[Cross posted at E-Bangladesh]
Last Sunday I attended a seminar on the Bangladesh Genocide at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. The seminar was organized by the Nathan Weiss Graduate College at Kean. The seminar inaugurated graduate course work on the Bangladesh Genocide as part of the Masters program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The seminar was introduced by Dr. Bernard Weinstein, Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program Coordinator. The dean of the Graduate College Dr. Kristie Reilly and the President of Kean University Dr. Dawood Farahi also made introductory remarks.
Freedom fighter and author Dr. Nurun Nabi, Dr. Rounaq Jahan of Columbia University, Dr. ABM Nasir of North Carolina Central University, and Dr. Sachi Dastidar of the State University of New York made presentations to an audience of about 300 at the University Center Theater.
The event was organized due to the tireless work of Bangladeshi students at Kean University. These students, all born after 1971, are not only the future of the Bengali nation but also the future guardians of our history. I salute them.
The importance of preserving and defending our history was brought into focus when family members of some of the victims of the genocide spoke at the seminar. The family members, one by one, approached the podium and opened a window for a brief few minutes into lives of courage and of sacrifice. They shamed us. As Dr. ABM Nasir mentioned in his speech, in many ways we have failed the victims of the genocide and their families. Millions of lives were brutally extinguished in those nine months in 1971, and millions more were left shattered. The Bangladeshi nation has failed them in the last 36 years. We have failed to preserve our history and we have failed to defend it against attacks from the very people who perpetuated the genocide. We have failed to bring to justice the perpetrators. We have let the murderers and rapists walk free. In doing so, we have insulted those on whose backs we have become free.
So our task is clear. Our task is to preserve and honor the sacrifices of those who we lost in 1971. We owe it to ourselves, to our parents, and to those who will come after us.
Clarification (12/13/2007 2:00PM): I stated in the post above that the seminar inaugurated graduate course work on the Bangladesh Genocide. That is not quite accurate. The seminar was the first step in developing course work for a graduate course. The university is looking into developing the course work. The following is from a memorandum from Kean University:
The university authority is overwhelmed by knowing the magnitude of the genocide and by looking into resources available. It will look into the possibility of writing a course after collecting enough resources that can support the course curricula. The university administration is looking into developing research network with other universities and researchers about this genocide so that there is a strong background work before the curriculum is developed. All these actions are yet to be taken by the university administration.
Below I have included the written testimony from the family members who spoke and those who were present. I thank Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed for compiling and providing me with a copy of the testimony of the family members. I thank the family members for their courage and for their humanity.
Pakistan army killed my father
It was a dark day in the history of genocide, March 25th 1971. A deathly hush had fallen over the bustling capital city of Dhaka, as Pakistani soldiers, armed to the teeth began their systematic and brutal blood bath of the Bengali army, navy and air force personnel , followed by mass executions of civilians; professors, doctors, lawyers and other professionals and university students were targeted . The city was terrorized as squads of Pakistani soldiers forced their way into homes in the middle of the night, dragged their targets out, before their screaming families and shot them in cold blood, checking them off their death list.
The Pakistani terror squad quickly spread to the neighboring cities, burning villages to the ground on the way, shooting escaping civilians; men, women and children, as they ran out of their burning homes. By that time all news of the genocide operation was controlled by the Pakistan army and the propaganda machine was in full force, along with a complete curfew. Electricity and water was turned off along with all communications.
Major M.A. Hasib stationed in Comilla cantonment, a city approximately 60 miles from Dhaka, was making arrangements and looking forward to a civilian life, after devoting a 21 year career to the Pakistan army. He had opted for an early retirement, because he had been superseded for promotion to Colonel twice. He was disgusted with the treatment of Bengali officers by the Pakistani army, who routinely and deliberately, used the concept of the glass ceiling and kept the Bengali officers in their midst at lower ranks. Hearing of the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers, from the news on BBC radio, his wife feared that he was imminent danger. But he comforted her. Believing that since his early retirement was approved and came into effect only ten days earlier and that he had been a loyal army officer all his life, they had nothing to fear from him, thus no harm would come to him and his family. But the Pakistani death squads were taking no chances.
They came for him on the morning of March 29th 2007, as he sat down to breakfast with his family and huddled together to listen to BBC news on the transistor radio. He was my father, Major M.A.Hasib. Four armed soldiers escorted into a jeep at gunpoint. That was the last time he was seen alive.
My mother and two small sisters were later thrown into prison camp, where they witnessed and suffered the atrocities committed by the Pakistani soldiers.
My father’s brutal end came to light after Bangladesh became independent. An eye witness, a barber whose life had been spared, because his services were needed by the Pakistani soldiers, told authorities a brutal tale of torture and murder and led authorities to seven mass graves, only a short distance from our house, with 500 bodies, all blind folded, their hands tied behind their backs, shot by firing squad.
He was my father, Major M.A. Hasib. He was forty two years old.
Rukhsana Hasib, Holland, Pennsylvania
They killed my two brothers
My brother Shahidullah Kaiser was a famous journalist, novelist and also an associate editor of a daily news paper.. He was very respected for his relentless work and activism for Bengali language movement and other cultural activities to inspire the nation. At the end the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators initiated a plan for killing the leading Bengali intellectuals. As a part of it, Mr. Kaisar was rounded up on 14 December 1971 only 2 days prior to the liberation of Bangladesh.. He never returned, nor was his body found. It is assumed that he was executed along with other intellectuals. My other brother, Zahir Raihan, a notable film-maker, writer, novelist and cultural activist who was in India helping the liberation war and returned immediately after the liberation on 16th December. He was a man of enormous courage and integrity. When he heard the news about Mr. Kaiser, he unknowingly entered to an enclave of Pakistani army and its collaborator who had not surrendered their arms despite the official surrender of Pakistani army. Zahir Raihan could not come back and is body also was never found. He disappeared on December 30, 1971 trying to locate his beloved brother. The wives of my brothers went through so much hardship and pain in raising their mostly minor children. My family waited many years hoping that they might come back as prisoners of war, but our tears were dried up pain remain the same.
Shaheen Shah, New York, New York
They tortured and killed my father Mr. Serajuddin Hossain who was executive editor of a daily newspaper Ittefaq
It was almost at the end of the 9 months of war and struggle for independence on 10th December 1971. After midnight in during the blackout, curfew at 3:30 a.m. we heard knocking at the door! We woke up; my brothers at the living room lit the light and looked outside. They recognized our landlord, who asked to open the door. My brothers thought the landlord and his family was in danger, may be my father could help them, so my brother tried to open the door and in lighting speed a barrel of rifle got in, some one screamed "hands up". In thundering speed near about 10 armed men entered in the room. Most of them were in masks. Keeping living room people at gunpoint they were asking their name one by one in Urdu language. Then they took them to out side verandah, where the whole family of our landlord stood in gunpoint. By that time I rushed to my father’s door to let him know that the embodiment of death, Pakistan army and Razkars, Al Badrs were there. We had a great confidence that if my father came out and reveal his identity then they would not do any harm to us. Armed Razkars, Al Badrs and army personnel entered the bedroom of my parents and rushed to my father and asked his identity in gunpoint. My father only could say, "Serajuddin Hossain, Executive editor of daily Itte…." A harsh voice screamed "hands up, Auo hamara saath’ (Come along with us). My father could not wear his shirt (Panjabi), he was just wearing a t-shirt (Sando Genji), and Lunghi – the traditional Bengali casual dress, he was bare footed and holding a torch light in his hand. They brought him out and hurriedly told us to go to inside of the room and shut the door, they threatened us not to look through windows or even try to follow them; they would shoot if we did not follow the instruction! My father at that point only was asking to take his torch light from his hand. One of my brothers went and got the torchlight. One of armed persons asked for a piece of cloths at one point, I handed over him a gamchcha (towel). Then they walked away, under the severe December cold they took my father barefooted wearing only Lunghi and sleeveless Sando Genji. We did not see our beloved father any more!
What happened next? The scaffold fields of Rayer Bazar and Kata Shur revealed the aftermath of that kidnapping. Innocent unarmed Bengali people’s tragic fate exposed the brutality and tortures of the Pakistan army, which is unmatched in human history! Their crime against humanity is evident in all over Bangladesh. I can not wipe out that memory for a moment. I can not go further, I can not imagine what happened next, I wish my father could escape that inhuman torture and cruelty of Pakistan Army, Razakars and Al Badrs, which were evident in found dead bodies of those thousands scaffold fields scattered all over Bangladesh!
Fahim Reza Noor, New York, New York
Pakistani army killed my two brothers and friends
Malnichara Tea Garden is just in the outskirt of Sylhet town in Bangladesh. Its lush green plantation canopied by the giant rain trees is a sight to see from the roadside on the way to the Sylhet Airport. In 1971 April 6th it was no different, except the Pakistan army was moving into Sylhet town after taking control of the Airport. On their way they systematically killed people to occupy the land. The green tea plantation turned into a killing field with the blood of unarmed innocent Bengalese.
We do not know exactly what took place in those eventful hours but we came to know later that whoever was living in Malnichara Tea Garden that day was executed. My brother the acting manager Shawkat Nawaz was in charge of the tea plantation when the management of the company evacuated a non Bengali manager from Malnichara for his safety. During the non-cooperation movement which started after 1st of March 1971, when the President of Pakistan Yahia Khan postponed the commencement of the newly elected National Assembly, my other brother Shah Nawaz along with two of his friends arrived at the garden for a visit from Dacca. All of them including the household helpers living in the bungalow were killed. We did not know about their whereabouts until sometimes in October of 1971 when our father, Noorul Hossain personally made a trip to Sylhet and came to know their fate, that they were all killed by the Pakistan Army. Before that we were even told that they may have taken shelter in India.
After the liberation of Bangladesh, when I visited Malnichara Tea Garden along with our family. I saw remains of the bodies which I recognized by their worn-out garments, lying in a ditch inside the tea garden. The shirts they were wearing still had dark patches on them with bullet holes. These brutal killings and murders by the Pakistan army were never put on trial. They were never punished for killing innocent unarmed civilians.
My brother Shawkat Nawaz was the friendliest person ever lived on the face of this earth. He could make friends with anyone in no time. He was a natural talent. He could pickup any musical Instrument and play just by observing someone playing. He never took any art class but he could draw or paint without any effort. The most tragic part was that he was engaged to be married and his wedding date was yet to be announced.
Everything changed on the night of 25th March, 1971 when Pakistan Army came down upon the innocent people of Bangladesh and killed them to occupy and rule violating all human rights. In his last letter to his youngest sister, Shawkat Nawaz wrote- "This is the defining moment for us Bengalese to be truly independent once for all". He did not see the independent Bangladesh, but he and thousands of Bengalese laid down their lives to become martyrs for an independent Bangladesh for us to live in free country.
Hasan Nawaz, Wilmington, Delaware Ayesha Fazlullah, Paoli, Pennsylvania (sister)
Pakistani army killed my father
My father Mr. Tarikul Alam was the traffic officer of Pakistan International Airlines in the district of Jassore. He was picked up by Pakistani forces from his office on April 27 th, 1971, and then he was taken to a remote area and shot to death. They put my father’s body in hurriedly dug out hole and left. My mother was looking for him for three days. She then learned from local villagers of a dead body found in a hole. My mother identified my father’s body. He then received a proper Islamic burial on April 30th.
I was 9 years old and my younger brother was 7 years old at the time when our father was killed. We grew up without the love and care of our father and my mother took on the burden of raising her two children without her loving husband.
Sabina Ahmed, New Jersey
Pakistani army killed my father, we never found his body
My father Mr. Syeed Raisul Kadir was the District Adjutant of Ansar in the district of Jhinaidah. He was picked up by Pakistani forces from our residence in the first week of December, 1971. My mother and other family members looked for him everywhere. However, as of today, we did not find his dead body or his grave, and not know what happened to him.
I was 11 month old and my younger brother was 29 days old when our father was killed. We grew up without the love and care of our father and my mother took on the burden of raising her 4 daughters and one son without her loving husband.
Nawrin Kadir, New Jersey
Pakistani army killed my father and shot and left me to die
It was 15th April in 1971 in the city of Chittagong , Pakistani army came to our house and asked my father to go with them to treat some patients. My father Dr. Ashraf Ali Talukdar was a surgeon in the Police Hospital. He told them to bring the patients to the hospital where he can treat them properly. They did not listen and became very rude and dragged him out. I am the oldest son and was 18 years old first year medical student. They also dragged me out and drove us blind folded for some distance. When they opened our eyes, we found ourselves in a room filled with blood every where. In no time they started shooting at us. My father died instantly and I got hit in my shoulder and started bleeding profusely. They hit my abdomen with bayonet and I stopped moving and pretended dead. They loaded us in a truck which was filled with about 30 dead bodies and drove us to the river. They threw all the bodies to the river and me and my father fell on the bank. Next day the villagers came down and took me to their house. A doctor came and started intravenous fluid to resuscitate me from the shock. I was there for few days and then I was taken to a hospital inside India crossing the nearby border. My father was buried there by the villagers. My mother and my younger brothers lived a dreadful life during the 9 months of war. I recovered slowly but developed restlessness. All through my life this haunted memory drives me crazy. I am always restless and in swinging mood… Even for a moment cannot think back.
Dr. Masudul Hasan, New York, New York
They killed my father inside the hospital
My father Dr. Shamsuddin Ahmed was chief and Professor of Surgery at Sylhet Medical College in 1971. He was always involved in many humanitarian activities and organizing medical profession through out his life. When the Pakistani army started the Genocide on 25th march of 1971 the whole city was overwhelmed. The main medical college hospital was filled with people with bullet injuries. Panic stricken people including all the doctors of medical college started evacuating the town. My father decided to stay in the hospital with the wounded but sent his family including his old mother away to the village. My mother principal of the Women’s College decided to stay at home, so if needed can go to the hospital incase of any help needed for the hospitalized patients. One young physician, an ambulance driver and a male nurse also stayed with him in the hospital to take care of the causalities. The genocide and killing intensified in the city and more injured people started filling the hospital. My father and his team had to remain inside the hospital for continuous 3 days due to curfew. On April 9th the Pakistani army entered the hospital and shot my father point blank including the other members of the team and some patients inside the hospital. Next 3 days due to curfew no body knew what had happened. During few hours of curfew break, my father’s uncle went in search of him and found him and others dead inside the hospital compound. He with the help of some family members and friends hurriedly buried them inside the hospital compound. The life changed suddenly to my mother, my grand mother and five of my siblings. My father was the only son and my grief stricken grand mother died within a year. My mother became very sad and kept herself very busy with her college and raising us single handedly. She never talked about those days until very recently. My brother and sisters still find very painful to reminiscence any memory.
Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pakistani army killed my dad
My father Mr. Golam Kibria Pathen was working in Bata Shoe factory at Tongi, adjacent to Dhaka City in 1971. We are from Brahmmon Baaria of greater Comilla area. From the beginning of our freedom fight my father actively involved himself in our march towards freedom. He helped the freedom fighters and allied force, sheltered them in our house and later he turned to freedom fighter and fought against Pakistani army. At the fag end of our freedom fight on 4th December around noon time a Pakistani Army Major came to the Bata Shoe factory and in front of the British Manager the Major shoot my father point blank and thus killed my beloved father. I was only 7 years old at that time and I was the eldest son of the family. Wink of an eye we turned orphan! Later, one of the freedom Fighters Mr. Masud, who was known to us, found my father’s dead body at the bank of the Bhirab River. Without having our father we had to struggle all through our life to survive. We could not recover from that loss.
Selim Reza Pathen, New York, New York
My brother was an innocent victim of genocide in 1971 in Bangladesh
Like any family in Bangladesh, when we grow up and take the charge of our life we always look forward to come to assistance to our parents. My brother Shahid Mansurur Rahman laid his life in the same way. Being a graduate in Agricultural Science he was planning to pursue further studies. But for the sake of the family he took a job in a Tea Garden-which was owned by West Pakistani group. During the Month of March/1971 he was having a family vacation with us away from his job. But when he learned that the Pakistani manager left the garden, he decided to go back to the garden to help the poor laborers. We could not stop his allegiance to the duties. Once the Pakistani Army took over the control of the Chittagong (the port city of Bangladesh)–they arrested him. Took him to their custody without our knowledge. They tortured him. For days and nights he was without food or water. They tried to get some information about the whereabouts of freedom fighters, which he had no idea. The Ruthless Pakistani Army finally shot him to death. My father tried in vain to rescue his body.
All we know like all other Shahids (Martyrs of our Independence Struggle) — his soul, his body and his blood is a part of this new nation–who wants to thrive on its own culture, history and dignity.
Aminur Rashid RPh, Lakewood, NJ
Pakistani army killed my brother
My brother was killed by Pakistani Army Thirty-Six years ago, on a morning of March 26, 1971; the first day of Genocide, some of the bravest and most enlightened sons of Bangladesh made their supreme sacrifice for the cause of dignity and freedom. Teachers, students, and professionals, were picked up from their residences, blindfolded and taken them in front of Iqbal Hall and British Council, within the area of Dhaka University, to be tortured and slaughtered. Selective killing went on side by side with mass killing. The history of Bangladesh has been made by the brave people who sacrificed their lives in 1971.The genocide at Dhaka University Teachers Quarter, apartment 12 F, is one of the thousands "My Lai Massacres" in Bangladesh.
My elder brother Shaheed Syed Shahidul Hasan, 28, along with another young University lecturer were brutally shot dead by Pakistani Military, in side the teachers apartment, when they were having breakfast. Later they took the martyrs’ bodies to Iqbal hall’s field where people including, Teachers, student dead bodies of teachers and students of Dhaka University were laid side by side ;the martyrs’ bodies were left there for two days till after the Curfew break for few hours on 27th March. The family and friends then secretly recovered some of the bodies. My brother Shahidul Hasan‘s body was quickly buried in near by graveyard; Afterwards, Pakistani Military started shots and fire with their artillery, demolish the remaining martyr’s bodies.
The genocide committed by its forces in Bangladesh on the night of March 25, 1971. And the morning of 26th march 1971, under a carefully thought-out scheme decided to eliminate hundreds of leading lights of different professions with the purpose of destroying the intellectual stuffing of an emerging free nation. The nine-month-long genocide began with the killing of Dhaka University teachers and culminated in the killing of intellectuals
Hundreds of thousands of people laid down their lives to secure independence for the country. Now, it is our turn to make sacrifices to get the country back on track and put it firmly on the ideals that they fought with their lives for. Their gallantry and sacrifices are soul-lifting and an undying fount of idealism and patriotic inspiration.
Dr. Syed Hasan Mamun, Boston, Massachusetts
They killed my father and our family was ruined
My father Dr. Shakhawat Hossain was the physician and working at Jessore Hospital at the time of our freedom fight. My father and his colleagues helped and secretly treated the injured freedom fighters and some how that news was leaked; due to that the brute Pakistan Army came and killed my father along with his 4 colleagues on 5th April 1971. We did not get my father’s dead body. Among 5 sisters and 2 brothers I am the youngest one and I was only 2 years old at the time of this tragic event. My mother could not absorb the shock and turned abnormal right after the killing of my father. My mother died in 1974. The tragic and premature death of my father was the devastating blow to our family. We not only turned orphan rather became refugee – could not stay in one place. Our family life was torn apart for the hardship due to loss of our father. It is not easy to look back.
Farhad Hossain, New York, New York
The Pakistani army killed an elderly physician
Saturday, May 29, 1971, Bogra Cantonment, Bangladesh. A day, a date, a place, connected to an event that will be remain forever seared in the memories of my wife and her relatives, for it was the event that robbed them of a patriarch of the familyï‚¾her maternal grandfather, the well known Dr. Kosiruddin Talukdar, physician and humanitarian par excellence. On the morning of that fateful day, a Pakistani army jeep screeched to a halt in front of the residence where he had been temporarily staying with his wife for the last few weeks. His own large and spacious two-storey brick and concrete residence, White House, had been shelled by the invading Pakistan Army, ransacked, looted, and subsequently set on fire resulting in loss or destruction of all its contents as were his office and pharmacy, several weeks earlier.
He had returned to Bogra a few days short of three weeks from a village deep in the rural regions surrounding the town, set up a temporary clinic and began seeing and treating patients again. An extremely active person even at his age, 71, he loved the opportunity to practice medicine and enjoy the daily parade of patients into his office. Earlier like everyone else, he and his family members had fled the town in fear of the marauding and destructive Pakistani Army that advanced towards the town. However, once Bogra was occupied, the Army set about its pacification program trying to lure as many of the former inhabitants to return to their residences.
The two soldiers who had knocked on the door simply stated that he was being taken away for an inquiry into his alleged clinical treatment of suspected members of the Mukti Bahini. As the aged physician prepared to leave, he took off his watch and handed it to his wife. Several hours later, villagers who lived near the cantonment area brought the ghastly news of his brutal murder that they had the opportunity to witness, to his wife. Earlier in the day, they had noticed a jeep come to a halt along the roadside leading into the cantonment area. The soldiers had taken a single person out of the jeep, pushed him into the roadside ditch, and after bayoneting him and firing six shots into his fallen body, left. As soon as the soldiers disappeared from sight, the villagers rushed to the location of the brutal murder and someone instantly recognized the town’s most famous doctor. They gently removed his bloodied shirt and buried him according to Muslim funeral rites. Later in the day they located where his wife was residing in town and related the final moments of the doctor’s life. They returned the bloodstained shirt too.
It was early evening, May 29, 1971 when the telephone rang at my wife’s home in Dhaka and life would never be the same again.
Dr. Faruq Siddiqui, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania