Azadur Rahman Chandan
Jatiya Shahitya Prakash
The Pakistan army with the help of anti-liberation elements Razakars, Al-Badr, Al-Shams and Peace Committees killed over 7,000 people in Dhaka only in the twenty four hours beginning from the wee hours of March 25, 1971.
The severity of the butchery is exposed in a telegram sent to Washington by US Consul in Dhaka Archer K Blood on March 28. Under the title ‘Selective Genocide’, Blood wrote (translated from Bangla): “We are the silent and horrified witnesses of the reign of terrorism launched by the Pakistan Army. The martial law authorities have with them a list of Awami League supporters who are being picked up from their homes and shot dead… Other than the Awami league leaders, the list also comprises student leaders and university teachers. Instigated by the army, the non-Bangalees are launching attacks systematically on the houses of poor people and killing the Bangalees and Hindus.”
The then public relations officer of the Pakistani army, Major Siddique Salik, (who later became a brigadier) in his book Witness to Surrender narrated the horrors of the night of the military crackdown: “…the prominent feature of this gory night was the flames shooting to the sky and at times, mournful clouds of smoke accompanied the blaze but soon they were overwhelmed by the flaming fire trying to look at the stars… The gates of hell had been cast open…”
In the next nine months, the Pakistan army turned the whole country into a sea of blood, when over three million people were killed, tens of thousands of women were raped and tortured brutally and thousands of homes were set on fire.
There have been many international and local news reports, letters, other documents and photographs put in the book Ekattorer Ghatak O Dalalra’ (Killers and Collaborators ’71) by the writer, Azadur Rahman Chandan. A journalist by profession, he translated the English and Urdu matters into Bangla for the benefit of Bangladeshi readers who will certainly find the book a brief yet precious document on our War of Liberation.
Jatiya Sahitya Prakash of Kamalkanti Das has published this must-read book!
Just before the launch of the crackdown, the Pakistan army kept all the foreign journalists confined in Hotel Intercontinental (now Ruposhi Bangla) only to forcibly fly them out the next day. All but two had to accept the fate. The Telegraph reporter Simon Dring and photojournalist of Associated Press (AP) Michael Laurent went to the hotel’s rooftop, using the passage of its air-conditioning system. The Bangalee staff helped them hide until March 27 when the curfew was lifted.
Having experienced the March 25 and 26 massacres on Dhaka streets surreptitiously, Simon Dring wrote his first report, which is also the first-ever international report on the atrocities as seen by a witness, and submitted it to his office in London. It was published on March 30 under the title ‘Tanks Crush Revolt in Pakistan: 7,000 Slaughtered, Homes Burned’.
A part of the report is given in the book in Bangla (translated): “In the name of ‘God and a united Pakistan’, Dhaka is today a crushed and frightened city. After 24 hours of ruthless, cold-blooded shelling by the Pakistan Army, as many as 7,000 people are dead, large areas have been levelled and East Pakistan’s fight for independence has been brutally put to an end.
“It is really tough to ascertain the number of innocent people who have died, but adding the number of deaths in Chittagong, Comilla, Jessore and Dhaka it may stand at 15,000. What is assessable is the ruthlessness of the military crackdown as students have been killed in their beds, butcher at their small shop, women and children burnt alive at homes; the Hindus have been killed after being tacked together, and houses, markets and shops set afire.
“…the first target as the tanks rolled into Dacca on the night of Thursday, March 25, seems to have been the students. An estimated three battalions of troops were used in the attack on Dacca — one of armoured, one of artillery and one of infantry. They started leaving their barracks shortly before 10 p.m. By 11, firing had broken out and the people who had started to erect makeshift barricades —overturned cars, three stumps, furniture, and concrete piping — became early casualties.
“As the university came under attack, other columns of troops moved in on the Rajarbagh headquarters of the East Pakistan police, on the other side of the city. Tanks opened fire first, witnesses said; then the troops moved in and levelled the men’s sleeping quarters, firing incendiary rounds into the buildings. People living opposite did not know how many died there, but of the 1,100 police based there not many are believed to have escaped.”
In the nineteen chapters accommodated in the book, the writer has also described chronologically the happenings of 1971 and the role of the perpetrators the Pakistan Army and their local collaborators. The names of the 195 Pakistan army officers who were branded war criminals by the maiden Bangladesh government in 1972 have been posted here.
The later sections mainly describe the role of pro-Pakistan Bangladeshis, mainly politicians of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Council Muslim League, Convention Muslim League, Nezam-e-Islam and People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The names of provincial lawmakers of erstwhile East Pakistan, political representatives who sided with the West Pakistan government and those working abroad against the emergence of Bangladesh are also mentioned in the book.
The names of the masterminds of the collaborating forces Razakars, Peace Committee members, Al-Badr, Al-Shams of different areas of the country are to be found in the book along with evidence of newspaper reports relating to their involvement in genocide and other anti-Bangladesh activities.
The work notes that the brutality of the Jamaat and Razakars had reached such a level that the other local collaborators were disturbed by it. The PDP of Nurul Amin expressed its grievances about the gruesome killings, torture and looting, as a secret document of the East Pakistan home ministry sent to West Pakistan in early October shows.
The book precisely describes Ghulam Azam, the former Jamaat Ameer, as the mastermind of the local collaborators who, ten days into the bloody war along with Nurul Amin and Khwaja Khairuddin met the then governor of East Pakistan, General Tikka Khan, and extended his support to the Pakistan government. Two days later, he had an exclusive meeting with Tikka Khan.
The Peace Committee headed by Khairuddin was formed on April 7. Ghulam Azam was one of its prominent members. On April 15, it was renamed as the Central Peace Committee for East Pakistan. A 21-member committee was formed and its leaders again met Gen Tikka Khan on April 16.
On June 16, Ghulam Azam proposed to the then Pakistan president Yahya Khan the formation of the Razakar force and urged the government to provide arms to those supporting the unity of Pakistan.
The Al-Badr was experimentally launched in Mymensingh as a voluntary force with Islami Chhatra Sangha activists as its first recruits to wage war against the freedom fighters. They were enlisted and trained under the guidance of Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, the assistant secretary general of Jamaat and now a war crimes accused.
Senior Nayeb-e-Ameer Abul Kalam Mohammad Yusuf first formed the Razakar force in Khulna. He was also the convener of the Peace Committee in the district. Under his leadership, 96 Razakar members used to torment freedom fighters and pro-Liberation War people at nine torture cells in the town. They were later taken to four killing grounds and executed. A minister in the Dr Malek cabinet, AKM Yusuf also campaigned at home and abroad against the war.
This book is also rich in providing specific information on ABM Khaleque Majumder, an Al-Badr commander who was involved in the abduction and murder of intellectuals; Quader Mollah, better known as a “butcher” in Mirpur area; Delawar Hossain Sayedee, who with the help of Pirojpur Jamaat and Muslim league leaders, organised looting, arson and killing of many Hindus and after the war turned popular through his charismatic way of sermonising at religious functions; Mir Kashem Ali of Chittagong, an Al-Badr commander who through his anti-freedom fighter activities had been given the position of general secretary of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Sangha; Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, son of Convention Muslim League chief Fazlul Quader Chowdhury of Rauzan, who exercised massive brutality against the Hindus of the area with the help of Pakistan soldiers; Maulana Abul Kalam Azad aka Bacchu Razakar, who had turned his home in Khardia village of Nagarkanda upazila into a mini-cantonment; and Maulana Abdus Sobhan, the then acting chief of Pabna Jamaat unit and vice-president of Peace Committee, who was also behind the formation of Razakars and Al-Badr committees in the district.
Probir Kumar Sarker is sub-editor, The Daily Star. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org