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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 76

Sydney H. Schanberg, - A Tribute

By Rabindranath Trivedi

Sydney H. Schanberg, a correspondent for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and inspired the film “The Killing Fields” with the story of his Cambodian colleague’s survival during the genocide of millions, died on Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 82.His death was confirmed by Charles Kaiser, a friend and former Times reporter, who said Mr. Schanberg had a heart attack on Tuesday July 9 ,2016.

A restive, intense, Harvard-educated newspaperman with bulldog tenacity, Mr. Schanberg was a nearly ideal foreign correspondent: a risk-taking adventurer who distrusted officials, relied on himself in a war zone and wrote vividly of political and military tyrants and of the suffering and death of their victims with the passion of an eyewitness to history, reports Robert D Mcfadden .

We were then at Mujibnagar in 1971 , organisng Bangladesh War, learnt latter that 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." Field reports to the U.S. Government, countless eye-witness journalistic accounts, reports of International agencies such as World Bank and additional information available to the subcommittee document the reign of terror which grips East Bengal (East Pakistan). Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked ‘H’. All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad.”

"They (Hindus) come out of East Pakistan in endless columns, along trails stained with tears and blood. They are dressed in rags, robbed of everything they owned, the women raped, the children gaunt from hunger. They have been on the move for up to a month, hiding from Pakistani soldiers by day, slogging through flooded rice paddies at night. A vengeful army pursues them to the very border of India. Rifle and machine gun fire crackles.

A correspondent from The New York Times, Sydney H. Schanberg was expelled by the Pakistani authorities after the March 25 crackdown in 1971. He was here in Dhaka to report on the outcomes of the victory of the Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the first-ever democratic election in Pakistan. The elected representatives of Assemblies under leadership of Syed Nazrul Islam and Tajuddin Ahmed formed exiled Government at Mujibnagar ,near West Bengal ,a guerrilla army to fight the occupied Pakistan army government troops. 3 million Bangladeshi civilians died in the fighting that followed, and 10 million of mostly Hindu refugees poured into India. About half a million women were dishonoured and violated by Pakistani occupation armed forces in 1971.

'Measuring the Tragedy' the New York Times (June 7,1971) Schanberg mentioned: “ 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.

In October 1971, Sydney H. Schanberg, noted with clear term that In succeeding days and weeks, the East Pakistani troops ruthless operations.At this writing, foreign diplomats estimate that the army has killed at least 2000,000 Bengalis. Despite claims that normalcy prevails in the province; the military has not been able as yet to restore law and order or establish even a semblance of governmental administration. On the contrary, the resistance activities of the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Forces) have been mounting with aid and training and sanctuary provided by India. The economy in East Pakistan remains crippled, that in West Pakistan is shriveling. Army casualties are growing. And except for the small minority of collaborators (mostly non-Bengali Moslems such as Biharis, and Bengali adherents of right-wing religious parties), the people of East Pakistan are hostile, sullen and unshakable. The Bengalis – now sullen, bitter, and hating –seem ready for a long fight for full independence.(‘PAKISTAN DIVIDED’ article by Sydney H. Schanberg, Foreign Affairs, New York, October, 1971. ]

Sydney Schanberg, pulitzer prize winning journalist (of 'Killing Fields') in his syndicated column 'The Pakistani Slaughter That Nixon Ignored' Mr.Schanberg writes:

"I covered the war and witnessed first the population's joyous welcome of the Indian soldiers as liberators .. Later I toured the country by road to see the Pakistani legacy firsthand. In town after town there was an execution area where people had been killed by bayonet, bullet and bludgeon. In some towns, executions were held on a daily basis."This was a month after the war's end (i.e. January 1972), ... human bones were still scattered along many roadsides. Blood stained clothing and tufts of human hair clung to the brush at these killing grounds. Children too young to understand were playing grotesque games with skulls. His works on the Bangladesh Liberation War were included in an anthology of his war writings – Beyond The Killing Fields. We mourn his death and say the world has lost a great and courageous journalist who upheld humanity, and Bangladesh lost a great friend. Paying our tribute and conveying our heartfelt condolence to his family.

Rabindranath Trivedi, Freedom Fighter, a retired civil servant of Bangladesh

- Asian Tribune –

Sydney H. Schanberg, a correspondent for The New York Times, with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Founding father of Bangladesh  at Ganabhavan, in 1972
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