Published:  12:01 AM, 20 May 2020

Rediscovering a less-known chapter of 1971 Liberation War

Rediscovering a less-known chapter of 1971 Liberation War

Bangladesh Liberation War had the unique perspective of a long and consistent struggle for political, economic, cultural and other rights, identity and independence of her people. Finally, it was triggered of when discussion between the treacherous janta of Pakistan, on the one hand, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his aides, on the other, were made to end in a fiasco. Janta actually took and killed time to plan and prepare for one worst possible kind of genocide. On the night of 25th March, 1971, that reckless pogrom was unleashed, and the undisputed leader, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was taken prisoner. The large scale of genocide, arson and rape took even world leaders by surprise and disbelief.

Before getting arrested, Bangabandhu declared the independence of Bangladesh. This was broadcast over an improvised radio station by Mr. M. A. Hannan and other leaders and activists of Awami League in Chittagong on 26th March. On 27th March, 1971, activists at that radio station could arrange for Major Ziaur Rahman to read out that very declaration. 

As news of the crackdown, by Pakistan Army and a blood curdling genocide spread, mass media, leaders of politics and other areas of like across borders raised strong voices of protest and condemnation. And this role of media and leaders of the world can never be lost sight of. Till the victory was secured in the liberation war of Bangladesh, they went on playing crucial part. 

As the most neighboring country directly affected by happening in Bangladesh and as a seat of strong human civilization and modern democratic practice, India is found to have responded first to the news widespread killing, arson and rape in Bangladesh. As recorded in the proceedings of the Indian Lok Sabha, The Prime Minister of India, Sree Moti Indira Gandhi joined the debate there on 27th March and pointed out the perspectives of general elections held in Pakistan in December 1970. She said, "Something new had happened in East Bengal......democratic action where an entire people had spoken with almost one voice. We had welcomed this..... because these s were the values... for which we have always too and for which we have always spoken out."

Referring to the news of attack on unarmed masses by the Pakistani army, Sree Moti Indira Gandhi said, "It's not merrily suppression of a movement, but it is meeting an unarmed people with tanks. "Hinting at the urgent need of the time and very the pressing crisis in Bangladesh, she assured the members of the Lok Sabha by saying," We are fully alive to the situation and we shall keep constantly in touch with what is happening and what we need to do."

Indian opposition leader Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and others stood firmly in favour of Bangladesh liberation war. On April 1, 1971 Senator Kennedy made statement in the US Senate on the "situation in East Pakistan."He began by mentioning how "reports from East Pakistan tell of a heavy toll being paid by the civilian population as a result of the conflict." He mentioned, "Indiscriminate killing the execution of dissident political leaders and students, and thousands of civilians suffering and dying every hour of the day."

As chairman of the Judiciary Sub Committee on Refugees, Senator Kennedy expressed his personal concerns over the flight of the people in East Pakistan "whose interests he said could not go unrecognized." Senator Kennedy asked upon the government of the USA to condemn the killing of " millions of civilians who are caught in that crunch of the conflict and to offer our good services to stop the violence or at least encourage and support others in such an afford."

On April 2, 1971 President Nicolai Padgarni of the USSR sent a letter to President Yahya Khan expressing" great alarm and concern" at "the numerous casualties...... sufferings and privations" caused to the people of East Pakistan by the "extreme measures taken by the military administration of Pakistan." He also expressed concern at the "arrest and persecution of M. Rahman and other politicians who had received such convincing support by the overwhelming majority of people of East Pakistan at the recent general election."

On April 4, 1971 Lord Fenner Brockway, member of the House of Lords, UK, spoke at public meeting and " demanded immediate ending of terrible human disaster in East Bengal. In an editorial title" A Massacre in Pakistan", the Guardian of March 31, 1971 declared Pakistan to be a "brutal and insensitive military dictatorship" and East Pakistan to be an occupied and exploited territory ", a living proof of every Bengali's suspicions for years.

New York Times of April 7,1971 published a report titled  " Bloodbath in Bengal "the newspaper wondered at " Washington's persistent silence on recent events in Pakistan "  Indian government media Akasbani as well as Amritabazar Patrika, Jugantor, Anandabazar Patrika and other media projected happenings in Bangladesh from 26th March and even before that. Leaders of democratic and progressive countries and media of the world also expressed their concern in the brutality and supported the cause of the people of Bangladesh.

It is evident from the above description that India, other leaders of the leading countries and media of the world expressed condemnation and concern regarding the genocide and the brutality that was happened at the beginning from 25th March to few days. But it was not the end. Pakistani Army with the help of collaborators did large scale killing and massacre across the country in nine months. Chuknagor, Khulna was one of the large scale killings happened in 20th May, 1971. The horrible, inhumane bloodshed and massacre in the area can project what happened in different places across the country during liberation war.

The massacre took place on 20 May, 1971 at Dumuria in Khulna and it was one of the largest massacres during the war. The exact number of persons killed in the massacre is not known and on 20 May, around 10:00, a group of 10-30 Pakistani military personnel equipped with semiautomatic rifles and light machine gun came on around three trucks.

They stopped at a place called Jhautala (then known as Pathkhola) at the left corner of the Chuknagar Bazaar. Then they opened fire on the Pathkhola grounds and later moved to Chuknagar Bazaar and continued firing until 15:00.

Other reports also expressed that Chuknagar in Dumuria Thana, now upazila, of Khulna district is very close to the India-Bangladesh border.

People started leaving their homes immediately after the late Moulana Yousuf, a notorious Jamaat-e-Islami leader formed the 'Razakar Bahini' on May 5, 1971.

People from the south-west region started fleeing to save their lives once the Razakar Bahini was formed. It is reported in media that on May 20 in 1971, thousands of people took shelter at Chuknagar Bazar, Patkhola ground under Maltia village and on the banks of the River Bhadra. Suddenly, Pakistani troops arrived from Satkhira. They first killed a farmer Chikan Ali, while he was cultivating his paddy field.

The Pakistani army detachment was not very large, possibly a platoon or so. Within a few minutes a lively town turned into a city of death. It is also reported that elderly Anser Ali, a witness to the massacre, said, as he recalled the memories in a choked voice, while tears rolled down his cheeks, "There were bodies over bodies, thousands of bodies. I did not get any space to step out by-passing the blood-stained bodies," The report further said that by the 15th of May huge crowds from the nearby localities flocked to Chuknagar as the rumor of the Pakistani troops approaching spread like wildfire and at least ten thousand people had gathered there. The report also described ABM Shafiqul Islam, another witness to the massacre; currently the principal of Chuknagar College, who said- the invading Pakistani troops had taken position on two sides of the local bazaar and started firing, indiscriminately.

He also  said in tearful eyes that the tide of blood was meeting the river--- he briefly halted at one place when he saw a baby girl sucking her deceased mother's breast and he was shouting and crying and would never forget the scene in his life time. He further said local people rescued the baby and called her 'Sundari Dasi'. The six- month-old Sundari is now mother of two children and she was passing her days in great hardship. (To be continued…)

The writer is an academic, former ambassador, leader - student action committee, 71,freedom fighter (one of the senior most leaders of BLF), entered in Dhaka along with distinguished leaders like Mr. Abdur Razzak and Mr. Tofael Ahmed on 18th December, 71 and stayed at Bangabandhu's house for 36 hours.

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