April 1971: 'Recalling Massacres of Those Days in Faridpur'
By Rabindranath Trivedi
The birth of Bangladesh in 1971 was a unique phenomenon- it was the first nation state to emerge after waging a successful liberation war against a postcolonial state. The nine-month-long liberation war in Bangladesh drew world attention because of the genocide committed by Pakistan, which resulted in the killings of approximately three million people, and raping of nearly a quarter million girls and women mostly over 70 percent were Hindus. Ten million Bengalis, of whom 80% were Hindus, reportedly took refuge in India to avoid the massacre of the Pakistan army, and thirty million people were displaced within the country were poor Muslims and Hindus.
Thirty-six years passed since the occupation Pakistan army entered Faridpur on April 21, 1971 and started arson, loot, rape and atrocities in and around Faridpur town, Talma, Nagarkanda, Bhanga, Kanaipur and Ishan Gopalpur. Since the offensive began the troops have killed countless thousands of Bengalis -- foreign diplomats estimate at least 200,000 to 250,000 -- many in massacres. Although the targets were Bengali Moslems and the 10 million Hindus at first, the army was then concentrating on Hindus in what foreign observers characterize as a holy war. The justification for the annihilation of the Hindus was paraphrased by Lt.Gen.Tikka Khan, the Military Governor of East Pakistan in radio broadcast on April 18,1971, he said: 'The Muslims of East Pakistan, who had played a leading part in the creation of Pakistan, are determined to keep it alive.'
At the end of June 1971, Schanberg visited the town of Faridpur and reported on the persecution there:'The Pakistani Army has painted big yellow "H's" on the Hindu shops still standing in this town to identify the property of the minority eighth of the population that it has made special targets.... In April, as a public example, two Hindus were beheaded in a central square in Faridpur and their bodies were soaked in kerosene and burned.' Still, there is no sign of a hate-Hindu psychology among the Bengali Muslims. Many have taken grave risks to shelter and defend Hindus; others express shock and horror at what is happening to the Hindus but confess that they are too frightened to help.'
The Pakistan army and the Razakars did not stop at simply massacring Hindus. They also took to raping Bengali women. During nine months in 1971, over 200,000 Bengali women and girls were raped. Many were taken as sex slaves and raped multiple times by the Pakistani army." 'Measuring the Tragedy' the New York Times (June 7,1971) mentioned: “People have killed each other because of animosities of race, politics and religion; no community is entirely free of guilt. But the principal agent of death and hatred has been the Pakistan Army." These paramilitary units, the al-Badr and al-Shams, worked as informers and assassins to augment the military's gruesome task of killing Bengalis.
Eight Bramacharee were butchered and by Pakistan Army in Faridpur
On 21April 1971 (07 Baikh 1377 BS, Wednesday ) eight bramahcharees of Sree Angan of the Lord Jagat bandhu Sunder were butchered and tomb of the temple was demolished. All those Vaishnava Brahmacharees namely Sahid Kirtan Bandhu, Shahid Nidanbandhu,Shahid Kshitibandhu, Shahid Bandhudas , Shahid Chirabandhu, Shahid Gour Bandhu, Shahid Andha Kanai and Shahid Ravibandhu were killed by the Pakistani Occupation forces while Brahmacharees chanting kirtan, prayer, of lord Jagatbandhu Sundar,an incarnation of Vishnu,a vaishnava cult in Hinduism. This Sree Angan as commonly known to all section of people is a holy shrine and profoundly respected to all irrespective to caste, creed and religions.
Believe it or not, it was happened, a Pakistani Army Captain Jamshed who commanded the massacre in Faridpur from April to July’71 had to beg divine mercy and ultimately commit suicide before the altar of Lord Jagatbandhu’s main temple of the Sree Angan just a few days before Pakistan Forces surrendered to Joint Command of Indian Army in Dec.1971.Capt Jamshed was burried in the Sree Angan (near pond of the Shiva Temple) by the Razzakar and Bihari Muslims, Probodh Kumar Sarkar, a Freedom Fighter of Faridpur told me recently. It may be mentioned here Captain Jamshed who had torched the main temple, killed the Brahmacharees and desecrate the holy place became lunatic before his unnatural death. But why he committed suicide before the altar of the main temple of Pravu Shri Shri Jagatbandhu Sundar? Was it a dictum of destiny or maledictions of divine power?
Massacre at Ramna Kali Bari : An American Eyewitness
"On the night on 28 March 1971 all the 250 Hindu men, women and children, who lived in and around the 700-year old Ramna Kali Bari in the heart of Dacca, were massacred. The priest of the Temple held the deity and prayed to Goddess Kali and he remained like that until incendiarism of the Pak army 'cremated' him alive along with all others.
An American eyewitness said: "There are no more Hindus in Ramna Kali Bari… I went to see it. Houses were still aflame and bodies were stacked at grotesque angles." This American added, "The sight staggered foreigners allowed to see it --- among them Mr. David Gordon, head of the World Bank in Pakistan". About 100 corpses were put on display in the village on 29 March 1971.
Dr John E. Rohde of USAID noted that “on the 29th we stood at Ramna KaliBari, an ancient Hindu village of about 250 people in the center of Dacca Ramna Race Course, and witnessed the stacks of machine-gunned, burning remains of men, women and children butchered in the early morning hours of March 29,1971. I photographed the hours later.”
Mr. Gordon Allott's speech in the Senate on July 14, 1971 mentioned that the 'Ramna Kali Bari is an ancient small Hindu settlement situated in the middle of the Dacca racecourse. Even during the most violent Hindu-Muslim riots of partition, the village was able to avoid participation in communal strife …on March 29, a pile of bodies charred and machine-gunned, was on visible display in Kali Bari. The entire village was burned to the ground.'
There was something of a joker in Yahya Khan. Perhaps because of the World Bank officials’ disapproval of the destruction of the Ramna Kali Temple, the military President of Pakistan or his trusted Governor, General Tikka Khan, sanctioned Rs.20, 000 for rebuilding, the temple which had been not only razed to the ground but after the rolling of bulldozers over it not a single brick remained there.
The Ramna Kali Bari and the two villages are now an extension of the grassy racetrack of Dhaka.
When a World Bank official was shown a temple, a foolish stage show was arranged to convince him that the Hindus were freely pursuing their religious duties. A non-Bengali police constable was made to shave off his head leaving a tuft on it. He put on a dhoti and was made to sit and offer flowers as if he was doing the usual puja. When the Inspector- General of Police and others brought the World Bank official there, the fake Hindu priest seeing his boss, jumped up to stand to attention and gave a smart salute, said Mr. A B M Musa of Times, London and BBC correspondent at Dhaka.
In Bangladesh there are more than 30,000 temples and religious citadels in Bangladesh, and most of those were ransacked, demolished and desecrated.. Thousands of people-men, women and children-were killed and women raped by Pakistani army and their local stooges and collaborators of the so-called peace committees looted Hindu properties. When the burden of the killing became too much for the army, the Pakistanis enlisted and trained paramilitary units made up of non-Bengali Muslims and Bengali collaborators from right-wing religious parties.
Sydney Schanberg of The New York Times was expelled from East Pakistan:
In June 1971 Sydney Schanberg reported on the formation of these units:' Throughout East Pakistan the Army is training new paramilitary home guards or simply arming "loyal" civilians, some of whom are formed into peace committees. Besides Biharis and other non-Bengali, Urdu-speaking Moslems, the recruits include the small minority of Bengali Moslems who have long supported the army -- adherents of the right-wing religious parties such as the Moslem League and Jamaat-e-Islami.'
Collectively known as the Razakars, the paramilitary units spread terror throughout the Bengali population. With their local knowledge, the Razakars were an invaluable tool in the Pakistani Army's arsenal of genocide.'
However, In June the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sydney Schanberg filed a number of eyewitness accounts from Bangladeshi towns for The New York Times. In response, the Pakistan army expelled him from the country on June 30, 1971.
Wither Hindus In Bangladesh?
The sacrifices of the Hindu leadership were never acknowledged either officially or publicly. Does the nation pay respect to those departed souls? Is there any room for the Hindu leaders in the history who fought for the cause of history and the War of Liberation? In the post-August 1975, Bangladesh, Bengali, Hindu and India are equated with a typical psyche by the ruling cliché.
The existing literature on the history of Bangladesh underplays not only the inner contradictions of the Muslims of Bengal, but also other significant features of her past. Those who have sacrificed lives at the altar of the War of Liberation, as termed ‘Shahid’ but what reward would get their families and memories in this land, while Razakars become policy makers.
I seldom visited Faridpur town after 1972, as I could not stand there. If I stand before the Alimuzzaman Bridge over the Kumar River in the evening, hundreds of known departed faces approach me haunt me, martyrs’ souls haunt me their souls questioned me. Did the martyrs of the Liberation War sacrifice their lives for this Bangladesh where people’s enemy, the founder of Al-Badr, was safely placed with ministerial berth and a slot in the country's policy-making body? I look down to the tiny stream of the Kumar River, as the 'Herman Hess' looked into the river through Gobinda's image in the eternal stream in 'Sirddhartha'. I found time passes from Zilla school in early fifties to Rajendra College in sixties, from there on to join the six-point movement turned War of Liberation. A ill-clothed boy made his journey from Talma,a native village in early fifties and have reached this victory day after three and half decades over the Alimuzzaman bridge. Whither Bangladesh?
As a retired officer, who witnessed the birth of Bangladesh at Mujibnagar and fought the War of Liberation, served the exile government at Mujibnagar and government in the liberated Dhaka till OSD-ship in November 2001, keenly observed that during the War of Bangladesh Liberation, the policy of Hindu-hunting helped Pakistan to be successful in 1971.
After my retirement in September 2003, I frequently visited my native village to repair my so long neglected house for passing the rest of my life there as I have no house or plot in Dhaka, although I had the occasion to the president and prime minister and ministers of the Republic since its birth in April 1971, presently, I am accommodating in the changed situation under duress in a rented abandoned house without job.
I am paying for my ignorance of culture of corruption and kleptocracy. Both the prime ministers had ignored the President's recommendation for an assignment abroad on a humanitarian cause.
But in the village I found that the Hindus were gradually getting uprooted. Even the families of the martyrs and victims of Pak-military atrocities were surviving only as natural species of human beings. The minorities of East Pakistan had not only fought for independence of Bangladesh together with all citizens of other sections of society. It is very difficult to guess about the inner world of the present-day Bangladesh. The distortion of the history of Bangladesh in post August 1975 and with it the Bangladesh foreign policy objectives started following the fifth and eighth amendments to the constitution of Bangladesh. But why it happens in Bangladesh?
The Hindus, as a nation, religion and of ancient civilization identity, had to pay a great sacrifice for Bangladesh nationhood, but after August 1975, they are being cornered, ciphered and uprooted due to property and votes bank assaults like erstwhile Pakistan military regimes.
Published in the Bangladesh Observer as a Lead Post Editorial on Monday 16 April 2007
Rabindranth Trivedi is a retired Additional Secretary and former Press secretary to the President of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
- Asian Tribune -