“March 1971 was like a typhoon of fire and death for thousands of innocent non-Bengali men, women and children in Parbatipur,” said 42 year-old Azizullah Ansari, a school teacher, who lost his wife and two children in the massacre.
Ansari, who taught in the Model High School in Parbatipur, said that before the March 1971 carnage in his town, it was utterly unthinkable for him that the non-Bengalis would be the victims of such brutality. He lived in Dacca for a year after this tragedy in his life and was repatriated to Karachi in December 1973. He testified:
“The Awami Leaguers had started terrorising the non-Bengalis in Parbatipur since the early days of March 1971. As many non-Bengalis were employed in the Railway establishment at Parbatipur, they and their families, who lived in the Railway Colony, were one of the main targets of harassment by the rebels. Non-Bengalis who lived in clusters of houses in other localities of the town were also terrorised by armed Bengali miscreants......
“In the last week of March 1971— I think it was the 22nd of the month— armed Awami League volunteers and the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles ran amok and unleashed an orgy of murder, arson, loot and rape on the non-Bengalis. We closed the school before the scheduled time and the children, mostly Bengalis, left for their homes. I heard from an attendant in the school that a killer mob had gone towards my locality and I ran in the direction of my house. There were a dozen non-Bengali houses in my vicinity. As I neared my house, I saw it aflame. Some other houses were also burning. Unmindful of the flames, I entered it. My world collapsed when I saw the burnt bodies of my wife and my two little children; they were lifeless. I pulled them outside, hoping to revive them. They were dead as scorched mutton. I cried over my loved ones all through the night; I was nearly insane. The fire had subsided and one of the two rooms was intact. I put the bodies of my wife and my two children under a partly burnt mattress in the room; their burial just then was out of the question; the killers would have got me. I lived inside this grave of a house for more than a week until the federal troops arrived and rescued me. A part of me is still in Parbatipur — my wife and children who lie buried in a graveyard there.”
Eye-witnesses of the carnage in Parbatipur estimate that about 3,000 non-Bengalis lost their lives in March-April, 1971.
Forty-six-year old Abdur Rashid, a Railway employee at Parbatipur who lived in Railway Quarter No. 153 (N), had a vivid but benumbing recollection of the slaughter of non-Bengalis in trains in March 1971:
“On March 12, the train from Ishurdi arrived ten hours late at Parbatipur. The reason was that a band of armed Awami League volunteers and other miscreants had stopped it at a wayside station and slaughtered many of the non-Bengali passengers. I was at the Railway station when the ill-fated train steamed in with 170 dead bodies of non-Bengali men, women and children. Most of the bodies were horribly mutilated. Also on the train were some 75 wounded non-Bengalis; many of them were in a critical condition. They were removed to the local hospital; only a few survived. Amongst the dead bodies on the train were those of suckling children who had been stabbed brutally along with their mothers. It was a horrifying scene and the memory of it gives me a shiver even now. After this episode, it became terribly dangerous for non-Bengalis to travel in trains. Similar incidents were reported from quite a few other places...”
Abdur Rashid and his wife and children escaped the massacre in Parbatipur. They suffered excruciating hardships after India’s conquest of East Pakistan. They came to Karachi via Nepal in April 1973.
Abbas Ali, 45, who worked as a school teacher in Parbatipur and lived in a house on New Road, testified:
“In the second week of March, 1971, the Awami League militants began terrorising the non-Bengalis. On March 19, a killer gang attacked a large number of non-Bengali houses in a locality close to where I lived. They had sten guns and rifles. They looted the non-Bengali houses and burnt some of them. They killed a few non-Bengalis and kidnapped a number of teenage girls. I am convinced that most of the killers who raided our locality were Bengali Hindus and some of them spoke Bengali with an accent which resembled that of the West Bengalis in India. The Bengali rebels conducted the liquidation of the majority of the non-Bengali population in Parbatipur in stages. It reached its peak in the first week of April when wholesale slaughter of the non-Bengalis became the order of the day. I escaped the massacre with the help of a Bengali family which sheltered me”.
Abbas Ali was repatriated from Dacca to Karachi in February 1974. He thinks that the Awami League militants had drugged a large segment of the Bengali population in Parbatipur with lies against Pakistan, the people of West Pakistan and the federal government. “What amazed me was the fact”, he added, “that the killer gangs even desecrated mosques. This was extraordinary and incredible because most of the Bengalis I had known were religious and God-fearing people”.
Another survivor of the March 1971 butchery in Parbatipur is Maimunnissa, 40, who said:
“My husband, Shajiuddin, had retired from Railway service. He and I and our grown up son lived in our own house in a crowded locality in Parbatipur. In the last week of March 1971, a large gang of armed Bengali militants raided our house and looted it. My husband and my son were luckily out of town. The attackers asked me to leave the house and they burnt it. Utterly helpless, I watched my house burn. A neighbour sheltered me. After the federal army re-established its control over Parbatipur, my husband and my son returned to our burnt home. In the middle of April, we rebuilt our house and we again lived in it. My son, Mohammed Ali, joined the Pakistan Army and he was posted in a border area. We were very proud of him.......
“On December 17, 1971, after the surrender of the Pakistani troops to India in Dacca, armed gangs of Bengali killers were again on the rampage in Parbatipur. We decided to escape to Saidpur where we had some relatives. My husband put me in a train bound for Saidpur in the evening of December 17. He said he would come the next day. A former Railway colleague of his, a Bengali, had promised to shelter him for the night in his house. The next day, I learnt from an old friend of his at Saidpur Railway station that a killer mob had caught my husband in the vicinity of the Parbatipur Railway Station and hacked him to death. I lived in Saidpur in abject poverty and suffering for two years. I wrote to the Red Cross about my son in the Army. To this day, I have no news of him. I was repatriated to Karachi in February 1974”.
Fifty-year-old Sitara Bano, whose husband. Abdul Qadir, owned a provision store in Parbatipur, testified:
“In the March 1971 massacre in Parbatipur, my husband, my son, my teenage daughter and I escaped from the town just before a raid on our locality. My husband’s shop was looted; our house was burnt. We returned to the town after the federal army regained control over it. We rebuilt our shop and our house; my son got a clerical job in a firm. But on December 17, 1971 when the surrender of the Pakistan Army in Dacca to the Indian Army was announced, the Mukti Bahini supporters and other Awami Leaguers began the slaughter of the non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis. In the evening, I learnt that my husband and my son were butchered by a killer mob. My daughter and I left that very evening for Saidpur. We took up employment in a Bengali home. But we lived haunted lives because almost every week there were rumours that the Mukti Bahini would kill all the surviving non-Bengali women and children. My daughter was married in 1972 and is some where in East Pakistan. I was repatriated to Karachi from Saidpur via Dacca in January 1974........”
According to witnesses, the Awami League militants and their armed supporters used grenades, light mortars, machine guns and rifles in their attacks on the non-Bengalis in Parbatipur. Fiendishly ruthless were the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles. Their goal was to wipe out the entire community of 40,000 non-Bengalis who lived in Parbatipur. But the non-Bengalis organized defence squads and held the rebel mobs—at times 50,000 strong — at bay for a whole week before the Pakistan Army arrived and the rebels took to their heels. However, non-Bengali groups, which lived in predominantly Bengali localities, were wiped out by the rebels.