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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.