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BENGALI HOLOCAUST 1971

Updated: Jan 13



 

 

Unveiling the Shadows of Silence in the annals of human history, specific chapters remain obscured by the shadows of indifference, and the apathy of global consciousness silences their echoes. Among these, the tragic events that unfolded in East Pakistan in 1971 constitute a haunting tale of human suffering and disregard—a narrative that, despite its ferocity and scale, has struggled to pierce through the veils of geopolitical realities and historical negligence. This book, an earnest attempt to shed light on the Bengali Holocaust of 1971, unravels the layers of silence that have shrouded one of the most devastating genocides of the 20th century.


The causes of the Bengali Holocaust are deeply rooted in the complex tapestry of political, cultural, and religious dynamics that characterized the region. The flame that sparked the conflagration can be traced to the longstanding grievances and cultural disparities between East and West Pakistan. Language, identity, and autonomy became flashpoints, igniting a fierce struggle for independence. As the demand for autonomy gained momentum, the response from the West Pakistani government was brutal and unforgiving, marking the beginning of a cataclysm that would shatter the lives of millions.

The ferocity of the Bengali Holocaust defies comprehension. Unleashed upon unarmed civilians, peasants, day labourers, and intellectuals alike, the violence spared no one. The pages of history are stained with the blood of innocent lives, and the air still echoes with the anguished cries of a population caught in the crossfire of political machinations. The toll on humanity was immeasurable, as more than a million lives were lost, and the trauma of unspeakable atrocities scarred countless others.


The exodus of ten million refugees fleeing to India stands as a testament to the desperation that gripped the region. Families torn apart, villages razed to the ground, and a sea of humanity seeking refuge from the horrors that pursued them—this mass migration painted a vivid picture of a population in dire need of sanctuary. Yet, even in the face of such an overwhelming humanitarian crisis, the world turned a blind eye.

One of the most distressing aspects of this tragedy was the systemic targeting of women and girls. Sexual violence became a weapon of war, leaving a trail of shattered lives and shattered dignity. Thousands were subjected to unspeakable horrors, and the scars of these atrocities endure to this day. The plight of these women, often overlooked or conveniently forgotten, forms a poignant chapter in the broader narrative of the Bengali Holocaust.

As the atrocities unfolded, the international community remained essentially inert, with the Western world choosing to avert its gaze. The geopolitical complexities of the Cold War era played a significant role in shaping the response, as strategic alliances took precedence over the imperative to intervene and prevent further bloodshed. The consequences of this indifference were profound, allowing a crime against humanity to go unpunished and leaving the wounds of the Bengali Holocaust to rot in the shadows.


This book is a culmination of painstaking research, a journey into the heart of darkness of 1971 East Pakistan. It draws from a wealth of references, including government documents, eyewitness accounts, and the untold stories of survivors. Through the lens of historical analysis, it examines the geopolitical factors that contributed to the international community's failure to prevent and address the unfolding catastrophe.


The narratives within these pages are not just historical artefacts; they are the voices of those who endured unimaginable suffering. They are the stories of resilience, survival, and the indomitable human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity. By unearthing the suppressed truths and acknowledging the harrowing realities of the Bengali Holocaust, this book seeks to give a voice to the voiceless and honour the memory of those whose lives were needlessly extinguished.


The question that looms large over these pages is one of justice—how can a crime against humanity of such magnitude remain unpunished? The international community's failure to recognize and condemn the Bengali Holocaust as a genocide has left a moral void that demands acknowledgement and redress. As we reflect on the lessons of history, we are compelled to confront the uncomfortable truth that the shadows of silence cast by global powers have allowed impunity to persist.


In writing this book, we embark on a journey to ensure that the Bengali Holocaust is not consigned to the forgotten corners of history. It is a call to confront the uncomfortable truths, acknowledge the conspiracy of silence, and strive for a world where crimes against humanity are met with unwavering condemnation and resolute action. The echoes of 1971 beckon us to remember, to learn, and to ensure that the shadows of silence are dispelled by the relentless pursuit of justice and accountability.


 

Bengali Holocaust: Perpetrated by the Pakistan Army

 

 

In the darkest corners of history, a haunting tale of suffering and resilience unfolded during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. This is the story of the "Bengali Holocaust," a harrowing chapter in the annals of human conflict, where the people of East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh, faced unspeakable horrors at the hands of the Pakistan Army.

The story begins in the spring of 1971 when tensions between East and West Pakistan had reached a boiling point. The people of East Pakistan, the Bengalis, had long suffered economic and political oppression under the West Pakistani government. The demand for autonomy had grown into a cry for independence.

 

As the situation escalated, the Pakistan Army, under the orders of the West Pakistani government, launched a brutal military campaign in East Pakistan. What followed was a relentless onslaught against civilians, with mass killings, rapes, and destruction of villages. The world watched in horror as the Bengali population endured unimaginable atrocities.

Amid the chaos and despair, the resilience of the Bengali people shone through. Led by figures like Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who would later become the founding father of Bangladesh, they fought for their freedom with unwavering determination. The struggle for independence was on not only the battlefield but also a battle of ideas and the spirit of the Bengali culture.


The story also highlights the efforts of journalists, aid workers, and diplomats who risked their lives to expose the atrocities and assist the survivors. Their tireless work helped to shed light on the horrors unfolding in East Pakistan.

 

Ultimately, the war ended with the surrender of the Pakistan Army to the joint forces of India and Bangladesh in December 1971. The birth of the independent nation of Bangladesh marked the end of the "Bengali Holocaust," but the scars left behind by the brutality endured by its people would never fully heal.

 

This book, "Bengali Holocaust: Perpetrated by The Pakistan Army," is a poignant account of this dark chapter in history. It serves as a reminder of the resilience and courage of the Bengali people and the importance of preserving the memory of the past to prevent such horrors from happening again in the future. 

 

 

The Holocaust Begins - Operation Searchlight in Dhaka

 

As the clock struck midnight on the fateful night of March 25, 1971, Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan, descended into darkness. Operation Searchlight, the Pakistan Army's ruthless campaign to suppress the growing demand for autonomy in East Pakistan, was set in motion. The following chapter recounts the harrowing events of that night when the "Bengali Holocaust" began.

The night was eerily silent, shrouded in secrecy and fear. The Pakistani military had meticulously planned this operation to quell the Bengali independence movement, but the true extent of their brutality was yet to be revealed.

 

In the heart of Dhaka, the Pakistan Army initiated its onslaught by targeting critical locations across the city. The darkness was shattered by the sound of gunfire and explosions as soldiers descended upon the city. Their orders were clear: crush any form of opposition and eliminate any Bengali who dared to raise their voice for freedom.

Horrific scenes unfolded as soldiers moved from house to house, indiscriminately firing upon unarmed civilians. The streets of Dhaka, once teeming with life, were now filled with the cries of terrorised residents. Homes were set ablaze, and the sky was painted in an orange hue of destruction.

 

One of the most infamous incidents of that night was the attack on the Dhaka University campus, where students and professors were targeted. The university, once a hub of intellectual pursuits, became a site of unimaginable violence. Students and faculty members were brutally murdered, and the campus was left in ruins.

 

The Pakistan Army also targeted political leaders, journalists, and anyone suspected of supporting the independence movement. Arrests, torture, and summary executions became routine, instilling terror in the hearts of the Bengali population.

 

Women were not spared from the horrors of that night. Numerous reports documented cases of sexual violence against Bengali women, further adding to the collective trauma of the people.

 

While the world remained largely unaware of the atrocities unfolding in Dhaka, a few courageous journalists and witnesses risked their lives to document the horrors. Their testimonies and accounts would later serve as crucial evidence of the crimes committed during Operation Searchlight.

 

By the time the sun rose on March 26, 1971, Dhaka was forever changed. Operation Searchlight left a scar on the collective memory of the Bengali people that would endure for generations. The events of that night marked the beginning of a tragic chapter in history, one that would be remembered as the "Bengali Holocaust."

 

This chapter serves as a stark reminder of the brutality and suffering endured by the people of East Pakistan during Operation Searchlight, and it highlights the importance of never forgetting the past to ensure that such atrocities are never repeated in the future. The Holocaust Begins - Operation Searchlight in Dhaka, March 25, 1971

As the clock struck midnight on the fateful night of March 25, 1971, Dhaka, the capital of East Pakistan, descended into darkness. Operation Searchlight, the Pakistan Army's ruthless campaign to suppress the growing demand for autonomy in East Pakistan, was set in motion. The following chapter recounts the harrowing events of that night when the "Bengali Holocaust" began.


The night was eerily silent, shrouded in secrecy and fear. The Pakistani military had meticulously planned this operation to quell the Bengali independence movement, but the true extent of their brutality was yet to be revealed.

 

In the heart of Dhaka, the Pakistan Army initiated its onslaught by targeting critical locations across the city. The darkness was shattered by the sound of gunfire and explosions as soldiers descended upon the city. Their orders were clear: crush any form of opposition and eliminate any Bengali who dared to raise their voice for freedom.

Horrific scenes unfolded as soldiers moved from house to house, indiscriminately firing upon unarmed civilians. The streets of Dhaka, once teeming with life, were now filled with the cries of terrorised residents. Homes were set ablaze, and the sky was painted in an orange hue of destruction.

 

One of the most infamous incidents of that night was the attack on the Dhaka University campus, where students and professors were targeted. The university, once a hub of intellectual pursuits, became a site of unimaginable violence. Students and faculty members were brutally murdered, and the campus was left in ruins.

 

The Pakistan Army also targeted political leaders, journalists, and anyone suspected of supporting the independence movement. Arrests, torture, and summary executions became routine, instilling terror in the hearts of the Bengali population.

Women were not spared from the horrors of that night. Numerous reports documented cases of sexual violence against Bengali women, further adding to the collective trauma of the people.

 

While the world remained largely unaware of the atrocities unfolding in Dhaka, a few courageous journalists and witnesses risked their lives to document the horrors. Their testimonies and accounts would later serve as crucial evidence of the crimes committed during Operation Searchlight.

 

By the time the sun rose on March 26, 1971, Dhaka was forever changed. Operation Searchlight left a scar on the collective memory of the Bengali people that would endure for generations. The events of that night marked the beginning of a tragic chapter in history, one that would be remembered as the "Bengali Holocaust."

This chapter serves as a stark reminder of the brutality and suffering endured by the people of East Pakistan during Operation Searchlight, and it highlights the importance of never forgetting the past to ensure that such atrocities are never repeated in the future.

 

 

The Turning Point - Pakistan Army's Action in East Pakistan

 

As history has shown, March 26, 1971, marked a fateful turning point in the annals of the Pakistan Army's involvement in East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh. The events of that day, which initiated "Operation Searchlight," were the culmination of a complex and tumultuous period in the country's history. Viewing these actions through the prism of history, we can gain a deeper understanding of the factors, decisions, and consequences that unfolded during this critical chapter.

 

In the years leading up to 1971, the political landscape of Pakistan had been marred by tensions between East and West Pakistan, separated by over a thousand miles of Indian Territory. The people of East Pakistan had long felt marginalised and underrepresented in the West-dominated power structure, and their grievances had been building for years.

 

The 1970 general elections, intended to address these concerns, took place, and the results took many by surprise. The Awami League, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, secured a landslide victory, winning an overwhelming majority in East Pakistan and, therefore, in the national parliament. This challenged the West Pakistan-based leadership, notably President Yahya Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who were reluctant to hand power to the Awami League.

 

 

Attempts were made to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement between the political leaders of East and West Pakistan. However, these negotiations proved to be challenging and fraught with obstacles. Both sides had differing visions for the future of Pakistan, and these fundamental disagreements hindered any significant progress.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, during this time, delivered a pivotal speech on March 7, 1971, at the Ramna Race Course ground in Dhaka. In this speech, he called for the people of East Pakistan to prepare for a struggle for their liberty and independence. This speech was a turning point, signifying the definitive break between East and West Pakistan. It signalled the end of the possibility of a peaceful resolution and marked the onset of a more militant and confrontational phase.

 

Against this backdrop of failed negotiations and escalating tensions, "Operation Searchlight" was launched on March 26, 1971. This military operation was intended to quell the perceived uprising in East Pakistan and regain control. The procedure involved deploying the Pakistan Army to suppress dissent and establish the central government's authority.

Many questions surround the timing and motivations behind "Operation Searchlight." Some argue that it was premeditated, with planning and preparations dating back to February 1971, suggesting that the military was ready to intervene should the negotiations fail. Others view it as a response to the deteriorating situation on the ground and the declaration of independence by Bangladeshi leaders.


Regardless of the precise timeline, the initiation of "Operation Searchlight" was met with brutal force, leading to widespread violence and human rights abuses. The operation quickly escalated into a full-scale military conflict, with civilians caught in the crossfire. The consequences were catastrophic, both in terms of human suffering and in terms of geopolitical fallout.

 

"Operation Searchlight" unleashed a wave of violence that engulfed East Pakistan. Civilians, including women and children, were not spared from the brutality. Mass killings, sexual violence, and displacement became widespread. The civilian populace was caught in the crossfire between the Pakistani military and the Bangladeshi Mukti Bahini, a guerrilla force fighting for independence.

The magnitude of suffering and atrocities committed during this period is a stain on the history of both Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is essential to acknowledge the immense human cost of this operation, which continues to be remembered and commemorated by the people of Bangladesh.

 

"Operation Searchlight" did not occur in isolation. It was part of a larger geopolitical context as the conflict drew India into the fray. The Indian government, sympathetic to the Bangladeshi cause, provided support to the Mukti Bahini and, eventually, led to the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.


This conflict, which culminated in December 1971, led to the disintegration of Pakistan, resulting in the birth of Bangladesh as an independent nation. It was a turning point in South Asian geopolitics, reshaping the region map and realigning power dynamics.

 

Looking back through the prism of history, "Operation Searchlight" remains a deeply contentious and painful chapter in the collective memory of both Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is a testament to the profound consequences of political miscalculation and the devastating impact of military interventions.

Both nations have grappled with their shared history in the decades that followed. Efforts towards reconciliation have been made, with leaders from both sides acknowledging past mistakes. The wounds of 1971 continue to heal slowly, with diplomatic relations improving over time.

 

The events of March 26, 1971, and the subsequent "Operation Searchlight" had far-reaching consequences that continue to shape the destinies of Bangladesh and Pakistan. It is essential to approach this historical chapter with a nuanced understanding, acknowledging its complexities and human suffering.

Through the prism of history, we are reminded of the importance of dialogue, diplomacy, and conflict resolution in the face of mounting tensions. The tragedy of 1971 is a stark reminder of the costs of failing to find peaceful solutions to political disputes and the necessity of reconciling with the past to build a better future.


 

The Holocaust

Major ( later Brigadier) Siddique Salik was posted in East Pakistan – Dhaka as the Inter – Services Public Relation supremo on the 25th March 1971, These are his vivid memory of the scenes of brutality he penned in his book ‘’ Witness to Surrender.

I watched a harrowing sight from the veranda for four hours. Prominent feature of the night was the flames shooting in the sky, At times, mournful clouds of smoke accompanied the blaze but soon they were overwhelmed by the flaming fire trying to lick at the stars. The light of the moon and the glow of the stars paled before this man- made furnace. The tallest columns of smoke and fire emerged from the University campus, although some other parts of the city, such as the premises of the People, English daily, had no small share in the macabre fireworks….At about 2 am, the wireless set in the jeep again drew our attention. The Captain on the other side said that he was facing a lot of resistance from Iqbal Hall and Jagannath Hall. Meanwhile senior officer snatched the hand – set from me and shouted into the mouthpiece: ‘’ How long will you take to neutralise the target?’’… ‘’Four Hours!’’…’’Nonsense’ ’what weapons have you got’’? … Rocket launchers, recoilless rifles,mortars and  … ‘’ ‘’ OK, use all of them and ensure complete capture in two hours’’… Before first light on 26 March, the troops reported completion of their mission. General Tikka Khan left his sofa at about 5 am and went into his office for a while. When reappeared cleaning his glasses with handkerchief, and surveying the area, he said, ‘’Oh not a soul there!’’ Standing on the veranda, I heard his soliloquy and looked around for confirmation. I saw a stray dog, with his tail tucked between his hind les, stealing its way towards city.

 

The operation plan for the ‘’ Operation Searchlight’’ was a new plan christened. Major Genera; Rao Farman Ali wrote down this plan on his office pad using an ordinary school pencil in just one sitting. The plan of Operation Searchlight was based on the premise that all Bengali uniformed personnel including regular East Bengal Regiment Battalions would revolt once the plan was to put into action. Therefore, these troops would have to be disarmed.  The plan was presented to General Addul Hamid Khan and Lt General Tikka Khan in the flagstaff house. General Hamid did not agree to disarming Bengali troops. He had lot of admiration for the Bengali troops, in his view, ‘’It would destroy one of the finest armies in the world.’’

 

On the 23 March 1971, Major General Khadim Hussain Raja and Major General Rao Farman Ali flew by helicopters and went around cantonments outside Dhaka to personally brief Brigade Commanders based in Jessore, Comilla and Chittagong.

 

Lieutenant General Tikka Khan was the overall commander of Operation Searchlight with tactical HQ at Dhaka. The province was divided in two parts for operational ease. Major General Roa Farman Ali with his HQ at Eastern Command in Dhaka was tasked to neutralise Dhaka city. He was given extra staff from HQ Eastern Command and 57 Infantry Brigade was placed under his command. The Infantry Brigade had 18 and 32 Punjab Battalions, 22 Baluch Regiment, 13 Frontier Force, 31 Field Regiment Artillery, 13 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment and a company of commandos from 3 Commando Battalion.  Farman Ali was tasked to neutralise 2 East Bengal  Regiment and HQ East Pakistan Rifles and Reserve Police, capture telephone exchange, radio transmission , TV station  and  State Bank of Pakistan.

 

M- 24 Tanks of 29 Cavalry were moved to Dhaka from Rangpur for Operation Searchlight. Tank crews got busy oiling the tracks and cleaning gun barrels of World War II vintage machines.

The H hour was 0100 hours. Some units and sub units had started their move at 11.30 pm on 25 March. Pakistan Army secured the desired objectives in Dhaka by first light of 26 March 1971.


 

 

 

Press and Media Reports on Operation Searchlight in 1971

 

The year 1971 marked a dark chapter in the history of South Asia as the Pakistani army launched Operation Searchlight in East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). The military crackdown aimed at suppressing demands for autonomy and resulted in widespread atrocities, leading to a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions. This chapter delves into the press and media reports that played a crucial role in documenting and disseminating information about the events unfolding in East Pakistan during this tumultuous period.

 

As Operation Searchlight unfolded in late March 1971, the international media began to report on the escalating tensions in East Pakistan. Newspapers and news agencies worldwide covered the political unrest, the military crackdown, and the growing humanitarian crisis. The New York Times, The Guardian, and BBC were among the prominent outlets that closely followed the developments, relying on eyewitness accounts and official statements.

 

Eyewitness accounts were crucial in providing an on-the-ground perspective of the unfolding tragedy. Journalists and photographers risked their lives to document the atrocities committed by the Pakistani military. Their reports and images became powerful tools in raising awareness and galvanizing international support for the Bengali population.

 

One such account came from Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani journalist who defied censorship laws to publish a detailed report in The Sunday Times, exposing the brutalities of Operation Searchlight. His first-hand narrative provided a chilling description of the military's actions, including mass killings, rapes, and the displacement of millions of people. The publication of Mascarenhas' report caused a global outcry and further intensified pressure on the Pakistani government.

 

The international community's response to the media reports was mixed, reflecting geopolitical complexities during the Cold War era. While some nations condemned Pakistan's actions and called for intervention, others remained cautious or silent. The United Nations became a forum for debates on the crisis, and the media played a crucial role in shaping public opinion and influencing diplomatic decisions.

 

The press and media reports on Operation Searchlight played a crucial role in exposing the atrocities committed by the Pakistani army in East Pakistan. Eyewitness accounts, supported by photographs and detailed investigative journalism, portrayed the human cost of the military crackdown. The international response, shaped by media coverage, ranged from condemnation to calls for intervention, highlighting the power of media in influencing public opinion and diplomatic actions during times of crisis.

 

As we reflect on the events of 1971, it is essential to recognize the role of journalists, photographers, and media outlets in bringing the plight of the Bengali population to the world's attention. The media's commitment to truth telling and accountability serves as a reminder of the importance of a free and vigilant press in safeguarding human rights and promoting justice

 

These are some of the quotation from various writers have expressed their views on the Bengali Holocaust;

 

‘’ Then the Tiger (Lt General Niazi) started a diabolical new terror front. He told the troops to rape as many women as possible as they could to breed out East Pakistan’s Hinduness. He sat aside a building in the Dacca barracks and filled with hundreds of Bengali sex slaves.  (The Vortex, by Scot Carney & Jason Miklian, 2022, Page 251)

As Gary J. Brass writes in book ‘’ The Blood Telegram’’ , ‘’ With the bullets flying in East Pakistan, Indian diplomats in Islamabad secretly wrote of ‘’ the holocaust in East Pakistan’’, … Rather than basing this accusation primarily on the victimisation of Hindus, India tended to focus on the decimation the Bengali as a group. He further writes, ‘’ Pakistan’s generals, having lost an election because their country had too many Bengalis, were now slaughtering their way to ‘’ a wholesale reduction in the population of East Bengal’’ so that it would no longer comprise a majority in Pakistan. ‘’ (The Blood Telegram Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide’’ by Gary J. Bass, 2013, Page 122).

 

The year 1971 marked one such epoch, as East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and bore witness to a genocide that echoed the chilling footsteps of Nazi oppression. The Pakistan Army, in a brutal campaign against the Bengali people, scripted a tragic tale of persecution, rape, torture, and systematic killings that scarred the region for generations to come.

The Bengali persecution unfolded with alarming rapidity. The Pakistan Army, driven by a desire to quell dissent and exert control, encamped nearly 75% of the country. What ensued was a nightmare where the entire population became captive in their own homeland, shackled by fear and despair. Movement between towns was restricted, transforming East Pakistan into a vast, open-air prison where the cries of the oppressed echoed through the streets.


The parallels with Nazi atrocities during World War II were unmistakable. In a sinister twist of history, the Pakistan Army adopted tactics reminiscent of the Holocaust, further deepening the tragedy. Just as the Nazis had issued identity cards to segregate and dehumanise the Jewish population, the Pakistan Army implemented a similar strategy, robbing the Bengali people of their individuality and reducing them to mere numbers in a heart-wrenching narrative of dehumanisation.


These identity cards were not just bureaucratic instruments; they became instruments of oppression, tools to strip the Bengali people of their dignity and mark them for persecution. The echoes of Nazi tactics were hauntingly present as the people of East Pakistan found them trapped in a nightmarish reality where their very existence was regulated and controlled by an occupying force.


The horror extended beyond the physical, with reports of widespread rape, torture chambers, and mass killings staining the pages of history. Families were torn apart, lives were shattered, and the collective spirit of a people was pushed to the brink. The Bangladesh Genocide of 1971 remains a stark reminder of the depths to which human cruelty can plunge, leaving an indelible mark on the survivors and the generations that followed.

As we turn the pages of this tragic chapter, let us not forget the resilience of the Bengali people, who, against all odds, emerged from the darkness, rebuilding their lives and their nation. The scars of 1971 serve as a testament to the importance of remembrance and a call to ensure that such atrocities never befall humanity again.

Indian Opposition leader Mr Joyprokash Narayan ‘’ demanded the defence the ‘’ political and human rights’’ of the Bengalis, and decried a ‘’ holocaust’ carried out by a Hitlerian junta in power in Islamabad’’ (The Blood Telegram Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide’’ by Gary J. Bass, 2013, Page 127).

 

Specific stories stand out as testaments to the power of the written word to expose human suffering and injustice. One such narrative is the harrowing experience of New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg during the 1971 East Pakistan Holocaust. Schanberg's courageous reporting not only shed light on the brutal events unfolding in the region but also underscored the critical role of journalism in bearing witness to atrocities and holding those responsible accountable.

 

Sydney Schanberg, an accomplished journalist known for his sharp investigative skills, found himself during this unfolding tragedy. Dispatched by The New York Times to cover the conflict, Schanberg arrived in East Pakistan committed to uncovering the truth and telling the stories of the people caught in the crossfire.

As Schanberg delved into the heart of the conflict, he became a first-hand witness to the horrors perpetrated by the Pakistani military. The widespread atrocities included mass killings, sexual violence, and the displacement of millions of people. Schanberg, guided by an unwavering commitment to journalistic integrity, risked his safety to document these atrocities and give voice to the victims.


What set Schanberg's reporting apart was his ability to humanise the tragedy. Instead of reducing the conflict to mere statistics, he focused on the individual stories of those affected. His vivid and empathetic storytelling brought to life the suffering of ordinary people caught in the crossfire, making the distant conflict relatable to readers thousands of miles away.


Challenges Faced by Schanberg


Schanberg faced numerous challenges in his pursuit of truth. The Pakistani military, aware of the damning nature of his reporting, sought to suppress his work and prevent the world from learning about their heinous actions. Undeterred, Schanberg navigated censorship, threats, and attempts to discredit his reporting, driven by a sense of duty to bear witness to the suffering of the East Pakistani people.

He Mentioned the carnage ‘’ It was Biblical’’ he further mentioned in his reporting, ‘’ There was a tremendous loss of life on those treks out, their bodies have adjusted to those germs in their water, but suddenly they’re drinking different water with different germs. Suddenly they’ve got cholera. People were dying all around us. You’d se that someone left a dead body on the side of the road , wrapped in pieces of bamboo, and there’d be vulture trying to get inside to eat the body.’’ (The Blood Telegram Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide’’ by Gary J. Bass, 2013, Page 119).

 

Sydney Schanberg mentions in his book ‘’ Beyond the Killing Fields’’. ‘’ A brutal occupation:  ethnic cleansing, thousands massacred. Doesn’t the world realise that they’re nothing but butchers? They killed and are still killing Bengalis just to intimidate them, to make slaves out of them? That they wiped out whole villages, opening fire at first light and stopping only when they get tired.’’ (Sydney Schanberg, Beyond the killing Fields, 2010, Page 127).

 

The Holocaust was Biblical in proportion and here is another story of a mass killing, ‘’ Narayanpur, a small village near the city of Akhaura, bore witness to a tragic event on May 6, 1971, when Pakistani forces infiltrated the village and launched an assault on its unsuspecting residents. Gulzan Bibi, who miraculously survived the brutal military onslaught in Narayanpur, has recounted the harrowing account of this genocide.

Gulzan Bibi observed as Razakars, Peace Committee members, and Pakistani soldiers forcibly entered the home of Abdul Aziz. In a heinous act, the Pakistani soldiers mercilessly shot Abdul Aziz and his wife. Subsequently, all the male members of Gulzan Bibi's family were bound by the Pakistanis and surrounded. Many of these family members had fled from Gangasagar and Kasba after these areas fell into enemy occupation. Witnessing this, Gulzan Bibi and other women implored the Razakars and Pakistani soldiers to take them along if they were to take away the male family members.


In response to their plea, the Razakars subjected the women to physical violence, while the Pakistanis employed rifle butts to subdue them. The women were then bound together and confined in a room, a fate mirrored by the men. The Pakistani soldiers, leaving some Razakars behind in the homes, took the men away. Despite desperate pleas from the women, the Razakars remained unmoved.


The male members were confined in a nearby room, and at 11 a.m., they were ruthlessly executed by gunfire from the Pakistani forces. Soon, the majority of male residents of Narayanpur village fell victim to the merciless executions carried out by the Pakistanis. The Razakars released the women from their bonds, and slowly, the grieving women began to discover the lifeless bodies of their family members within their homes. Tragically, some women also met a similar fate at the hands of the Pakistanis.


Numerous men were forcibly taken north of the Akhaura-Agartala road bridge, where they were executed by the Pakistanis using brush fire. The corpses of these unfortunate individuals were left to be consumed by vultures and wild animals. The intense rainfall on May 7 led to many of these corpses being submerged in nearby swamps and marshes. In the villages, some corpses were left to decay, while others became prey to animals. Some skeletons and bones were eventually laid to rest.


In the year 2000, Gulzan Bibi and Abul Kashem Member provided testimony regarding this horrific genocide. Among the individuals murdered in Narayanpur were Abul Khayer, Kala Chan Miah, Moshkat Ali, Ali Ahmed, Lalu Miah and his four sons, Badruddin, Tara Miah, Abdul Haq, Wali, Fayezur Rahman, Faju Miah, Abdul Haque, Abdul Mahajan, and Osman.


 

Neville Anthony Mascarenhas, a seasoned journalist, found himself in the epicentre of this unfolding tragedy. Having served as the assistant editor of the Morning News in Karachi, he was well acquainted with the political landscape of Pakistan. However, the escalating violence in East Pakistan compelled him to reassess his role as a journalist and his duty to the truth.


In March 1971, Mascarenhas decided to defect from the Pakistani government's controlled media and seek refuge in the British High Commission in Karachi. His goal was clear: to expose the brutal realities of the East Pakistan Genocide to the world. Little did he know that his actions would set in motion events that would shake the foundations of global apathy.

 

In the sanctuary of the British High Commission, Mascarenhas began compiling his eyewitness accounts, insider information, and government documents detailing the extent of the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan. His efforts culminated in the publication of a ground-breaking report in the Sunday Times on June 13, 1971.

The report, titled "Genocide," painted a harrowing picture of the mass killings, rapes, and forced displacement inflicted upon the Bengali population. Mascarenhas laid bare the systematic and widespread nature of the violence, implicating not only the military but also the complicity of the Pakistani government. The Sunday Times exposé sent shockwaves across the globe, sparking international condemnation and shedding light on a human rights crisis that had been concealed for far too long.

 

Mascarenhas' report played a crucial role in galvanizing international opinion against the Pakistani government and its military actions in East Pakistan. The shocking revelations prompted diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions against Pakistan, forcing the nation to answer for its crimes on the global stage.

The world could no longer ignore the suffering of the Bengali people, and the Sunday Times exposé became a catalyst for humanitarian intervention and support for Bangladesh's struggle for independence. Mascarenhas' courageous act of truth-telling had successfully pierced the veil of silence and complicity that had shrouded the East Pakistan Genocide.

 

Neville Anthony Mascarenhas' contribution to exposing the East Pakistan Genocide through the pages of the Sunday Times stands as a testament to the power of investigative journalism in the face of oppression. His unwavering commitment to the truth brought justice to the victims and played a pivotal role in shaping the course of history. Mascarenhas' legacy serves as a reminder of the crucial role journalists play in holding power to account and ensuring that the voices of the oppressed are heard, even in the world's darkest corners.

 

The Rape of Bangladesh" is a book written by Anthony Mascarenhas, a Pakistani journalist. The book delves into the events surrounding the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which ultimately led to the creation of the independent nation of Bangladesh.

During this period, tensions between East and West Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh and Pakistan, respectively) were escalating due to political, economic, and linguistic differences. The central government in West Pakistan was accused of marginalising the Bengali-speaking population in East Pakistan. The demand for autonomy and linguistic rights grew, leading to a crackdown by the Pakistani military in March 1971.

Mascarenhas, a reporter for the Pakistani newspaper "The Morning News," played a crucial role in bringing the atrocities committed by the military in East Pakistan to international attention. His reporting exposed widespread human rights abuses, including mass killings, rapes, and displacement of civilians. The term "The Rape of Bangladesh" itself refers metaphorically to the violation of the nation and its people during this turbulent period.

The book provides a detailed account of the military operations, shedding light on the brutal tactics employed by the Pakistani army against the Bengali population. Mascarenhas documents the scale of the atrocities, the suffering of the people, and the impact on the social and political fabric of East Pakistan.

"The Rape of Bangladesh" also explores the international response to the crisis. The book criticises the lack of timely intervention by the global community and the role of major powers during this humanitarian catastrophe. Mascarenhas' work contributed significantly to raising awareness about the situation in Bangladesh and generating international pressure on the Pakistani government.

Ultimately, the conflict culminated in the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971, following a decisive victory by the joint Indian and Mukti Bahini (Bangladeshi liberation forces) against the Pakistani military. The book remains an important historical document, providing an eyewitness account of one of the most tragic chapters in South Asian history.

In summary, "The Rape of Bangladesh" is a journalistic work that exposes the horrors of the Bangladesh Liberation War, highlighting the human rights abuses committed by the Pakistani military and the struggle for independence by the Bengali population. Anthony Mascarenhas' reporting played a crucial role in bringing international attention to the atrocities and contributing to the eventual creation of Bangladesh as an independent nation.


 

Mass Killings

 

 

This is the story of 400 innocent Bengali civilians who were brutally murdered in Koloshkathi by the Pakistani troops of occupation and the Razakars during the Bangladesh Liberation.

War of 1971.

 

The Bengali port town of Koloshkathi in Barisal Union, near the meeting points of the Khayrabad, Pandav, and Patabunia rivers, is no less than 300 years old. In addition, the town has a history of the first-ever schools, colleges and temples built by zamindars during the times of the British Raj, with Hindu businessmen flourishing in this area. In 1971, the Barisal Union became one of the hotspots for the Pakistani army to carry on with their genocide.

 

On the 14th of May 1971, on a Friday, almost two months after the Pakistani armed forces launched Operation Searchlight and began murdering innocent Bengali civilians, Pakistani gunboats made it to Koloshkathi by taking the waterways of the three connecting rivers and entered the town through the port. Just after stepping on solid ground, they opened fire on local civilians and started burning down shops, torching down residential homes with people still inside them!

 

These enemy soldiers had Razakar leader Isahaq Haoladar and his men as local guides. These Bengali Razakars, supporting the Pakistani army of occupation, had guided these soldiers from Barisal City to Koloshkathi by saying that Koloshkathi was filled with wealthy Hindu businessmen aiding the Mukti Bahini fighters. The Razakars also promised the Pakistani soldiers with loot as well. Moreover, within just a few hours of the first Pakistani soldiers setting foot in the town, Koloshkathi witnessed the murder of 356 men, women and children indiscriminately. Four families in the village had their men butchered in front of their women by the Pakistani soldiers, all fathers and sons together.

At first, the troops would evacuate the homes, forcing the people out and then, they would lock up the people in the barnyards. They would pull some people out, line them up near

the ponds of Chaulapotti and open small arms fire on them. A few of them managed to jump

into the waters and swim out to safety, but most people were killed, with their corpses landing face down into the waters. Two hundred people were killed near these ponds.

 

The rest of them were slaughtered near the grounds of the Bebaj brick field. They were lined up as usual, and then the Pakistani troops opened fire on them. Most people who were murdered here were from the Hindu community who still did not manage to flee to India. Within 24 more hours, the enemy soldiers slaughtered 44 more innocent people who were

suspected of being connected to or helping the local Mukti Bahini forces. Local witnesses and Mukti Bahini fighters who managed to survive reported that the Koloshkathi genocide was pre-planned by the Pakistani troops and the Razakars due to the presence of affluent Hindu families and businessmen. The enemy and the Razakars felt this place to be good for gaining quality loot, which they did get their filthy hands on.

Thousands of families in this town had their homes and their savings completely looted and ravaged in the hands of the enemy.

 

After the war ended, a memorial was established in the town to remember the 400 innocent people who were murdered here. Amongst the extensive list of forgotten names amongst the dead, here are a few of the names gathered from the list compiled by the locals and the Mukti Bahini forces-

1) Kutti Karmakar, Nagen Karmakar, Dulal Karmakar

2) Ramesh Karmakar, Santosh Karmakar

3) Shankar Kanchi Lal

4) Chandan Chakravarty

5) Khirod Chandra

6) Khokon Kumar Das

7) Dulal Chandra Das

8) Balram Rajak Das

9) Ananda Notto

10) Amulya Pal

11) Nilmadav Pal

12) Ganesh Pal

13) Gopinath Pal

14) Chandan Pal

15) Dilip Pal

16) Debindra Pal

17) Debendra Pal

18) Dharmakanto Pal

19) Mohendro Pal

20) Manik Pal

21) Boshonto Pal

22) Rajendra Pal

23) Radhacharan Pal

24) Shribash Pal

25) Shashikant Pal

26) Rakhal Biswas

27) Norottom Baishnab

28) Ganesh Bhunjomali

29) Ashwini Malakar

30) Gopal Mistry

31) Romesh Mistry

32) Kailash Sikder

33) Akshay Shil

34) Sarat Chandra Shil

35) Bhoboronjon Shil

36) Kalipodo Sarkar

37) Ashok Saha

38) Kalachad Saha

39) Jyotish Chandra Saha

40) Parimal Chandra Saha

41) Mukund Lal Sen

42) Badol Kumar Sen

43) Jogendro Lal Sen

44) Ranjit Kumar Hazra

45) Amrita Lal Halder

46) Dulal Halder

47) Amayi Ghosh

 

Only 47 names out of 400 were recovered. Most of the dead bodies were eaten by fishes in the ponds, wild animals or left to rot, which was very common scenery back then in Pakistan-occupied Bangladesh. The bodies that might have been later recovered were probably never identified. Human remains were often found and are still often found in such areas of mass genocide--just a historical reminder of the insanity committed by the Pakistani armed forces.


 

Hindus Became Special Target of Pakistani Terror

 

The year 1971 witnessed a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions during the Bangladesh Liberation War, leading to the creation of Bangladesh as an independent nation. As the conflict unfolded, a grim chapter emerged the targeted persecution of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by Pakistani forces and their collaborators. This chapter delves into the tragic events that unfolded during this period, examining why Hindus became particular targets of Pakistani terror.

 

The roots of the conflict lay in the political and ethnic tensions between East and West Pakistan. The demand for autonomy by the Bengali-speaking population in East Pakistan was met with resistance from the West Pakistani government. As the struggle for independence intensified, religious minorities, particularly Hindus, found themselves caught in the crossfire.

 

The Bangladesh Liberation War had deep religious undertones, with the majority of the Bengali population being Muslim. The Pakistani military junta, viewing the secessionist movement as a threat to its Islamic identity, sought to suppress Bengali nationalist sentiment. Unfortunately, this repression took a brutal turn, particularly for the Hindu minority.

 

Hindus were disproportionately targeted during the conflict, facing systematic persecution that included mass killings, rapes, and forced conversions. Several factors contributed to their vulnerability. Firstly, their religious identity made them easy targets in a conflict that had taken on a religious hue. Secondly, as a minority, they were often perceived as sympathetic to the independence movement, further fuelling animosity.

 

Reports emerged of organised efforts to ethnically cleanse Hindus from specific areas. Towns and villages with a significant Hindu population witnessed brutal crackdowns, with families torn apart and individuals subjected to unspeakable atrocities. The intent was not just to suppress the independence movement but to eliminate a perceived threat to the Islamic character of East Pakistan.

 

The plight of the Hindu population was exacerbated by forced migrations. Fleeing persecution, thousands of Hindus sought refuge in India, creating a massive humanitarian crisis. The refugee camps on the Indian side of the border bore witness to the trauma suffered by the Hindu community, with stories of loss, displacement, and the struggle for survival.


International Response:

The international community was slow to respond to the unfolding tragedy. However, as reports of atrocities against Hindus gained traction, condemnation grew. Humanitarian organisations and foreign governments began pressuring the Pakistani government to halt the violence and respect the rights of minorities. The plight of the Hindu community became a focal point in discussions on human rights abuses during the conflict.

 

The events of 1971 left an indelible mark on the collective memory of the people of Bangladesh. The targeted persecution of Hindus during the Bangladesh Liberation War remains a dark chapter, underscoring the vulnerability of religious minorities in times of political turmoil. The scars of that period continue to influence the socio-political landscape of the region, emphasising the importance of protecting the rights of minorities in the pursuit of a just and inclusive society.

 

The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 was a complex and tumultuous period in South Asian history. Amid the struggle for independence, the Hindu minority in East Pakistan faced a particularly harrowing experience, becoming particular targets of Pakistani terror. This chapter highlights the religious dimensions, ethnic cleansing, forced migration, and international response that characterised this tragic chapter. It serves as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding the rights of minorities during times of conflict and upheaval, advocating for a more inclusive and tolerant future.

 

The Pakistan Army, following the Nazi pamphlet of Final Solution, also started to mark the shops owned by H’s on the Hindu shops in Faridpur, one of the southern districts of the country. As Sydney Schanberg wrote in his book, ‘’ Members of the Moslem majority – who, though not exempt from the army’s terror, feel safer than the Hindus – have painted on their homes and such signs as ‘’ All Moslem House’’ An undetermined number of Faridpur’s 10,000 Hindus have been killed. Others fled across the border to predominantly Hindu India. ( Sydney Schanberg, Beyond the Killing Fields, 2010, Page 131).

‘’What the Jews were to Hitler, the Hindus were to Niazi. He would ask his troops to keep a count of how many Hindus they had killed every day so that a grand official tally could be worked out at month’s end. That would give a clear idea of how many Hindus they have been able to wipe out from the face of East Pakistan. ‘’ ( Manash Ghosh,  Bangladesh War, 2021, Page 122).


 

An Unrecognised Genocide

 

The term "Genocide" is attributed to the Polish Jewish jurist Raphael Lemkin, who is recognised for creating this term by combining the Greek words "genos," meaning race or tribe, and "cide," meaning killing in Latin.

 

According to Anthony Mascerenhas is his story titles ‘’ Genocide’’ he wrote: I saw Hindus, hunted from village to village and door to door, shot off – hand after a curiosity’ short –arm inspection’ showed were uncircumcised. I have heard the screams of men bludgeoned to death in the compound of the Circuit House in Comilla. I have seen truckloads of other human targets and those who had the humanity to try to help them hauled off ‘ for disposal’ under the cover of darkness and curfew’’.

 

 

R.J Rummel, professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, said,

‘’ These ‘willing executioners’ of genocide and genocidal atrocities were fuelled by abiding anti-Bengali racism, especially against the Hindu minority… The Hindus among the Bengali were as Jews were to the Nazis: scum and vermin that [should] best be exterminated. As to the Moslem Bengalis, they were to live only on the sufferance of the soldiers: any infraction, any suspicion cast on them, any need of reprisal, could mean their death, And the soldiers were free to kill at will.’’ ( Guru Saday Batabyal, Politico-Military Strategy of Bangladesh Liberation War, 1971, 2021, Page 237).


 

Quest to Make the Nation Brainless

 

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting long shadows over the war-torn landscape of Bangladesh, a sinister silence befell the nation. The echoes of gunfire and cries of anguish had become the disheartening background noise to a conflict that had raged for months. Yet, in this apparent lull, a more insidious campaign was underway—the systematic extermination of the nation's intellectual elite.


The quest to make Bangladesh brainless, orchestrated by the Pakistan Army and its radical paramilitary allies, unfolded like a macabre symphony, with the Razakar, Al-Shams, and Al-Badr forces playing their dark roles. What ensued was not only a genocidal act but also a calculated assault on the very soul of the Bengali people.

In the hushed corridors of academia, where knowledge and enlightenment once thrived, the invaders sought to extinguish the flickering flame of intellect. Teachers, the custodians of wisdom, became prime targets. A chilling statistic emerged from the shadows—a staggering 990 teachers, respected pillars of education, fell victim to the brutal onslaught.

The ink-stained pens of journalists, once wielded to expose the truth and inspire change, were cruelly silenced. Thirteen voices that dared to challenge the oppressive regime were silenced forever, their stories buried beneath the rubble of a nation in turmoil.

As the night air filled with despair, physicians found themselves torn from their oaths to heal. Forty-nine doctors who had dedicated their lives to preserving life became casualties of a war that showed no mercy.


The legal guardians of justice, the defenders of rights and freedoms, were not spared. The perpetrators turned their wrath on lawyers, extinguishing the lights of justice in a ghastly display of brutality. Forty-two legal minds, advocates for fairness and equity, became victims of a war that had lost all sense of humanity.


Writers, artists, and engineers—those who painted the tapestry of culture and progress—found themselves in the crosshairs of an ideology that sought to erase diversity and innovation. Sixteen creators, whose contributions once shaped the nation's identity, were erased in a calculated act of cultural annihilation.


The exact number of intellectuals murdered may never be known. Their stories were often erased with them, lost to the annals of history. What remains, however, is a haunting legacy—a void in the nation's consciousness, a wound that time cannot fully heal.

In the chapters that follow, we delve deeper into the individual narratives, seeking to resurrect the voices that were unjustly silenced. The quest for truth is a solemn one, as we strive to honour the memories of those who paid the ultimate price for the pursuit of knowledge, freedom, and a brighter future for Bangladesh.


 

Resilience Amidst Shadows: The Unheard Tales of Rapes  

 

In the rich tapestry of Bengali history, the word "Birangona" echoes with a haunting duality. Initially signifying a "brave woman," the Bangladeshi government bestowed this title upon those who endured the harrowing atrocities inflicted by the Pakistani Army during the nine months of the Liberation War in 1971. However, the essence of the term has metamorphosed into a painful emblem, synonymous with dishonour, violation, and the enduring scars of war—a tragic narrative woven with threads of rape, abortion, suicide, and abandonment.


According to the accounts of Bangladeshi freedom fighters, the scale of horror was staggering, as over 200,000 women fell victim to the brutality of the Pakistani Army. Many, seeking refuge or solace, migrated to India to give birth, while others succumbed to the anguish, choosing the unbearable path of suicide after being forsaken by their own families.

One such poignant tale is that of Aleya Begum, who bears the weight of her traumatic past. Her voice trembles with vulnerability as she recounts being kidnapped at the tender age of 13, alongside her sister Laily, and enduring seven months of relentless gang rape by the Khans—the merciless moniker for the Pakistani Army.


Aleya, like countless other Birangonas, faced unimaginable torment. She vividly describes the horrific abuse, physical and psychological, inflicted upon them by the Pakistani soldiers. The atrocities ranged from the inhumane binding of hands to the sadistic burning of faces and bodies with cigarettes. The air was heavy with the collective suffering of thousands of women subjected to repeated acts of sexual violence each day. Malnourished and debilitated, their bodies bore the scars of the torment inflicted upon them by not only the Pakistani Army but also those who supported them, such as the Biharis.

Their attempts to escape proved futile, and Aleya's resilience was tested when she was shot, only to be rescued by the valiant Muktiyudhas, the freedom fighters. Despite returning home five months pregnant, the cruelty persisted. Aleya's baby, a symbol of her enduring trauma, did not survive. The societal disdain she faced branded her as a "bad girl," leading her to relocate to Dhaka, where she sought anonymity through menial jobs.


Silenced by societal judgment, Aleya concealed her past from her husband, fearing the stigma attached to her Birangona status. The revelation later resulted in abuse and expulsion from her marital home. Her daughter, however, took a stand, compelling the husband to relent, though the scars of humiliation persisted. Aleya, like many Birangonas, remains bitter about the government's inaction regarding their rehabilitation, questioning the value of her life and the recognition she deserves.

Her sister, Laily Begum, faced a similar fate, losing her child during captivity. Her contributions remain overlooked despite joining the fight alongside freedom fighters, and the bitterness of unacknowledged sacrifice lingers.


Aleya's daughter, Asma Akter Eka, emerges as a beacon of pride in the midst of societal shame. Composing a poignant song that mirrors the unspoken pain in the heart of Birangona's daughter, she stands defiant, proud of her mother and aunt. Despite the prevailing narrative of sympathy and pity, the Birangonas yearn for societal recognition as war veterans, desiring to be honoured as the unsung heroes of a painful chapter in history. Their plea resonates—a call to unveil the forgotten stories and acknowledge the resilience within the shadows of dishonour.

 

Indian foreign minister told his diplomats,‘’ Artillery, tanks, automatic weapons mortars, aeroplanes, everything which is normally used against invading armed forces, were utilised and very large–scale killings took place. Selective killings of individuals, acts of molestation and rape against university students, girls… on especially concentrating on the locations in which Hindus predominated’’  (( The Blood Telegram Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide’’ by Gary J. Bass, 2013, Page 120).

The Pakistan army chief, General Gul Hamid Khan, while inspecting his troops in East Pakistan in 1971, would ask his soldiers ‘’ Soldiers, how many Hindus have you killed till date? The Bengali women, irrespective of religion and age, were considered by him to be public property ( gonimat ki maal), which should first be enjoyed and then killed without fail and with no questions asked. ( Manash Gosh, Bangladesh War, 2021, Page 123)

 

Another incident occurred at a meeting addressed by Lt. General Niazi, who vowed to change the Bengali race altogether. This upset one Bengali Major Mushtaq present at the meeting so much that he went to the toilet and shot himself dead. ( Lt General Khadim Hussain Raja, A Stranger in My Own Country, 2012, Page).

 

James Bartleman, the first Canadian( resident) high commissioner to Bangladesh wrote, ‘’ Tens of thousands of women had been raped as part of the Pakistani policy of intimidation, foreshadowing the approach taken by the Bosnian Serb army there defaced later, and many became pregnant.’’ (Mustafa Chowdhury, Picking up the Pieces, 2014, Page 2).

 

As Richard Pilkinton wrote in his book named ‘’ The West and the Birth of Bangladesh, ‘’ During the intervening nine – month period, many thousands of civilian were killed, perhaps a quarter of a million girls and women systematically raped’’ ( Richard Pilkington, The West and the birth of Bangladesh of Bangladesh, 2021, Page 11).

In his book ‘’ Beyond The Killing Fields’’ Sydney Schanberg wrote, ‘’ According to confirmed reports, the Pakistani troops in nearly every sector kept Bengali women as sexual slaves, often making them remain naked continuously in their bunkers. After the Pakistanis surrendered on Dec 16, the mutilated bodies of many of these women were found’’ ( Page 145).


 

 

 

Whilst Pakistan’s government published the Hamudur Rahman Commission Report, it was published in the report that, Alamdar Raza, the last Pakistani Commissioner of Dhaka was explaining how the authority was delaying the acceptance of his writ petition. Then he finally got the chance to submit his petition at the court, and at one point he gave an example of the barbarity of the Pakistani troops. ‘’A group of soldiers attacked a house and killed several people. They kept the young girl of the family alive to rape her. The girl pleaded that she was also a Pakistani and she was a Muslim, as were the soldiers. How could a Muslim rape another Muslim woman? At last, she placed the Holy Quran on the bed and said if anyone wanted to rape her, he would have to first remove the Quran from the bed. The soldiers did that. Alamdar described that the judge could not but shed tears after hearing that.’’ ( Muntasir Mamoon, The Vanquished Generals and the Liberation War of Bangladesh, 2016, Page 31).

 

An account of a victim:‘’ In 1971, the Pakistan army began a brutal crackdown against Bengalis in which hundreds of thousands of women were detained and repeatedly brutalised. Only now are their stories beginning to be told.

 

It was the summer of 1971, and the distant murmurs of a war that began months earlier had made their way to Rajshahi in East Pakistan, across the north bank of the Padma River, to Noor Jahan’s door. The 14-year-old played in the courtyard with her little sister when a loud military truck stopped outside the family’s farmhouse.

Armed soldiers threw the two girls into the back of the truck, where they discovered several women sitting back to back with their hands tied. “They told us to look down and to remain silent,” recalls Johan, now 65. The truck continued through the small town, making several stops, loading more women and girls into the back as if they were cattle. Jahan describes all the women as sobbing silently, too afraid to make a sound.

“We had no idea where they were taking us. I watched from the corner of my eye as the marigold fields surrounding our home disappeared from sight,” says Jahan. “I remember clutching my sister’s hand tightly and being terrified the entire time. We had all heard about the Butcher of Bengal and his men.”

The Butcher of Bengal was the nickname given to Pakistan’s military commander, Gen Tikka Khan, notorious for overseeing Operation Searchlight, a murderous crackdown on Bengali separatists in what was then East Pakistan, which led to a genocidal crusade during the liberation war that followed.


However, Jahan was about to become a victim of another brutal tactic of the Pakistani army. Alongside the killings, soldiers carried out a violent campaign of  rape in what many historians believe  amounted to a direct policy under Khan’s command to impregnate as many women as possible with “blood from the west”.

 

When the truck finally came to a stop, the girls found themselves in military barracks. The next few months were a blur for Jahan, who regularly passed out during her confinement. “We lay there like corpses, side by side. There were 20, maybe 30, of us confined to one room,” she recalls tearfully. “The only time we saw daylight was when the door creaked open and the soldiers marched in. Then the raping would begin.”


During the conflict that led to the birth of Bangladesh, military-style rape camps such as the one in which Jahan was held were set up across the country. Official estimates put the number of Bengali women raped at between 200,000 and 400,000, though even those numbers are considered conservative by some.


However, ethnic rape was feature of Partition years earlier, what Bengali women experienced was one of the first recorded examples of rape being used as a “consciously applied weapon of war” in the 20th century. However, despite its shocking scale, little remains known outside the region.

 

Within Bangladesh, widespread stigma led to the women being ostracised by their communities, and their horrifying accounts were often suppressed by shame. Today, a plaque on the wall of the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka says it all: “There are not many records of this hidden suffering.” Yet, in every corner of Bangladesh, there are survivors with terrifying testimonies.


In August 1971, Razia Begum had gone looking for her husband, Abu Sarkar, who had been missing for several days. She wandered anxiously through the abandoned streets of Tejturi Bazar in Dhaka, where Sarkar was a fruit seller, but he was nowhere to be found. Begum turned a corner when she found herself face to face with a group of soldiers. She tried to run but was struck on the head with a rifle, a scar she still bears.


Begum was dragged to a nearby forest, where she was raped repeatedly over a period of weeks. The soldiers were stationed close by and returned at different times of the day. “They tied me to a tree and took turns raping me during their breaks,” says Begum, now 78. After they were done with her, the soldiers threw Begum into a shallow ditch.

 

A passer-by eventually found her and took her to a shelter, which Begum describes as a lost-and-found for women who were abducted during the war. Such makeshift shelters had been set up in districts across the region for the many women who had been abducted and abandoned miles from their homes.


“Women didn’t often leave the house during that time, so many of us didn’t even know our proper addresses,” says Begum. Begum’s husband tried four different shelters before he found her and took her home. “I don’t like to think about what happened,” says Begum. “But after all these years, it has been difficult for me to forget. I still have nightmares.”

On 16 December 1971, the war came to an abrupt end. Although independence had been won, thousands of Bengali women, such as Jahan and Begum, would be rescued from shelters and rape camps across the country.’’ ( Talisman Begum, Dhaka, The Guardian, www.theguardian.com ,3 April 2023).


 

Prisoners of War Freedom Fighters  Killing

 

On the fateful day of Eid in 1971, a grim tragedy unfolded in Brahmanbaria as the Pakistani Army perpetrated a heinous act, claiming the lives of 39 imprisoned freedom fighters. Eid, traditionally a time of joy and celebration, took a sombre turn in Brahmanbaria, leaving a scar on the region's collective memory. The events of that day, shrouded over time, are often overlooked by the younger generation.

In the heart of our golden Bengal, where business worth thousands of crores of rupees transpires on Eid, the reminiscence of Eid-ul-Fitr in 1971 in Brahmanbaria paints a starkly different picture. The period from November 20 to December 08 is a poignant reminder, marked by the meticulous counting of ordinary people attending the Eid congregation in Brahmanbaria by hand.


During this period, some individuals were coerced into participation through house-to-house threats, emphasizing the pervasive atmosphere of fear. The congregation field, a mere one-third of its present size, hosted individuals who eagerly awaited the prayer's conclusion despite the threats. Little did they anticipate the tragic turn of events that awaited them in Brahmanbaria that day?


The Pakistani army, in collaboration with Razakars, forcibly extracted 39 individuals, including notable figures like Shaheed Siru Mia Daroga and his children Shaheed Kamal Anwar and Shaheed Nazrul, from the confines of the Brahmanbaria Subjail on the auspicious day of Eid.


Among those imprisoned was Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul, a 15-year-old youth freedom fighter who later became a national award-winning composer, lyricist, and freedom fighter. Bulbul's harrowing account, presented as the 14th witness in Golam Azam's case, vividly describes the momentous opening of the Brahmanbaria jail doors with a deafening noise, sending shockwaves through the incarcerated.


As ordered by the Pakistani army, the prisoners were instructed to line up on the concrete floor. Captain Ali Reza, Lieutenant Iftekhar, and notorious collaborators like Payara Mia, Brigadier Sadullah, and numerous Razakars oversaw this distressing scene. Captain Ali Reza methodically pointed fingers, compelling 43 individuals to stand, leaving Bulbul alone with an ominous realization that his life was uncertain.


In a chilling exchange with Brigadier Sadullah, Bulbul summoned the courage to inquire about his fate and that of the others. Sadullah callously asserted his intent to execute the 43 individuals. Notably, Bulbul managed to secure the safety of three fellow prisoners—Manik, Mahbub, and Khoka—pleading for their exemption from the impending fate.

Separated from the group, Bulbul sought solace with Nazrul Bhai, questioning whether he had attempted to escape. Nazrul's stoic response, coupled with poignant requests to deliver a lungi to his mother and a piece of cigarette to another, added an extra layer of tragedy to the unfolding narrative. Kamal Anwar's father, Siru Mia Police officer, expressed his anguish, and Kamal, in a final act of defiance, vowed to shoot any Pakistani army personnel he encountered.


In a gesture of camaraderie, a fellow freedom fighter named Baten from Comilla bestowed his cloak upon Bulbul, who used it to wipe away the tears of his imprisoned comrades. The ominous separation occurred as the 40 individuals were led away, leaving behind those who remained in the jail, unaware of the impending tragedy.


In the aftermath, it was revealed that the freedom fighters, including those from Brahmanbaria, met a gruesome end at a location known as Pairtala, west of the B.Baria railway station. Their lifeless bodies were callously abandoned in what would come to be known as the killing fields—a stark testament to the brutality of war.


Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul's testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal and other eyewitness accounts serve as a chilling reminder of the sacrifices made during the struggle for independence. The attached testimony, presented as an annexure, stands as a historical record, urging us never to forget the price paid for the freedom we cherish today.

In the words of Guru Saday Batabyal in his book ‘’ Politico-Military Strategy of The Bangladesh Liberation War, 1971, ‘’ Pakistan army carried out the wanton destruction of property, mass rape, and Genocide.’’ (Page 242).


 

 

Rivers of Desperation: The Bengali Exodus

 

The year was 1971, and the Indian subcontinent underwent a tumultuous transformation. The region that was once undivided India experienced painful severance in 1947, leading to the creation of Pakistan. However, the cultural, linguistic, and political disparities between East and West Pakistan had brewed discontent for years, reaching a boiling point that would forever alter the course of history. This chapter delves into the harrowing exodus of Bengali people from the then East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh, as they sought refuge in India to escape the atrocities committed by the Pakistani military.

 

The genesis of the crisis lay in the struggle for autonomy and democratic rights by the Bengali-speaking majority in East Pakistan. Denied their linguistic and political rights, the people of East Pakistan had long felt marginalized by the ruling elite in West Pakistan. The situation escalated when the Pakistan Army launched a brutal crackdown on the night of March 25, 1971, in an attempt to quash the demands for autonomy. What followed was a state-sponsored genocide, with atrocities including mass killings, rapes, and forced displacements.


The once peaceful and culturally vibrant region turned into a battleground, and ordinary Bengalis found themselves caught in the crossfire of a political struggle that turned bloody. Faced with imminent danger and the spectre of annihilation, millions of Bengalis made the heart-wrenching decision to leave their homeland, hoping to find safety and sanctuary across the border in India.

 

The exodus began as a trickle, families fleeing in the dead of the night, traversing treacherous terrain and clandestine routes to avoid detection. Villages emptied as men, women, and children walked for days, crossing rivers and forests, leaving behind the only life they had known. The haunting echoes of gunshots and the wails of those left behind resonated across the landscape as the exodus gained momentum.


The rivers that crisscrossed the region, once symbols of life and vitality, became witnesses to the desperate flight of humanity. The Meghna, Ganges, and Brahmaputra rivers turned into watery highways for flotillas of makeshift boats overloaded with refugees. The journey was perilous, with many succumbing to the currents or capsizing under the weight of human cargo. Yet, the alternative was even grimmer – the horrors of persecution awaited those who stayed behind.

 

As news of the unfolding tragedy reached the international community, the scale of the crisis became apparent. The world watched in horror as images of refugee camps overflowing with malnourished and traumatized families filled television screens and newspapers. The United Nations estimated that by the end of 1971, over ten million Bengali refugees had crossed into India, making it one of the largest mass migrations in history.

The refugee camps, hastily erected on the Indian side of the border, struggled to cope with the sheer magnitude of the influx. Basic amenities were scarce, and diseases ran rampant through the crowded settlements. The international community grappled with the enormity of the crisis, prompting urgent appeals for humanitarian aid and intervention.

 

For India, the influx of millions of refugees posed an unprecedented challenge. The humanitarian imperative to provide shelter clashed with the geopolitical realities of the region. The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, faced a delicate balancing act – how to address the needs of the refugees while navigating the complex diplomatic landscape.


The Indian government, empathetic to the plight of the Bengali refugees, opened its borders and hearts. Temporary shelters mushroomed along the border, offering a modicum of safety to those who had fled the horrors across the frontier. The world witnessed a rare display of solidarity as ordinary Indians opened their homes and shared what little they had with the refugees.

 

The international community was entangled in a geopolitical chessboard as the crisis deepened. The Cold War dynamics added another layer of complexity to an already volatile situation. The United States, aligned with Pakistan during the Cold War, faced criticism for its perceived support of the military junta in Islamabad. In contrast, the Soviet Union stood by India, further complicating diplomatic relations.


Amidst the diplomatic manoeuvring, the suffering of the Bengali people remained the focal point. The cries for justice and intervention grew louder, with the atrocities perpetrated by the Pakistan Army becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. The world watched as the United Nations struggled to find a resolution that would end the bloodshed and pave the way for the creation of Bangladesh.

 

The turning point came in December 1971 when the Indo-Pakistani War erupted. The conflict, which lasted a mere thirteen days, led to the decisive victory of the Indian Armed Forces and the creation of the independent nation of Bangladesh. The joy of liberation, however, was tempered by the stark reality that the war had exacted a heavy toll on human lives.


As the dust settled, the refugees who had sought sanctuary in India faced a choice – return to a liberated Bangladesh or rebuild their lives in a new land. The scars of the exodus would forever mark the collective memory of the Bengali people, a testament to their resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

 

The exodus of the Bengali people from East Pakistan to India is a sombre chapter in the annals of human history. The international community, slow to respond to the unfolding crisis, learned valuable lessons about the importance of timely intervention in the face of humanitarian catastrophes. The refugee crisis of 1971, often referred to as the enormous human catastrophe since the Nazi Holocaust, serves as a poignant reminder of the consequences of unchecked power and the enduring strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.



In the years that followed, the scars of the exodus slowly healed, and Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign nation with its own identity and aspirations. The resilience of the Bengali people, who faced unimaginable hardships yet triumphed over adversity, remains an inspiration for generations to come. The rivers that once witnessed their desperation now flow through a free and independent Bangladesh, a testament to the indomitable spirit of a people who refused to be extinguished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 


 


 


 


 


 

The War Babies

 

In 1971, amidst the backdrop of the Bangladesh Liberation War, a poignant chapter unfolded – the story of war babies born during those tumultuous times. This chapter delves into the compassionate contributions of Mother Teresa and the Canadian and Australian governments in providing refuge to these innocent souls.

As the war raged on, many children found themselves in dire circumstances, born to mothers who were victims of the conflict. Mother Teresa, known for her unwavering commitment to humanitarian causes, was crucial in helping these war babies. Her Missionaries of Charity worked tirelessly to care for and nurture these infants, offering them a chance at a better life.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Canadian and Australian governments took proactive steps to address the needs of these war babies. Through diplomatic efforts and collaborative initiatives, they facilitated the adoption of these children, providing them with an opportunity to grow up in stable and loving environments far from the turmoil of war.

However, the fate of these unwanted children took a complex turn as they faced discrimination due to the circumstances of their birth. Despite being innocent victims, societal biases and stigmas associated with their origins cast a shadow over their lives. Many of these war babies experienced challenges in being entirely accepted into their adoptive societies, struggling with identity and belonging.

Moreover, the perpetrators of the atrocities during the Bangladesh Liberation War often evaded the repercussions of their actions. The lack of accountability left the war babies and their families grappling with the injustice of their predicament. The absence of legal consequences for those responsible added another layer of complexity to the plight of these children.

The discrimination these war babies faced was a stark reminder of the lasting impacts of conflict on innocent lives. Despite being born into circumstances beyond their control, they encountered prejudice that followed them into their new homes. This discrimination manifested in various forms, from subtle biases to overt exclusion, affecting the psychological well-being of these children as they navigated their way through life.

The international community, prompted by the compassion of figures like Mother Teresa and the commitment of governments like Canada and Australia, provided a lifeline for these war babies. However, the story of their lives is a testament to the broader challenges faced by children born amid conflict. It highlights the need for continued efforts to address the long-term consequences of war, both in terms of humanitarian aid and justice for victims.

In conclusion, the war babies of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War faced a tumultuous journey marked by the compassion of some and the discrimination of others. Mother Teresa, alongside the Canadian and Australian governments, played a crucial role in offering these children a chance at a better life. Yet, the discrimination they encountered and the lack of accountability for the perpetrators underscore the ongoing challenges those born into the chaos of conflict faced. As we reflect on this chapter of history, it serves as a call to action for a more compassionate and just world where the innocent are rescued from the shadows of war and granted the dignity and acceptance they rightfully deserve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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