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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.