriched by the ransom money extorted in the Awami League’s name from non-Bengali businessmen and showing off the cars they had hijacked from their West Pakistani and other non-Bengali owners, milled in the evenings outside the Dhanmandi residence of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and yelled “Shadheen Bangla” (Independent Bengal).
Awami League cadres tangled with the staff of the Chinese Consulate in Dacca on March 23 when they insisted on hoisting the Bangladesh flag atop the Consulate and the Chinese refused to allow them to do so. Awami League demonstrators, at many places, tore up Pakistan’s national flag and trampled under their feet photographs of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
All through this week, the Awami League militants were beefing up their strength with the defectors from the East Pakistan Rifles and the paramilitary Ansar force. Gunrunning from India proceeded at a frenzied pace and many Indian agents infiltrated into East Pakistan for sabotage. Hutments of non-Bengalis in Dacca’s shanty townships were set ablaze by the hundreds.
The Dacca University Campus served as the operational base of the Awami League militants and its laboratories were used for manufacturing different varieties of explosives. A portion of the Jagannath Hall was used for torturing and murdering kidnapped non-Bengalis. Reports of a forest-fire of loot, arson and murder in almost every town of East Pakistan worried the federal government and the Army’s Eastern Command in Dacca. Cyclostyled posters, issued by the Awami League student and labour groups in Dacca and other places in the province, seemed like military orders of the day. These posters incited the people to “resort to a bloody war of resistance” for the “national liberation of East Bengal”.
Some 15,000 fully-loaded Rifles at the Dacca Police headquarters were seized by the Awami Leaguers and their supporters. More arms shops in Dacca were looted by the Awami League terrorists. In the morning of March 25, barricades and road blocks appeared all over Dacca city. Petrol bombs and other hand-made bombs, manufactured from chemicals stolen from the Science laboratories of educational institutions in the past few weeks, exploded at some places.
The federal Army’s intelligence service had become privy to the Awami League’s plan for an armed uprising all over the province in the early hours of March 26, 1971. Late in the night of March 25, hours before the zero hour set by the Awami League for its armed insurrection, the federal army units fanned out from the Dacca cantonment and conducted, with lightning speed, a series of pre-emptive strikes which squelched the Awami League’s uprising, at least in the provincial capital, in a matter of hours. The federal Army’s crackdown on the Bengali insurgents in Dacca showed that the Awami Leaguers, while engaged in talks with General Yahya, were collecting guns and ammunition and making explosives for the anticipated showdown with the federal army.
In their bargaining with General Yahya Khan, the Awami League leaders wanted him to agree to a constitutional arrangement that would make East and West Pakistan two separate sovereign states with a very loose, nebulous confederal link — a link so weak that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s virtually independent Bangladesh could have snapped it any time he wished to do so. A posse of federal troops arrested him at his residence in Dhanmandi in Dacca at about 1-30 a.m. on March 26. He was lodged for the night in the Dacca Cantonment under military guard and flown the next day to West Pakistan and interned.
The federal Army’s operations against the rebels in Dacca were so swift and effective that by the dawn of March 26 it was in full control of the city. The Army’s strength in Dacca was adequate to enable it to scotch the Awami League’s rebellion but in the rest of the province the federal troops were thinly spread out. It took them from three days to three weeks to rout the more than 176,000 Awami League-led rebels who conducted “Operation Loot, Kill and Burn” with savage ferocity against the non-Bengali element in the population. Even in some suburbs of Dacca, armed hotheads of the Awami League murdered non-Bengalis by the hundreds in the night of March 25/26, 1971.
There is evidence to warrant the belief that the Awami League rebels were using a transmitter in the Indian diplomatic Mission in Dacca for round-the-clock contact with the Indian authorities who were giving support to the rebels, especially in the border belt. The “Free Bengal Radio”, which went on the air on March 26 and which broadcast news of the phantom victories of the rebels, was undoubtedly an Indian innovation, installed on Indian soil. The Niagra of lies, which surged across the columns of India’s Press and the air-waves of All India Radio, (such as the cock-and-bull story of the imaginary slaying of General Tikka Khan by a Bengali rebel), originated from the fertile imagination of a group of Indian propagandists and Bengali rebels who operated a psychological warfare outfit in Calcutta.
Many of the rifles which the federal troops captured from the rebels were manufactured at the Rifle Factory in Ishapur in India while the ammunition stocks bore the marking of the ordinance factory at Kirkee in India. India threw some eight battalions of its Border Security Force in aid of the Awami League rebels in the last week of March 1971 in vital border areas. In the Nawabganj area in Dacca, the federal army seized a secret letter from an Awami League leader to an Indian agent, seeking a meeting across the border to discuss the “supply of heavy arms” from India to the Awami League-led rebels.
In Dacca, the rebels burnt a predominantly Bihari settlement of shacks in the Old city, but the Awami League informants of foreign newsmen told them in the morning of March 26 that the Army had set the shanty township on fire. In the twin industrial city of Narayanganj, non-Bengalis, who were kidnapped and murdered by the rebels, were thrown into the Buriganga river or incinerated in houses set ablaze.
Peggy Durdin, an American journalist, who, with her husband, also a journalist, had gone to Dacca to cover the National Assembly’s session scheduled for March 3, gave this account of the mass hysteria whipped up by the Awami League leadership in the Bengali populace in the city since the beginning of the month in an article in the New York Times Magazine of May 2, 1971:
“Almost within minutes of the broadcast announcement (General Yahya’s March 1 postponement of the National Assembly session) and for weeks afterward, the volatile, bitter, angry Bengalis, from every walk of life, and including women, surged in enormous, shouting processions and demonstrations through the streets to show their resentment and assert their claim to self-determination..........
“As Dacca erupted with angry demonstrators shouting slogans against the President and Mr. Bhutto and chanting ‘Joi Bangk’ (Hail Bengal) and ‘Sadhin Bangla’ (Independent Bengal), Sheikh Mujib, on March 2, proclaimed a five-day province-wide general strike; it stopped work everywhere, including all Government offices, closed every shop and halted all mechanical transport, including bicycles. Dacca became a city of eerie quiet except for the mass meetings held day after day in open places and the parades of chanting demonstrators. Since the only way to get around was on foot, my, husband and I daily walked 10 to 20 miles through the wide, trafficless streets, past the shuttered shops and empty markets................
“The high-pitched fervour sometimes turned xenophobic not only against West Pakistanis—who in some cases were killed on the streets and in their homes and often had their shops looted —but against Europeans. At the Intercontinental Hotel, Awami League gangs tore down all English signs, including the name of the hotel in electric lettering high up on one side of the building. A shot was fired through a lobby window and such hostility was shown for some days towards foreigners that the Swiss Manager of the Hotel closed the swimming pool and asked all guests to stay in their rooms except for meals. These, because the strike and transport difficulties had depleted staff, became self-service repasts consisting chiefly of rice and several kinds of curries...........”
The xenophobic aspect of the agitation unleashed by the Awami League on March 1 was writ large in the manhandling of Peggy Durdin and her husband, also a Correspondent of the New York Times, in the heart of Dacca by a group of Bengali demonstrators. She wrote of it in the New York Times of May 2, 1972:
“On the first day of the general strike particularly, emotional groups of demonstrating, shouting teenagers near the great (Baitul) Mokarram Mosque started to attack my husband and me with iron bars and long poles. Miraculously, an Awami Youth patrol spotted us and in the nick of time, pushed in quickly between us and the assailants, beating them off with their own poles and deftly herding us down narrow alley ways to safety in a local Awami League headquarter............”
Malcolm Browne of the New York Times, who visited East Pakistan early in May, wrote in a Dacca despatch in the NYT on May 6, 1971:
“General Tikka Khan, the Military Governor of East Pakistan, said today that his staff estimated that 150 persons were killed in Dacca on the night of March 25 when the Army moved to re-assert control over this province.......
“The sprawling city of Dacca, situated on a flood plain, criss-crossed by countless streams and rivers making up the Ganges River Delta, appeared peaceful.......
“We are accused of massacring students", he (General Tikka Khan) said, “but we did not attack students or any other single group. When we were fired on we fired back.”
“The University was closed and any one in there had no business being there", the General continued. “We ordered those inside to come out and were met with fire. Naturally, we fired back........”
Maurice Quaintance of the Reuters News Agency, who also toured East Pakistan early in May 1971, said in a May 6 despatch from Dacca:
“Lt. General Tikka Khan, the Military Governor, told newsmen at a reception that the military situation throughout East Pakistan was completely under control........
“The General said massacres had taken place in East Pakistan but they were not committed by the Army. After soldiers moved out of their cantonments on March 25, they discovered the widespread slaughter of innocent people. He cited one in stance in which he said 500 people were herded into a building which was then set on fire. There were no survivors. He said the West Pakistan people had not been told of such things for fear of reprisals. Tikka Khan said the Army did not attack anyone unless first fired on and even dissidents in two Dacca University strongpoints, who were armed with automatic weapons and crude bombs, were given the chance to leave the building. The General said that the entire Dacca action was over by the first light of day on March 26...........
“Close to Dacca airport is a group of shattered homes, uninhabited and in some cases roofless. Official Pakistan sources say that the people who lived there were struck by the communal violence in the period before the Army restored law and order in the country’s eastern wing.”
About the Dacca University and its affiliated Colleges, whose total destruction by the Army was alleged by foreign information media hostile to Pakistan late in March 1971, Maurice Quaintance of the Reuters News Agency had this to say after visiting the University Campus on May 7, 1971:
“Journalists, Friday, were shown Dacca University where the Army fought a pitched battle with students and Awami League supporters on the night of March 25. The fighting centered on the two University dormitories, Iqbal and Jagannath, where the Army say crude home-made bombs and an arsenal of weapons boosted the defenders as the troops moved to take over the strongpoint. A large hole in the dormitory showed where the Army used rockets to flush out those they say rejected an offer to give themselves up. On the front lawn before the dormitories, a senior officer took newsmen over a training area of barbed wire entanglements and high stonewalls where he said students had trained for the clash that was to come............”
About the captured Indian soldiers whom foreign newsmen met in Dacca and the seized Indian arms and ammunition shown to them on May 7, 1971, Maurice Quaintance of Reuters cabled:
“In Dacca, three Khaki-clad soldiers on Friday confessed they were captured prisoners sent from India to Pakistan last month to help the dissident East Pakistan Rifle units supporting the secessionists. Speaking through an interpreter, one told six foreign correspondents at Dacca Army headquarters that he came into Pakistan territory at night after being told with others of his platoon, that they were moving to the border post.........
“Army Headquarters in Dacca on Friday displayed a selection of captured weapons and ammunition said to be mainly of Indian origin. They included rifles, mortar bombs and hand grenades all of which, the Army said, bore markings proving they were manufactured in India........”
London’s Daily Telegraph, in its issue of April 7, 1971, carried a report from its staff correspondent in Dacca, quoting a native of Dundee:
“He describes how after President Yahya’s broadcast on March 26, a mob came to the factory. The goondas (thugs) went on the rampage. They looted the factory and offices, killed all the animals they could find and then started killing people. They went to the houses of my four directors, all West Pakistanis, set fire to the houses and burnt them alive, including families totalling 30. They killed the few who ran out.”
The Sunday Times of London, reported in its issue of May 2, 1971:
“Ten days of piecing together the details in East Pakistan have revealed a huge and almost successful mutiny in the Pakistan Army and the brutal massacre of thousands of non-Bengalis— men, women and children. More than 20,000 bodies have been found so far in Bengal’s main towns but the final count could top 100,000.
“Eye-witnesses in more than 80 interviews tell horrifying stories of rape, torture, eye-gouging, public flogging of men and women, women’s breasts being torn out and amputations before victims were shot or bayoneted to death. Punjabi Army personnel and civil servants and their families seem to have been singled out for special brutality............”
White with fear and with dazed, unbelieving eyes, I saw a Bengali student jingo behead a non-Bengali captive in a room in the Jagannath Hall of the Dacca University on March 24, 1971 because his relatives failed to send the demanded ransom of Rs. 3,000” said Mohammed Hanif, 23, who lived in Quarter No. 49 of “B” Block in the Lalmatia Colony in Dacca. Employed in the Tiger Wire Company in Dacca, Hanif said on his repatriation to Karachi in January 1974:
“In the afternoon of March 24, I engaged a motorised Rickshaw (three-wheeled taxi) and asked the driver to take me to my home in Lalmatia Colony. I had spoken to him in broken Bengali and he knew that I was a non-Bengali. All of a sudden and in spite of my shouts in anger, he drove the vehicle into the compound of the Jagannath Hall where six armed students grabbed me. They took me inside a shuttered room where they frisked me thoroughly and snatched my watch and Rs. 150 from my pocket. They told me that I should write a letter to my close relatives, asking them to hand over to the bearer Rs. 3000 as ransom money to save my life. I hesitated and asked for some time to make up my mind. They tied my hands with strong ropes and marched me to a large hall where many roped non-Bengali captives squatted on the ground............
“The student jingo who had asked me to write the ransom letter paced towards a hapless victim at the far end of the hall. He told his prey in Bengali that the ransom money had not materialised and the deadline given to his relatives had passed, so he must die. The terrified victim shouted, squirmed and tried to run. But six toughs grabbed him while the jingo in the lead slit his throat with a ‘Ramdao’ (a kind of dagger) and decapitated him.............
“I was horror-stricken by what I had seen. At midnight, I told my captors that I would write the ransom letter to my elder brother. I wrote it in the morning of March 25 and asked my brother to arrange to give my captors Rs. 3,000 within 24 hours. The deadline set by the Bengali captors for the receipt of money was the morning of March 26. But God was merciful and late in the night of March 25, the Army went into action against the rebels in Dacca and they were routed in the Jagannath Hall encounter. We were rescued by the federal troops”.
“I am the lone survivor of a group of ten Pathans who were employed as Security Guards by the Delta Construction Company in the Mohakhali locality in Dacca; all the others were slaughtered by the Bengali rebels in the night of March 25, 1971”, said 40-year-old Bacha Khan. He said he escaped death by climbing a tree in the darkness of the night. Repatriated to Karachi from Dacca in September 1973, Bacha Khan said:
“I was one of a group of ten Pathans employed by the Delta Construction Company in Dacca. We lived in the staff quarters in the Company’s premises. Since the first week of March, the Awami League militants and young thugs were intimidating non-Bengalis, particularly the West Pakistanis. So all of us were on the alert...........
“On March 25, a killer gang of Bengali rebels raided our staff quarters. As it was a surprise attack, they succeeded in killing three Pathan guards. I and the other surviving Pathans decided to put up a fight with the three guns we had. We held the raiders at bay for some time but they had more ammunition than we had. Taking advantage of the darkness all around, I slipped away from the scene and climbed a tree. The next morning I saw the dead bodies of the six other Pathans whom the rebels had killed at night after their ammunition was exhausted. The rebels took away our guns..............”
“The rebels burnt my hut and killed my nine-year-old son on March 17, 1971", said 36-year-old Chand Meah who was employed in the Bengal Rubber Industries in Dacca. He lived in a hut in the Nakhalpara locality in the Tejgaon suburb on the way to the Dacca Airport. Chand Meah was repatriated to Karachi from Dacca in January 1974. He said:
“Nakhalpara was very near the factory where I worked. I had saved some money and bought a small plot of land in this locality. I had erected a hut because I could not just then afford to build a pucca house. My wife, my 9 year-old son and I lived in it Our relations with our Bengali neighbours were friendly. Since the first week of March, an element of tension had crept in because of inflammatory harangues by Awami League demagogues and there were rumours that there would be a carnage of non-Bengalis.........
“On March 17, when I was away from my hut on duty in the factory, a large killer gang of Awami League thugs attacked the non-Bengali huts in Nakhalpara, looted them and put them to the torch. They also burnt my hut and killed my son, who, in spite of his young age, tried to resist the attackers. When I returned to what once was my home I found the rubble still smouldering and my wife was lamenting over the dead body of our dear son”.
“I estimate that some 1,000 non-Bengalis were killed or wounded in barely three hours in the Adamjee Nagar New Colony in Dacca on March 19, 1971”, said Mohammed Farid, 26, who was employed as Assistant Supervisor in the Spinning section of the Adamjee factory. Farid, who witnessed the gruesome massacre and escaped it by dint of good luck, was repatriated to Karachi in January 1974. He said:
“Adamjee Nagar had in the past witnessed tension between the Bengali and non-Bengali employees and many non-Bengalis had suffered in clashes. The Awami League had built up a base of influence amongst the Bengali workers and since the first week of March 1971, party cadres were inciting the Bengali workers against the non-Bengalis.........
“On March 19, a killer gang of Awami League militants, armed with guns, sickles, daggers and staves came into our factory. The Bengali security guards joined them and they rampaged through the mill and the houses of the non-Bengali millhands..
“The killer gang attacked the Weaving section and slayed scores of non-Bengali employees in barely half an hour of Operation Murder. I saw many dozens of wounded millhands running towards my Spinning section. I hid myself behind a big machine at the far end of the Hall. The killers swarmed into my unit and attacked the non-Bengal employees. Some of the victims ran out and the killers chased them, shooting with guns. The killing spree of the rebels continued for nearly three hours. At night, when I emerged from hiding, hundreds of dead bodies were littered all over the factory premises. The killer gang looted the houses of non-Bengalis and burnt many. They slaughtered hundreds of innocent men, women and children and threw many corpses into flaming houses..............
“Close to the water tank lay the dead bodies of many non-Bengali girls who, I learnt, were ravished by the killers and then murdered. It was a terrible scene...........”
“A Bengali neighbour sheltered me and my aged mother from the terror and fury of the killer gang which had slaughtered my husband, my father and my two teenage brothers”, said 22-year-old Roshanara Begum who lived in a house in the Tong: suburb of Dacca. In the March 23 raid on her house, the killer gang set it on fire and also kidnapped her teenage sister. Repatriated to Karachi in December 1973, she gave this pathetic account of her woes:
“My parents hailed from the Indian state of Bihar but my brothers, my sister and I were born in Dacca. My father was employed in the Postal Department and he had opted for service in East Pakistan in the 1947 Partition of the sub-continent. He bought a plot of land in Tongi in Dacca and built a modest little house on it. We lived in peace and we had excellent relations with our Bengali neighbours............
“Since the first week of March, Awami League militants were spreading hatred for non-Bengalis amongst the Bengali population. The situation was tense and we had heard of attacks by killer gangs on non-Bengali homes in many localities of Dacca city. But our neighbours were decent people and they assured us that we were safe. All of us spoke excellent Bengali but our mother tongue was Urdu. So we were known as Biharis. At school, I studied through the medium of Bengali language.
“In the night of March 23, 1971, an armed gang of Awami League thugs raided our house. They looted it and set it ablaze. We had no guns. The raiders overpowered my father, my husband and my two young brothers and shot them. They kidnapped my teenage sister. In the encounter between my male relatives and the killers, my mother and I succeeded in escaping through the backyard into the house of a God-fearing and gentle Bengali neighbour who sympathised with us and hid us in his home. Aged 15, my sister was a student in the 9th class in school. After the federal troops routed the rebels on March 26, I did my best to trace her but we could not locate her. The Bengali rebels had kidnapped non-Bengali girls by the hundreds in Dacca and slaughtered them before the federal army crushed their rebellion. The souvenir I have of my loving husband is our two and half year old son who was born to me a few months after the slaying of Feroz Ahmed, my husband”.
“I heard the screams of an Urdu-speaking girl who was being ravished by her Bengali captors but I was so scared that I did not have the courage to emerge from hiding”, said 24 year-old Zahid Abdi, who was employed in a trading firm in Dacca. He escaped the slaughter of non-Bengalis in the crowded New Market locality of Dacca on March 23, 1971 and was sheltered by a God-fearing Bengali in his shop. The killers raped their non-Bengali teenage victim at the back of the shop and later on slayed her. Repatriated to Karachi in October 1973, Zahid Abdi said:
“On March 23, I took a bus to the New Market shopping locality in Dacca. As the bus neared my destination, I saw a crowd of Awami League thugs, armed with guns and daggers, on the rampage. Even before the bus could come to a halt, I jumped from it and ran towards a side lane. I had heard that some non-Bengali passengers had been molested or done to death by the Awami League hoodlums. On the way towards the side lane, I saw a few wounded men sprawled on the roadside. A Bengali shopkeeper, whom I had known in the past, took pity on me and hid me in his shop. When he saw some thugs coming towards it he locked it up, with me in hiding, and stood guard. When the killers came, he told them that he was a Bengali and that he had shut his shop for the day..........
“Acting on his advice, I decided to spend the night in the shop because the road back home was unsafe. Late at night, I heard the screams and shouts for help in Urdu of a girl who was being ravished by her captors in a dark place close to the shop where I was hiding. Her four captors took turns to rape her. After they had accomplished their satanic acts, the killer gang shot the girl and melted away in the void of the night. The shop was locked, and in the forenoon, when my protector opened it, I told him of the fiendish happening of the previous night. We looked for the body of the girl; there was no trace of it but bloodstains and torn pieces of a woman’s clothing were visible at the spot where I thought that the girl was raped and murdered. My Bengali saviour, with tears in his eyes, told me that hundreds of non-Bengali girls had suffered a similar tragic fate and that the devil’s minions were on the loose all over the city...........”
Zahid Abdi's estimate is that some 2000 innocent, hapless non-Bengalis perished in the carnage in the New Market shopping locality and its neighbourhood.
“The thugs did not spare a single non-Bengali shop or business premises in the area and looted every article of value”, said Zahid Abdi.
“I wish the federal Army had crushed the Awami League militants with full force in Dacca in the very first week of March 1971 when they had defied the Government’s authority”, said Anisur Rahman, 26, who was employed in a trading firm in Dacca. A graduate of the Dacca University, he lived in the Nawabpur locality and was repatriated to Karachi in February 1974. He said:
“On March 23, a huge mob of Awami League militants, many with blazing guns, went on the rampage in the Nawabpur locality. They looted the houses of non-Bengalis, machine gunned the inmates and burnt many houses. They looted every shop owned by a non-Bengali. Some of my relatives perished in the carnage in our locality. My escape was nothing short of a miracle...........
“The Awami League militants had guns and plenty of ammunition. Amongst the killers were many Hindus who appeared to be well-trained in the use of firearms. On March 9, the Awami Leaguers had taken away, under the pain of dire punishment, weapons owned by non-Bengalis. We were rendered defenceless. In the period of the Awami League’s insurgency in Dacca, kidnapping non-Bengalis for ransom and then slaying them was the favourite modus operandi of the Awami League rebels. Hundreds of student bodies had sprouted all over the city and their hoodlums staged daring hold-ups on the roads and looted the houses of non-Bengalis. The Awami League High Command had frozen the bank accounts of non-Bengalis and restricted their withdrawal right. Awami League cadres used to reap huge cuts by getting sanctions for larger cash with drawals by the non-Bengalis. The kidnappers of many affluent West Pakistanis seized their cars as ransom. From March 1 to 25, Dacca had no government and no administration worth the name; it was Thug Rule. Some Bengali civil servants, who were loyal to the Government, wanted to go to their offices. The Awami League cadres warned them that they and their dear ones would be turned into mincemeat if they disobeyed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s strike order............”
“Dacca was a city of terror and fire in the third week of March 1971”, said Mohammad Taha, 55, who lived all through that nightmarish period in his house on Noor Jahan Road in Dacca. Repatriated to Karachi from Kathmandu, where he had escaped from the Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan, Taha said in March 1974:
“The crescendo of the Awami League’s violence rose sharply in the second week of March 1971 and life became a nightmare for tens of thousands of innocent non-Bengalis who had never even tinkered with politics”.
Taha added: "Arson, rape and murder had become the order of the day. Three of my very close relatives were killed in the carnage. Killer gangs shanghaied non-Bengalis on the streets and from their homes and the Bengali police had gone into purdah. The non-Bengalis thanked God when the federal Army went into action against the ruthless rebels. But on December 17, 1971, when the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini seized Dacca, hell burst upon the non-Bengalis again and hundreds of thousands of innocent people were butchered by the Mukti Bahini victors and their trigger-happy supporters”.
Shah Imam, 30, who was engaged in business in Dacca and who lived in the Bikrampur locality, testified:
“In the third week of March 1971, a Bengali killer gang murdered my paternal uncle, my elder brother and his teenage son in a steamer on way from Barisal to Dacca........
“I learnt from the Bengali bargeman that, in midstream, about 50 armed thugs, shouting ‘Joi Bangla’, attacked the non-Bengali passengers. They forced the Sareng (captain) to anchor the steamer on a deserted bank of the river. The killer gang lined up the non-Bengali passengers on the bank of the river and gunned them to death. They pilfered every article of value from the bodies of the slain men, women and children and threw the dead into the river. After the federal troops routed the rebels, I tried to locate the dead bodies of my murdered relatives and visited the scene of the slaughter but there was no trace of them although there were bloodstains at many places along the bank..............”
Shah Imam was repatriated to Karachi in March 1974.
“My only daughter has been insane since she was forced by her savage tormentors to watch the brutal murder of her husband”, said Mukhtar Ahmed Khan, 43, while giving an account of his suffering during the Ides of March 1971 in Dacca. Repatriated to Karachi in January 1974, he said:
“We lived in a rented house in Abdul Aziz Lane in Dacca. I was in business and we had prospered. I had married my daughter to a promising young man..........
“In the third week of March 1971, a gang of armed Bengali rebels raided the house of my son-in-law and overpowered him. He was a courageous young man and he resisted the attackers. My daughter also resisted the attackers but they were far too many and they were well-armed. They tied up my son-in-law and my daughter with ropes and they forced her to watch as they slit the throat of her husband and ripped his stomach open in the style of butchers. She fainted and lost consciousness. Since that dreadful day, 6she has been mentally ill. She trembles and she raves many a time as memory reminds
her of that grisly event in her broken life………..”
“We sought refuge, with our wounded father in the woods near Tongi, a suburb in Dacca, and lived there on water and wild fruits for three days”, said Ayesha Khatoon, 22, on her repatriation to Karachi from Dacca in February 1974. She testified:
“On March 25, 1971, a killer gang broke into our house and looted all the valuables we had. They trucked away all the loot. My father, Mr. Nooruddin, a local businessman who owned the house, resisted the raiders. The Bengali rebels stabbed him in the chest and escaped with their booty.
“As the killers had said that they would return, my brother and I helped our father walk some distance to the woods nearby. We spread a bed sheet and my wounded father lay on it. I bandaged his wounds but we had no food. My brother brought water from the pond and some wild fruits. We lived on this repast for three days. In the afternoon of March 28, we spotted some Pakistani troops and my brother ran towards them. The soldiers took us back to our home. I nursed back my father to full recovery.............
“But more travail and misfortune lay in store for us. After less than 9 months, the Mukti Bahini went on the rampage against the non-Bengalis in Dacca. In the last week of December 1971, a gang of armed Bengalis came to my house and grabbed my husband, Zafar Alam. They asked us to give them all the cash and my ornaments. I had none left. They said that they would set free my husband if my father signed a bogus document of sale of our house to the leader of the killer gang. To save the life of my husband, my father readily agreed to do so. The killer gang promised to bring back my husband after some questioning. Full two years have passed and I have no news of him. I presume that the thugs killed him. I understand that the killer gangs practised this fraud on a lot of helpless non-Bengalis after the Indians and the Mukti Bahini occupied East Pakistan in December 1971. The killer gang drove us from our house and we lived in the Red Cross camp in Dacca..............”
Aliya Bibi, 40, who lived in a flat with her son in the Mohammedpur locality in Dacca, reported after her arrival in Karachi in January 1974:
“On March 25, 1971, a gang of Awami League militants and some thugs raided my house and looted it. They did not spare anything of value. My 16-year-old son had climbed an umbrageous tree and the raiders did not detect him..........
“But in the last week of December 1971, he was killed by the Mukti Bahini. Life has been a torment for me since then.............”
Saira Khatoon, 35, who lived in Mirpur in Dacca, gave this account of the murder of her husband, Abdul Hamid, in the March 1971 carnage of non-Bengalis in Dacca:
“My husband left our home in Mirpur on March 25 to go to a meeting in the city. On the way the Bengali rebels waylaid and murdered him.
“As I did not see his dead body, I appealed to the federal Army to help me in locating my husband, dead or alive. The Army tried to trace him but the presumption was that he was ambushed and killed as was the fate of my other male relatives in Dacca and other places in East Pakistan”, said Saira Khatoon.
“I have no choice but to believe that my husband was killed by the rebels in March 1971”, she added…….. “Hundreds of non-Bengali teenage girls were kidnapped, raped and murdered”, she further said.
Zaibunnissa, 33, lived in a flat on Noor Jahan Road in the Mohammadpur locality of Dacca. Her husband, Abdus Salam, was employed as a driver in the Dacca office of the Pakistan International Airlines. She gave this account of the raid on her house by the Bengali rebels and the death of her husband:
“On March 25, 1971, a gang of Awami League militants raided our house. My husband resisted the attackers and grappled with them. The raiders were armed and they overpowered him. They stabbed him and then looted our house. After the raiders had gone, I felt some sign of life in my husband. The next morning I took him to a local hospital. The rebels had been routed but the Bengali hospital staff was sullen. They did not pay much attention and my husband died.............
“After December 16, 1971, my 10 year old son and I suffered again. The Mukti Bahini wanted to kidnap my son and I had to keep him in hiding for days on end until we were moved to a Red Cross Camp. Even there, the Mukti Bahini used to kidnap the non-Bengali men and teenage girls every now and then……….”
Zaibunnissa and her son were repatriated to Pakistan from Dacca in December 1973.
Shamim Akhtar, 28, whose husband was employed as a clerk in the Railway office in Dacca, lived in a small house in the Mirpur locality there. They had escaped the March 1971 massacre because of the strong resistance put up by the Bihari young men of the locality against the rebels who attacked them. But after the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini seized East Pakistan in the third week of December 1971, life became an ordeal for Shamim, her husband, Fasihuddin and her three little children. She described her tragedy in these words:
“On December 17, 1971, the Mukti Bahini cut off the water supply to our homes. We used to get water from a nearby pond; it was polluted and had a bad odour. I was nine months pregnant. On December 23, 1971, I gave birth to a baby girl. No midwife was available and my husband helped me at child birth. Late at night, a gang of armed Bengalis raided our house, grabbed my husband and trucked him away. I begged them in the name of God to spare him as I could not even walk and my children were too small. The killers were heartless and I learnt that they murdered my husband. After five days, they returned and ordered me and my children to vacate the house as they claimed that it was now their property.
“Biharis”, said the gang leader, “have no right to live in Bangladesh.” At gunpoint, they drove me with my children to an open plot of land where we slept on the bare earth in the cold for three days. My children starved; I was too weak to get them even a morsel of food. A foreign Red Cross team took pity on us and moved us to a Relief Camp in Mohammadpur……….”
Shamim and her children were repatriated to Pakistan from Dacca in January 1974.
Zaibunnissa Haq, 30, whose journalist husband, Izhar-ul Haque, worked as a columnist in the Daily Watan in Dacca, gave this account of her travail in 1971:
“We lived in our own house on Razia Sultana Road in Mohammedpur in Dacca. My husband had, in the past, worked in the Daily Pasban and was well-known as an Urdu writer and journalist..........
“On March 25, 1971, a gang of armed Awami League storm troopers raided our locality and looted my house. My husband was not at home; otherwise the raiders would have kidnapped him..........
“After the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini occupied Dacca on December 17, 1971, a reign of terror and death was unleashed on the non-Bengalis, especially those of us who lived in Mohammedpur and Mirpur. A dozen Bihari young men of our locality, including my husband, used to patrol the area at night to keep marauders at bay. On December 19, late at night, a gang of armed Bengalis raided the locality and machine-gunned my husband. My world was shattered when I saw his dead body. People in the entire neighbourhood cried because he was popular and had looked after the safety of the neighbours with immense courage.............
“On December 21, a posse of Mukti Bahini soldiers and some thugs rode into our locality with blazing guns and ordered us to leave our house as, according to them, no Bihari could own a house in Bangladesh. For two days, we lived on bare earth in an open space and we had nothing to eat. Subsequently, we were taken to a Relief Camp by the Red Cross.
In January 1974, we were repatriated to Pakistan..........”
Fatima Bibi, 40, whose husband was employed in a trading firm in Tongi, testified after her repatriation to Karachi from Dacca in February 1974:
“On March 25, 1971, armed Awami Leaguers had looted our house and beaten up my husband, Abdur Rahman, who had resisted them. My three young sons were away from the house when the raid took place. They were brave boys and they took an oath to punish the thugs. In April 1971, they joined the Razakar Force and taught a lesson to many of the Bengali thugs who had looted the homes of non-Bengalis in March.
“In the third week of December 1971, when the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini captured Dacca, my three sons were killed in action. On December 17, 1971, an armed gang of 30 Bengalis raided our home and brutally killed my husband. At gunpoint, they ordered me to leave the house with my three children. I headed for the woods nearby. We lived on water and wild fruits and we slept on leaves. The cries of my starving children caused me pain and agony. I thought of suicide and headed towards the railway line. God wanted to save us. A foreign Red Cross team was passing our way in a jeep and they motioned us to stop. When I told them of our plight, they took us to the Red Cross Relief Camp in Mohammedpur where we lived for more than two years”.
Noor Jahan, 33, whose husband, Mukhtar Ahmed, was employed in the Telegraph and Telephone Department in Dacca and who lived in the Government staff Quarters in Gulistan colony, said on her repatriation to Karachi in January 1974:
“We had escaped the March 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis in Dacca. But in the third week of December 1971, after the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini occupied Dacca, my husband was murdered by a gang of armed Bengalis. Some 20 armed men raided my house soon after his death, and looted every article of value. They turned us out of the house at gunpoint and we were on the streets. Another gang of armed Bengalis drove us to a large building where some 500 Bihari women and children, whose husbands had been kidnapped for murder, were lodged. We were told that any one found escaping would be shot. We prayed to God for the safety of our children. After five days of hunger and torture, a Red Cross team took us to a Relief Camp in Mohammedpur in Dacca. Life in the Relief Camp was an ordeal because the Mukti Bahini jingoes used to kidnap the Bihari young men and women by the scores every week. No one was sure that he would be alive the next morning. Many did not sleep for nights on end. At night, women whose husbands or sons had been slaughtered before them would shriek and wail as the memory of their dear ones haunted them”.
Anwari Begum, 30, whose husband, Syed Mustafa Hussain, was employed in the Telegraph and Telephone Department in Dacca, lived in their own house in the Mirpur locality. Repatriated to Karachi from Dacca with her children, in October 1973, Anwari said:
“In the March 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis in East Pakistan, every member of my family, including my parents, was slaughtered in Dinajpur where my father owned a house and some property. In the third week of March 1971, a gang of armed Bengali thugs looted my house in Mirpur but my husband escaped the massacre because he was away on duty in his office.
“In the third week of December 1971, my husband was murdered by a Mukti Bahini gang and his dead body was delivered at my house by a posse of Indian troops deployed in our locality. His neck was severed and some parts of his body were mutilated.
“Shortly afterwards, we were driven out of our house by the Mukti Bahini and lodged in a Red Cross Camp.............”
Allah Rakhee, 45, whose husband, Mohammed Yusuf, was a thriving businessman in Dacca and who lived in their own house in Block D in the Mirpur locality, had this poignant memory of the tragedy in her life in March and December 1971:
“In the third week of March 1971, a gang of Awami League volunteers had looted our house when I was all alone in it. They said that they would kidnap my husband and my two teenage sons but the federal army routed the rebels and we had peace for nine months.
“On December 17, after the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini had captured Dacca, a score of armed Bengalis raided my house. They shot my aged husband in the compound of our house. I had hidden my two sons in the lavatory. Just when the killer gang was about to leave, one of the raiders stepped into the lavatory and saw my two sons who cried to escape. He shouted for help and the whole gang rushed inside and overpowered my sons. They dragged the two boys to the compound and, before my dazed eyes, shot them dead. The killers slapped me, and, at the point of a bayonet, they drove me in their truck to the Red Cross Camp. My eldest son had joined the Pakistan Army. I have no news of him. I learnt that the Mukti Bahini threw the dead bodies of my husband and my two sons into the river.............”
“I had a glimpse of the fiendish slaughter-house set up for murdering hapless non-Bengalis in Dacca”, said 25-year-old Salma Khatoon, after her repatriation to Karachi from Dacca in January 1974. Her slain husband, Nazar Alam Khan, was employed in the State Bank of Pakistan in Dacca. She testified:
“In the last week of March 1971, the Bengali rebels had murdered the parents and elder brother of my husband in Rangpur. In the third week of March, some armed Bengali thugs had looted my house in the Bashabo locality near Kamlapur station in Dacca. But my husband had escaped their murderous search.
“In the third week of December 1971, when the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini ruled Dacca, he went to his office and did not return home. In the night of December 18, a posse of Bengali gunmen looted my house and told me that I should leave it although we owned it. When my husband did not return even on the third day, I went to his office. The office was locked from outside. Through a window I saw a group of tough-looking men burning old records, bank notes and registers. I also peeped inside a dark store room which had large blood stains and torn clothes. This, I believe, was used as a kind of abattoir for killing non-Bengali Bank employees. I met the wife of a Bengali colleague of my husband in the adjacent staff quarters for Bank employees. She told me that a Mukti Bahini gang had raided the Bank on the day my husband disappeared and it murdered all the non-Bengali employees on duty. They had dumped the bodies, she said, into a hastily dug pit at the back of the office building.................
“My orphaned children and I lived for two years in the Red Cross Camp. The Mukti Bahini seized my house and told me that the Biharis would not be permitted to own even an inch of land in Bangladesh............”
“For two hours, my house in Mohammedpur was riddled and pocked with bullets by a gang of armed Bengali marauders late in March 1971”, said Qaiser Jahan, 22, who escaped to Nepal from East Pakistan in 1972 and was repatriated to Karachi in December 1973.
Qaiser Jahan and her husband, Aziz Hussain, a prosperous businessman, lived in their own house on Noor Jahan Road in the Mohammedpur locality in Dacca. They had escaped the March 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis and the gunmen who fired on her house did not loot it. But in the third week of December 1971, when the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini seized East Pakistan, her misfortunes began. Early in December 1971, her husband had gone on a business visit to Chittagong. Weeks passed and there was no news of him. Qaiser Jahan heard of the massacre of non-Bengalis in Chittagong on December 17, 1971. The next day, at midnight, a gang of armed Mukti Bahini soldiers attacked the Mohammedpur locality and they continued machine-gunning her house till the early hours of the morning. Panic-stricken, she decided to leave for Khulna where some relatives of hers lived. Qaiser Jahan said:
“I sold off my gold earrings and bangles and paid an exorbitant fee to an agent to take us to Calcutta. Another agent, who smuggled human beings from India to Nepal, charged me a fat sum of money to take us to Kathmandu. We lived there in abject poverty for many months. The United Nations repatriated us to Karachi in December 1973...........”
Kulsoom, 35, whose husband, Abdul Kareem, had his own small business firm in Dacca, lived in their own house on Jagannath Saha Road. She was widowed early in 1971. Her 24 year old son was employed in a trading firm in central Dacca. In the third week of March 1971, a gang of armed Awami Leaguers raided and looted her house. Her son was not at home when the raiders came. But in December 1971, Kulsoom’s little world was shattered:
“It was December 12. My son, Mohammad Yasin, had gone to his office. My son was a brave young man. He said he was not frightened by India’s bombing and would go to work. In the evening, I was stunned when some Civil Defence workers brought me his battered dead body. He was killed when Indian aircraft bombed the building where he worked............
“I was benumbed by the loss of my son. In the third week of December 1971, a Mukti Bahini gang raided and looted my house and threw me and my three small children on the streets. We lived for more than two years in a Red Cross Camp in Dacca. In February 1974, we were repatriated to Pakistan”.
Ayesha Begum, 40, who was repatriated to Karachi from Dacca, with her three orphaned children, in December 1973, testified:
“In the third week of March 1971, a gang of armed Awami Leaguers had fired on our house in Mirpur in Dacca but the appearance of an Army patrol made them run away..........
“For nine months, my husband, Abdul Bari, a Bank employee, lived in peace in our house in Mirpur. But in the third week of December 1971, a posse of Mukti Bahini soldiers, led by some gangsters of our locality, came to my house and looted it. They ordered us to leave the house at once and go to the Red Cross Camp. Just then my husband returned home from work and in a matter of minutes the killer gang overpowered him and shot him in the chest. I was stunned and utterly speechless. One of them slapped me and threatened that if I did not vacate the house immediately I would be killed. I begged them to give me some time to bury my husband but they refused. I appealed to them in the name of God and two of them agreed to help me in burying my husband. We dug a grave in an open space nearby and laid him to eternal rest. My children and I walked to the Red Cross Camp where we lived for two years............”
Najmunnissa, 30, and her three orphaned children were repatriated from Dacca to Karachi in January 1974 after they had spent two years in the Red Cross Camp in Mohammedpur. Her husband was an employee of the East Pakistan Government and he owned a small house in Mirpur where he and his family lived. In the third week of March 1971, when he was away on duty, some armed thugs had looted his house. In the third week of December 1971, the Mukti Bahini murdered him while he was on his way to his office. A Mukti Bahini gang raided Najmunnissa’s house in the evening of December 18th and told her that her husband had been executed. They gave her no clues to the whereabouts of his dead body. Brandishing sten guns, the raiders ordered her to leave the house at once as the Bengalis returning from India had to be accommodated. Najmunnissa said:
“I was a widow; my children were orphans. My tormentors shoved a gun in my face to force me to quit the house where we had lived for years. We were on the streets. Subsequently, the thugs changed their mind and carted us away to a big building where many hundreds of hapless non-Bengali women and children were herded. The male members of their families had been liquidated by the Mukti Bahini in human abattoirs. Life in the captivity of the Mukti Bahini in this prison was a hell. A Red Cross team located us and took us to a Camp in Mohammedpur. They said our Bengali captors were planning our murder in the building and we were saved in the nick of time.”
Some eye-witnesses from Dacca said that their relatives had been subjected to violence by the Awami league militants at a number of places not far from Dacca. Some of the towns named by these witnesses are: Keraniganj, Joydebpur, Munshiganj, Rupganj, Madaripur, Pubail, Tangibari, Chandpur, Matlab Bazar, Hajiganj and Baidya Bazar. Many non-Bengali families fled from these small towns to Dacca after the Awami League’s terrorisation campaign gained momentum in the third and fourth weeks of March 1971. Quite a few non-Bengali families, witnesses said, were killed by the Bengali rebels in the last week of March 1971. Their houses were looted. Money was extorted by thugs from some well-to-do non-Bengali businessmen engaged in trade at these places. In Joydebpur, 22 miles from Dacca, an armed mob, led by Awami League militants, put up barricades on the rail track and the main highway to block troop movement on March 19, 1971. A posse of Pakistani troops exchanged fire with the rebel gunmen in the mob. A rebel was killed and two soldiers were wounded.
In the last week of March 1971, a killer gang looted many non-Bengali houses in Keraniganj and Munshiganj and murdered some non-Bengali men. In Chandpur, violence against the non-Bengalis spiralled in the third and fourth weeks of March 1971 but the death toll was not large. In Baidya Bazar, the rebel gangs wiped out a dozen non-Bengali families and looted their property. Thugs ambushed and held up some non-Bengali businessmen for ransom. In Pubail and Tangi-bari, the Awami League militants and their rebel confederates murdered dozens of affluent Biharis. Shops owned by the Biharis were a favourite target of attack. Kidnapping of teenage girls was also reported from these places. The Awami League militants and the rebels ravished the kidnapped non-Bengali girls and shot them before the federal army controlled the area. This was obviously with the intention of eliminating evidence and witnesses of their crimes. But in areas bordering on India, the retreating Bengali rebels carried away with them the non-Bengali girls whom they had kidnapped and ravished.
“The killer gang had orders to murder every non-Bengali in our factory”, said Asghar Ali Khan, 38, who was employed as an Overseer in the Pakistan Fabric Company’s factory in Narayanganj, an industrial township close to Dacca. He gave this pathetic account of the slaughter of non-Bengalis in March 1971 in Narayanganj:
“The non-Bengali population resident in Narayanganj was not large. Many non-Bengalis worked by day in Narayanganj and commuted in the evening to their homes in nearby Dacca.
“Since the first week of March, Awami League militants were at work in Narayanganj, inciting the Bengali mill workers against the non-Bengalis. They had marked the houses of non-Bengalis by the middle of the month..........
“On March 21, a large, violent mob of yelling Awami Leaguers attacked the factory and the quarters where the non-Bengali employees and their families lived. They did not damage the factory but they butchered the non-Bengali employees and their families. I was the sole occupant of my quarter and I slipped into the house of a very dear Bengali friend when the Awami League’s raid began. He hid me in his house and I was saved.
“In the afternoon of March 26, after the Bengali rebels had been routed, the federal troops visited our factory and arranged the mass burial of the 160 dead bodies of non-Bengalis which lay stacked in their quarters.............”
“The killer gang had looted the houses of the victims and every article of value had vanished”, said Asghar Ali Khan.
Witnesses said that the Awami League demagogues, in their harangues to the Bengali millhands, told them that the unemployed Bengalis would get factory jobs if the non-Bengali employees were liquidated. The non-Bengali employees were known by the generic name of Biharis.
“Four armed thugs dragged two captive non-Bengali teenage girls into an empty bus and violated their chastity before gunning them to death”, said Gulzar Hussain, 38, who witnessed the massacre of 22 non-Bengali men, women and children on March 21, 1971, close to a bus stand in Narayanganj. Repatriated to Karachi in November 1973, Gulzar Hussain reported:
“I was engaged in the Jute Trade in Narayanganj and I lived in a rented house not far from the commercial hub of the town. Since the first week of March 1971, the Awami Leaguers were trying to stir up trouble in Narayanganj and their goal was to wipe out the non-Bengali population.............
“On March 21, our Dacca-bound bus was stopped on the way, soon after it left the heart of the city. I was seated in the front portion of the bus and I saw that the killer gang had guns, scythes and daggers. The gunmen raised ‘Joi Bangla’ and anti-Pakistan slogans. The bus driver obeyed their signal to stop and the thugs motioned to the passengers to get down. A jingo barked out the order that Bengalis and non-Bengalis should fall into separate lines. As I spoke Bengali with a perfect Dacca accent and could easily pass for a Bengali, I joined the Bengali group of passengers. The killer gang asked us to utter a few sentences in Bengali which we did. I passed the test and our tormentors instructed the Bengalis to scatter. The thugs then gunned all the male non-Bengalis. It was a horrible scene. Four of the gunmen took for their loot two young non-Bengali women and raped them inside the empty bus. After they had ravished the girls, the killers shot them and half a dozen other women and children. Some shops, owned by non-Bengalis in Narayanganj, were looted by riotous mobs on that day”.
Nasima Khatoon, 25, lived in a rented house in the Pancho Boti locality in Narayanganj. Her husband, Mohammed Qamrul Hasan, was employed in a Vegetable Oil manufacturing factory. Repatriated to Karachi in January 1974, along with her 4 year old orphaned daughter, from a Red Cross Camp in Dacca, Nasima gave this hair-raising account of her travail in 1971:
“Since March 3, there was tension in Narayanganj. The Awami Leaguers were inciting the Bengali labourers to kill the non Bengalis. In the night of March 25, a Bengali mob, led by Awami League militants, tried to loot the houses of non-Bengalis in our locality but the cowards melted away when the news of the Army’s action against the rebels reached them...........
“On December 16, when the surrender decision of the Pakistan Army in Dacca to the Indian Army was announced, violent crowds of Bengali militants went on the rampage against the non-Bengalis in Narayanganj. A killer gang attacked my house and stole all my ornaments, my clothes, crockery and the furniture. The thugs did not spare even the kitchenware and house hold linen. My husband was away in Dacca when the killer gang came to my house.............
“At gun-point, our captors made us leave our house and marched us to an open square where more than 500 non-Bengali old men, women and children were detained. Some 30 Bengali gunmen led us through swampy ground towards a deserted school building. On the way, the 3-year-old child of a hapless captive Woman died in her arms. She asked her captors to allow her to dig a small grave and bury the child. The tough man in the lead snorted a sharp ‘No’, snatched the body of the dead child from her wailing mother and tossed it into a river along whose bank we dragged our feet in physical exhaustion. The killers pushed all their captives into the school building. I wanted water to slake my parched throat; the gunman, who headed our group, slapped me, struck me in the arm with his rifle-butt and pushed me inside the jam-packed hall..........
“For a week, we lived in what was virtually a hell. Every night, we heard threats and abuses from our captors. One of the captive women feigned acute stomach ache and begged her captors to let her go to a hospital in Dacca for treatment. She was old and looked a saintly woman. The Bengali captors allowed her to go to Dacca. A very intelligent woman, she raced to Mohammedpur where she told the Red Cross Officials about the plight of the 500 Bihari captive women and children. Two teams of officials of the International Red Cross came to our rescue and took us to their Camp in Mirpur. Twice our Camp was attacked by the Mukti Bahini gunmen, and some of the inmates, including two ailing young women, were killed by gunfire. By April, 1972, there was some improvement in the situation and the nocturnal kidnapping of its Bihari inmates by the Bengali marauders lessened. The Red Cross Officials tried their best to trace out my missing husband but he was not found. Like many thousands of other non-Bengalis, he was, it is presumed, done to death by rampaging killer gangs, inebriated with the victory of the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini”.
“I saw the rebels burning dozens of jute godowns in Narayanganj and throwing the dead bodies of murdered non-Bengalis into the flames",
said 52-year-old Allah Rakha, who worked as a jute broker in Narayanganj. He lived in a rented house in the Patuatoly locality of Dacca. Repatriated to Karachi in March 1974, he said:
“After the mid-1960’s, most of the non-Bengali traders in Narayanganj and Dacca were apprehensive that some day it would become difficult for them to do business in East Pakistan. The Awami League leaders were spreading poison against West Pakistanis in the minds of the simple Bengali common folks of East Pakistan...........
“After March 3, 1971, I found that the Awami League’s campaign to foster hatred for non-Bengalis amongst the Bengalis had made its impact and many of my Bengali friends in the jute trade were critical of us…….
“On March 17, the volcano erupted, and a large killer gang, led by the Awami League militants, went on the rampage in the premises of the Ispahani Jute Company. They slaughtered many hundreds of non-Bengalis, including women and children, living in the Ispahani Colony, and flung the dead bodies into the Sitalakhya River. I was saved because I went into hiding inside a closed office building to which I had access..........”
The Awami League’s rebellion of March 1971 took the heaviest toll of non-Bengali lives in the populous port city of Chittagong. Although the Government of Pakistan’s White Paper of August 1971 on the East Pakistan crisis estimated the non-Bengali death toll in Chittagong and its neighbouring townships during the Awami League’s insurrection to be a little under 15,000, the testimony of hundreds of eye-witnesses interviewed for this book gives the impression that more than 50,000 non-Bengalis perished in the March 1971 carnage. Thousands of dead bodies were flung into the Karnaphuli river and the Bay of Bengal. Many of those innocents who were tortured and killed in the seventeen slaughter-houses set up by the Bengali rebels in the city and its vicinity were incinerated in houses put to the torch.
The target of the Bengali rebels, it seemed, was to wipe out every non-Bengali male above 12 years of age. Along with the massacre of the non-Bengali menfolk, many of their women and children, spared in the first phase of the pogrom, were done to death by the Bengali rebels in the last days of March and the first week of April 1971. The element of savagery in the mass slaughter in Chittagong was perhaps far more vicious than at any other place in the province, possibly with the exception of Khulna, Jessore, Dinajpur and Mymensingh.
The volcano of fire and death erupted in this picturesque city of green hills, rivers and luxuriant tropical vegetation on March 3 soon after the Awami League’s high command in Dacca took to the path of rebellion. Late at night, a violent mob, led by gun-totting Awami League storm troopers, invaded the non-Bengali settlements in the city and looted and burnt thousands of houses and hutments. The populous Wireless Colony and Ferozeshah Colony bore the brunt of the rebel attack. In the latter locality alone, 700 houses were set ablaze and most of their inmates—men, women and children—were burnt to death. Many, who escaped from their blazing houses, were shot in their tracks by the rebel gunmen.
Stray survivors of this wanton massacre described the gory spectacle of fire and destruction as “hell on earth”. Affluent non-Bengalis were kidnapped for ransom and subsequently tortured and killed in slaughter-houses. Eye-witnesses said that a high-ranking member of the Awami League High Command, M. R. Siddiki, master-minded and supervised the grisly massacre of the non-Bengalis in Chittagong. After the March 3 nocturnal baptism of fire, the rebels felt emboldened to attack other non-Bengali habitations in the city. Killer gangs looted and burnt hundreds of non-Bengali houses in Raufabad, Halishahar, Dotala, Kalurghat, Hamzabad, and Pahartali localities. Non-Bengali men, kidnapped from their houses, were taken by the rebels to slaughter-houses and done to death.
All through the first fortnight of March, the process of phased liquidation of the non-Bengali male population was continued in Chittagong and its neighbouring areas. The Awami League leadership trained its volunteers in the use of firearms, some looted from arms shops and the police armoury and many smuggled from India. The Army and Navy personnel had instructions not to shoot unless they were attacked; the local police had become ineffective. Thus the law and order machinery in Chittagong was totally paralysed. The civic fire fighting unit, manned mostly by Bengalis, had lapsed into a coma; fire engines which tried to reach the burning shanties were wrecked by the rebels.
In the third week of March, the terror regime of the rebels in Chittagong was so firmly established that they challenged even the military personnel in the area. Late in the night of March 18, armed killer gangs went on the rampage in every residential colony where non-Bengalis lived. For many thousands of non-Bengalis, it was “the night of long knives and blazing guns”. Killer gangs burst into homes, asked no questions and sprayed gunfire on the inmates. “Shoot anything that moves in the house of a non-Bengali” was the order to the killer gangs and they observed it with sadist devotion.
On March 23, Pakistan’s National Festival Day which the Awami League renamed as “Resistance Day”, the rebels held massive displays of their strength, tore up the Pakistan flag at a number of places and again went on the rampage against non-Bengalis at night. The Awami League storm troopers were reinforced by the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles, the para-military Ansars and the local police. The rebels were well-armed and appeared to have a surfeit of ammunition supply. On March 25, the rebels went on the warpath against Army and Navy personnel in Chittagong’s port area and tried to block all the access roads leading to the city. They erected huge barricades on the highway from the suburban locality of Agrabad to the Port area of Chittagong to prevent the transport of military personnel and arms to the Army cantonment. They dug trenches on the main road, and piled up burnt trucks and lorries and bitumen drums all along the highway to block vehicular traffic. Warehoused munition in the Port area was looted by the rebels. Bengali troops from the East Bengal Regiment mutinied and joined the rebel force. This was the zero-hour setting for the Awami League’s armed uprising and total seizure of the cantonments in Chittagong and Dacca planned for March 26.
In a pre-emptive strike late in the night of March 25 in Dacca and other important towns in East Pakistan, the federal troops went into action against the rebels. But the federal military force in the province was too inadequate to contain swiftly the challenge and revolt of the more than 176,000 armed Bengali rebels. At many places, it took from a week to a month for the federal army to retrieve the rebel-controlled areas. In Chittagong, the federal troops regained control over strategic parts of the city, such as the Port and the Airport, swiftly but a large number of residential localities remained under the terror rule of the rebel gunmen till April 9, 1971. In this period of hell and fire, many more thousands of non-Bengalis were butchered en masse. The operational headquarter of the rebels was located at the East Bengal Regimental Centre in Chittagong and the principal human abattoir was housed in the main town office of the Awami League. It had torture cells and a chamber of horror where blood was drained through syringes from the bodies of non-Bengali victims before they were killed by their inhuman captors.
The killing of the non-Bengali employees and their families in the Usmania Glass Works, Hafiz Jute Mill, Ispahani Jute Mill and other factories in Chittagong and the Amin Jute Mills at Bibirhat and the Karnaphuli Paper and Rayon Mills at Chandraghona and its neighbourhood surpassed the savagery of the Huns. Most of the massacres at these places were conducted by the rebels in the last five days of March and some early in April 1971. In many localities, there were hardly any non-Bengali survivors—so thorough and complete was the racist pogrom of the rebels.
In the notorious slaughter-house in the Government Rest House in Chittagong, about 4,000 non-Bengalis were done to death. Blood was taken out of their bodies and corneas were extracted from their eyes by Bengali doctors who had become the tools of the rebels. The corpses were dumped in hurriedly-dug, shallow pits. Any victim who showed signs of life was shot in the skull.
The Awami League militants had compelled some Bengali Imams (priests) in the Mosques to decree the killing of the Biharis as a religious duty of the Bengali Muslims. In a mosque, near the office of the Chittagong Fire Brigade, half a dozen non-Bengalis, who had been kidnapped from their homes by killer gangs, were murdered.
In the Kalurghat industrial area, some 5,000 non-Bengalis, including 300 women, were butchered by the Bengali rebels. Not more than a score of non-Bengalis survived the Kalurghat massacre. The non-Bengali women were raped by their captors — some on the roads in broad daylight—before being shot.
Savage killings also took place in the Halishahar, Kalurghat and Pahartali localities where the Bengali rebel soldiers poured petrol and kerosene oil around entire blocks, igniting them with flame-throwers and petrol-soaked jute balls, then mowed down the non-Bengali innocents trying to escape the cordons of fire. In the wanton slaughter in the last week of March and early April, 1971, some 40,000 non-Bengalis perished in Chittagong and its neighbourhood. The exact death toll— which could possibly be much more — will never be known because of the practice of burning dead bodies or dumping them in the river and the sea. Many of the rampaging rebels were Hindus who desecrated Mosques and Muslim shrines and burnt copies of the Holy Quran.
Eye-witnesses, interviewed for this book, described M.R. Siddiki, a director of the genocide operation against non-Bengalis, as the “Butcher of Chittagong”. They charged that the slayings in the human abattoir in the Awami Leagued main town office were conducted under his personal command. “Kill the bastards” was his order of the day to his hatchetmen for murdering the non-Bengali innocents. As the rebel casualties mounted in engagements with the federal troops and the Bengali doctors asked for more blood for transfusion, M.R. Siddiki ordered his men to drain out blood from their non-Bengali victims in the slaughter-house before slaying them. He even suggested limb-grafting from non-Bengali victims to disabled Bengali rebels. Piled up dead bodies in the slaughter-houses, in the last days of March, 1971, were flung into pits and covered with mud, rubble and foliage.
As the rebels felt the crunch of the federal army and retreated, they massacred, with automatic weapons, many hundreds of helpless women and children who were herded and starved for days in mosques and school buildings. Aside from the wholesale abridgement of the male element in the non-Bengali population in Chittagong, several thousands of non-Bengali girls and young women (14 to 30 years of age) were kidnapped by the rebels and ravished, some in mass sex assault chambers in guarded houses in the vicinity of the operational bases of the Bengali rebels. Sadists among the rebels took pleasure in forcing captive non-Bengali mothers to see the slaying of their sons or husbands.
After the federal army liberated Chittagong from the demonic rule of the rebels, the non-Bengali survivors resumed the broken threads of their lives and repaired their burnt out and devastated houses. But on December 17, 1971, their shattered world collapsed when the victorious Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini seized East Pakistan. Many thousands of non-Bengalis were killed, their families were driven out of their repaired homes and the survivors were herded in Relief Camps set up by the Red Cross.
The Washington Evening Star reported on May 12, 1971 the following story from Mort Resenblum who was one of the six foreign newsmen who toured East Pakistan early in May 1971:
“In the port city of Chittagong, a blood-spattered doll lies in a heap of clothing and excrement in a jute mill recreation club where Bengalis butchered 180 women and children……Bengalis killed some West Pakistanis in flurries of chauvinism. Bengali civilians and liberation troops began mass slaughter of Mohajirs (Indian migrants) from the Indian State of Bihar and raced through market places and settlements, stabbing, shooting and burning, sometimes stopping to rape and loot.............”
The Washington Evening Star, in its May 12, 1971 issue, also carried the following despatch of the Associated Press of America wire service:
“Newsmen visiting this key port yesterday said there was massive shell and fire damage and evidence of sweeping massacre of civilians by rebels..........
“At the jute mills owned by the influential Ispahani family, newsmen saw the mass graves of 152 non-Bengali women and children reportedly executed last month by secessionist rebels in the Mills’ recreation club.
“Bloody clothing and toys were still on the floor of the bullet pocked Club. Responsible sources said thousands of West Pakistanis and Indian migrants (Muslims settled in East Pakistan since 1947) were put to death in Chittagong between March 25, when the East Pakistan rebellion began to seek independence from the Western Wing, and April 11 when the Army recaptured the city.............
“Residents pointed to one burned out department building where they said Bengalis burned to death three hundred and fifty Pathans from West Pakistan”.
In a despatch from Chittagong, Malcolm Browne of the New York Times reported on May 10, 1971:
“...............But before the Army came, when Chittagong was still governed by the secessionist Awami League and its allies, Bengali workers, apparently resentful of the relative prosperity of Bihari immigrants from India, are said to have killed the Biharis in large numbers............”
The Sunday Times of London published in its issue of May 2, 1971 a dispatch from its Pakistan Correspondent, Anthony Mascarenhas, who had toured the rebellion-hit areas of East Pakistan in the first fortnight of April, 1971. He reported:
“In Chittagong, the colonel commanding the Military Academy was killed while his wife, eight months’ pregnant, was raped and bayoneted in the abdomen. In another part of Chittagong, an East Pakistan Rifles Officer was flayed alive. His two sons were beheaded and his wife was bayoneted in the abdomen and left to die with her son’s head placed on her naked body. The bodies of many young girls have been found with Bangladesh flagsticks protruding from their wombs.................
“The worst-affected towns were Chittagong and Khulna where the West Pakistanis were concentrated..............”
The “Northern Echo” of Darlington in Durham, in its issue of April 7, 1971, said:
“Leon Lumsden, an American engineer on a U.S. aid project, said that for two weeks before the Army moved last week, Chittagong’s predominantly Bengali population had been but cheering West Pakistanis in the port..............”
Some 5,000 non-Bengali refugees from the Awami League’s terror in Chittagong, who arrived in Karachi on board a ship in the third week of March 1971, related harrowing stories of the genocide launched against the non-Bengalis. The federal government prohibited their publication in the West Pakistan Press to prevent reprisals against the local Bengalis.
Mohammed Israil, 40, who lived in Quarter No. 28 in the Ispahani New Colony in the Pahartali locality in Chittagong, lost his sister, his brother-in-law and his infant nephew in the massacre of non-Bengalis on March 3, 1971. He thus spoke of the tragedy which almost wrecked his life:
“We had lived in Chittagong for the past many years and all of us spoke Bengali. I was engaged in business and I lived with my sister and her husband in their house in Pahartali.............
“In the afternoon of March 3, about five thousand Bengali demonstrators, led by Awami League militants, attacked the Ispahani Colony where non-Bengalis lived in large numbers. The raiders bore blazing torches and some had guns. Without any provocation from our side, the killer mob went on the rampage. They poured kerosene oil and petrol on houses and set them ablaze. As the inmates rushed out, the killer gang mowed them with gunfire...............
“A gang of ten armed rebels smashed the door of our house and burst in with blazing guns. They shot my brother-in-law who died on the spot. I was wounded and I feigned death. My sister, who grappled with the attackers, was bayoneted. The killers tore her suckling child from her arms and shot him just as she lay in her death agony. Later on, the killers looted our house and set it ablaze. I succeeded in crawling into the compound where I stayed in hiding for some days. The killer gang burnt every house in this colony of about 2,000 non-Bengalis. They hurled many of the dead bodies into the blazing houses…..”
Mohammed Israil underwent fresh ordeals after December 17, 1971 when India seized East Pakistan. In December 1973, he was repatriated to Karachi.
“Some decent Bengalis were shocked at the heinous conduct of the Awami League gangs and their wanton murder of non-Bengalis but they were helpless. The killers had the guns,” said Mohammed Israil.
“The success of the Awami League gangs in their murderous spree of March 3 gave them encouragement and convinced them that they would not encounter any opposition from the police and the army in their plan to exterminate the non-Bengalis”, he added.
Noor Mohammed Siddiqui, 23, who lived with his patents in a rented house in the Ferozshah Colony in Chittagong, had this poignant recollection of the March 3, 1971 massacre there:
“In the forenoon of March 3, about 5,000 armed and yelling Awami League activists and their supporters raided the Ferozshah Colony. With them were some armed rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles. They wore their usual on-duty uniforms. Without any provocation from the non-Bengalis, the raiding mob went berserk. The Awami league militants looted hundreds of houses and burnt them by sprinkling a mixture of petrol and kerosene oil. As the inmates ran out, the killer gangs shot them at point blank range. It was God’s mercy that I escaped their murderous onslaught.
“I hid myself in a store room when the attackers came. When I emerged from hiding, I saw many hundreds of burnt houses in our locality. The stench of burning flesh pervaded the locality. Some of the victims, who were thought to be dead by the killers, writhed in agony and relief took long to come. The police had vanished. Killer gangs were again on the loose in our locality all through the next day. Many non-Bengalis who tried to escape from this blazing inferno of a colony were done to death on the roads outside. At night, the killers kidnapped many non-Bengali girls and raped them in houses whose inmates were murdered. Many children were tossed into houses aflame and their mothers were forced at gunpoint to watch the gruesome scene. In two days of terror and fire, Fcrozeshah Colony looked like an atom-bombed township.............”
Noor Mohammad lost most of his relatives in the March 1971 massacres in East Pakistan. In April, 1971, he left Chittagong and came to Karachi.
“The scenes of that dreadful month are scared in my memory. Whole groups of adult people, it seemed, had gone mad with the urge to kill, burn, loot and rape. All the victims of this bloodlust were non-Bengalis. Some pro-Pakistan Bengalis, who tried to save their non-Bengali friends, were severely punished and even done to death”, said Noor Mohammad.
Forty-year-old Sharifan, whose two adult sons and husband were slaughtered before her dazed eyes on March 3, 1971, had this painful memory:
“My husband, Shamsul Haque, who was employed in a trading firm in Chittagong, my two grown-up sons and I lived in a hut in the Latifabad locality in Chittagong. On March 3, a violent mob of Bengalis attacked the non-Bengali hutments and houses in our locality. They set hundreds of huts and houses ablaze. They either shot the non-Bengali men or took them away in trucks as captives. Some non-Bengalis, who tried to escape from their burning houses, were mowed with rifle-fire; many perished in the conflagration...........”
“A killer gang looted my hut and then set it ablaze. As we ran out, one of the killers opened fire on us. My two sons were injured. My husband and I were utterly helpless; I tore my Sari to bandage their wounds but in about ten minutes’ time they were cold and dead. Wailing in anguish, we sought shelter in the mosque nearby. My husband, who was heart-broken, kneeled in prayer to the Almighty God. I washed the stains of my sons’ blood from my torn Sari. Just then there was a loud yelling and a killer mob swarmed into the mosque. They said they would kill all the non-Bengali men sheltered in the mosque. I fell on my knees and begged them to spare our menfolk as most of them were advanced in age. One of the attackers struck me with his boot. There was a rifle shot and, to my horror, I saw my loving husband falling to the ground as blood gushed from his chest. I fainted and remained unconscious for some hours.
“The women in the mosque, whose dear ones had been shot and killed, moved their dead bodies to a corner in the compound of the mosque, made sheets from their Saris and covered up the corpses. We had no axe or shovel with which we could dig graves for our dead. We lived in the mosque in tears, fear and terror for more than three weeks. Late in March, the federal troops lodged us in a Relief Camp in a school building. After the Indian occupation of East Pakistan in December 1971, the Mukti Bahini harassed us but the Red Cross saved and helped us. We were repatriated to Karachi in February 1974”.
Syed Sami Ahmed, 37, the lone survivor of a family of eight members, gave this grisly description of the slaughter in the Halishahar locality in Chittagong on March 23, 1971:
“About 4,000 Awami Leaguers, rebel soldiers and other miscreants attacked the non-Bengali houses in Halishahar in the forenoon of March 23. I was away from my house on work in another part of the city. The killer gangs looted my house and killed, with machine gunfire, my wife, my four little children, my teenage sister-in-law and my 13-year-old brother. The raiders burnt a part of my house. Not more than 15 per cent of the non-Bengali population in this locality survived the massacres on March 23, 25 and 27, 1971. The slaughterers used to tell their victims that they would not leave any Bihari alive. By Bihari, they meant any non-Bengali Muslim. Amongst the killers were many Hindus. They had plenty of arms and ammunition............”
After the federal troops secured Chittagong, Sami Ahmed lived for some months in his partly burnt house in Block No. I-193 in the Halishahar locality in Chittagong. After India’s seizure of East Pakistan in the third week of December 1971, the Mukti Bahini and the Awami Leaguers slaughtered more non-Bengalis. He was repatriated to Karachi in November 1973.
Mohammed Nabi Jan, 20, who witnessed the massacre of non-Bengalis in the populous Wireless Colony in Chittagong on March 26, 1971, and lay wounded for three days in a mound of dead bodies, narrated his weird, story in these words:
“Large clusters of non-Bengali houses had existed in the Wireless Colony for many years past. In the second week of March 1971, armed bands of Awami leaguers marked every non-Bengali house with a red sign. As they had set up a Peace Committee, in whose meetings they solemnly pledged that they would not harm the non-Bengalis, we were not unduly alarmed. From time to time, the Awami League volunteers extorted money from us. We had learnt of the Awami Leaguers’ attacks on non-Bengalis in some other parts of the city and we were getting worried. My father and my elder brother wanted us to leave Chittagong but all the escape routes were blocked by the rebels, So we were resigned to our fate. We had no guns with us; we were defenceless.............
“In the night of March 26, at about 9 o'clock, a huge mob of Bengalis, with blazing guns, attacked the houses of non-Bengalis in the Wireless Colony. They had no difficulty in identifying their houses as they were red-marked a few days earlier. The killer mob divided itself into groups and went on the rampage. Many of the killers were uniformed Bengali defectors from the East Bengal Regiment and the rebels of the East Pakistan Rifles. They broke into houses, asked no questions and sprayed gunfire on the inmates. After they had killed everything that moved, they looted the houses and stole articles of value from even dead bodies.
“A killer gang stormed our house and broke in with blazing guns. In a jiffy, I saw my father and my elder brother fall to the ground in a pool of blood. A bullet hit me in the thigh and I collapsed with a groan. They kidnapped my sister-in-law at gun-point. I remained unconscious for nearly three days. When I awoke, I found that my father, though badly wounded, was alive. My brother was dead. In the afternoon, the federal troops arrived and we were treated in a hospital…….”
Nabi Jan, who lived in Quarter No. L-14, G in the Wireless Colony, believes that more than 75 per cent of the non-Bengali population in the Wireless Colony was exterminated by the rebels during the March 1971 killings. Many of the survivors were done to death after India’s seizure of East Pakistan in December 1971. Nabi Jan was repatriated to Pakistan in December 1973.
Osman Ghani, 50, was employed in the Chittagong Port Trust and lived in the Bibirhat Colony in the Hamzabad locality in Chittagong. He gave this account of the slaughter in his locality in the night of March 26, 1971 when his only son and his elder brother were gunned to death:
“A huge mob of Awami League storm troopers, rebel soldiers and other cutthroats—all armed with guns and some with machine guns— attacked the non-Bengali houses in the Bibirhat Colony at about 10 p.m. on March 26. We had lived in terror for many days but we had not expected such a ferocious attack and in such huge numbers. We had no weapons with us. The Awami Leaguers had red-marked our houses in the middle of the month. The raiders, firing their guns, smashed into the houses of non-Bengalis and riddled all the male inmates with bullets. A killer gang broke the door of my house and gunned my elder brother. My wife tried to shield our 11-year-old son and begged the killers for mercy but the brutes shot him with a sten gun. They struck my wife with a rifle-butt on the head as she leaned over the writhing body of our dear little son. That night I was held up in the Port area and escaped death by inches. My house was inaccessible for three days. On March 29, when I went to my house, I cried in horror over the extermination of my family by the Bengali rebels”.
Osman Ghani was repatriated to Pakistan in December 1973. In his view, the rebels had started piling up arms for the planned armed uprising from the first week of March and India was a source of arms supply.
Fahmida Begum, 36, whose husband, Ghulam Nabi, was employed in a trading firm in Chittagong, saw the horrifying slaughter of her husband, her three sons and a little daughter in their house in Halishahar in Chittagong on March 23, 1971. In a flurry of sobs and a burst of tears, she said:
“The killer gang tore off the locked door of our house in the course of their full-scale raid on our colony in the night of March 23. They machine-gunned my husband who collapsed with blood streaming from his chest. When the butchers turned their attention to my three young sons I grappled with the killers and snatched one of their guns. I did not know how to operate it. Waspishly, a rebel hit me on the head with his rifle and I fell down. They trussed me up with ropes and said that they would slaughter my children before me. One by one, they beheaded my three sons and kicked their severed heads. The killers bayoneted my little daughter and I fainted in horror. Imprinted on my memory is that dreadful scene—the terrorised look in the innocent eyes of my pretty little child, her desperate attempt to run towards me as the sharp gleaming edge of the bayonet touched her throat and her stifled groan of “Ami Bachao” (Mother, Save me). God will certainly punish those killers; they were not men but beasts..........”
Fahmida lived in a Relief Camp in Chittagong and was repatriated to Karachi in February 1974.
Bashir Hussain, 47, who lived in a small house in Tajpara in the Halishahar township in Chittagong, lost his two sons in the massacre of non-Bengalis in his locality on March 25, 1971. He was severely wounded and the killers left him as dead. But after two days he regained consciousness and has lived to tell the world of the tragedy in his life. He said in Karachi, after his repatriation from Chittagong, in February 1974:
“Between March 15 and 26, Halishahar was a special target of attack by the rebels. They conducted their genocidal operations against the non-Bengalis in various localities of the township every day, all through this period of fire and death.
“On March 25, they attacked my house and machine-gunned me and my two grown-up sons. I lost consciousness as I saw my two loving sons fall to the ground in a pool of blood. I was hit in the back and the thighs. The federal troops rescued me on the fifth day and I was treated in a hospital. My two sons were dead........
“The rebels, to a great extent, succeeded in their goal of exterminating the male members of non-Bengali families in my locality. They kidnapped non-Bengali young women by the thousands; many were ravished and some brutally killed.........”
Shahid Hussain Abdi, 24, whose father worked as a Stores Officer in the Ispahani Jute Mills in Chittagong, gave this harrowing account of the massacre of non-Bengalis in the Mill area and its neighbourhood and the fiendish human abattoir set up by the rebels in the Workers' Recreation Club in the Mill premises in March 1971:
“We lived in the staff quarters of the Ispahani Jute Mills. As Stores Officer, my father was kind to all the Mill employees — non-Bengalis and Bengalis alike. The number of non-Bengali employees and their families, most of whom lived in the Mill area, was close to 3,000. Since the middle of March, the Awami League militants and their supporters amongst the Bengali millhands were belligerently hostile towards the non-Bengalis. Between March 23 and 28, they raided the houses of the non-Bengalis, hijacked the men at gunpoint and butchered them in the slaughter-house set up in the factory’s Recreation Club. Tortures of unimaginable brutality were inflicted on the victims before they were beheaded. There were syringes for drawing blood from the veins of the victims and for their storage in containers. The rebels carried the blood to their hospitals for their wounded soldiers and other jingoes. The killer gangs, a couple of days before the Army occupied the area, slaughtered hundreds of women and children in this human abattoir...........”
Shahid Hussain was repatriated to Karachi in the middle of 1973 from Nepal. He had escaped from Chittagong to Kathmandu in 1972. He thinks that nearly 75 per cent of the non-Bengali male population in the Ispahani Jute Mills perished in the March 1971 massacre. Many of the non-Bengalis slaughtered in the Mill area were buried in mass graves hours before the federal army drove out the rebels.
Mohammed Sharfuddin, 40, who lived in House No. 673 in A Block in Halishahar, Chittagong, and worked as a motor mechanic, lost his two brothers in the massacre of non-Bengalis in March 1971. Repatriated to Karachi from Chittagong in February 1974, he said:
“A little more than half of the population of some 50,000 people in Halishahar consisted of non-Bengalis. For the past 24 years, they had lived in these settlements. Their relations with the Bengalis were cordial. All of them spoke Bengali fluently but in their homes they spoke Urdu. Many of the inhabitants in this locality originally hailed from the Indian State of Bihar. But there were also many West Pakistani families, including Punjabis and Pathans. The Bengalis called them Biharis, too...........
“In the night of March 18, a rampaging mob of Awami League militants, rebel Bengali soldiers and thugs attacked our part of the colony and looted our houses and slaughtered all the male members of non-Bengali families. In my house, they gunned my two brothers and kidnapped their young wives. After the federal army took over Chittagong, I searched every nook and corner of Chittagong to locate my missing sisters-in-law but there was no trace of them. At least 75 per cent of the male non-Bengali population in Halishahar was wiped out by the rebels in March 1971.......”
Mosharaf Hussain, 35, who owned a Jute Baling Press in Chittagong and lived in the Agrabad locality, gave this account of the grisly events in March 1971:
“I had migrated from India to East Pakistan in 1950. I had transferred all my assets worth a million rupees to Chittagong. I prospered in the Jute trade and I bought a Jute Baling Press whose market value was two million rupees. "On March 21, a violent mob, led by Awami League militants, attacked my Jute Baling Press and set it ablaze. They also burnt the jute stocks and my shop which was located in the commercial hub of Chittagong........
“For more than two years, I lived in abject poverty. With great difficulty, I succeeded in coming to Pakistan in December 1973 from Chittagong. It was sheer good luck and God s mercy that my family and I escaped the massacre of the non-Bengalis in March 1971.........”
Yunus Ahmed, 28, who was employed in an Insurance Firm in Chittagong, lost his 22-ycar-old brother in the massacre of non-Bengalis in the Ferozeshah Colony on March 18, 1971. He said in Karachi after his repatriation in February 1974:
“I had come with my parents as a child from India to Chittagong in 1949. Chittagong was our home town; we loved it. After the death of my father, I brought up my two younger brothers who were students in 1971..........
“In the night of March 18, a killer gang of Awami Leaguers and rebel soldiers, armed with rifles and sten guns, raided our locality and slaughtered non-Bengali men by the thousands. One of my two brothers was at home; the killers burst into our house and riddled him with bullets. My other brother was away at that time in another part of Chittagong. I was also not at home when the killers came and killed my brother. They burnt hundreds of houses. Our Colony had borne the brunt of their previous attack on March 3, but on March 18 the raiders came armed with automatic weapons and explosives and the slaughter was savage. They kidnapped hundreds of non-Bengali young women, especially teenage girls. Many of their dead bodies were found early in April in houses used for mass torture and as sex assault chambers”.
Twenty-five year old Rahima, the Bengali widow of Shahid Ali, who lived with her husband and her four children in a house in the Shershah Colony in Chittagong, said:
“I am a Bengali by birth, having been born in Faridpur. My husband, Shahid Ali, hailed from Lucknow in India and I liked him and we were married. He was a gentle person who loved Chittagong and respected our Bengali friends............
“In a raid on our house in the Shershah Colony in the third week of March 1971, the killer gang murdered my husband. I begged them to spare his life and even fell at their feet. But they were mad thugs who were out for a kill. Amongst the raiders were some Hindus whose hatred of the non-Bengalis was intense...........
“If the Government had swiftly crushed the violence and terror unleashed by the Awami League militants in the first week of March 1971, the trouble may nave been nipped in the bud. By giving the long rope to the rebels, the Government emboldened them and they got ample time to plan and execute their Operation “Loot, Burn and Kill” against the non-Bengalis in Chittagong.........
“Amongst the thousands massacred in Chittagong in March, 1971, were many Bengalis who were loyal to Pakistan. Some Bengalis, who protected non-Bengalis, were also killed by the rebels..........
“My four children are my late husband’s legacy to me. I am in Pakistan with them because they are born Pakistanis..........”
Mrs. Rahima Abbasi, 40, who worked as a teacher in the Lions’ School in Chittagong, gave this account of the raid on her school on March 21, 1971:
“We lived in our own house on M. A. Jinnah Road. My husband was in business and I worked as a teacher in the Lions’ School which was an English medium school. We had students from Bengali and non-Bengali middle class families...........
“On March 21, a violent mob of Bengalis, led by Awami League militants, raided our school. They injured the School’s Chowkidar (Watchman) who had closed the front gate. As a Bengali, he appealed to them not to cause a disturbance in the school. One of the attackers shot him in the leg and he collapsed. The vicious crowd then swarmed into our office and the classrooms. They molested the female teachers and students. When we realised that they had plans to kidnap our girls, we raised a hue and cry and our screams for help attracted the neighbours. About 50 of them, led by a prominent pro-Pakistan Bengali leader of our locality, came to our rescue and grappled with the raiders. In the fight that ensued, three of the raiders were killed and the others escaped. No one amongst the teachers and the students was injured. The school was closed for some days after this incident............”
Mrs. Abbasi, her husband and their children were repatriated to Karachi from Chittagong in March 1974.
Rahim Afindi, who was employed in a shipping firm in Chittagong and who had a miraculous escape from death when the Bengali insurgents murdered non-Bengalis in the Chittagong port area, gave this account of his hair-raising experience in March 1971:
“I was employed in the shipping firm of Messrs. Yaqub Ah and Sons in Chittagong. The owner of the firm, Mr. Yaqub Ali, was a God-fearing Muslim, devoted to Islam and the ideology of Pakistan. A Bengali, he was in the Pakistan Movement in pre-Independence Bengal and knew many prominent Muslim League Bengali leaders. He was closely related to a one-time Speaker of the Pakistan National Assembly, Mr. Fazlul Qader Chowdhury. He had many non-Bengali employees in his firm and he treated them as well as his Bengali employees............
“On March 20, Mr. Yaqub Ali took me to the Chittagong harbour where a ship whose unloading was to be done by his firm was docked. We went on board the ship and Mr. Yaqub Ali talked to the Captain. Suddenly, we heard yells for help and the echo of gunshots from down below. We rushed from the Captain’s cabin to the deck and saw that killer mobs, armed with guns, were slaughtering people on the wharf. Mr. Yaqub Ali asked me to stay on board the ship with the Captain and he rushed down the gangway to the quay. A very brave man, he ran into the crowd of the killers and appealed to them in the name of God not to slaughter the innocents. Some one in the killer gang shouted that Yaqub Ali was pro-Pakistan and a Muslim Leaguer. In a matter of minutes, the killer gang killed him and chopped up his dead body before flinging it into the sea. Subsequently, I learnt that Yaqub Ali Saheb shouted “Pakistan Zindabad” (Long Live Pakistan) as the killer gang ordered him to shout “Joy Bangla” (Long Live Bangla) before they killed him............”
Rahim Afindi was sheltered by the Captain of the ship for some days. He escaped the massacre of non-Bengalis. In March 1974, he was repatriated to Pakistan. He is certain that more than 50,000 non-Bengalis perished in the March 1971 carnage in Chittagong and its neighbouring localities.
Nasim Ahmed, 22, who lived with his father, a prominent Muslim League activist, in their own house in Pahartali area of Chittagong, gave this narrative of his father’s murder by the rebels:
“My father, Mr. Wasim Ahmed, was a well-known and thriving businessman in Chittagong. He was devoted to the ideology of Pakistan and was active in the local Muslim League. Bengalis and non-Bengalis alike respected him for his integrity and for his courage. He helped many charitable causes.............
“On March 20, 1971, he was on his way to the main Community Centre of our area in connection with a meeting of prominent citizens which had been called to devise ways of maintaining peace in the town. On the way, a rampaging mob of rebels overpowered him and slaughtered him. Shortly afterwards, the killer mob went berserk and looted and burnt hundreds of non-Bengali homes.”
Nasim Ahmed and his widowed mother were sheltered by a Godfearing Bengali family and they survived the carnage. In September, 1973. they were repatriated to Pakistan. Nasim Ahmed thinks that more than 75,000 non-Bengalis were butchered in the March-April, 1971 carnage in Chittagong and its neighbourhood. Another 10,000 non-Bengalis, in his view, perished in the wake of India’s seizure of East Pakistan on December 17, 1971. The most savage killings, he said, were done by the Bengali rebel soldiers who had automatic weapons and the local Hindus who hated the non-Bengalis.
Jamdad Khan, 42, who worked as a Security Guard, in the Gul Ahmed Jute Mills in Agrabad in Chittagong, testified:
“I had joined the Gul Ahmed Jute Mills as a Security Guard in July 1971. Before that I lived in the N.W.F.P. In Chittagong, I lived in a quarter in the Nasirabad Housing area. I had heard from non-Bengalis about the mass slaughter which the Bengali rebels had conducted in March 1971 in Chittagong. One day, on my way to the Jute Mill, I spotted a small human skull lying outside a deserted house. Through a crack in a window, I looked inside. To my horror, the skulls and bones of many children lay in heaps inside the locked room. Some clothes were strewn on the floor and they looked to be the ones usually worn by non-Bengali children. With the help of some friends, I dug a grave and interred the remains of the innocents in it. Subsequently, I learnt that in March 1971, this house was used as a slaughter-house by the rebels and they had killed many women and children in it..........
“After India’s seizure of East Pakistan on December 17, 1971, the Mukti Bahini and Awami League storm troopers again went on the rampage against non-Bengalis. Amongst those killed were many hundreds of Punjabis and Pathans who were doing business in Chittagong or were employed in the administration and firms. The non-Bengalis were sheltered in camps put up by the Red Cross but it was the daily practice of the Mukti Bahini and Awami league militants to kidnap non-Bengalis by the scores. They were tortured in jails and killed. Their dead bodies were thrown into the sea. To win the sympathy of the Indian military officers stationed in Chittagong, the local Awami Leaguers dug up the dead bodies of hundreds of non-Bengalis from shallow mass graves and showed them as the skeletons of Bengalis murdered by the Pakistan Army. The Awami League politicians also showed these skeletons to foreign newsmen, especially Indian journalists. The Indian military, thereupon, gave a free hand to the Mukti Bahini to pick off as many non-Bengalis as they wished from the Red Cross camps. Living conditions in these camps were dreadful. We drank polluted water and we ate stinking bread”.
Thirty-year-old Zaibunnissa, whose husband, Mohammed Ahmed, was employed as a Postman in Chittagong, gave this account of his murder by the Bengali rebels on March 25, 1971:
“At about 10 a.m. on March 25, a dozen armed Bengali militants entered our house in Sholashahar in Chittagong. In the killer gang were two Hindus whose names I heard from their accomplices. Three gunmen overpowered my husband and shot him dead. The other raiders looted my house with the thoroughness of trained burglars. I grappled with one of the killers when he trained his gun at one of my small children. I snatched his gun but I did not know how to fire it. All the thugs grabbed me and slapped and kicked me. They dragged the dead body of my husband to a pit and dumped it there. Our Bengali neighbours watched the raid on our house in mute silence; they said they were too scared to come to our help. They helped me bury the body of my departed husband.......
“On March 26, an armed rebel came to my house and told me that they had orders to kill every male non-Bengali in the locality. He said that I should not shelter any non-Bengali friends otherwise I and my children would be done to death. We were very scared. On March 27, we left our home through a back door, walked three miles to a place where some Burmese families lived and sought shelter with one of them. They looked after us like angels. On April 9, after the Pakistan Army had re-established its control over Chittagong and our locality, we returned to our home. After India’s armed grab of East Pakistan, the Mukti Bahini terrorised us, deprived us of our home and we lived in a Red Cross Camp. In January 1974, my four children and I were repatriated to Pakistan...........
Fifty-year-old Mujeeba Khatoon, who lived in Quarter No. 78/K in the Sagoon Bagan locality in Chittagong, said that her eldest son died of a heart attack when a killer gang attacked their house and looted it on March 3, 1971. The raiders checked his body to ensure that he was dead. “They said they were sparing me because of my old age”, Mujeeba Khatoon said. Her other son, who saw the killings of non-Bengalis in Santahar, lost his mental balance because of the shock of it. All her other relatives in East Pakistan perished in the carnage. In January 1974, she was repatriated to Karachi from a Red Cross Camp in Chittagong.
Nabihun Bibi, 70, who lived in Quarter No. 100 in the Raufabad locality in Chittagong, gave this account of the brutal murder of her aged husband by the Bengali rebels in March 1971:
“A killer gang of rebels had raided our locality a number of times since their first murderous assault on March 3. On March 25, they made a full-blast attack on our colony. A gang of armed Bengalis broke into our house and killed my aged, sick husband, Abdul Majid. I begged them to spare an old, ailing man but they said they had instructions to kill every male non-Bengali. One of them said: “We arc not killing you because one of these days you will come to work in our homes as a domestic servant............
“After the federal army secured Chittagong, we lived in peace for nine months. But after India’s capture of East Pakistan in December 1971, the Mukti Bahini and Awami League volunteers staged a second bloodbath of non-Bengalis. They drove me out of my house, saying that as a non-Bengali I had no claim to even an inch of Bengali soil. For some two years I lived in a Relief Camp in Chittagong and was repatriated to Pakistan in February 1974”
Twenty-seven-year-old Tahmeena Khatoon, whose husband was employed in the Amin Jute Mills in Chittagong, lived in the Feroze-shah Colony. She gave this account of the murder of her husband by the Bengali rebels in March 1971:
“On March 15, a group of Bengalis knocked on our door and called out the name of my husband, Amanatullah. He met them and they said that he was urgently wanted at the Jute Mill. One of the callers was an employee of the Mill whom he knew. I urged him not to go because I had heard that the Bengali rebels were using all manner of ruses to kidnap non-Bengalis and they were subsequently murdered. My husband ignored my plea and went with them. After an hour, one of the callers returned and told me that my husband's life would be spared if I paid him Rs. 500. I scraped up all the cash I had with me and gave it to him. I ran with him to see the place where my husband was held but the thug gave me the slip and vanished. When I returned home, two trucks, with armed Bengalis, arrived and they looted all the valuables in our house. They took away even the furniture and the crockery. The next day I learnt that the rebels had murdered my husband. I tried to go to my father’s place but his locality was under rebel control. Two days later, I heard that he was also killed by the rebels during a raid on his locality”.
Halima Bibi, 27, saw her husband, Mohammed Wakeel, butchered by the Bengali rebels on March 28, 1971 in a savage attack on non-Bengali homes in the Raufabad locality of Chittagorg. She said: “More than a dozen of my relatives perished in the March 1971 massacres in East Pakistan". She continued:
“On March 28, a killer mob raided our locality and ransacked the houses of non-Bengalis. They looted all the valuables in these homes and carted them away in trucks. They also looted my house and set it ablaze. As my husband and I ran from our burning home, two gunmen riddled my husband with bullets and he died on the spot. I begged the killers to finish me off too because I had no relatives left in Chittagong. “After a while we will have you as our domestic servant”, they replied. I buried my dead husband in a shallow pit and covered it with mud. I sought refuge in a mosque for a day and then I went back to my partially burnt out house. The federal troops arrived in the first week of April, 1971, and offered to shift me to a Relief Camp. I asked them to find out whether my father who lived in Santahar was alive. They made prompt inquiries and I was informed that the Bengali rebels had murdered him……
Halima was repatriated to Pakistan from the Red Cross Camp in Chittagong in February 1974.
Romaisha Khatoon, 35, whose husband, Anzarul Haq, was a Railway employee, lived in Quarter No. 763 in Block B in the Halishahar Housing Estate in Chittagong. On March 25, a killer gang kidnapped him from his house and murdered him in the slaughterhouse set up by the rebels in the Government Rest House. Romaisha, who was repatriated to Pakistan from Chittagong along with her three children in December 1973, sobbed out her woeful story in these words:
“The Bengali rebels had made a murderous attack on our locality on March 3. But they did not break into our house. On March 23, a killer gang raided our house and trucked away all the valuables we had, including our furniture and crockery. They warned us not to leave our house because all the escape routes were blocked. We were defenceless. They had carried away even the kitchen knives in our home.........
“In the night of March 25, a killer gang attacked our locality again. They blasted the door of my house and grabbed my husband. I threw myself at the feet of the raiders and begged them to spare my husband. They kicked me in the head. I wailed; I screamed and I entreated but the killers forced him into a jeep and drove away. I heard them say in Bengali that they were heading for the Rest House. I knew that my husband was being dragged to the execution chamber because the Rest House had become notorious as a slaughter-house set up by the rebels. Hundreds of non-Bengali males, kidnapped from their homes in our locality, were taken to this human abattoir for slaughter. After the federal army captured Chittagong from the rebels, I approached the Pakistani military personnel for help in locating the dead body of my husband. They said that the dead bodies in the slaughter-house in the Rest House were mutilated beyond recognition and that there was no trace of my husband's body..............”
Salma Khatoon, 35, whose husband worked as a tailor in the Raufabad locality of Chittagong, testified that a killer gang of rebels attacked her house at night on March 25, 1971 and slaughtered her husband. Ali Raza, his younger brother and her nephew. The raiders looted every article of value in her house and set it ablaze. She said:
“The raiders were mad killers. They said they had orders to kill every male non-Bengali. We are sparing you, they said, so that in the near future we can employ you as a domestic servant in our homes. After two and a half years of miserable life, my children and I were repatriated to Pakistan in February 1974”.
Fatema Begum, 40, who lived with her husband, Abdur Rahman, a businessman, in a house in Raufabad in Chittagong, reported that a gang of armed Bengali rebels raided her house on March 25, 1971, and killed her husband. They looted her house and trucked away all the loot. Fatema said:
“Murder and loot were the principal motives of the aimed rebels when they raided the homes of non-Bengails. The killers followed a set pattern in their “Operation Loot, Burn and Kill” in Chittagong. The vast majority of the adult male non-Bengalis was eliminated by the rebels in a month of ruthless killing…..”
Fatema and her children were repatriated to Karachi from Chittagong in February 1974. They had spent nearly two and a quarter years in a Red Cross Relief Camp in Chittagong. She said:
“Hundreds of teenage girls were kidnapped from our locality by the Bengali rebels. We found no trace of them after the rebels retreated. There were reports that the killers violated their chastity, murdered them and threw their bodies into the Karnaphuli river”.
Sayeeda Begum, 55, whose husband, Maqbool Ahmed Khan, was employed in the East Pakistan Railway at Chittagong, lived in an apartment in “C” Building (Number 21) in the Ferozeshah Colony in Chittagong. After her repatriation to Pakistan in February 1974, Sayeeda testified:
“The Bengali rebels made their first raid on our colony on March 3. They burnt and looted a number of houses owned by non-Bengalis and kidnapped a number of non-Bengali menfolk……..”
“On March 25, a gang of armed rebels smashed the front door of our flat and overpowered my husband. They fastened him with ropes and dragged him outside the building. Our neighbours were helpless because their men were also being kidnapped in a similar manner. The Bengali rebels looted my house and carried away all the booty in a truck...........
“On April 9, when the federal army came to our help, I scoured every nook and corner of Chittagong to trace out my husband but there was no sign of him. I learnt that the rebels had taken all their victims from our locality to a slaughterhouse where they were done to death and their dead bodies were thrown into the Karnaphuli river. The Mukti Bahini drove me out of my house after its occupation of Chittagong in December 1971. My only son and I lived in a camp set up by the Red Cross in Chittagong for two years...........”
Sayeeda Khatoon, 34, whose husband, Bafati Hussain, was employed as a Watchman at the Chittagong Port Trust, lived in Quarter No. 594 on Road No. 1 in Block A in the Halishahar locality in Chittagong. Repatriated to Karachi in January 1974, she said:
“On March 5, a killer gang stole into our house. At gunpoint, they tied my father and my elder brother with ropes and carted them away in a truck. They looted my house and carried all the loot with them.........
“In the afternoon, a Bengali boy, who had known our family, brought me the shocking news that the rebels had murdered my father and my brother and thrown their bodies into the river. When the Pakistan Army re-occupied Chittagong, I brought my aged mother from her gutted house to our home. My husband had survived the slaughter in the Port area.............
“After the Indian victory in December 1971, the Mukti Bahini went on the rampage against non-Bengalis, looting and killing. We survived the carnage. In November 1972, my husband died after a short illness. We had no money left for medicines, and proper medical treatment for the non-Bengalis in the hospitals was difficult to get.”
Zainab Bibi, 55, who lived with her two teenage sons in Quarter No. 111 in Raufabad in Chittagong, thus narrated the story of the murder of her dear ones by the Bengali rebels in March 1971:
“On March 3, when the first raid on the houses of non-Bengalis was conducted by the Bengali rebels in Chittagong, my two sons and I escaped into the nearby woods and we spent the night there...........
“On March 25, a large killer gang again raided our Colony. They came so suddenly that we had no time to escape. I made my two sons slip under the cot which had a mattress over it The killers knew that I was a widow and that I had two sons. They had made inquiries about my household before the raid. They looted my house and took away even the rice in the kitchen. Just when they were leaving, they remembered the mattress on my cot and one of them rushed inside to pick it up. He spotted my two sons cowering in fear under the cot. He yelled and the killer gang rushed in again. One of them slapped and kicked me for hiding my two sons and said that they would be shot before me. I fell down on their feet and begged them to spare my beloved sons. But the killers had become savages. They lined up my two sons against the wall and shot them at point blank range. I rushed towards them and the killers bashed my head with a rifle butt. I lost consciousness…….
“I woke up in a hospital. The federal Army had taken me there for treatment. I refused to go back to my house; I was mentally upset. The dreadful scene of the slaughter of my two sons haunted me day and night. I was lodged in a Relief Camp. After the Indians and the Mukti Bahini occupied Chittagong in December 1971, the non-Bengalis were subjected to a fresh bloodbath by the vicious victors. I have no relatives left in the world. In February 1974, I was repatriated to Karachi. I no longer live in constant fear of the brutes who killed my loving sons but I have lost the zest for life and I await a date with my Maker...........”
Hasina Khatoon, 25, whose husband, Mohammed Yasin, was employed in the Amin Jute Mills in Chittagong, lived in a rented house in the Sholashahar locality in Chittagong. They had escaped the March 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis by running off into the forest in the nick of time. After the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini occupied Chittagong in the third week of December 1971, a killer gang raided their locality. They again tried to escape but her husband was hit in the leg by bullets. As Hasina leaned over to help her husband to rise and walk, her 4-month-old daughter slipped from her arm and hit the ground, head first. She massaged the child’s head and heart but tile baby died on the road. While her husband writhed in pain, she dug a shallow grave and buried her child. Repatriated to Karachi from Chittagong in February, 1974, she said:
“A God-fearing Bengali saw our plight and came to our rescue. He took my wounded husband to the main hospital and pleaded with the Bengali doctors to admit him for treatment. It seemed they were reluctant to do so because he was a Bihari. Medical treatment improved his condition. I took up employment in a home and gave him my earnings for the purchase of medicine. On February 6, 1972, when I went to see him in the Hospital I was told that he was dead. I learnt that some Bihari patients had died in the hospital for want of proper attention and care.”
Hasina lived in a Red Cross Camp in Chittagong for two years and was repatriated to Pakistan in February, 1974.
Batoolan, 40, whose husband was employed in the Amin Jute Mills in Chittagong and who lived in the Bibirhat locality, said:
“On March 25, a killer gang of Bengali rebels drove us out of our house at gunpoint. They looted it and then set it ablaze. The killers said that there was no place for us in East Pakistan. When our house was reduced to a rubble, my husband, Mohamed Mustafa, my little daughter and I sought refuge in a Mosque. Another gang of killers raided this House of God. When they were grappling with my husband in order to tie him up with ropes, I tried to snatch a gun from one of the killers. He struck me with a bayonet and my arm bled profusely. The killers dragged my husband to a waiting truck outside the mosque and sped away to what I learnt was a human abattoir set up by the Bengali rebels for murdering the non-Bengali men. My little daughter and I lived in the Mosque for a week; we starved for days. We were rescued by the Pakistan Army. We were later on lodged in a Relief Camp...............”
Batoolan and her daughter were repatriated to Karachi in February 1974.
“March 25, 1971 was the horrible day on which I was widowed by the Bengali rebels”, said 30-year-old Zaibunnissa who lived in the Ferozeshah Colony in Chittagong. Her husband, Akhtar Hussain, was employed as a clerk in the Ispahani tea company in Chittagong. Repatriated to Karachi with her three children in February 1974, Zaibunnissa said:
“Our colony was raided intermittently by the Bengali rebels since March 3, 1971 but we had escaped the killers. On March 25, a large killer gang attacked our locality and looted hundreds of homes and burnt many. They looted my house and trucked away all the valuables which we had gathered over the years. They tied up my husband with ropes and took him away in a truck. I learnt that the Bengali rebels, in their March 25 raid, kidnapped non-Bengali men by the hundreds. Those who tried to escape were shot. The rebels, I was told, took my husband to a slaughter-house where he, along with the other non-Bengali captives, was butchered. After the Pakistani troops re-occupied Chittagong, I visited jails and the buildings where the rebels had set up the human abattoirs but I could find no trace of my husband. The rebels usually threw the dead bodies of their victims in the Karnaphuli river.............”
“I lost consciousness as I saw, in utter helplessness, the throat of my husband being slit by a Bengali cutthroat on March 3, 1971”, said 40-year old Mahila Khatoon who was repatriated from Chittagong to Karachi with her two children in February 1974. Mahila lived in a shack in the Wireless Colony in Chittagong. She reported:
“My husband, Sheikh Amanat, was employed in the Amin Jute Mills in Chittagong. On March 3, 1971, a huge mob of Bengali rebels, yelling “Joi Bangla”, invaded our predominantly non-Bengali locality. They looted hundreds of houses and burnt many of them. As the victims tried to escape from their blazing houses, the rebels gunned them. A killer squad stormed my house; they stole every article of value that we had. They overpowered my husband. I lunged at one of the killers who was brandishing a large knife, ready for the ‘kill’. He struck me on the head and I fell down. The next moment I saw him slashing the throat of my helpless husband. I lost my senses and was unconscious. For three months, I had frequent attacks of delirium. The Pakistan Army removed me and my children to a camp in the Sardar Bahadur School. In February 1974, we were repatriated to Karachi...............”
“The Bengali rebels lined up all the non-Bengali men who had sought refuge in the main Mosque of our locality on March 24, 1971 and mowed them with machine gunfire. I fainted when I saw my husband, Nizamuddin, slump to the ground in a pool of blood”, said Hamida, 30, who lived in the vicinity of the Ferozeshah Colony in Chittagong. Her husband was employed in the East Pakistan Railway at Chittagong. She was repatriated to Karachi in January 1974. Hamida said:
“On March 23, 1971, a violent mob raided our locality. They looted and burnt hundreds of houses. My house was also looted and put to the torch by the rebels. My husband and I succeeded in escaping to a nearby Mosque. There were many other terrorised non-Bengali families sheltered in the Mosque. At night, we saw the flames leaping from what until yesterday was a populous, smiling settlement................
“In the forenoon of March 24, 1971, fifty Bengali gunmen, riding in trucks and jeeps, stormed the Mosque with blazing guns. They ordered all the non-Bengali men to assemble in the compound of the Mosque. Those who tried to escape were immediately shot. After lining up all their victims against the wall of the Mosque, the Bengali gunmen mowed them with their machine guns. There were no survivors. The killers stayed in the Mosque for two hours in order to ensure that none of their murdered victims survived. We were ordered not to touch the bodies of our dear ones. I lost consciousness when I saw my husband falling to the ground, with blood bursting from his chest. After three days, we trekked back to our burnt houses. Later on, the federal army moved us to a Relief Camp...........”
Mobina Khatoon, 37, lived in the Jhautalla Colony in Pahartali in Chittagong. Her husband, Azizur Rahman, was employed as a Fitter in a Government workshop. They had escaped the March 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis in Chittagong. But her elder brother and his wife and children were slaughtered in their house in Dinajpur and their bodies were burnt. The brothers of her husband were murdered in March 1971 in Mymensingh and in Kalurghat in Chittagong. She lost her husband in January 1972 when the Mukti Bahini was in control and another bloodbath of non-Bengalis was being conducted. Repatriated to Karachi in January 1974, Mobina Khatoon said:
“On January 8, 1972, my husband was ill. He left the house in order to go to the Hospital for treatment. On the way, he was waylaid by a Mukti Bahini gang which gunned him to death. At night, I left my house in search of him. Some Bengalis who had known us told me that they had seen a dead body lying in a ditch a furlong away. I ran towards it. Inside the pit lay the bullet-riddled body of my husband. I felt like killing myself but the thought of my children made me live on.........”
Sanjeeda Khatoon, 35, whose husband worked in the Electric Supply office in Chittagong, lived in a small house in the Halishahar locality in Chittagong. Repatriated to Karachi in January 1974, Sanjeeda gave this pathetic account of the murder of her husband by the Bengali rebels in March 1971:
“Panic-stricken by the gruesome slaughter conducted by the rebels in non-Bengali settlements in Chittagong since March 3, about 250 non-Bengali men, women and children of our locality took refuge in a large walled building. My husband and I and our three children were in this building. Our house was looted and burnt by the rebels in the course of raids on our locality in the past few weeks............
“On March 27, about 500 armed rebels, some brandishing machine guns, stormed our building. We were defenceless; we did not have even a kitchen knife. Resistance was out of question. The killers, aiming guns at us, told the menfolk that if they wanted their women and children to live they should line up in the compound of the building. The men kissed their children and said goodbye to their wives, mothers and sisters. They were lined up in the compound and in less than ten minutes the Bengali gunmen mowed them with bullets.....................
“The killer gang then led us to a godown which looked like a stinking dungeon. There was filth all over the floor. We were herded inside it. I had lost the urge to live because of the murder of my husband by the rebels in the building. My children were starving. In this dungeon, even water was denied to us. I heard one of the Bengali guards say that on the morrow they would burn us to death. The killers had brought kerosene oil tins to burn the godown. At night, I slipped my little son out of a window and asked him to unlock the main door of the godown, which was bolted in the middle and not locked. The Bengali guards, it seemed, had been drafted by the rebels to block the advance of the Pakistani troops who had gone into action against the rebels. Our escape bid was successful and we raced towards the main Hospital which had come under the Army’s control. Many of us were almost naked because our Saris were torn in the escape bid. The federal troops gave us clothes to wear. Some of us were lodged in a Relief Camp. Others went to live with their relatives who had survived the massacre...............”
Eye-witnesses gave heart-rending accounts of the murder of non-Bengali employees in the Usmania Glass Works on March 27, and in the Hafiz Jute Mills and the Ispahani Jute Mills in Chittagong in March and April 1971. In the slaughter in the Amin Jute Mills at Bibirhat, some 2000 non-Bengalis—members of the staff and their families— were slaughtered. In the Usmania Glass Works, almost all the West Pakistani staff members were butchered. In the Hafiz Jute Mills, a killer mob looted and burnt the house of its non-Bengali Proprietor and killed 150 non-Bengali employees and their families. In the Ispahani Jute Mills, there were very few survivors of the slaughter of non-Bengalis. Stacks of mutilated dead bodies of the hapless victims, whose blood had been drained out before they were done to death, were found by the federal troops in the Recreation Club for Mill workers which the rebels used as a human abattoir.
Many other parts of the Chittagong Division were stricken by the Awami League-instigated civil strife in March and April 1971. Witnesses said that the slaying of non-Bengalis and the wanton looting of their property had taken place in Nazirhat, Anwara, Dohazari, Kumira and Hathazari. When tension was sparked off at these places in the middle of March, 1971, many non-Bengali families fled to Chittagong city. In their absence, vandals looted their houses. A few non-Bengali families in Cox’s Bazar were also the victims of genocidal violence.
Wajihunnissa, 35, whose husband was employed in the Central Excise Department and was posted at Chandraghona, gave this account of the March 1971 slaughter of non-Bengalis in her township:
“In the second week of March 1971, Awami League gangs visited the non-Bengalis in our locality and assured them that no harm would touch them if they surrendered their weapons. My husband, Maqsood Alam, who was an excellent marksman, complied with their instructions and gave up his gun.....
“In the third week of March, roving bands of armed Awami Leaguers terrorised the non-Bengalis and extorted money from them. They had blocked all the escape routes.
“On March 26, an armed group of Awami Leaguers called at our house and ordered my husband to go with them to his office, I knew that it was a ruse and that they were after the blood of my husband....
“On March 27, another killer gang raided my house. They told me and the three brothers of my husband that the Deputy Commissioner of Rangamati had instructed that we should be taken to his office to protect us. As we prepared to go, the killers asked me at gunpoint to stay back. They roped my brothers-in-law together and put them in a truck......
“In the afternoon, a huge mob of Bengali rebels raided our locality and looted the houses of non-Bengalis. Our menfolk had been kidnapped. A killer gang ransacked my house and looted everything, except the ceiling fans and wardrobes. They drove the non-Bengali women and children, like cattle, to a large compound where we were ordered to stay. For fifteen days we were starved, and we prayed to God for help. On April 13, our captors learnt that the Pakistani troops were marching towards Chandraghona. The rebels ordered us to fall in line and we knew that they would open fire on us. Some of us tried to break loose and there was a melee. All of a sudden a shell fell and burst a few yards away from the compound where we were herded by our captors. We saw in the far distance a company of Pakistani soldiers, waving the Green and Crescent flag, racing towards us. Our cowardly captors took fright and scampered like mice running away from a cat. The Pakistani troops gave us water and food. They freed 200 non-Bengali women and children who were held captive in another camp in Chandraghona. We learnt that all the non-Bengali men who had been kidnapped by the rebels from Chandraghona were slaughtered and dumped into the Karnaphuli river......
“The federal Army accommodated us in a Relief Camp in Chittagong. After the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini captured Chittagong in the third week of March 1971, they unleashed death and destruction on the non-Bengalis. My little daughter caught a chill in the wintery cold; no hospital was willing to treat the child of a Bihari. She died in my arms. I was moved to a Red Cross Camp after some days. In February 1974, was repatriated to Karachi.”
Witnesses from Chittagong said that in April 1971, the Bengali rebels looted the Karnaphuli Paper and Rayon Mills and slaughtered the non-Bengali staff and their families. Not many escaped the massacre. Hundreds of teenage girls, kidnapped after their fathers or husbands had been murdered, were ravished by their Bengali captors in houses used for mass slaughter and sex assault. It is estimated that more than 5,000 non-Bengalis perished in the massacre in Chandraghona in March-April 1971. This is far in excess of the initial figure of 3,000 dead given out by the Government in its August 1971 White Paper on the East Pakistan crisis. Rebel soldiers of the East Bengal Regiment and the East Pakistan Rifles looted all the cash from the Karnaphuli Paper and Rayon Mills and spared the lives of some senior staff members after they paid them huge sums of money as ransom.
Rangamati is a picturesque town situated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Forty-five miles from Chittagong, it lies on the bank of the Karnaphuli River. In March-April 1971, the Awami League’s rebellion engulfed it in the flames of conflict and the non-Bengalis were exterminated by the hundreds. In April 1971, all the non-Bengalis living in Rangamati were rounded up by armed gangs of rebels and slaughtered before the federal Army arrived. The Circuit House in Rangamati, which attracted tourists from far and wide, was used as the operational base by the rebels from where they directed the campaign to liquidate the non-Bengalis in Chandaraghona and Rangamati.
Abid Hussain, 34, who was employed in the Karnaphuli Paper and Rayon Mills, lived in a small house in Rangamati because he could not get a staff quarter in the Mill premises. Repatriated to Karachi with his wife in February 1974, he testified:
“The first major incident in the Karnaphuli Paper and Rayon Mills occurred on March 18 when Awami League militants incited the Bengali millhands to kill the non-Bengali staff and their families and occupy the Mill. Realising what lay in store for us, I rushed to my house and, along with my wife; we took shelter in the house of a God-fearing and trustworthy Bengali friend.....”
“Roving bands of Awami Leaguers had terrorised the non-Bengalis in Rangamati all through March 1971 and kidnapped many of the non-Bengali men for slaughter. But in April 1971, the Bengali rebels rounded up all the non-Bengalis, herded them in school buildings and gunned them to death before the federal Army came”, he said.
“I had shifted to a friend’s house in Chittagong after the federal Army had beaten the rebels. When I visited Rangamati again, there was hardly any non-Bengali left”, he added.
Some escapees from the Awami League’s terror in Rangamati sought refuge in the shacks of Chakma tribesmen in April 1971 and they trekked back to Rangamati after the Pakistan Army had established control over it.
Witnesses said that the rebel gangs used to dump at night truck-loads of corpses into the Karnaphuli river. Many of these dead bodies floated into the Bay of Bengal and the crew and passengers on board foreign ships reported sighting many bloated human corpses in the sea.
The Awami League’s rebellion triggered a rash of disturbances and lawlessness in Khulna, the hub of East Pakistan’s jute trade and industry, in the first week of March 1971.
On March 4, a riotous crowd, led by armed Awami Leaguers, raided the local Telephone Exchange, wrecked a part of the equipment and slayed a number of employees, mostly non-Bengalis. The next day, a large killer gang, brandishing rifles, sickles, spears and knives, looted four shops and burnt a hotel in the heart of the city. Another mob, armed with explosives, guns, spears and bamboo poles, attacked non-Bengali shops and homes in the neighbouring townships of Daulatpur and Khalispur and murdered 57 persons. Their mutilated dead bodies were found after some days.
On March 6, Bengali militants took out a big procession to frighten the non-Bengalis in Khulna. Some of the armed processionists tried to loot arms and ammunition shops and in the fracas there were quite a few casualties. The civic administration in the town was paralysed; the police became ineffective and the Awami League militants whipped up mass hysteria against the non-Bengalis and the federal government. Federal and provincial officials, who did not side with the rebels, were terrorised.
In the second week of March, the Awami League’s rebellious movement gained momentum in Khulna and the non-Bengalis were singled out for terrorisation and abridgement. In the third week of the month, the Awami League’s regime of violence and terror held Khulna and its neighbouring towns under its full sway. The Khulna-Jessore Road was blocked and barricaded by the rebels at various points. The survivors of the March 5 killing of the non-Bengalis in Khulna were subjected to fresh attacks and intimidatory pressure by the Awami League militants and the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles.
On March 23, the Awami League-led rebels in Khulna launched a full-blast attack on the settlements of the non-Bengalis in the town and its neighbourhood and butchered at least five thousand innocent people. All through the last week of March, until the federal army moved in, the Bengali rebels staged the bloodbath of non-Bengalis. They had set-up ghoulish slaughter-houses where non-Bengali men women, children were done to death in a gruesome manner. The rebels flung many of the dead bodies into the rivers in Khulna and its neighbouring townships. Before being guillotined, the non-Bengali and some pro-federal Bengali victims were tortured.
Eye-witnesses saw many dead bodies with slit throats and ripped stomachs floating in the rivers. The rebels looted and wrecked a number of jute mills and other industrial establishments in Khulna and its vicinity. Killer gangs tossed non-Bengali millhands into steaming boilers. In the non-Bengali residential areas in Khalispur and Daulatpur, killer gangs gunned the innocents with wanton savagery. Their houses and shanties were put to the torch. All through the last week of March, this dreadful pogrom against the non-Bengalis was conducted by the rebels of the East Pakistan Rifles, the police, the Ansar Volunteer Force and the armed militants of the Awami League with ruthless ferocity.
The Awami League had established pars-military training camps in Khulna in the second week of March where the party’s volunteers trained with guns and ammunition for “Operation Loot, Burn and Kill”. In the industrial and commercial parts of Khulna city, scores of West Pakistani businessmen and factory executives and their families were kidnapped and held for ransom. Some of them were slaughtered by their captors even after their relatives had paid the ransom money.
Some Bengalis who sheltered their non-Bengali friends were also done to death by the rebel gangs. Survivors of the genocidal fury of March 1971 report that on March 29, a day before the federal army re-established its control over the city, Khulna looked like a wrecked town on the morrow of a nuclear attack. Estimates of the death toll in Khulna and its neighbouring townships during the Awami League’s rebellion of March 1971 are at considerable variance. Foreign and Pakistani newsmen who visited Khulna in April-May 1971 were told by army officers that at least 9,000 persons were killed by the Awami League militants and their supporters. But eye-witnesses interviewed for this book believe that nearly 50,000 non-Bengalis perished in Khulna during the Ides of March 1971. Aside from the murder of tens of thousands of non-Bengalis resident in Khulna and its neighbourhood, they assert, many hundreds of non-Bengali families who fled from rebel terror in other towns of Khulna district were done to death on the access roads to the city which were under rebel control.
According to witnesses from Khulna, the non-Bengali death toll in the savage attack on the People’s Jute Mill and the Crescent Jute Mill by a huge mob of armed Bengalis on March 28, 1971, exceeded 5,000, including women and children. In the pogrom in the Railway Colony in Khulna, most of its 6,000 non-Bengali residents were butchered by the Bengali rebels. Hundreds of non-Bengali young women were marched by their captors to neighbouring villages where they were assaulted and raped in cordoned off huts. Many were killed by their captors. Some escaped to Barisal and were brought by the Pakistan Army to Dacca and lodged in Relief Camps in Mohammedpur and Mirpur.
The New York Times, in a despatch from its correspondent, Malcolm W. Browne, who toured East Pakistan in the first week of May, reported in its issue of May 9, 1971:
“.....At Khulna, newsmen were shown facilities where frames were said to have been set up to hold prisoners for decapitation. Fragments of bloody clothing and tresses of women’s hair were strewn about. The place was said to have been used by the Bengali insurgents for the execution of thousands of non-Bengali residents......
A more horrifying description of the slaughter of Khulna’s non-Bengalis appeared in the Washington Sunday Star on May 9, 1971:
“In Khulna, newsmen on an army-conducted tour yesterday saw what a non-Bengali resident described as a human slaughter-house. Sheds were said to have been used by East Pakistan’s dominant Bengalis in mass killings of Bihari immigrants from India, West Pakistanis and other non-Bengalis during March and early April at the height of the secessionist uprising….
“Reporters were shown a wooden frame with chains affixed on top where women and children reportedly were beheaded with knives.......
“There was a form of a garrotte attached to a tree where the residents said victims were choked to death. Cords attached to one tree were described as hanging nooses. Bodies were said to have been thrown over a low wall into the river running alongside.......
“Long rows of shops and homes in the non-Bengali sector of Khulna were badly burned, apparently by Bengalis.......”
The evidence of eye-witnesses shows that after the federal troops drove out the insurgents from Khulna and its nearby townships, the rebels headed straight for India where the Indian authorities welcomed them as heroes and gave them sanctuary. Many amongst the killers in Khulna were Bengali Hindus who hated the non-Bengalis, especially the immigrants from Bihar in India. The majority of the Bengali population in Khulna was so terrorised by the hardcore Awami Leaguers that it dared not protest against the reign of terror unleashed on the non-Bengalis.
Nisar Ahmed Khan, 37, who was the headmaster of a high school in the Khalispur industrial township in Khulna, had this grim recollection of the Awami League’s terror regime in March 1971:
“On March 23, armed bands of Awami League volunteers and rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles and the police desecrated the Pakistani flag in Khalispur and hoisted their Bangla Desh flag atop buildings and factories in our township. Since the middle of March, the Bengali rebels were on the warpath against the non-Bengalis and we heard rumours that elaborate preparations were being made for our slaughter......
“I lived in a rented house in the G-10 sector in the Satellite Town in Khalispur locality. My school was located in the vicinity of the People’s Jute Mill. Close to it lived some 15,000 non-Bengalis, many in shanties. They were assured by the local Awami Leaguers early in the first week of March that they would not be disturbed or harmed. In fact, local Awami League leaders and some Bengali police officers met the representatives of the non-Bengalis in the main Mosque in this locality. In the presence of the non-Bengali Imam (Priest), they took an oath that no non-Bengali would be harmed. This assurance dissuaded the non-Bengalis from taking any self-defence measures or moving to Dacca for safety.......
“In the night of March 23 and all through the next day, the Bengali rebels went on the rampage against the non-Bengalis in this locality. The rebels blocked all the access roads and sealed off the routes of escape for the non-Bengalis. Armed with rifles, sten guns, hand grenades, knives and spears, a huge killer mob fell upon the hapless non-Bengali men, women and children. The rebels burned and blasted the entire neighbourhood; they looted the homes of non-Bengalis and as the victims ran out of their houses, a hail of gunfire mowed them down. Many women and children sought refuge in the main Mosque and in my school building. The killers murdered the Imam (Priest) who begged them in the name of Allah to spare the innocents. The word mercy had become alien to the rebels…….
“Teenage girls and young women, kidnapped by the Bengali rebels, were lodged in the school building. At night, they were raped by their captors. Those who resisted were immediately shot. Some hapless women jumped from the roof of the sex assault chambers to escape their violators.......
“Some old men, women and children were marched by the rebels to the river-side human abattoir where they were slaughtered and dumped into the river. The killers trucked away many dead bodies from the town to the river bank where they were flung into the water.......
“Near my school was the house of a dear friend, Saghir Ahmed Khan. The killer gang smashed into his house and machine gunned every inmate. His house was looted and partly burnt……
“I did not go to my school on March 24, the day of the massacre. The next day, a Bengali attendant came to my house in Satellite Town and gave me the grisly details of the killing. Hundreds of dead bodies, many of young women, he said, lay in heaps in the school building.......
On March 30, when the federal troops entered Khulna and the rebels retreated, I went to my school. It was a horrifying spectacle. Bloated, decomposed dead bodies lay in hundreds and the stench of rotting dead was nauseating. It took me almost a whole month to bury the dead, to clean up the bloodstains and to eliminate the stink........”
Nisar Ahmed Khan escaped to Nepal in 1972 after the second massacre of the non-Bengalis by the victorious Mukti Bahini in Khulna late in December, 1971. In April 1973, he came to Pakistan from Kathmandu and settled in Karachi.
Mahboob Alam, 29, who was a senior Accounts Clerk in the People’s Jute Mill in Khulna, and who was repatriated to Pakistan in February 1974, testified:
“I lived in a rented house in the Old Colony in Khalispur in Khulna. Almost half of the non-Bengali population of Khulna district was concentrated in Khalispur and many of them had built attractive houses. Not far from our Colony was a settlement of Bengali labourers who worked in the jute mills. The Awami Leaguers were inciting these Bengali workers against the non-Bengali populace......
“On March 23-24, 1971, about 5,000 armed Bengali rebels attacked the homes of the non-Bengalis and killed thousands of helpless non-Bengali men, women and children......
“The rebels had set up a slaughter-house in our locality where they tortured many affluent non-Bengalis before slaying them. Women from affluent homes were forced at gunpoint to disclose the place where they had hidden their ornaments and cash; their dear ones were slaughtered before their eyes.......”
Mahboob Alam who went into hiding in the home of a trusted Bengali friend escaped the massacre. Many of his relatives were done to death.
Ansar Ahmed, 30, who owned a tailoring shop in Satellite Town in Khalispur in Khulna, narrated this account of the March, 1971, slaughter of non-Bengalis:
“On March 23, a large mob of armed Awami Leaguers and rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles attacked the non-Bengali houses in our locality and conducted a bloodbath for some 24 hours. They looted, burnt and shot innocent people with the fury of savages. In a few hours, the entire colony was turned into an inferno of fire, blood and death. Many non-Bengalis were mowed down by the rebels’ gunfire when they tried to escape the slaughter in the locality. The killers had blocked all the escape routes and their gunmen did the sniping. My wife, my children and I hid ourselves on the roof of our house and we escaped the killing. After the federal troops secured Khulna on March 30, it took many days before the heaps of dead bodies of non-Bengalis killed by the rebels could be buried.”
A. S. Saifullah, 34, who witnessed the massacre of non-Bengalis in the Crescent Jute Mill in Khalispur in Khulna in March 1971, said:
“The massacre of the non-Bengali employees of the jute mill and their families and of other non-Bengali residents of the locality was conducted from March 23 to 29. In the first two days of this period, there was a general slaughter of the non-Bengali population by armed Awami Leaguers and rebels of the East Pakistan Rifles and the police. Later on, groups of non-Bengalis, kidnapped by the rebels, were tortured in slaughter houses and done to death. In the compound of the Crescent Jute Mill was a block of three rooms. The rebels had turned it into a human abattoir. Hundreds of non-Bengali men, women and children were herded in this slaughter-house for two days without water and food and then done to death with unimaginable savagery. After the federal troops had regained control over Khulna, I saw this slaughter-house. The dead had been taken away for burial but there was blood all over the place. In a vessel I saw the corneas of human beings; these were the remnants of those unfortunate people whose eyes had been gouged out. I have often wondered what sadistic pleasure the rebels derived from eye-gouging........”
Saifullah escaped from Khulna after the Mukti Bahini gave it a second bloodbath late in December 1971 and early in January 1972. Through a tortuous route, he came to Pakistan in 1972.
Shahjahan Khan, 50, who was employed in the Star Jute Mill in Chandi Mahal in Khulna, had this pathetic recollection of the massacre of the non-Bengalis in March 1971:
“I had migrated to East Pakistan from Calcutta in 1970 and I settled in Khulna. I joined the Star Jute Mill when it was started and I rose to the position of Weaving Master in the Mill. On March 28, a large killer gang, armed with machine guns, rifles and spears attacked the non-Bengali employees of the Jute Mill and their families. The attackers overpowered some of the non-Bengali millhands and flung them alive into the steaming boilers in the Mill. Many of the non-Bengali workers who tried to escape were sprayed with machine gunfire.......
“I escaped from the Mill and ran towards my home. A pursuer’s bullet hit me in the arm but I continued sprinting towards my house. Just on the doorstep, a sniper’s bullet hit me in the leg and I fell down. The killers had ransacked my house and killed my wife and my three children earlier in the day. I lost consciousness. After three days, I found myself in the Khulna hospital. The federal troops had entered the city and the injured persons were taken to hospital. The death toll of the non-Bengalis in my locality ran into thousands. The Bengali rebels kidnapped hundreds of non-Bengali young women and teenage girls and killed them by the riverside after ravishing them. Their usual practice was to dump the dead bodies into the river. I was repatriated to Pakistan in November 1973”.
Shakoor Ahmed, 69, who lived in his son’s house on Khan Jahan Ali Road in Khulna, recalled the murder of his only offspring in the March 1971 massacre in these words:
“I had lived and worked in East Pakistan long before the Partition of the sub-continent. I hailed from Monghyr but most of my life was spent in East Pakistan. My son was born in Khulna. We spoke Bengali very well. But the local Bengalis called us Biharis......
“Since the first week of March 1971, armed gangs of Awami Leaguers used to parade in our locality to intimidate the non-Bengalis. In the second week of the month, violence against non-Bengalis openly erupted. On March 23, a killer gang attacked our house, slaughtered my son and his wife. They spared me and his two small sons. They are now my life, my hope. We were repatriated to Karachi in February 1974…….
Shakoor Ahmed thinks that a typhoon of madness had gripped a large segment of the Bengali population in Khulna in March 1971. “Most Bengalis are a gentle people; a hardcore minority misled great numbers of Bengalis and incited them to commit violence on the Biharis”, he said.
Sixty-year-old Nabi Baksh, whose three sons were slaughtered by a killer gang in the compound of the Platinum Jubilee Jute Mills, Khulna, in the last week of March 1971, testified:
“I was employed in the Jute Mill for the past ten years. My three grown up sons wore also employed in it. We lived in a small house on Khan Jahan Ali Road in Khulna......
“On March 24, a killer gang of Bengali rebels attacked the non-Bengalis employed in the Jute Mill. I grappled with some of the killers when they started shooting in the direction of my three sons. The killers overpowered me and gunned my sons before my helpless eyes. I was hit on the head and I fainted. After the killers had gone, a Bengali co-worker dragged me to the store room where my wounds were bandaged and I stayed there until the federal Army freed Khulna from the terror rule of the Bengali rebels”.
Nabi Baksh was repatriated to Pakistan in the autumn of 1973 and he has settled in Karachi.
Twenty-eight year-old Rabia Begum, whose husband, Rustam Ali, was a federal government employee in Khulna, gave this account of the looting of her house and the killing of her husband in March 1971:
“Since the second week of March 1971, life had become a night mare for the non-Bengalis. Every day we heard rumours that the Bengali rebels would raid our colony and kill us........
“The dreaded time arrived on March 23 when a killer gang of armed rebels raided our locality. My husband was away on a Government errand in Darsana; my aged mother-in-law and I were the only two adults in my house. When I heard the echo of gunshots, I decided to leave the house by the backdoor and seek refuge in the house of a trusted Bengali woman in another locality. I tried to persuade my mother-in-law to go with me but she refused, saying that the raiders would spare her because of her old age. I slipped out of my house with my two children and reached my hideout safely. After the federal troops entered Khulna, I went back to my house. I was shocked; a part of it was burnt and every article of value was stolen. My mother-in-law was beaten and injured by the rebels. I took her to the hospital where she was treated for her wounds. The raiders were angry that there were no ornaments in the house; they tortured my mother-in-law to get clues to our wealth. We had none left......
“After the federal Army took over Khulna, I took up a job and earned some money to feed myself, my children and my mother-in-law. I had no news of my husband. Subsequently, I learnt that the killers slayed him in Darsana.......
“My ordeals began afresh after the Mukti Bahini captured Khulna in the third week of December, 1971. There was again a carnage of non-Bengalis in the city. Luckily, we escaped it. In January 1974 we were repatriated to Karachi from Dacca”.
Rabia’s view is that there were many God-fearing Bengalis who strongly condemned the killing of the non-Bengalis but they were utterly helpless. “The guns were with the Awami Leaguers and other rebels and not with these good-hearted Bengalis”, she said. She had also heard of the slaughter-houses set up by the Bengali rebels to torture and murder their non-Bengali victims.
Firdous Alam, 65, who lived in the Liaquatabad Colony in Pholtala town near Khulna, had this tearful recollection of the March 1971 killing of the non-Bengalis:
“Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, was the founder of the Liaquatabad colony in Pholtala. Four hundred Muslim refugee families from Bihar and West Bengal, who had sought refuge in East Pakistan, were sheltered in this colony in 1948. With the passage of years, more non-Bengali families converged here and its population reached 15,000......
“On March 23, a large procession of Awami Leaguers paraded our locality and raised slogans against Pakistan. The elders in our locality prevailed upon our young men not to be provoked by the Awami League militants and their anti-Pakistan slogans. In the evening, the Awami Leaguers returned with a horde of armed men, perhaps the rebels from the East Pakistan rifles. All of a sudden, the killer gang started setting the hutments of the non-Bengalis ablaze. The Bengali rebels spread the flames with dried coconut fronds which make excellent kindling. As the terrified non-Bengalis emerged from their burning huts, the killer gang mowed them with gunfire.......
“Provoked by this wanton savagery, a score of our young men, who had guns, engaged the killer gang in combat for four hours. But when their ammunition was exhausted — the Bengali rebels got reinforcements and fresh supplies — these brave defenders of non-Bengali honour were done to death with indescribable savagery. All through the night and till the small hours of the morning, the rebels continued their orgies of killing, torture and loot. The killers raped hundreds of non-Bengali women before slaughtering them in the compound of a large building in the locality. The killer gang murdered my family; I was hit by a gunman and I feigned death......
“At least half of the non-Bengali population in Liaquatabad Colony in Pholtala was wiped out in 24 hours of fiendish massacre.........”
Firdous Alam was repatriated to Karachi in December 1973.
Qazi Anwar Hussain, 35, who was a trader in the town of Bagerhat in the Khulna District, and who saw the killing of non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis in March 1971, said:
“The Awami Leaguers created tension in Bagerhat from the first week of March 1971. They spread canards about the killing of Bengalis in West Pakistan; they incited the local Bengalis to violence against the non-Bengalis.........
“Along with the non-Bengalis, Bengali Muslim Leaguers were also the target of attack by the Awami Leaguers. Before the December 1970 general elections, the Awami League did not command much influence in Bagerhat sub-division. But in the 1970 polls, it emerged victorious and built up a base of strength in Bagerhat. One of its pet themes was to incite the Bengalis against West Pakistan.........
“On March 20, a riotous mob led by Awami League militants ransacked the house of a prominent Bengali Muslim Leaguer, Mohammed Qasim. Luckily, he was not at home when the raiders came. But they looted all the valuables in his house and burnt it to ashes. Subsequently, the mob went on the rampage against the non-Bengalis and burnt their houses and killed many. Some non-Bengalis were given shelter and protection by God fearing Bengalis. The killer gangs punished such humane Bengalis and killed the non-Bengalis they had sheltered. I estimate that some 500 innocent people — many non-Bengalis and a few pro-Pakistan Bengalis — were done to death in Bagerhat on that dark day.......
“Many of the survivors amongst the non-Bengalis went away to Khulna for shelter but quite a few were killed on the way by killer gangs which controlled the highways..........”
Qazi Anwar escaped the slaughter of non-Bengalis in Bagerhat with the help of a devout Bengali Muslim who sheltered him and protected him from the killer gangs. In February 1974, he was repatriated to Karachi by ship from Chittagong.
About the same time as Khulna was aflame with the genocidal fury of the Bengali rebels, the non-Bengali population in the town of Satkhira also became the victim of loot, arson and murder. It is estimated that more than 2,000 non-Bengalis perished in the massacres in Satkhira town and other places in the sub-dvision between the second half of March and the first fortnight of April 1971. Eye-witnesses reported that as Satkhira is close to the Indian border, the Bengali rebels received substantial military assistance from the Indian Border Security Force. The Sub-Divisional Officer of Satkhira, who was a West Pakistani, was taken prisoner by the Bengali rebels and was dragged through the streets of the town.
Thirty-two year-old Maula Bux, who worked as a Jute trader and lived in the Kazipara locality of Satkhira, gave this account of the horrifying events in what used to be his home town:
“I had lived for more than 10 years in Satkhira town and I spoke Bengali so well that I was often mistaken for a genuine Bengali. As Satkhira town is barely a couple of miles from the Indian border, it had served for years as the operational base of Indian agents. When the Awami League launched its rebellion in Dacca on March 1, 1971, its impact was immediately felt in Satkhira. The Awami Leaguers organized demonstrations and protest marches and imported arms and ammunition from India. Para-military Indian personnel infiltrated in mufti into Satkhira and guided the Awami Leaguers in their anti-Government operations.......
“The civil administration collapsed; the Bengali rebels kidnapped a number of Government officials and set up their own regime of terror. The Police and the East Pakistan Rifles also revolted. The rebels had taken over control of all the access roads to Satkhira and blocked the exit of the terrorised non-Bengalis. By the middle of March, heavily armed Bengali rebel contingents were holding ominous displays of strength to frighten the non-Bengalis. Some shops and stores owned by non-Bengalis were looted and burnt. A number of West Pakistanis were “arrested” on the charge of “spying” for the federal government and were liquidated with rifle shots. On March 17 and 18, the rebels went on the rampage and slaughtered hundreds of non-Bengalis.…..
“In the morning of March 18, I was striking a business deal in the jute godown of a leading non-Bengali jute trader, Abdul Qayuum. All of a sudden, a killer mob attacked the jute god own, gunned Mr. Qayuum and his non-Bengali staff and set the jute stock on fire. As huge tongues of fire leapt from the blazing jute godown, the killers tossed all the dead bodies into the fire, My command over the Bengali language enabled me to convince the killers that I was a genuine Bengali and they spared my life. But they belaboured me on the charge that I was a “West Pakistani agent” and ordered me “never to do business with the non-Bengalis”..........
“I walked swiftly in the direction of my house and did my best to avoid detection by the killer gangs which were on the loose in the town. On the way, I saw the rebels dragging through the streets the West Pakistani Sub-divisional Officer of Satkhira. Blood was oozing from his forehead and knees and his hands were tied with a rope. Some Bengalis spat on him and threw stones. I also saw the killers pushing, at the point of a bayonet, a hapless non-Bengali woman with two shrieking, small children who were clinging to her body. As she collapsed on the ground from sheer exhaustion, one of her captors kicked her head with his boot while the other throttled the older child….....
“When I reached my house, I found it ablaze. My younger brother, who was its only occupant at that time, had escaped the dragnet of the killers. I sought shelter in the house of a trusted Bengali friend. After the federal army re-established its control over Satkhira in April 1971, my brother rejoined me. I moved to Dacca, and in January 1974, I was repatriated to Karachi…….
“The rebels kidnapped many non-Bengali young women from Satkhira. Some, who resisted the rapists, were killed; others were taken away to India by the retreating rebels and sold to brothels in West Bengal.”
Twenty-six year-old Nawab Ali, who lived in his father’s house in Bara Bazaar in Satkhira and was engaged in the jute trade, had this unhappy memory of the Ides of March 1971:
“My father had lived for many years in Calcutta. After Partition in 1947, we moved to Khulna where my father prospered in business. We spoke Bengali very well. Profits in the jute trade in Satkhira were far more attractive and we settled there. We bought a house and some other property. I assisted my father in his business.......
“The massacre of non-Bengalis was started in the second week of March 1971 with stray incidents. Between March 17 and 20, the pogrom of the Bengali rebels against the non-Bengalis received impetus from the infiltration of trained Indian saboteurs into Satkhira. The rebels had machine guns, rifles, grenades and an endless supply of ammunition........
“On March 20, the rebels unleashed all over the town the campaign of terror and fire which they had initially conducted in a few selected localities against the non-Bengali residents. My parents were killed in the massacre; I went into hiding before they stormed my house and I escaped the noose of death. The killer gangs committed acts of unimaginable brutality; they tortured the non-Bengali men before shooting them. They chopped up the bodies of women and carved “Joi Bangla” on their foreheads. They slaughtered children by the hundreds and tossed their bodies into blazing houses or dumped them in a nearby river. They kidnapped many scores of innocent girls and subjected them to multiple rape in deserted school buildings which were converted into ‘comfort lodgings’ for the sex-hungry rebel soldiers. The retreating rebels carried away many of these captive girls to India; some who tried to escape were shot.”
Nawab Ali was repatriated from Dacca to Karachi in January 1974.
The Awami League’s terror machine had swung into action in Dinajpur from the first week of March 1971. Bengali mass militancy, whipped up by the Awami League’s demagogues, manifested itself in protest rallies, street violence and terrorisation of non-Bengalis. The Awami League’s storm troopers paralysed the local administration and set up their own regime of force and intimidation.
The crescendo of violence gained momentum in the second week of the month when the Awami League militants, beefed up by the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles and encouraged by their initial success in grabbing civil authority, unleashed death and destruction on the hapless non-Bengalis.
All through the second fortnight of March and the first week of April 1971, the genocidal liquidation of the non-Bengali population was conducted with demonic fury. Estimates of the death toll of non-Bengalis in Dinajpur town in a month of the Awami League’s hellish rule range from 15,000 to 30,000, while in the district of Dinajpur the non-Bengali death toll was about 100,000. Eye-witnesses claim that one of the main reasons for this disparity in figures is the fact that the bodies of thousands of non-Bengalis, slain by their captors in an open-air human abattoir on the bank of the Kanchan river, were dumped in its waters. Hundreds of corpses were incinerated in the houses of non-Bengalis which were put to the torch after their inmates had been decapitated.
On March 22, the Awami Leaguers, brandishing sten guns and rifles, led a violent procession through the heart of the town, inciting the Bengali populace to eliminate the non-Bengalis. On March 25, a killer mob burnt a passenger bus, which was owned by a non-Bengali, on the outskirts of Dinajpur. Its driver and seven non-Bengali passengers were done to death. The Bengali rebels, on the same day, burnt a postal service van on the Dinajpur-Saidpur Road, shot its conductor and wounded its driver. They also ambushed a Pakistan Army jeep and wounded the five soldiers who were riding in it. The treatment meted out to thousands of women and children was fiendish and debased. More than 400 non-Bengali young women were kidnapped to India by the retreating rebels.
In the last week of March 1971, the pogrom against the non-Bengalis reached its peak. Violence mushroomed into the sacking and setting afire of all the stores, businesses and houses owned by non-Bengalis. Yelling, frenzied and roaming crowds — at times 10,000 strong— held marches and rallies all over the town, swearing death and destruction of the non-Bengalis and the federal government. Even at night, the town shook all through the week with bursts of gunfire by the rebel soldiers and other armed Bengalis, the crashing of shop windows and doors, the crackling of flames which spiralled from non-Bengali houses set ablaze and the thunder of slogan shouting and looting mobs. The Awami League demagogues, with their fiery tongues, breathed hatred for the non-Bengalis and sanctified the looting and burning of non-Bengali shops and homes as acts of duty in the line of Bengali patriotism. The river-side slaughter-houses worked with fiendish thoroughness. Bengali officers from the rebel elements of the East Pakistan Rifles and the East Bengal Regiment supervised the hordes of thugs and hoodlums who worked as executioners and vampires in these human abattoirs for the liquidation of the non-Bengalis.
The abridgement of the non-Bengali population in Dinajpur by the Awami League militants in a month of their accursed rule was so colossal that when the Pakistan Army re-established its control in the town, stray non-Bengali survivors consisted mostly of old women and children. Heads of many victims were hung on tree-tops by the rebels to “teach a lesson to the non-Bengalis.”
Twenty-four-year-old Noor Jahan, whose husband, Abdur Rashid, was killed in the carnage of non-Bengalis in Dinajpur, underwent spasms of trepidation and sobbed frequently as she related the story of her woes:
“We lived in the Zulum Colony near the Tomb of Saint Sherghazi in Dinajpur town. Since the middle of March, we were hearing alarming rumours that the Bengali rebels would kill the non-Bengalis and that the houses of non-Bengalis were being marked by the Awami League volunteers.........
“In the night of March 25, 1971, at about 9 o’clock, a huge mob of armed Bengalis went on the rampage in our locality and slaughtered men, women and children by the hundreds. They killed my husband and my brother in a murderous attack on our house. To the best of my memory, they did not spare a single non-Bengali male adult in our locality. They wiped out even male children. They lined up the wailing non-Bengali women and marched them at gunpoint to the village of Baraul, 8 miles from Dinajpur, near the Indian border. I was in this crowd of unfortunate, condemned women. The shame and torture which our satanic captors inflicted on us was so horrifying that I would hate to describe it......
“The most gruesome massacre in Dinajpnr was of the 250-plus Pathans—men, women and children—in our locality. The Awami League hatchetmen and the rebels of the East Pakistan Rifles tied up every Pathan with ropes; chopped off bits of flesh from the body of the victim and threw dust on him. As the victim writhed in pain, the sadist killers would laugh over his plight and lop off another bit of his body. The groans and cries of these sturdy Pathans and their appeals to their captors for inflicting a swift death on them, instead of torturing them, still echo in my cars........
“Our Bengali captors dumped us in a cluster of huts in the village of Baraul. At night, they fell upon us like vultures. Some women who resisted their violaters were shot “to teach a lesson to the others.” Their bodies were mutilated; their breasts were slashed off and “Joi Bangla” was carved with knives on their lifeless foreheads. On April 10, a unit of the Pakistan Army captured the village and rescued us........”
Noor Jahan was shifted to Dacca in mid-1971 and accommodated in a Relief Camp there. In January 1974, she was repatriated to Karachi.
Twenty-year-old Sakina Bibi, whose husband, Abdus Shakoor, was done to death by the Bengali rebels in a raid on her house in Neelmati in Dinajpur on March 22, 1971, gave this grisly account of her plight:
“The non-Bengalis in our locality lived in hutments. A killer mob of Bengali rebels attacked our locality at night; they burnt the shacks and looted every article of value in our homes. In less than half an hour, they gunned to death all the non-Bengali male adults in our locality. They wounded my husband with a scythe and then shot him........”
“After killing all the non-Bengali men, they lined up about four hundred sorrowing non-Bengali women and, at gunpoint, stripped off their Saris. I wanted to throttle myself when one of our tormentors, brandishing a scythe in my face, tore off my clothes. With guns ready to shoot, they forced us to parade in the nude. A few women, who tried to escape, were mowed down by the gunmen. In this march of the naked women, I spotted the wife of my brother. She said the killers had done him to death; they had also killed her little son. We walked five miles to Narkuldanga. By the time we reached this place, not more than 150 captive women were left. A few were shot; many were taken away by the other rebels on the way as their share of the loot. One of them was my sister-in-law; she was young and pretty. I never saw her again..........
“Our Bengali captors detained us in six huts. For the first three days, we had not a morsel of food. We lived on water and wild fruits picked from the trees. All through the period of our captivity, the hapless captive women were subjected to multiple rapes. Six teenage girls who tried to escape were shot. On April 10, when the Pakistani troops routed the rebels, the retreating Bengalis tried to slaughter all of us but we were rescued in the nick of time…......”
Sakina lived for two years in Dacca before being repatriated to Karachi in January 1974.
Abdul Majid, 26, who lived in Paharpur in Dinajpur and who escaped the March 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis by dint of good luck, had this recollection of the sorrowful events in his home town:
“On March 3, the Awami League militants went on the warpath in Dinajpur. They disrupted the Rail track and wrecked the train services. They looted the Railway godowns and burnt some trains. They belaboured those non-Bengalis who had refused to boycott work at the Railway station.........
“In the first week of March, riotous mobs of Bengalis looted non-Bengali shops. They also wrecked the Iqbal High School where many non-Bengali boys studied. Some teachers, who tried to dissuade the Bengali miscreants from destroying the furniture of the school, were manhandled........
“In the third week of the month, a huge mob of armed Awami Leaguers and their supporters, many with sten guns and rifles, attacked the Balwadanga colony. I believe that more than 2,000 non-Bengalis perished in the slaughter in this locality. Some of the non-Bengalis sought refuge in the Iqbal High School. The next day, the Bengali rebels ransacked the school and killed all those sheltered in it......
“The Bengali rebels started mass slaughter of non-Bengalis all over Dinajpur from March 22 and it continued without a let-up until April 10 when the federal army retrieved the town. Thousands of non-Bengalis were taken by the rebels to open-air slaughter-houses along the bank of the Kanchan river and done to death. Their dead bodies were flung into the river. Leaders of the Awami League, such as Abdul Bari, a member of the East Pakistan Assembly, Dr. Khalilur Rahman, Riyazul Islam, an advocate, and a Major Usman were in the forefront of those Bengali militants who planned, instigated and organized the killing of the non-Bengalis in Dinajpur. Hundreds of non-Bengali women were marched in the nude by their Bengali captors through the town and driven to nearby villages where their tormentors ravished them in huts which were hurriedly turned into billets for sexual assault.......”
After the Pakistan Army re-established its authority over Dinajpur, Majid emerged from hiding and helped the federal troops in burying the non-Bengali dead. He said:
“I led the federal troops to the Iqbal High School where I knew that the non-Bengalis had been slaughtered. Nearly 2,500 rotting dead bodies, with bullet marks and knife wounds, were retrieved and given a mass burial. The wombs of some pregnant women had been slit open by their tormentors. The heads of some decapitated bodies were missing. I spotted many dead children whose limbs had been splintered. I saw the slaughter-houses operated by the Bengali rebels on the banks of the Kanchan River; it seemed river of blood had flowed there. I saw the fiendish implements with which the slaughterers tortured their victims before the actual kill........”
Abdul Majid was repatriated to Karachi from Dacca in November 1973.
Qamrunnissa Begum, 40, whose husband owned the Bengal Rice Mills in Dinajpur, gave this account of his murder in the March 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis:
“In 1947, we had migrated from Calcutta to East Pakistan. We lived for some years in Dacca and then we shifted to Rangpur. Subsequently, we settled in Dinajpur where my husband bought a rice mill. He had about a hundred employees and the Mill yielded substantial profits. He had a Bengali ‘sleeping’ partner who had made no investment in the mill. When our mill yielded large profits, this person tried to commit frauds on the mill and my husband terminated his services after paying him a fat sum of money as compensation.......
“On March 25, when killer gangs were on the loose in Dinajpur and the non-Bengalis were being butchered by the thousands, this former Bengali partner led an armed band of cutthroats and attacked our mill. He and his gang shot dead my husband and looted all the rice and every other article of value in the Mill. After the death of my husband, the killers looted our houses. We took shelter in the home of an old Bengali friend of our family.......”
Qamrunnissa, her two sons and a daughter lived in poverty in Dacca for a year. In 1974, they were repatriated to Karachi from Chittagong.
Twenty five-year-old Abdul Qadir, who was employed in the Dinajpur Rice Mill, had this nightmarish recollection of the slaughter of 69 non-Bengali employees of the Mill and of his miraculous escape from a steaming boiler in March 1971:
“The Dinajpur Rice Mill was one of the largest rice mills in the northern part of East Pakistan. It had 700 employees, mostly Bengalis. Its owner was Haji Karim, a God-fearing non-Bengali, who was kind and gentle and looked after the well-being of his employees. Although in the sixties, he was active and personally supervised the working of his Rice Mill. He had a Government contract for the milling of rice procured by it......
“On March 25, a killer mob led by armed Awami League storm-troopers and rebels of the East Pakistan Rifles raided our mill, looted all the cash and the rice stock and slaughtered the non-Bengali employees and their families. The attackers overpowered the non-Bengalis, tied them with ropes looted from the Mill store and flung their screaming victims into the steaming boiler. I saw with my own eyes the owner of the Mill Haji Karim, being tossed into this blazing cauldron of death. Even some non-Bengali women, employed in the Mill were done to death in this fiendish manner.
“The cord with which my hands were tied was weak and I slipped out of the Hall where the non-Bengalis were herded before being despatched to death. I hid myself in a store room where rice was stocked; I prayed all through the night. I emerged from hiding after the Pakistan Army regained control over Dinajpur. The killer gang liquidated the family of Haji Karim and looted his house. Except my aged mother, all my other relatives perished in the carnage........
“Many in the killer gang were local Hindu militants. I have no doubt that the infiltrators from West Bengal played a part in the massacre of non-Bengalis in Dinajpur. What amazed me was the fact that this avalanche of fire and death engulfed the non-Bengalis with calamitous suddenness. Before March 1971, we had never dreamed of such mass killing and our relations with the Bengalis were cordial........”
Sameeda Khatoon, 26, whose father, husband and elder brother were slaughtered in the massacre of non-Bengalis in March 1971 in Dinajpur, said:
“We lived in the Gharipara locality of Dinajpur. My husband, Mohammed Nazeer, was a bus driver. My father owned a shop in the heart of the town. On March 23, a riotous Bengali mob created a disturbance in our locality and looted the houses of some non-Bengalis. But on March 26, the rebels became more daring, and in the night they launched a campaign to liquidate all the non-Bengalis in our locality. They looted my father’s shop and brutally killed him and my husband who was with him at that time. They attacked our house and the house of my elder brother, which was close to ours. I saw from the doorstep of my house that a killer mob dragged my brother and his two adult sons from their house and butchered them with scythes and knives on the roadside. My brother’s wife fell on the feet of the killers and begged them to spare the lives of her husband and her two sons but they struck her with a stick and she collapsed. I was horror-stricken when I saw these brutes murdering my brother and his two sons. I started crying aloud. The killer mob looted my house and told me that the rebels would come back after a few days to slaughter me and my daughter.
“We were told that April 10 was the deadline set by the Bengali rebels for the murder of the surviving women and children in our locality. We cried and prayed to Allah for succour. We heard the echo of gunfire and thought that the killer mob was coming in our direction. But our prayers were answered when a unit of the Pakistan Army entered Dinajpur and re-established its authority. We were saved from the butchers knives. The army moved us to Dacca where we lived in a Relief Camp for widowed women and orphaned children. After the Indian Army seized East Pakistan on December 17, 1971, we underwent more suffering and many women were kidnapped by the Mukti Bahini. In March 1974, I was repatriated to Karachi along with my little daughter.........”
“I have not been able to comprehend the real reasons for the xenophobia against the non-Bengalis which gripped a segment of the Bengali populace in Dinajpur in March 1971”, said 28-year-old Abdul Khaleque whose family had lived in that region long before the Partition of the sub-continent in 1947.
Khaleque’s Urdu-speaking grandfather had settled in Dinajpur in the 1920’s. His mother was a Bengali and he and the other members of his family spoke excellent Bengali. Yet, in the massacre of the non-Bengalis in March 1971 most of them were done to death. Khaleque, who lived in his ancestral house on Mission Road in Dinajpur, luckily escaped the killing by going into hiding in the house of a Bengali friend in another part of the town. In February 1974, Khaleque was repatriated to Pakistan. He said:
“There were many other families, such as ours, which had settled in Dinajpur long before Partition. They were bilingual i.e. they spoke Bengali as well as Urdu. They had endeavoured for merger with the local Bengali population by inter-marrying. Every member of my family was a born Bengali and spoke Bengali with the accent prevalent in Dinajpur. Yet in the madness of March 1971, all of us were considered Biharis although none of us had seen the face of Bihar after Partition. It had never occurred to me in my wildest fancy that any Bengali in Dinajpur would ever think of slaughtering any member of my family for being a non-Bengali. But after March 21, a fiendish insanity gripped a large portion of the Bengali population. Instigated by the Awami Leaguers, they exterminated nearly 90 per cent of the non-Bengali population in the towns of Dinajpur district.
“In some villages near Dinajpur, where small groups of non-Bengalis lived, the slaughter was so brutally complete that not a single non-Bengali survived. I became a nervous wreck after I saw the heaps of rotting dead bodies of non-Bengalis in the streets and houses in Dinajpur when I emerged from hiding and the federal troops had re-established their control. I heard about the infernal slaughter-houses which the killer gangs had set up on the banks of the Kanchan River. There the non-Bengalis were slain by the hundreds and their bodies were thrown in the river. I believe that at least 30,000 non-Bengalis were done to death in Dinajpur town in March and April 1971.........
“An example of the trickery and fraud used by the Bengali rebels to liquidate the non-Bengalis was the invitation from the Deputy Commissioner to 25 leading non-Bengali businessmen of Dinajpur to attend a meeting of the local Peace Committee in the Iqbal High School building. When they arrived at the school building for the meeting, each one of them was murdered by the Bengali rebels........”
We were awaiting our execution in a slaughter-house on the bank of the river in Dinajpur when the Pakistan Army rescued us”, said 55-year-old Hamida Khatoon. She had worked for years as a nurse in the Sadar Hospital in Dinajpur. Repatriated from Dacca to Karachi in February 1974, Hamida gave the following account of the unfortunate events of March 1971 in her home town:
“We had lived for the past many years in Dinajpur and it had never occurred to us that life would become a nightmare for the non-Bengalis as it did in March 1971 during the Awami League’s rebellion........
“On March 23, a group of Awami Leaguers ordered all the non-Bengali menfolk in our locality to attend a meeting of the Peace Committee of the area. While the non-Bengali men were gone for the meeting, armed gangs of Bengali rebels attacked their houses in the locality and looted every article of value with the thoroughness of seasoned thieves. At midnight, a non-Bengali neighbour, who had gone to the meeting, came running to us and informed us that all those who had gone to attend the so-called meeting had been butchered in the school compound by the rebels. The next day, the rebels rounded up all the non-Bengali women and children in our locality and took us to a camp on the bank of the river where we saw the horrifying massacre of the non-Bengali men. Their bodies were being flung into the river. We were told that in a couple of days we would also be done to death. There were very few young women left in our group; the killers had kidnapped the young ones for rape. I can never forget that hell-like, open-air slaughter-house run by the murderers on the river bank. On April 10, when we had resigned ourselves to fate and death because of the physical and mental torture we had undergone, a posse of the federal troops rescued us from the jaws of death..........
“We were shifted to a camp in Saidpur. In the last week of December 1971, the Mukti Bahini killers were after my blood because I had told the Pakistan Army about the gruesome killings done by the rebels in March 1971. I was jailed for 18 months in Saidpur and tortured for weeks. In the first week of February 1974, I was released from prison, and shortly afterwards I was repatriated to Pakistan...........”
Forty-year-old Ladli Masroor, whose husband, Mobeen Alam, was employed in the Watch and Ward Department at Dinajpur Railway Station, gave this narrative of the grisly events of March 1971:
“On March 25, at about 9 p.m., a killer gang of Bengali rebels raided our locality in Dinajpur. They smashed the locked door of our house and overpowered my husband. They tied him with ropes, clobbered him with an iron rod and looted my house. As my children shrieked in terror, I begged the killers to spare my husband. The attackers laughed and took possession of every article of value in my house. “This transistor radio is mine”, said one of the raiders after grabbing it from the wardrobe. Another killer took my husband’s watch. Two of them frisked me for money and jewellery and stole all my ornaments. Behaving like thugs and cut-throats, they even took away my Saris. After they had accomplished their errand of burglary, they dragged my husband to the street and belaboured him so hard that he bled. I again begged his captors to free him but they struck me with an iron rod and I fell down. They lined him up with some other non-Bengalis of our locality and marched their captives in the direction of the river. This was the last I saw of my husband. “Have faith in God and look after the kids”, he shouted as the killers marched him away to what I later learnt was the slaughter-house for liquidating the non-Bengalis........
“On April 10, a large mob of armed and yelling Bengalis stormed our locality. They gathered all the non-Bengali women and children and marched them at gunpoint to the bank of the river where the butchering of the non-Bengalis was being done. I cowered in mortal terror when I saw this open-air slaughterhouse and the faces of my innocent children. The women cried and screamed in terror; some of them had spotted their men relatives being murdered by the Bengali executioners. Dead bodies and blood littered the bank and the water of the river. All of a sudden, the Bengali killers started running in complete disarray. A posse of six Pakistan Army soldiers rushed towards us like angels on a rescue mission. We were saved from death. The federal army took us to a Relief Camp in Saidpur. In February 1974, we were repatriated to Pakistan.”
“The gory scene of the river-side slaughter-house haunts me. I saw the wooden frames on which the non-Bengalis were beheaded with scythes and large knives; I saw the boiling cauldrons in which the Bengali executioners dipped their captives to extract information about their money”. This is how 30-year-old Khatun Nisa, whose husband was employed in the police force in Dinajpur, described the implements of torture that were innovated by the Bengali rebels at the river-side, open-air human abattoir in Dinajpur. Khatun and her children and hundreds of other hapless non-Bengali women and children (whose husbands and fathers had been slaughtered in March 1971) were awaiting their turn to be butchered when the Pakistan Army rescued them from the Bengali hangmen. Khatoon and her three children were repatriated to Pakistan in February 1974. Khatun said:
“Since March 2, 1971, the Awami League militants and their supporters in Dinajpur were on the warpath against the non-Bengalis. Some shops and houses belonging to non-Bengalis were looted. But from March 17, they started murdering the non-Bengali men and molesting their women. We became so panicky owing to the militancy of the Awami Leaguers that in the night of March 21, when it was rumoured that our locality would be raided, my husband, Abdul Ghaffar, my three children and I slipped out of our house by a back door and went into hiding in a large cluster of shady trees about a furlong from our dwelling. We found that a score of non-Bengali men, women and children were already ensconced in this hideout. After an hour, we heard the noise of gunfire from our locality, the yells of the Awami League attackers and the cries of the victims for mercy and help. We also saw tongues of fire leaping from the houses which had been set ablaze. The killers were tipped off about our escape and there was a burst of firing in our direction.
“Some of us were injured but we kept quiet. We crawled towards the graveyard where the graves could afford us protection from the volleys of bullets fired on us. Early in the morning, we moved into a deserted school building and stayed in it unobtrusively for three days. Most of us lived on water, brought at night from a nearby pond, and wild fruits and roots. In the afternoon of March 29, an armed band of Bengali rebel raided our hideout and rounded up all the non-Bengali men, including my husband. Some who resisted were ruthlessly beaten and tied up with ropes. The women begged the rebels to spare the lives of their menfolk but the killer gang was heartless. “We will spare you; you will make good maidservants in our homes”, the rebels said to us. Under a blazing sun and with lifted guns, the killer gang marched their non-Bengali captives to what we later on learnt was the execution ground on the bank of a river two miles away. The next morning the killer gang returned and ordered us to accompany them post haste.
“A shiver of fear ran down our spines when we neared the bank of the river and saw the human slaughter-house which the rebels had established for killing the helpless non-Bengalis. It was hell on earth. A wooden frame on which the victims were decapitated, hanging nooses attached to trees, metallic urns with boiling water for dipping victims to extract information and an assortment of gleaming daggers, knives, scythes and spears gave this patch of verdant land by the placid waters of the river a macabre setting of torture, fire and death. There was blood all over the place. Heaps of dead bodies, awaiting a watery grave, generated a nauseating stench. After a dozen men had been butchered before our glazed eyes, a Bengali soldier shouted an order: “Take these women and children to the far end of the bank; there is too much of stink and bloody muck here”. The ogres, who were engaged in the butchery, responded with “Yes, Major” and motioned us, with their knives, to run down the bank of the river. We had hardly any strength left in us and we dragged ourselves with difficulty towards the water. We had become so resigned to fate and we were so terribly weak that we had lost the zest for life and we begged our killers to finish us off quickly. Escape was impossible; there were at least 500 hatchet-men on the spot; many were armed with guns. Suddenly, pandemonium broke loose and our tormentors started running for their lives. On the far end of a ridge, silhouetted against the twilight sky, were a dozen Pakistani soldiers who were racing towards us like angels sent for our deliverance. Their yells of “Allah is Great” rent the skies, and in a matter of minutes our beastly captors melted away in a nearby forest. The Pakistani troops took us to a Relief Camp; those who were injured were hospitalised and the dead were given a solemn burial. From the third week of December, 1971, after India’s occupation of East Pakistan, the Mukti Bahini and its supporters unleashed an avalanche of suffering on us. Now that we have come to Pakistan, we feel we have been given a fresh lease of life.”
Fifty-year-old Hasina Begum lived with her husband, Kabir Ahmed Khan, an affluent businessman, on the outskirts of Dinajpur town. She lost her husband in the March 1971 massacre but she saved the lives of two teenage daughters of their best friend, a lawyer. Her two sons had gone into hiding in a nearby forest. After the federal army re-established its authority over Dinajpur, Hasina encouraged her sons to join the Pakistan Army. In December 1971, they were taken prisoner in an encounter with the enemy on the border. In December 1973, Hasina was repatriated to Karachi from Dacca. “I am confident that Allah will bring my sons to Pakistan sooner than I expect”, she said hopefully. Hasina testified:
“Since the first week of March 1971, the Awami League militants had started terrorising the non-Bengalis. In the middle of the month, their animus for the non-Bengalis assumed a new dimension of cold-blooded violence, kidnapping and murder. We started experiencing the sharp edge of terror when a few non-Bengali men of our locality were shanghaied by killer gangs of Bengali rebels around March 17. I sent my two teenage sons to live in hiding with a trusted Bengali family in a nearby village. A lawyer friend of my husband, his two daughters and his brother came to stay with us. Their house was located in the main part of the town where violence against the non-Bengalis had mushroomed. We heard a rumour that on March 24 the Bengali rebels would attack the non-Bengalis in our locality. I was worried because of the reports that the Bengali rebels were kidnapping and molesting non-Bengali young women also. With the consent of my husband and his lawyer friend, I spread a mat on the floor of a dry, derelict water tank in the compound of my house, made the two girls lie on it and covered them with a heap of banana leaves. I instructed them to lie still until they heard a code word from me. The camouflage was so perfect that even their father could not believe that the girls lay concealed under the pile of leaves.......
“As we had expected, in the night of March 24, a yelling mob of armed Bengali rebels raided our locality. They broke into our house and overpowered my husband, our lawyer friend and his younger brother. I tried to go with my husband, but the raiders struck me with a stick and I writhed in pain. They rounded up some other non-Bengalis and drove them at gunpoint towards the river which, I learnt subsequently, was used as the butchery ground. I was nursing my swollen ankle when there was again an ominous knock on the front door. When I delayed opening it the raiders fired on it. I opened the door and four of them trooped in with menacing looks. “Where are the lawyer’s daughters?” barked one of them. I told the brutes that the girls were not in my house. They ransacked the entire house; looted all our valuables and even took away the tableware in our home. But, God be thanked, they did not eye the leaf-covered tank where the girls lay concealed. I locked the door tightly; I barricaded it with an almiral and two big tables to prevent swift intrusion from outside.
“At night, I crawled to the water tank and gave water and rice to the girls. They bore the suffering patiently and lay still under the camouflage for a whole week. On April 10, soldiers of the Pakistan Army, shouting “Allah is Great” came to my house and rescued us. The girls looked like ghosts as they emerged from hiding. Just then my two sons also joined us. The Pakistani soldiers helped us in our frantic search all over the town for my husband and the father and the uncle of the two girls. But there was no trace of them. Obviously they were done to death in the slaughter-house on the bank of the river by the Bengali rebels. We gave the Pakistani troops the details of the hoodlums who had looted our house; all these criminals had fled from Dinajpur and gone to India........”
Zaibunnissa, 30, who lost her husband, Abdul Aziz, her son and her only brother in the March 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis in Dinajpur, has this recollection of that tragedy:
“On March 23, the Awami League militants, who were in power in the town, imposed a curfew in our locality and ordered all the non-Bengali men to attend a meeting of the so-called Peace Committee. A killer squad came to our house and forced my husband and my son to accompany the gang. We suspected that the Peace Committee was a ruse which the killers used for kidnapping non-Bengalis but the killer gang was well-armed and we were helpless. I never saw my husband and my son again.........
“On March 26, the killers again raided my house in search of my brother. They caught him while he was trying to escape into the woods. Before my dazed eyes, one of the killers shot him in the chest at point blank range. As he fell down, he asked for water. I ran to him with a glass of water; the killers hurled the glass from my hand and plugged a second bullet into the skull of my brother. He was dead and a torrent of blood gushed out from his lifeless body. Two old non-Bengali women, who lived in our neighbourhood, helped me in digging a grave in which I buried my brother........
“On March 30, the killer gang again came to my house, ransacked it and asked me at gunpoint where I had hidden my ornaments. When I told them that I had none left, they forced me to go with a group of non-Bengali women and children to the bank of the river. One of the hapless women tucked a copy of the Holy Quran in her arm; a gunman snatched it from her and threw it on the ground. We reached the execution ground and saw hundreds of other non-Bengalis lined up for murder. The killings were conducted till late at night; it was like a scene from hell. It seemed that the river ran red with the blood of the innocents. The Bengali rebels had beheaded many of their victims; we saw their severed heads looking up from blood-soaked sods of earth. Hundreds of dead bodies lay on the bank of the river, awaiting disposal in the water. The next day, when all was set for the execution of our group, a posse of soldiers of the Pakistan Army suddenly appeared on the skyline and our executors scattered in fear. God had heard our prayers; we were saved. The Pakistani soldiers lodged us in a Relief Camp and we were looked after very well. But after December 16, 1971, when the Mukti Bahini ruled Dinajpur, we were again the victims of terror. Hundreds of widowed women, like me, walked to Saidpur where we were told that the Red Cross would set up a Relief Camp and protect us from the killer gangs. For two and a quarter years, we lived in abject poverty and many of the hapless women died. In January 1974, I was repatriated to Pakistan.”
Eye-witnesses of the killings in Dinajpur town reported that non-Bengalis were almost wiped out in the neighbouring towns of Bochaganj, Pirganj, Chorkoy, Ranisankail, Fulbaria, Kaharol, Birganj, Ponchagarh and Chirirbandar between the second week of March and the third week of April 1971. As the federal Army re-established its control over these towns, the Bengali militant, who conducted “Operation Loot, Burn and Kill” against the non-Bengalis, escaped to the sanctuary of the neighbouring Indian State of West Bengal. There is considerable evidence to support the view that the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles, who spear-headed the pogrom against the non-Bengalis, received instructions and help from India. The Times of London, in its issue of April, 6, 1971, quoted a young British technician who had crossed the Indo-Pakistan frontier at Hilli:
“He said that hundreds of non-Bengali Muslims must have died in the north-western town of Dinajpur alone. After the soldiers left, the mobs set upon the non-Bengali Muslims from Bihar. I don’t know how many died but I could hear the screams throughout the night. In other parts of the region, he said. Biharis had been rounded up and were being held as hostages…..”
Some eye-witnesses said that a few God-fearing Bengali Muslims, who sheltered non-Bengalis and were detected, were jailed by the rebels in March 1971. After India’s seizure of East Pakistan in the third week of December 1971, thousands of Bengalis, who remained loyal to Pakistan, were clapped into prison and many were tortured by the Mukti Bahini and the police force it organized.
Hundreds of non-Bengalis were murdered by the Mukti Bahini and their supporters in Dinajpur between the second fortnight of December 1971 and the first half of 1972. The Correspondent of the largely-circulating West German Magazine, Stern of Hamburg, Herr Braumann, flew from Dacca to Dinajpur on February 29, 1972, and saw 80 to 100 corpses of Biharis scattered in a shallow pit. Although the Bengali deputy commissioner of Dinajpur claimed that they were the bodies of the Bengalis who had been killed by the Pakistan Army, Braumann doubted the claim because the corpses were almost fresh. In his despatch published in the Stern magazine on March 12, 1972, Braumann reported:
“....it did not seem possible—in view of the very slight decomposition—that the corpses in the mass grave were of Bengalis; they could only be of Biharis”.
Braumann described in his despatch how the Mukti Bahini commander of Dinajpur, Mohammed Khurshid, procured a dozen Biharis from the Bihari ghetto in Saidpur for being slaughtered to mark “the building of a monument in Dinajpur for a Mukti Bahini hero who was shot by the Pakistanis”.
“March 1971 was like a typhoon of fire and death for thousands of innocent non-Bengali men, women and children in Parbatipur,” said 42 year-old Azizullah Ansari, a school teacher, who lost his wife and two children in the massacre.
Ansari, who taught in the Model High School in Parbatipur, said that before the March 1971 carnage in his town, it was utterly unthinkable for him that the non-Bengalis would be the victims of such brutality. He lived in Dacca for a year after this tragedy in his life and was repatriated to Karachi in December 1973. He testified:
“The Awami Leaguers had started terrorising the non-Bengalis in Parbatipur since the early days of March 1971. As many non-Bengalis were employed in the Railway establishment at Parbatipur, they and their families, who lived in the Railway Colony, were one of the main targets of harassment by the rebels. Non-Bengalis who lived in clusters of houses in other localities of the town were also terrorised by armed Bengali miscreants......
“In the last week of March 1971— I think it was the 22nd of the month— armed Awami League volunteers and the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles ran amok and unleashed an orgy of murder, arson, loot and rape on the non-Bengalis. We closed the school before the scheduled time and the children, mostly Bengalis, left for their homes. I heard from an attendant in the school that a killer mob had gone towards my locality and I ran in the direction of my house. There were a dozen non-Bengali houses in my vicinity. As I neared my house, I saw it aflame. Some other houses were also burning. Unmindful of the flames, I entered it. My world collapsed when I saw the burnt bodies of my wife and my two little children; they were lifeless. I pulled them outside, hoping to revive them. They were dead as scorched mutton. I cried over my loved ones all through the night; I was nearly insane. The fire had subsided and one of the two rooms was intact. I put the bodies of my wife and my two children under a partly burnt mattress in the room; their burial just then was out of the question; the killers would have got me. I lived inside this grave of a house for more than a week until the federal troops arrived and rescued me. A part of me is still in Parbatipur — my wife and children who lie buried in a graveyard there.”
Eye-witnesses of the carnage in Parbatipur estimate that about 3,000 non-Bengalis lost their lives in March-April, 1971.
Forty-six-year old Abdur Rashid, a Railway employee at Parbatipur who lived in Railway Quarter No. 153 (N), had a vivid but benumbing recollection of the slaughter of non-Bengalis in trains in March 1971:
“On March 12, the train from Ishurdi arrived ten hours late at Parbatipur. The reason was that a band of armed Awami League volunteers and other miscreants had stopped it at a wayside station and slaughtered many of the non-Bengali passengers. I was at the Railway station when the ill-fated train steamed in with 170 dead bodies of non-Bengali men, women and children. Most of the bodies were horribly mutilated. Also on the train were some 75 wounded non-Bengalis; many of them were in a critical condition. They were removed to the local hospital; only a few survived. Amongst the dead bodies on the train were those of suckling children who had been stabbed brutally along with their mothers. It was a horrifying scene and the memory of it gives me a shiver even now. After this episode, it became terribly dangerous for non-Bengalis to travel in trains. Similar incidents were reported from quite a few other places...”
Abdur Rashid and his wife and children escaped the massacre in Parbatipur. They suffered excruciating hardships after India’s conquest of East Pakistan. They came to Karachi via Nepal in April 1973.
Abbas Ali, 45, who worked as a school teacher in Parbatipur and lived in a house on New Road, testified:
“In the second week of March, 1971, the Awami League militants began terrorising the non-Bengalis. On March 19, a killer gang attacked a large number of non-Bengali houses in a locality close to where I lived. They had sten guns and rifles. They looted the non-Bengali houses and burnt some of them. They killed a few non-Bengalis and kidnapped a number of teenage girls. I am convinced that most of the killers who raided our locality were Bengali Hindus and some of them spoke Bengali with an accent which resembled that of the West Bengalis in India. The Bengali rebels conducted the liquidation of the majority of the non-Bengali population in Parbatipur in stages. It reached its peak in the first week of April when wholesale slaughter of the non-Bengalis became the order of the day. I escaped the massacre with the help of a Bengali family which sheltered me”.
Abbas Ali was repatriated from Dacca to Karachi in February 1974. He thinks that the Awami League militants had drugged a large segment of the Bengali population in Parbatipur with lies against Pakistan, the people of West Pakistan and the federal government. “What amazed me was the fact”, he added, “that the killer gangs even desecrated mosques. This was extraordinary and incredible because most of the Bengalis I had known were religious and God-fearing people”.
Another survivor of the March 1971 butchery in Parbatipur is Maimunnissa, 40, who said:
“My husband, Shajiuddin, had retired from Railway service. He and I and our grown up son lived in our own house in a crowded locality in Parbatipur. In the last week of March 1971, a large gang of armed Bengali militants raided our house and looted it. My husband and my son were luckily out of town. The attackers asked me to leave the house and they burnt it. Utterly helpless, I watched my house burn. A neighbour sheltered me. After the federal army re-established its control over Parbatipur, my husband and my son returned to our burnt home. In the middle of April, we rebuilt our house and we again lived in it. My son, Mohammed Ali, joined the Pakistan Army and he was posted in a border area. We were very proud of him.......
“On December 17, 1971, after the surrender of the Pakistani troops to India in Dacca, armed gangs of Bengali killers were again on the rampage in Parbatipur. We decided to escape to Saidpur where we had some relatives. My husband put me in a train bound for Saidpur in the evening of December 17. He said he would come the next day. A former Railway colleague of his, a Bengali, had promised to shelter him for the night in his house. The next day, I learnt from an old friend of his at Saidpur Railway station that a killer mob had caught my husband in the vicinity of the Parbatipur Railway Station and hacked him to death. I lived in Saidpur in abject poverty and suffering for two years. I wrote to the Red Cross about my son in the Army. To this day, I have no news of him. I was repatriated to Karachi in February 1974”.
Fifty-year-old Sitara Bano, whose husband. Abdul Qadir, owned a provision store in Parbatipur, testified:
“In the March 1971 massacre in Parbatipur, my husband, my son, my teenage daughter and I escaped from the town just before a raid on our locality. My husband’s shop was looted; our house was burnt. We returned to the town after the federal army regained control over it. We rebuilt our shop and our house; my son got a clerical job in a firm. But on December 17, 1971 when the surrender of the Pakistan Army in Dacca to the Indian Army was announced, the Mukti Bahini supporters and other Awami Leaguers began the slaughter of the non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis. In the evening, I learnt that my husband and my son were butchered by a killer mob. My daughter and I left that very evening for Saidpur. We took up employment in a Bengali home. But we lived haunted lives because almost every week there were rumours that the Mukti Bahini would kill all the surviving non-Bengali women and children. My daughter was married in 1972 and is some where in East Pakistan. I was repatriated to Karachi from Saidpur via Dacca in January 1974........”
According to witnesses, the Awami League militants and their armed supporters used grenades, light mortars, machine guns and rifles in their attacks on the non-Bengalis in Parbatipur. Fiendishly ruthless were the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles. Their goal was to wipe out the entire community of 40,000 non-Bengalis who lived in Parbatipur. But the non-Bengalis organized defence squads and held the rebel mobs—at times 50,000 strong — at bay for a whole week before the Pakistan Army arrived and the rebels took to their heels. However, non-Bengali groups, which lived in predominantly Bengali localities, were wiped out by the rebels.
The Awami League’s rebellion cast its dark and ominous shadow on the lives of the non-Bengali populace in Thakurgaon, a town in the Dinajpur district, in the middle of March 1971. Before the outburst of genocidal frenzy against the non-Bengalis in the last week of the month, the belabouring of non-Bengali young men by groups of Bengalis on the streets and in alleys had become a frequent occurrence. The police had swung to the side of the Awami League rebels.
In the last week of March and the first fortnight of April 1971, armed Bengali rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles joined the Awami Leaguers and unleashed terror and death on the non-Bengalis. About 3,000 innocents were killed in this barbaric slaughter. More than two-third of the non-Bengali population in Thakurgaon was wiped out; their houses were looted and many were burnt. Dead bodies by the hundreds were deliberately incinerated in blazing houses by the killers. Non-Bengali teenage girls were kidnapped, ravished and tortured in sex assault chambers; most of them were murdered by the rebels before they quit the town. Some pregnant women were bayoneted; their still born babies were bludgeoned. The dead bodies of some prominent non-Bengalis were dragged through the streets and displayed in public from flagpoles. The Army regained control over Thakurgaon on April 15, 1971.
Mohammad Sohail Tanvir, 21, an articulate student who lived with his father in their own house in Rahmatganj in Thakurgaon town, described the murder of his father by the Bengali rebels in these words:
“My father was a prominent Muslim Leaguer in Thakurgaon. He had served as a Basic Democrat for many years and was respected by the Bengali and non-Bengali residents alike. We had lived in Thakurgaon for more than 18 years and we spoke Bengali very well. My father had done well in business and bought some property. He helped many charitable institutions in the town........
“In the last week of March 1971, a pall of death and destruction enveloped the non-Bengalis in Thakurgaon and several thousands of them lost their lives. My father had gone to the main Mosque in our locality to offer his evening prayers. With him were two non-Bengali and a Bengali friend. As they stepped out of the Mosque, a killer gang of Bengali rebels brutally killed him and his three friends. They threw the dead bodies inside the Mosque and wiped out other non-Bengalis in the neighbourhood. I and some members of my family escaped the carnage with the help of a God-fearing Bengali friend of my father. After India’s conquest of East Pakistan in December 1971, we escaped to Nepal. Early in 1974, we were repatriated from Nepal to Karachi.”
Sohail’s slain father, Mr. Tanvir Ahmed, as a member of the local Council in Rahmatganj locality, had devotedly worked for the social uplift of the Bengalis as well as the non-Bengalis. “My father advocated fraternisation between Bengalis and non-Bengalis”, said Sohail.
Sohail recalled that it took the federal troops some days before they could retrieve all the dead bodies of non-Bengalis and arrange their proper burial. Heaps of human skulls and bones were found in the gutted houses of non-Bengalis.
“The Awami League killers in Thakurgaon had instructions to kill all the non-Bengali male adults”, said Afzal Siddiqi, 50, who lost his two sons and a daughter in the carnage in Thakurgaon. He had migrated to East Pakistan from Calcutta in 1947 and settled in Thakurgaon in the mid 1960’s. Repatriated from Dacca in January 1974, he reported that he escaped the massacre of non-Bengalis in the last week of March 1971 by hiding in a dry, derelict water tank, not far from his house in Rahmatganj. He said:
“I worked as a commission agent for the sale of household wares. My three children were born in East Pakistan My Bengali wife had died some years ago. In spite of our close links with East Pakistan, the Awami Leaguers called us Biharis.........
“Since early March 1971, non-Bengalis were harassed and intimidated in Thakurgaon by the Awami League militants. But in the last week of the month, the killers went on the rampage and wiped out most of the non-Bengali population in Thakurgaon. I was away from my house when an assassination squad raided my house, looted it, murdered my two sons and kidnapped my teenage daughter. When I returned to my house I saw it aflame. The bodies of my sons lay on the doorstep. I knew that the killer gang was at work. Fearing that they would return for me, I went into hiding in a dry water tank which had a large hole in it. I slipped into it and covered it with leaves. It served as my hideout for a fortnight before the Army crushed the rebels.........”
Witnesses from Thakurgaon estimated that out of the 9,000 non-Bengalis who lived in this town, barely 150 survived the March-April 1971 massacre. A non-Bengali army major held nearly 1,000 Bengali rebels at bay for more than 72 hours. When his ammunition was exhausted, he fought the raiders with a dagger and died a hero’s death. The killer mob slayed his wife and his children and paraded their dead bodies as trophies of victory. The attacking mob was led by the local leaders of the Awami League, the sons of the head of the local administration and half a dozen police officers.
Amongst the other towns of Dinajpur district where non-Bengalis were liquidated en masse by the Bengali rebels between the second fortnight of March 1971 and the third week of April were Hilli, Phulbari, Jamalganj, Ponchagarh and Chaur Kai. Estimates of the non-Bengali death toll in these four towns ranged from 3,000 to 4,000. The Times of London, in its issue of April 6, 1971, reported:
“Thousands of helpless Muslim refugees who had settled in Bengal at the time of partition arc reported to have been massacred by angry Bengalis during the past week........The facts about the massacres were confirmed by Bihari Muslim refugees who crossed the border into India this week and by a young British technician who crossed the Indo-Pakistan frontier at Hilli today............He said that hundreds of non-Bengali Muslims have died in the north-western town of Dinajpur alone”.
Most of the killing of the non-Bengalis, it was gathered from eyewitnesses, was conducted by the rebels of the East Bengal Regiment, the East Pakistan Rifles and armed volunteers of the Awami League. The pattern and mode of extermination of the non-Bengalis here was similar to “Operation loot, kill and burn” staged by the Bengali rebels in Dinajpur and Parbatipur. The rebels, as they retreated to the sanctuary of the Indian border in the face of the advancing Pakistani Army, carried away with them a number of teenage non-Bengali girls whom they had kidnapped from Dinajpur and other places in the district. The border town of Hilli remained for many days the principal escape chute of the Bengali rebels into India. Some of these unfortunate captive girls — amongst them were a few from Punjabi and Pathan families— made a brave and desperate bid to escape the clutches of their fleeing captors but they were mowed down with machine gunfire by the rebels in Hilli. The rebels, while they held Hilli, were aided by the Indian Border Security Force and received arms and ammunition from their Indian benefactors. In Phulbari, Ponchagarh, Jamalganj and Chaur Kai, the liquidation of non-Bengali families was wholesale and ruthless. Some non-Bengalis of Bihar origin, it is reported, escaped the rebels death noose and succeeded in crossing the border into India. The Indian police and military forces caught them and quite a few are believed to be languishing in jails in India.
Witnesses reported that not more than five per cent of the 5,000 non-Bengalis who lived in the town of Ponchagarh survived the March-April 1971 massacre. Awami league cadres, rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles and infiltrators from India waged the massacre of the non-Bengalis in Ponchagarh.
The President of the East Pakistan Refugees Association, Diwan Wirasat Hussain, in a memorandum submitted to the British Parliamentary Delegation in Dacca on June 20, 1971, estimated that out of the more than 50,000 Muslim refugees from India who had settled at the time of the 1947 Partition in Birganj, Manickpara, Shetabganj, Sahebganj, Deviganj and Sall Danga in Dinajpur district, barely 150 survived the March-April 1971 massacre of non-Bengalis. According to his figures, more than 100,000 non-Bengalis were killed in Dinajpur district.
“I am the lone survivor of a family of nine; all my dear ones were butchered in Laksham in March 1971 by the Bengali rebels”, said 59-yearold Masoom Ali, who was repatriated to Karachi from Dacca in February 1974.
Masoom Ali’s 26-year-old son was employed as a ticket checker in the East Pakistan Railway at Laksham. He was killed in the carnage. Masoom Ali had this painful memory of the murder of his family:
“Most of the non-Bengali residents in Laksham were Railway employees and their families. Many of them had come from Bihar and West Bengal in India by opting for service in East Pakistan at the time of the 1947 partition of the sub-continent………”
“The non-Bengali element in Laksham’s population did not exceed 1,000. Amongst them were also some families of West Pakistan origin. The Bengalis referred to all of us by the generic name of Bihari. Since the first week of March 1971, because of the Awami League’s uprising, acute tension existed in Laksham and the non-Bengalis were apprehensive. The police force was immobilised as far as the safety of the non-Bengalis was concerned; no policeman was willing to rescue any non-Bengali from the thugs...........
“In the night of March 19, 1971, about 500 Bengali rebels, many armed with guns, raided the Railway quarters wherein lived the non-Bengali employees and their families. The raid was conducted with such suddenness and ferocity that we had no time even to think of escape. A killer gang broke the door of our house and opened fire on all of us. In a matter of minutes our house was turned into a slaughter-house; they killed my son, his wife and their four small children and the teenage sister and brother of my daughter-in-law. One of the killers struck me on the head and I was unconscious for two days. The federal troops, who took over control of Laksham on April 16, 1971, arranged the burial of my dear ones. For months I was mentally disturbed; I had dreadful nightmares. I think that at least 800 non-Bengalis perished in the March 1971 massacre. I still remember those lurid bloodstains on the walls and floor of Railway Quarter No. 93/H in Laksham where my kith and kin were done to death before my stunned, helpless eyes. I wish I hadn’t survived”.
“These broken glass bangles arc my most cherished possessions; they are the only mementoes I have of my two pretty daughters who were kidnapped by the Bengali rebels from our house in Rajbari in the March 1971 rebellion”, said sobbing Hafiza Begum, 46, in Karachi after her repatriation from Dacca in January 1974.
“The butchers slaughtered my 55-year-old husband before my eyes and dragged my brave, shrieking daughters at gunpoint to shame and death”, Hafiza tearfully added.
Hafiza broke down a number of times as she narrated the harrowing details of the gruesome tragedy in her life. She said:
“Rajbari had never experienced any tension between the Bengalis and the non-Bengalis before the March 1971 uprising of the Awami League. We lived in the Ganeshpur locality in a cluster of a dozen non-Bengali houses. Since early March, alarming rumours were afloat but our Bengali friends told us that there would be no violence in Rajbari against the non-Bengalis.............
“In the night of March 19, 1971, I was sitting in the house of a neighbour when our locality was raided by a large gang of Bengali rebels. Yells of “Joi Bangla” and the screams of the victims rent the skies. I rushed towards my house. On the way, I saw the killer gangs smashing the locked doors of the houses of non-Bengalis and attacking the inmates with daggers, staves, iron bars and scythes. As I entered my house, I saw the butchers attacking my husband who was resisting them. I heard the cries of my two unmarried daughters who were trying to beat back the attackers with frying pans and small sticks. I joined the fray in support of my family. One of the butchers struck me on the head and I collapsed on the floor. The next day, when I regained consciousness, my husband lay dead by my side. There were stab wounds all over his dead body. I had excruciating pain in the neck and the left side of the skull. There was no trace of my two daughters; I crawled into the room where my girls lived, I found these broken bangles; their abandoned Saris had bloodstains. Like a mad woman, I limped out of the house and shouted for them. I found no survivors in the houses of the non-Bengalis. A frightened Bengali woman who lived in my neighbourhood helped me hobble back to my house and advised me not to stir out otherwise the killers would get me. I placed my husband’s blood-soaked body on a cot inside a room because it was impossible to bury him just then.....................
“After the Pakistan Army liberated Rajbari in the third week of April 1971, my husband was laid to eternal rest in a local graveyard along with the other slain non-Bengalis. For days, I roamed all over Rajbari town in search of my two kidnapped daughters but I could not find them. The killers, it seemed, had kidnapped scores of non-Bengali young women, ravished them and killed most of them just before the federal troops regained control over Rajbari.................”
Hafiza was sent to Dacca and lodged in a Relief Camp for destitute women and children. In January 1974, she was repatriated to Karachi.
Two of the few survivors of the March 1971 killing of non-Bengalis in Rajbari were Zarina Khatoon, 35, and her husband, Tamizuddin, who was employed in the Power House in Rajbari. They lived in peace until December 17, 1971, when India accomplished the armed grab of East Pakistan and the Mukti Bahini went on the rampage against the non-Bengalis. Zarina and her husband, along with their eight month-old son, fled from Rajbari to Goalundo where, it was rumoured, the Red Cross would protect the non-Bengalis and accommodate them in relief camps. At Goalundo, a killer gang gunned to death Zarina’s husband in the market place before her stunned eyes. The Mukti Bahini gunmen tossed Zarina and her suckling child into a jail in Faridpur town where hundreds of non-Bengali women and children were held captive. Zarina said:
“Life in this dungeon of a jail in Faridpur was worse than death; many scores of women died of hunger and disease. We ate barely a meal a day; the rice was full of stones. Any one who protested against the abominable conditions in the prison was given a beating by the prison guards. After six months, I was set free along with some other non-Bengali women. All of us looked like skeletons. I got a job as a maid-servant in the house of a Bengali businessman who had fattened on the wealth of a West Pakistani family which was liquidated by the Mukti Bahini after it captured Faridpur. He paid me no salary because, he said, he was protecting me from the Mukti Bahini...............
“When the Red Cross invited applications from non-Bengalis wishing to go to Pakistan, I immediately applied for repatriation. In February 1974, the United Nations repatriated me to Karachi from Dacca by air.............”
Six months of incarceration in Faridpur jail and the horrifying memory of the 1971 massacre of her husband and many of her relatives in Rajbari, Faridpur and Goalundo have made Zarina a nervous wreck. “I am continuing to live only for the sake of my little child”, said Zarina, with tears brimming in her eyes. “I can never forget the cold-blooded shooting of my husband in the market-place in Goalundo,” she added. In 1969, Zarina’s husband had worked for six months in the Power House in Faridpur. In 1972, during her captivity in prison and, later on, when she worked with a Bengali family as a maidservant, Zarina found no trace of the dozens of non-Bengalis she had known in Faridpur in 1969. She was told that most of them had been killed.
The sheaves of eyewitness accounts, documented in this book, prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the massacre of West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis in East Pakistan had begun long before the Pakistan Army took punitive action against the rebels late in the night of March 25, 1971. It is also crystal clear that the Awami League’s terror machine was the initiator and executor of the genocide against the non-Bengalis which exterminated at least half a million of them in less than two months of horror and trauma. Many witnesses have opined that the federal Government acted a bit too late against the insurgents. The initial success of the federal military action is proved by the fact that in barely 30 days, the Pakistan Army, with a combat strength of 38,717 officers and men in East Pakistan, had squelched the Awami League’s March-April, 1971, rebellion all over the province.
The rebellion was master-minded, by the hardcore, pro-India leadership of the Awami League, a regional political party which initially campaigned for provincial autonomy but subsequently espoused the secession of the eastern province from the federal union. The Awami League had won the majority of seats reserved for the province of East Pakistan in the constitution-making National Assembly and the East Pakistan Legislative Assembly in the countrywide December, 1970, general elections. But it had no legislative support in the four provinces of West Pakistan. In wooing the electorate in East Pakistan before the polls, the Awami League committed itself to the concept of a single Pakistani nationhood by proclaiming in its election manifesto “Pakistan shall be a federation, granting full autonomy to each of the federating units”. Having secured the confidence of the majority of the voters in East Pakistan on the platform of autonomy within the framework of a united Pakistan, the militant ruling caucus in the Awami League took to the path of rebellion and secession of East Pakistan from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It unloosed terrible orgies of killing and destructicn of the non-Bengali ethnic minority to which the generic name of Biharis was given by their tormentors. After the federal Army crushed the Awami League’s revolt, most of its hardcore leaders and followers sought sanctuary in India’s protective lap and invoked its massive military and financial support for their secessionist campaign.
Seizing it as the golden opportunity of the century to undo Pakistan, India used the Bengali rebels, it had trained and armed, for the war of attrition against Pakistan in its eastern wing for some nine months. After the Bengali guerrillas had been used by India as cannon fodder to soften the Pakistani defences in East Pakistan, Indian tanks, guns and troops rolled over the border on November 22, 1971, to accomplish India’s armed grab of East Pakistan and the establishment of its client state of Bangladesh. India’s Bengali surrogates, who operated the Indian-propped, Calcutta-based Government of Bangladesh, were installed in Dacca as the new rulers of Bangladesh on December 17, 1971 by the victorious Indian Army. On January 8, 1972, President Bhutto of Pakistan freed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and sent him from Rawalpindi in a PIA Boeing to London en route to Dacca where he took over the leadership of the new Bengali state. He made a public declaration, soon after his return to Dacca, that for the past quarter of a century he had been working for the separation and independence of Pakistan’s eastern wing.
The Government of Pakistan had issued, belatedly, in August 1971, a White Paper on the East Pakistan crisis which gave a chronological synopsis of the macabre happenings in East Pakistan during the murderous months of March and April, 1971. It gave the following rationale for the federal military action in East Pakistan against the Awami League secessionists and their rebel cohorts:
“On the night of March 25/26, a few hours before the Awami League plan for an armed uprising and launching of the independent Republic of Bangladesh was to be put into effect, the President of Pakistan called upon the Armed forces to do their duty and fully restore the authority of the Government in East Pakistan...........
“The federal army took the initiative and thwarted the Awami League plan for the armed takeover of East Pakistan through armed infiltrators from India and subverted elements in the East Bengal Regiment, East Pakistan Rifles, the police and Para-military forces...........”
The White Paper bared these highlights of the Awami League’s operational plan for the armed revolt in East Pakistan which was due to be triggered full-blast in the small hours of March 26, 1971:
a) Troops of the East Bengal Regiment would occupy Dacca and Chittagong to prevent the landing of Pakistan Army units by air or sea;
b) the remaining troops of the East Bengal Regiment, with the help of the East Pakistan Rifles, the police and the armed Razakaars (Volunteer Corps) would swiftly move to eliminate the federal armed forces in various cantonments and stations;
c) the East Pakistan Rifles would occupy all the key posts of the border and keep them open for aid from outside;
d) requirements of more arms and ammunition would be met with supplies from India, and
e) Indian troops would come to the assistance of the Awami League rebel force once it succeeded in the first phase of occupying key centres and paralysing the Pakistan Army.
What Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his pro-India caucus in the Awami League failed to achieve in March because of the daring, pre-emptive strike by the federal Army was accomplished for them by their Indian benefactors in the third week of December, 1971. The secession plan was in fact conceived in June, 1964. when the Sheikh and his associates, according to the prosecution’s charge-sheet in the secessionist Agartala conspiracy trial of 1968, held their first major conspiratorial conclave in Dacca in the house of Tajuddin Ahmed — the hardliner whom India made, in April, 1971, the Prime Minister of the Indian sponsored and Indian-financed Government of Bangladesh in Calcutta. According to the prosecution’s charge-sheet, it was in this meeting of the conspirators that the name of Bangladesh was coined for the independent Bengali state that was to be established in East Pakistan with Indian funds and arms. It was also in this meeting that the design of the flag of Bangladesh, which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman saw ceremoniously, unfurled at a Dacca rally on March 23, 1971, was presented for approval. The Sheikh was not exonerated of the charges of secession levelled against him in the Agartala conspiracy case; the trial was abandoned in February 1969, by the Ayub regime under political pressure from opposition parties. In the election year of 1970, India’s clandestine financial support to the Awami League was a major factor in the party’s affluence and its well-lubricated, highly efficient organizational apparatus.
The Awami League employed fascist techniques in its operations for power grab. Its leaders and their followers used strong-arm methods to terrorise their rival parties. All through the election year of 1970, scores of attacks by the Awami Leaguers on their political adversaries were reported in the press. The Awami League had won over a section of the Bengali bureaucracy in East Pakistan with lavish promises of speedy promotions and other fringe benefits once it came to power. Unlike its political rivals, the Awami League suffered from no shortage of funds. Money flowed into its coffers from generous India. It also enjoyed a rich harvest of protection money from the West Pakistani industrialists who owned factories in East Pakistan and who thought that bribing the Awami League was an insurance against labour tantrums. An excellent organizer, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had no difficulty in recruiting into his militant outfit tough young men specially trained in breaking up meetings, manhandling opponents and in other cloak-and-dagger tactics of political combat. The Awami League’s leadership showed a fascist intolerance for the Opposition and had no qualms of conscience in ruthlessly liquidating its rivals. The ouster of Mrs. Amena Begum, a one-time President of the Awami League, from the party at the behest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is one of the many examples of the Nazi-style manner in which he ran the Awami League. Even the organizational set-up of the Awami League, during nearly two decades of its operation, did not substantiate the party’s pretensions to democracy. The Awami League’s public meetings were organized as massive displays of its political strength in Dacca. The party cadres used to hire hundreds of trucks and even charter train services for transporting villagers to Dacca to pack the audience ranks in the public meetings and rallies of the Awami League.
The theme song of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his firebrands was invariably the charge of exploitation of East Pakistan by West Pakistan. Typical of the highly emotive and inflammatory speeches with which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman injected animus against West Pakistan in the minds of his Bengali supporters was his speech at Hazaribagh Park on March 11, 1970 when he accused West Pakistan of looting the wealth of East Pakistan. Aside from preaching hymns of hate against West Pakistan, the leaders of the Awami League mis-represented to the people in East Pakistan every action of the federal authorities and distorted facts and figures to buttress their arguments for autonomy bordering on virtual independence. After the cyclone tragedy of November 1970 in the coastal belt of East Pakistan, the Awami League leaders and their newspaper mouthpieces invented countless false charges of callousness and misappropriation of aid for the cyclone sufferers against the federal officials posted in the province.
The charge against the Awami League leaders that while they wooed the electorate in 1970 on the platform of autonomy, after their electoral success in East Pakistan, they shifted their position and demanded a virtually independent Bangladesh has substance in it. The first point of the Awami League’s six-point programme of autonomy categorically said that “the character of the Government shall be federal and parliamentary”, implying that Pakistan would be a federation and not a confederation, In his election speeches in 1970, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assured the voters that he wanted only provincial autonomy and not the disintegration of Pakistan or any dilution of its Islamic character. On September 21, 1970, in a public address at Narayanganj, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said:
“The six-point programme would be realised and at the same time neither the integrity of Pakistan nor Islam would be jeopardised.”
After the Awami League’s electoral victory in East Pakistan in December 1970, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s speeches betrayed signs of a shift in his autonomy stance. He declared bluntly that his six points were not negotiable. It appeared that he had started toying with the idea of making his Bangladesh an independent state. The draft constitution, which his constitutional experts wrote early in 1971 with the object of railroading it through the National Assembly soon after its convocation, sought to whittle down the powers of the federal government to such an extent that Pakistan would then have been a confederation of virtually independent states and not a federation. Two of its well-known provisions, which militated against all canons of federalism, were that (a) the federal government would handle foreign affairs minus foreign trade and aid, and (b) all federal taxes would be collected by the provincial governments and not by the federal government. Such provisions are alien to the concept of federalism and do not exist in the constitution of any truly federal state. The Awami League’s proposal for two separate constituent conventions “for the purpose of framing constitutions for the state of Bangladesh and for the states of West Pakistan” was undoubtedly a constitutional formula for the eventual secession of East Pakistan from the fold of the federation. Under this constitutional formula, the Awami League demanded for Bangladesh the power to sign treaties and agreements of foreign trade and aid in total disregard of the federal government and to maintain trade representatives overseas. This was the platform of independence, not of provincial autonomy. The rigid stand of the Awami League leaders and their refusal to budge even an inch from their demand for virtual independence for Bangladesh wrecked the constitutional talks in Dacca in the third week of March 1971.
General Yahya Khan’s postponement of the National Assembly’s inaugural session, scheduled for March 3, 1971, was a temporary measure. It was intended to give more time to the political leaders to devise a consensus on the form and shape of the proposed constitution instead of openly wrangling in the forum of the National Assembly. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman over-reacted to the temporary postponement of the National Assembly’s session and hastily took to the path of rebellion against the federal government and usurped the authority of the lawfully-established government in East Pakistan. It is a tragedy of the grimmest dimension that because of the Awami League’s chauvinism and power lust, millions of innocent people in East Pakistan suffered the most dreadful trauma in sub-continental history.
India’s support to the Awami League encouraged Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his bid to wrest the reins of power in East Pakistan from the federal government through the majesty of force and terror. India’s rulers have not reconciled themselves to the reality of Pakistan as a separate, sovereign state. Muslim-majority Pakistan has been a constant eyesore for Hindu-majority India. One of the reasons for India’s all-out support to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his secessionist movement was spelled out in mid-1971 by the Chairman of India’s Institute of Public Affairs, Mr. R. R. Kapur, a retired senior officer of the Indian Civil Service, in these words:
“Our support to Mujibur Rahman is based, let us be candid enough, on our sub-conscious hate complex of Pakistan. Platonically, we may plead all virtue but the harsh reality is that Pakistan was wrested from us, and its basis — the two nations’ theory — has never been palatable to us. If something ever happens which proves the unsoundness of that theory, it will be a matter of psychological satisfaction to us. That is, by and large, our national psyche and it is in that context that we have reacted to a happening which, we think, may well disrupt Pakistan.....”
There is ample evidence to prove that India was sending weapons and ammunition and armed infiltrators into East Pakistan to help the Awami League cadres long before the federal military intervention of March 25, 1971. India’s rulers had massed more than 100,000 crack troops in West Bengal since early March under the pretext of maintaining law and order during the elections in that stare. In mid-March, more Indian army formations were moved to West Bengal and deployed on the borders of East Pakistan to boost the morale of the Awami League insurrectionists. Late in March, 1971, at least eight battalions of the Indian Border Security Force gave active support to the Awami League rebels in the border belt. It was India which organised the burlesque of installing the government of Bangladesh in exile in the first week of April in an Indian border village. To provide an operational base to its protégé Bangladesh Government, the Indian authorities manipulated the seizure of Pakistan’s diplomatic and consular mission in Calcutta by a handful of defectors and handed it over to the secessionist fugitives from East Pakistan.
India would have attacked East Pakistan in April 1971, to establish Bangladesh by force but the Indian Army generals counselled their Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, against what then was to them a hazardous and precipitate action. They preferred the winter for a blitz attack on East Pakistan because Pakistan’s access routes to China would then be snowed up. They also wanted time to mobilise their armed forces for a full-scale war with Pakistan and to train the Bengali defectors in guerrilla warfare to soften the Pakistani defences in East Pakistan before the actual Indian invasion. The Indian Generals, according to the “Lightning Campaign” by Major-General D. K. Palit, also urged the Indian Prime Minister to eliminate the possibility of Chinese or American intervention in support of Pakistan. In eight months of frenzied preparations, India’s rulers succeeded in priming their war machine for the blitz attack on East Pakistan. They signed the Indo-Soviet alliance in August 1971 to neutralise the danger of Chinese intervention in a sub-continental war. They bamboozled American public opinion with exaggerated accounts of the refugee influx and turned it against Pakistan to ensure that no American weapons would flow into Pakistan.
India trained nearly 100,000 East Pakistan Bengalis in guerrilla warfare. Their harassing raids, sabotage and a virtual war of attrition bled Pakistan economically and weakened it under the strain of a costly anti-insurgency operation. In spire of Pakistan’s repeated offers to take back all the refugees who had gone to India, India’s rulers deliberately did not permit them to return to East Pakistan because that would have deprived India of a deceptively humanitarian excuse, initially, to milk the world for hundreds of millions of dollars in compassionate aid, and subsequently, to invade East Pakistan.
The refugees gave India its most powerful weapon in psychological warfare. By inflating their number from a million in May to more then nine million in November 1971, India deceived world opinion and gave Pakistan a bad name all over the world. India was allergic to Pakistan’s demand for a count of the refugees in India by an impartial agency, such as the United Nations. It did not accept Pakistan’s claim that only 2.02 million people had left East Pakistan due to the civil strife.
The Indian authorities deliberately encouraged the vast hordes of unemployed Bengalis, who swarm Calcutta and its neighbourhood, to move into the refugee camps as inmates so that the population of these camps could be magnified to impress and mislead foreign visitors and United Nations officials. If the Indian Government was so overburdened with tile refugees from East Pakistan, it could have promptly negotiated with the Pakistan Government their speedy return to their hearths and homes in East Pakistan, especially when the Pakistan authorities were anxious to take them back and a general amnesty had been granted to those who looted and killed during the Awami League’s March 1971 uprising. India’s rulers uttered haughty words to tell the world that they would allow the Bengali refugees to return to East Pakistan only when the province was turned over to the Awami League secessionists. A Goebbels-style propaganda machinery, which drugged the Indian people for weeks with the fiction of Pakistani General Tikka Khan’s imaginary death in the last days of March 1971, had no qualms of conscience in inflating the number of refugees to earn more money and sympathy from gullible nations and individuals and to malign its arch enemy, Pakistan.
Pakistan agreed to the United Nations Secretary-General’s proposal in the autumn of 1971 for the stationing of monitors on the India-East Pakistan border but the Indian Government contemptuously rejected it. The UN observers would have bared the fact of India’s military patronage, sanctuary and logistic support to the Bengali guerrillas and India’s massive preparations for the invasion of East Pakistan.
India’s claim that it had maintained a complete record of the incoming refugees was a mere fiction. After the federal army went into action against the Bengali rebels on March 25, 1971, India opened its borders to provide sanctuary to the hordes of fleeing rebels from East Pakistan. They were the killers who had enacted one of the bloodiest pogroms of modem times. Subsequently India encouraged more Bengalis in East Pakistan, especially the Hindus, to cross over to India. In June 1971, when United Nations officials wanted to check on the veracity of the Indian figures on refugees, the Indian authorities hurriedly fabricated some records and registers. When these fictitious documents did not fully substantiate the Indian claim of the millions of refugees India said had come over from East Pakistan, Indian officials blandly said that a few million refugees had gone to live with their friends all over India. India’s rulers found it to their immense advantage to magnify the extent of human displacement to attract international sympathy, attention and funds and to discredit Pakistan and its army.
In the months just before and after India and Pakistan attained independence in August 1947, some eight million Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan and six million Hindus migrated from Pakistan to India owing to Hindu-Muslim religious rioting in the two countries. Involving some 14 million people, this was the biggest trans-border migration of peoples in human history. India and Pakistan accomplished their rehabilitation and resettlement in their respective territories without any outside assistance. In 1971, India invented the excuse of its refugee burden to invade and grab East Pakistan. It defies human comprehension how all the nine million refugees India claimed it was hosting vanished in less than a month’s time. Indian propagandists claimed that all the Bengali refugees lodged in West Bengal, Assam and Tripura had returned and were resettled in their hearths and homes in East Pakistan (breakaway Bangladesh) in less than a month after India’s military seizure of the province on December 17, 1971. The movement of nine million human beings from the neighbouring states of India to Bangladesh, across mine-infested border tracts, shell-scarred roads, polluted wells and rotting dead bodies in barely three weeks, is beyond the pail of human achievement. But this is precisely what India’s propagandists want the world to believe in order to justify their bloated figures of the refugee influx.
Since his advent to power in Dacca, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has drummed the phoney charge that the Pakistan Army had killed three million of his countrymen in 1971. In civil strife, there is undoubtedly some loss of life on both sides. But it is unbelievable that all through the nine months of strife in East Pakistan, the Pakistan Army’s barely three divisions, thinly spread out along more than 1800 miles of explosive, often flaming, border with India, did no other work except engage in the gory pastime of slaughtering 13,000-plus Bengalis every day. A correspondent of the Daily Los Angeles Times, William J. Drummond, who toured Bangladesh in the first quarter of 1972, exposed the absurdity of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s charge. Similarly, the falsity of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman oft-repeated allegation that the Pakistani troops had raped 200,000 Bengali girls in 1971 was borne out when the abortion team he commissioned from Britain early in 1972 found that its workload involved the termination of only a hundred or more pregnancies.
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