Ahsan Akram

Did Pakistan Army kill three million Bengalis in Bangladesh?

Did Pakistan Army kill three million Bengalis in Bangladesh?
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“History is written by the victors.” (Winston Churchill)

The Indo-Pak War in 1971 ended with the dismemberment of East Pakistan and the subsequent birth of a new country “Bangladesh” in South Asia. After the war ended, the governments of both India and the newly formed Bangladesh accused Pakistan Army of vast scale killings of Bengalis (mainly Hindus) and mass rape of women. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the then Bengali Prime Minister, held Pakistan Army responsible for killing of three Million Bengalis and raping of 300,000 women during the period of war. Similarly Indian Government also blamed Pakistan Army for the massacre of one million Bengalis. Since then, countless books have been written on the alleged ‘genocide by Pakistan Army’ in Bangladesh and India at the behest of Bengali and Indian governments respectively. On the basis of these sources, different books were written by some western journalists and as a result, these historic myths are to a great extent accepted today. In the meantime, unlike those who took Mujib’s statements as granted, there are some other journalists who showed audacity and really tried to look inside what really happened in 1971 and brought up the facts without any sense of fear.

One among them is Dr. M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury, a Bengali journalist from Sylhet. He was educated at the universities of Dhaka, Exeter (England) and London. Dr. Chowdhury wrote an excellent book titled “Behind The Myth of Three Million” on the massacres of 1971 where he had tried to explain how and why the myth was built-up. He rejected the allegations by giving valid attestations and evidences, the credibility of which can hardly be questioned.

Sharmila Bose, an Indian Bengali Hindu and grand-niece of Subash Chandra Bose, has written “Dead Reckoning: Memories in 1971 War” after interviewing local Bengalis and asserted that amongst the killings during war, most were committed by Mukti Bahini.

Qutbuddin Aziz, was the first who tried to tell the world about the massacres of non-Bengalis by Awami League militants and other rebels. In his 230 page book, he compiled the accounts of 170 eyewitnesses from 55 towns in 19 districts of the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

To get the answer of this question, we must enquire about the sources, Shiekh Mujib had used while delivering these figures. The figure (3 million) was first published in Swadhin Bangla Betar, and then in Prubadesh (a Bengali paper) and in Pravda (official newspaper of the Communist Party of Soviet Union) which was finally reported by ENA from where Mujib readily took these figures.

In order to get the answer of this question, Sheikh Mujib himself formed a 12- member Inquiry Committee on 29 January, 1972. The purpose of this Committee was to investigate the number of people killed during the war and was asked to submit its report on 30th April, 1971. It was reported that the draft report by Inquiry Committee showed an overall casualty figure of 56,753. When a copy of this draft report was shown to the Prime Minister, he lost his temper and threw it on the floor, saying in angry voice, “I have declared three million dead, and your report could not come up with three score thousand! What report you have prepared? Keep your report to yourself. What I have said once shall prevail.” [Jauhuri, Tirish Lakher Telesmat (The Riddle of Thirty Lakh) p. 64, A.M.Chowdhury op cit: 29]

Sheikh Mujib also announced a compensation scheme for the victims of war in which every family was promised 2000 Tk as compensation by the government. Ironically, only 72,000 families came forward. According to Mr. Abdul Muhaimin (Awami League MCA), the Ministry of Finance of Bangladesh Government had informed him that, “Only 72,000 claims were received. Of them, the relatives of 50,000 victims had been awarded the declared sum of money. There had been many bogus claims, even some from the Razakars, within those 72,000 applications.” [Yahya Mirza, Interview with Abdul Muhaimin; The Tarokalok, Dhaka, 1March 1990]

All those families weren’t necessarily the victims of Pakistan Army, included in list were the families of many who died in Indian refugee camps. According to Awami League journalist, Abdul Ghaffar Choudhury 1.6 million died in the refugee camps in India during 1971.¹ Including the families of dead refugees, Razakars and bogus claims, had there been 3 Million killed by Pakistan Army, we would’ve seen more than 5 million applications.

One of the first to question Mujib’s figures was his own colleague, Abdul Gaffar Choudhury. He said: ‘We are now saying three million Bengalis have been killed without any survey. [The Dainik Janapad, Dhaka, 20 May, 1973]

“As for the number of Bengalis killed in the course of the liberation war, the figure of 3 million mentioned by Mujib to David Frost in January 1972, was a gross overstatement. This figure was picked up by him from an article in ‘Pravda’, the organ of the communist party of the Soviet Union”, Sayyid Karim, Bangladesh’s first foreign secretary, as reported by David Bergman. [The Hindu, April 24, 2014]

Jauhuri, a Bangladeshi journalist wrote; “It is beyond my comprehension how three million people could get killed in a guerrilla war of 8 months and 21 days. The raping of 200,000 women is also beyond my comprehension. I’ve spoken to no less than five hundred people of different districts and have asked them, ‘Has anyone in your family or among your relatives, friends or acquaintance been raped by Pakistani soldiers?’ None affirmed, everyone said ‘no’. It may be that some of them were ashamed to disclose. Besides, it is not impossible for the Pakistan Army to have a few characterless soldiers. But, how could these produce the figure of 200,000? Moreover, how was this figure arrived within a week of the liberation of the country? Who did the survey?” [Jauhuri, op cit: 14]

“The figure of three million deaths has been carried uncritically in sections of the world press. My judgment, based on numerous trips around Bangladesh and extensive discussion with many people at the village level as well as in the government, is that the three million deaths is an exaggeration so gross as to be absurd… no more than 25,000 people died.” [William Drummond, The Missing Millions, The Guardian, 6 June, 1972.]

Peter Gill, another western journalist, said; “Sheikh Mujib’s wild figure of three million Bengalis killed during those 10 terrible months is at least 20 times too high, if not 50 or 60.” [Daily Telegraph, London, 16 April, 1973]

Apart from these, Abdur Rab Khan, Senior Researcher of Bangladesh International Institute of Strategic Studies wrote in his journal in October 1993 that during the period of civil war between the Pakistan Army and the Bangladeshi rebels prior to the war itself, a total of 50,000 lives were lost.²

Abdul Muhaimin, well known author, Awami League MCA and longtime friend of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was entrusted with the responsibility of finding out the casualty figure for his District (Noakhali) which was badly effected during the war. He concluded that not more than 125,000 were killed during the war including Biharis and West Pakistanis.³ Indian journalist, Nirmal Sen gave a total number of 250,000, among them 150,000 were Biharis and West Pakistanis. Ahmad Sharif, Bengali atheist said that the number wasn’t 3 million or even 250 thousands; according to him “they kept the truth hidden for getting political advantages.”[4] Sarmila Bose maintains that the overall figure falls somewhere between 50-100 thousands which include Biharis, West Pakistanis and Bengalis.[5]

Some other sources speak facts:
Here, I might be told by someone about the number of books that support Indian/Bengali figures of 3/1 million respectively. I’ve already mentioned that countless books have been written since the separation of East Pakistan on ‘genocide’ by the Indian and Bengali writers. All this was done at the behest of their governments to recycle the myths of millions. But neither Dr. Mu’min Chowdhury nor Sarmila Bose was ignorant of those. From the scores of books, Dr. Chowdhury had selected two of them namely “The Ugliest Genocide in History” by Abul Hasnat (a Bengali atheist) and “The History of Freedom Movement in Bangladesh 1943-1973” by Jyoti Sen Gupta, an Indian journalist who, according to himself, played a lot of role in the ‘liberation’ of Bangladesh. Like their governments both the authors alleged Pakistan Army for various war crimes. Dr. Chowdhury not only debunked each and every lie by them with serious evidences, he openly challenged them to come-up and have a tour of all the areas which suffered the ‘genocide’ as mentioned in their books.

Is the figure million really possible?
It should be noted that retired Indian Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora had called the figure 3 Million as “absolutely impossible” due to the fact that Pakistan Army had “fought at the borders and within the country”. But like other Indians, he gave figure of one million (which is also not possible) as if it is a well-known fact without requiring any sort of proof. Dr. Chowdhury has beautifully explained the integrity of the figures given by Indian and Bangladeshi governments by comparing them with the deadliest massacres of twentieth century.

Compared to any of the above, either of the casualty figures for Bangladesh, i.e. Sheikh Mujib’s three million, and Indian one million, looks simply incredible. Lt. Gen. Aurora’s description of ‘’absolutely impossible’’ could be appropriate not only to the Purbadesh/Pravda/ENA fabricated figure but to his preferred Indian figure as well. Even if it is compared with what Nazis had done in Germany, it still beats them by almost 3 times!

Some of the deadliest massacres in twentieth century. (Courtesy: Dr. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury)

The killing rate implies that every 4th family or every 12th family (according to Indian figures) was effected which is far away from the results of local surveys by the Inquiry Committee and different journalists in the past. Dr. Chowdhury tells that hardly anyone in Bangladesh could relate his or her local knowledge of casualties to any of the above.

Looking these figures through a demographical perspective, following results were obtained:

Geography and Implied killing rate. (Courtesy: Dr. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury)

Government of Bangladesh accused Pakistan Army of killing hundreds of Bengali ‘intellectuals’, students and politicians during war especially on the night between 25th and 26th March, 1971 (in Dhaka University) and on 14th December, 1971.
Before looking inside the matter of killings, let me clear the fact that both Iqbal Hall and Jagannath Hall of Dhaka University had become nurseries of Mukti Bahini where the boys were trained and recruited. Indian infiltrators in guise of Mukti Bahini were taking shelter and a number of teachers there were involved in the secessionist movement. Here I am quoting an account of eyewitness Mohammed Hanif, who was employed in the Tiger Wire Company in Dhaka at that time. According to him, “In the afternoon of March 24, I engaged a motorized Rickshaw (three wheeled taxi) and asked the driver to take me to my home in Lalmatia Colony. I had spoken to him in broken Bengali and he knew that I was a non-Bengali. All of a sudden and in spite of my shouts in anger, he drove the vehicle into the compound of the Jagannath Hall where six armed students grabbed me. They took me inside a shuttered room where they frisked me thoroughly and snatched my watch and Rs.150 from my pocket. They told me that I should write a letter to my close relatives, asking them to hand over to the bearer Rs.3000 as ransom money to save my life. I hesitated and asked for some time to make up my mind. They tied my hands with strong ropes and marched me to a large hall where many roped non-Bengali captives squatted on the ground….The student Jingo who had asked me to write the ransom letter paced towards a hapless victim at the far end of the hall. He told his prey in Bengali that the ransom money had not materialized and the deadline given to his relatives had passed, so he must die. The terrified victim shouted, squirmed and tried to run. But six toughs grabbed him while the jingo in the lead slit his throat with a ‘Ramdao’ (a kind of dagger) and decapitated him…I was horror-stricken by what I had seen. At midnight, I told my captors that I would write the ransom letter to my elder brother. I wrote it in the morning of March 25 and asked my brother to arrange to give my captors Rs.3,000 within 24 hours. The deadline set by the Bengali captors for the receipt of money was the morning of March 26. But God was merciful and late in the night of March 25, the Army went into action against the rebels in Dacca and they were routed in the Jagannath Hall encounter. We were rescued by the federal troops”. [Blood and Tears p. 25-26]

Now coming to the debate about the number of ‘intellectuals’ & students killed on that night. Both Gupta & Hasnat had given the figures in hundreds. According to Hasnat, about 200 were killed in Iqbal Hall and Gupta asserted that all the inmates of both Iqbal Hall and Jagannath Hall were killed. According to him Pakistan Army also abducted all the inmates of Ruqaiya Hall and raped them. Whereas the reality is that Abdul Mu’min Chowdhary was an eyewitness to all what happened in Iqbal Hall that night. According to him only one student namely Chishti Helalur Rahman was killed in fire. Chowdhary also gave names of two of his former colleagues at Iqbal Hall, Prof. Anwarul Haque Sharif (at Jahangirnagar University) and Prof. Saefullah Bhuiya (at Dhaka University) who can corroborate what he said. And after the creation of Bangladesh, the hall administration had a total casualty figure of 16 from among their resident and non-resident students numbering over 2,000 during 9 months of war. The then Vice Chancellor of the Dhaka University, Syed Sajjad Husain wrote about the stories cooked by Awami Leaguers regarding Ruqaiya Hall; “When I went to Tanveer Ahmed’s (Education Attache) room, whom I knew before, we talked on various matters. He pulled out a leaflet written in large English letters from his drawer and showed it to me. He said a Bengali woman, who was known to him, was distributing it on the streets of London. The leaflet had it, ‘If you have any conscience, then protest against the beastliness.’ Under it there were a number of horrifying tales. A father was quoted saying that on the night of the 25th the Army entered the women’s hall in Dhaka. There they have not only gunned down many girls, but have also committed beastly oppression on them. The homosexual Pathan soldiers have raped the girls in beastly manner. The father further said that when these were enacted on the ground floor, about 50 girls saw this from the upper floor. When they realized that their turn would come next, they committed suicide by jumping from the upper floor. Included among them was the daughter of the narrator. When Tanveer Ahmed protested and told the lady that she should know that there was no truth behind this, her reply was “Everything is fair in love and war”. I told Tanveer Shaheb that I myself have spoken to Mrs Ali Imam, the Provost of the women’s hall. What I have learnt from her was that after 7th March most of the girls left the hall. On the 24th there were only five girls in the hall. When rumors started spreading in Dhaka about the possibility of Army action, under Mrs Imam’s directive these girls left the hall and took shelter in the home of a House Tutor. So there could not be any question of oppression or rape being suffered by the girls of the hall.” [Syed Sajjad Hussain Ekattarer Sriti (Memoirs of 1971) p. 68-75, ibid: 38-39]
The myths related to Jagannat Hall are explained later under the section of mass graves.

Bengali Government had alleged pro-Pakistan Bengalis of killing 800 intellectuals on 14th December, 1971. But 47 years have passed since the creation of Bangladesh, still they’re unable to provide the list of the intellectuals murdered, they could only provide names of about 20 intellectuals who were killed at that night. Regarding that ‘massacre of Bengali intellectuals’, Dr. Chowdhury wrote the unfortunate story of Zahir Raihan whose brother Shahidullah Kaiser is said to have been killed along with other ‘intellectuals’ on 14th December, 1971. He said, “Zahir Raihan was a Marxist who was said to have been disillusioned while in Calcutta and didn’t believe that the ‘intellectuals’ found murdered in Dhaka on the eve of 16 December 1971- who includin his elder brother Shahidullah Kaiser- could have been killed at the behest of the Pakistan Army as has been alleged. The rumour has it that he also had incriminatory photographs of questionable activities of the Awami League leaders in India. While gathering information about the killing he was kidnapped in Dhaka in broad day light and was never seen again. There is no doubt that he was killed by either those who were at risk of being exposed or those who didn’t like the truth behind the killing of the intellectuals to come out. The ‘permanent disappearance’ of Zahir Raihan, who showed the audacity of forming and heading ‘The Buddhijibi Nidhan Tayithanusandhan Committee’ (The  Fact Finding Committee on the Killing of  Intellectuals), in January 1972 was a calculated warning to all doubting Bangladeshis.” [Behind the Myth of 3 Million p. 1,4]

As far as killings of politicians are concerned, only one Awami League politician, Mosihur Rahman, MNA from Jessore was killed during the whole conflict. Many of the politicians and professors who stood for the sake of protection of united Pakistan (or those who remained neutral in whole conflict and didn’t side with Awami League) were killed in the conflict on the spot and many more were killed cold-blooded after the conflict was over. Here let me mention the names of few;
Ajmal Ali Choudhury, a Muslim League leader and a Minister of Commerce of Pakistan at one time, who played absolutely no part during the conflict was taken out from the Dargha of Hazrat Shah Jalal in the heart of Sylhet town in broad day light and killed. Thereafter his body was mutilated and was left in an open field for public display near the Government College. For three days his family was kept away from collecting his dead body. Thus, this good patriot and decent Muslim was deprived of his entitlement of a decent burial.
Dr Abdul Majid, another Muslim League leader, was similarly gunned down and his dead body was desecrated. Earlier during the conflict, Abdul Mu’nem Khan, another Muslim League leader, and a former Health Minister of Pakistan and former Governor of East Pakistan, was gunned down at his Dhaka residence in presence of his family. Like Ajmal Ali Choudhury, Abdul Mu’nem Khan was also living in retirement and had no role either way during the conflict. Their only ‘crime’ appeared to have been that they worked for the creation of Pakistan, served it faithfully and did not renounce their allegiance in favour of ‘Joy Bangla’.
Maulvi Farid Ahmed, Vice President of Pakistan Democratic Party and a former Commerce Minister of Pakistan, was detained in Dhaka. While under detention, he was ‘whipped first and then his skin was cut by sharp blades and salt was added to his wounds’. After this beastly treatment, he was put to death. His dead body was mutilated and ‘desecrated in a wild fury’.
Maulana Asadullah Shirazi, a former Member of the National Assembly, writer, poet and sufi and the eldest son of the famous poet and Khilafat Leader Ismail Hussain Shirazi, was dragged through the streets of Sirajgonj, with a hook pierced through his nose. After this act of utter barbarity he was ‘trailed to the place of his martyrdom’.
Prof. Tariqullah, Bengali Department of Choumuhani College, Noakhali, was arrested and then taken before a gathering where he was commanded to recant his support for Pakistan. This man of true faith told his captors that if he was not convinced that Pakistan was created mainly in the interest of the Bengali Muslims and that they still needed the Muslim State of Pakistan in their own interest, he would have joined them. Since that was his faith, he could not recant his support for Pakistan even if it meant death to him. And death he met under a hail of bullet.
Muhammad Illyas, a student leader belonging to Islami Chatra Sangha, ‘was tied to a rear wheel of a slowly moving motor vehicle and was trailed to Feni from Dagan Bhuiya, ten miles away, where he was whipped by the Indian Army. Hot iron rods were used on the moribund body of helpless Illyas. His eyes were gouged out; his ears and nose were clipped. Finally, he was tortured to death and his dead body was displayed at a crossroads in Feni.’
Maulana Azharus Sobhan, a prominent alim and the principal of Mithachara Madrasa, Chittagong, was severely flogged breaking several of his bones. Three of his students were beheaded in his presence. A garland of the heads of three students was put around his neck and he was kept standing for three consecutive days before he was killed.
Maulana Pir Dewan Ali of Dhaka was shaved off his beard and flogged cruelly. With his bones broken, he was tied by his hands and legs and thrown into the middle of a river to sink alive.

Jalaluddin, a boy of 14, from Kaliganj in Dhaka district, the constituency of Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister of the Bangladesh Government in exile formed in India, was buried alive. He was forced to dig his own grave, to fix it with the thorns of date trees and finally he was made to lie on this thorny bed to death.
[Matiur Rahman & Naeem Hasan, Iron Bars of Freedom p. 11-12, Abdul Malek, From East Pakistan to Bangladesh, p. 10-16, M.M.Islam, The Forgotten Thousands n.d: 16, A.M Chowdhury op cit: 50-51]

Mass Graves
As a matter of fact mass graves in Bangladesh where the victims of war are buried do exist. Bangladeshi authorities blame Pakistan Army for those mass graves and claim ‘martyrs of the struggle’ to be buried inside them. As an evidence, a poorly recorded video film of the Army movement within the Jagannath Hall (hostel for Hindu students in Dhaka University) premises that was later produced is shown by them. The video, it was claimed, showed the Army using bull-dozers for digging a mass grave. Although special viewing have been arranged to show the video film in and outside Bangladesh. But after the war ended, those graves weren’t dug, neither the bodies were counted, identified and handed to over to their families for the last rites as Hindus don’t bury their deads, rather they burn them and later consecrate ash from the cremation to a river or sea. Question is, why? Perhaps due to the reason that, like many other cases, the graves might contain the bodies of the Bihari captives by those ‘intellectuals’ and were killed just before the army arrived as well. In the connection of mass graves it is worth recalling that immediately after the fall of Dhaka to the Indian Army, there were newspaper reports claiming unearthing of mass graves. On the unearthed mass graves William Drummond reported: “Of course, there are ‘mass graves’ all over Bangladesh. But nobody, not even the rabid Pakistani hater, has yet asserted that all these mass graves account for more than about 1,000 victims. Furthermore, because a body is found in a mass grave does not necessarily mean that the victim was killed by the Pakistan Army. In the days immediately preceding the March 25, 1971 crackdown by the Pakistan Army, virtual anarchy prevailed in the province. In fact a sinister suspicion has arisen since, that the bodies discovered in mass graves might well have belonged to Biharis, perhaps even Bengalis killed by other Bengalis.” [The Missing Millions, The Guardian, London, 6 June,1972.]

Many of the mass graves contain West-Pakistanis and non-Biharis (particularly Biharis) massacred by Mukti Bahini during war. In fact Pakistan Army buried many bodies of the non-Bengalis killed by Mukti Bahini in mass graves after they routed Mukti Bahini at different places. For instance, I shall quote few news reports at that time that weren’t given much publicity and accounts of some eyewitnesses from the book of Qutbuddin Aziz;
“Newsmen visiting this key port yesterday said there was massive shell and fire damage and evidence of sweeping massacre of civilians by rebels… At the jute mills owned by the influential Ispahani family, newsmen saw the mass graves of 152 non-Bengali women and children reportedly executed last month by secessionist rebels in the Mills’ recreation club. Bloody clothing and toys were still on the floor of the bullet pocked Club. Responsible sources said thousands of West Pakistanis & Indian migrants (Muslims settled in East Pakistan since 1947) were put to death in Chittagong between March 25, when the East Pakistan rebellion began to seek independence from the Western Wing, and April 11 when the Army recaptured the city…Residents pointed to one burned out department building where they said Bengalis burned to death three hundred and fifty Pathans from West Pakistan”. [The Washington Evening Star, May 12, 1971]

The Correspondent of then West German Magazine, Stern of Hamburg, Herr Braumann, who flew from Dacca to Dinajpur on February 29, 1972,  and saw 80 to 100 corpses of Biharis scattered in a shallow pit was told by the Bengali Deputy Commissioner of Dinajpur that they were the bodies of the Bengalis who had been killed by the Pakistan Army. Braumann doubted the claim because the corpses were almost fresh. In his dispatch published in the Stern magazine on March 12, 1972, Braumann stated:  “….it did not seem possible—in view of the very slight decomposition—that the corpses in the mass grave were of Bengalis; they could only be of Biharis”.
(Accounts of witnesses are given under section ‘persecution of non-Bengalis’.)

Anthony Macarenhas
In the connection of this topic, name Anthony Mascarenhas shouldn’t be forgotten. Anthony, a Pakistani journalist who was in East Pakistan during March & April, 1971, went to England and wrote a dispatch “Genocide” in the Sunday Times on 13th May, 1971 where he alleged Pakistan Army for genocide of Hindus which completely changed the mentality of people about the war. It is said that his article “changed the history”. Although he had mentioned the killings of 100,000 non-Bengalis by Awami League militants in his piece and gave a total casualty figure of about 250,000 on both sides, still it worked against Pakistan and went in favour of India.
But according to Sarmila Bose; “Mascarenhas’ reports, like many foreign press reports in 1971, are a mixture of reliable and unreliable information, depending on whether the reporter is faithfully reporting what he has actually seen or is merely writing an uncorroborated version of what someone else has told him.”
For example, about Army action on 26th March at Shankaripatti (a Hindu majority area in old Dhaka), Anthony Mascarenhas wrote, “an estimated 8000 men, women and children were killed when the army, having blocked both ends of the winding street, hunted them down house by house.”
According to Sarmila Bose, the survivors of Shankaripatti told her that the army did not go house to house. They entered only one house, Number 52. And whole operation resulted in 14 to 16 killings. [Dead Reckoning p. 73] (It must be noted that according to Jyoti 25,000-35,000 were killed in Shankaripatti on that day).

As a matter of fact, Pakistan Army in Eastern Wing comprised merely 40,000 soldiers which included both combatants & non-combatants [6] (60,000 according to Hasnat [7]), whereas Mukti Bahini was composed of 175,000 guerrilla fighters. Mujib’s figures imply that every soldier had raped 8 to 10 women and about 1,500 women were raped every day during nine months of the war. All this was done by an army that was busy in fighting against 4 times greater in numbers and remained engage at borders throughout the period which is simply not possible. Logically, it is enough to refute their allegations of 400,000 rapes and 200,000 pregnancies. But as an evidence for these allegations, the fantasists show a testimony of an Australian surgeon named Geoffrey Davis who supposedly had spent six weeks in Bangladesh. Geoffrey, according to him, per day had helped hundreds of Bengali women in getting abortions.
It is worth recalling that the Government of Bangladesh opened up a number of ‘Centre for the Bengali Heroines’ at Dhaka & other places for the rape victims where they could arrange marriage of those ‘victims’ with ‘patriotic Bengali’ men. But according to Mr. Hasnat, altogether hundreds of them were arranged marriages in various centers. [8]
Here we should also recall that Jauhuri, the Bangladeshi journalist, did try to find from the people from various districts but none claimed to have personally known an incident of rape. Similarly, the number of applications for the compensation has already shown the reality of this myth.
One must ask where did those 400,000 victims go? Geoffrey also told us that out of 400,000 women who were raped, 200,000 fell pregnant. Among those 200,000 progenies, 150,000-170,000 were aborted. This means that 30,000-50,000 women gave birth to their babies and are known. Also many were abandoned by their families according to the good doctor (as narrated by Hasnat). Again the question is where are they? And who sheltered the abandoned ones and brought up their babies? One must ask why didn’t Bengali government tell the fact of their ‘Heroines’ being abandoned by their own families. When he can have information why can’t Bengali authors and government?

Myth makers’ talk about the millions of Bengalis killed and raped, but they have very little or no time to tell about the massacres of non-Bengalis by Awami League militants aided by East Pakistan Rifles and police. Immediately after the postponement of 3rd March session of constitution making National Assembly on 1st March, 1971, Bengali mobs took to streets. Armed with guns, knives, daggers, dirks, sickles and other weapons, they started attacking and looting shops and houses of non-Bengalis which included West Pakistani workers and Biharis. The strategy was kept simple, i.e. “loot, kill & burn”. Thousands were killed in cold blood; raped, looted, houses were burnt in different parts of East Pakistan including Dhaka, Chittagong, Jessoure, Khulna, Barisal, Kushtia, Rajbari, Sylhet, Mymensingh, and Comilla.
Here is something what Anthony Mascarenhas, who is known for his reporting against Pakistan Army, had reported; “Thousands of families of unfortunate Muslims, many of them refugees from Bihar who chose Pakistan at the time of the partition riots in 1947 were mercilessly wiped out. Women were raped, or had their breasts torn out with specially fashioned knives. Children did not escape the horror: the lucky ones were killed with their parents; but many thousands of others must go through what life remains for them with eyes gouged out and limbs roughly amputated. More than 20,000 bodies of non-Bengalis have been found in the main towns, such as Chittagong, Khulna & Jessore. The real toll, I was told everywhere in East Bengal, may have been as high as 100,000; for thousands of non-Bengalis have vanished without a trace.”  [The Sunday Times, London, 13th June, 1971]

The Sunday Times of London, reported in its issue of May 2, 1971: “Ten days of piecing together the details in East Pakistan have revealed a huge and almost successful mutiny in the Pakistan Army and the brutal massacre of thousands of non-Bengalis— men, women and children. More than 20,000 bodies have been found so far in Bengal’s main towns but the final count could top 100,000….Eye-witnesses in more than 80 interviews tell horrifying stories of rape, torture, eye-gouging, public flogging of men and women, women’s breasts being torn out and amputations before victims were shot or bayoneted to death. Punjabi Army personnel and civil servants and their families seem to have been singled out for special brutality…”
The Times of London reported on April 6th, 1971:   “Thousands of helpless Muslim refugees settled in Bengal at the time of Partition, are reported to have been massacred by angry Bengalis in East Pakistan during the past week…”
The Daily Statesman of New Delhi reported in its issue of April 4, 1971:    “The millions of non-Bengali Muslims now trapped in the Eastern Wing have always felt the repercussions of the East-West tensions, and it is now feared that the Bengalis have turned on this vast minority community to take their revenge…..”
M.R. Akhtar Mukul from Mukti Bahini wrote: “There is a wooden bridge to help private car, jeep and pedestrians to cross the river. But its middle portion is missing. Someone has removed it. To speak to the local people I got down from the jeep along with Mr. Asad. Seeing my large body, big moustache and long hair, the locals started whispering with one another suspecting me to be a non- Bengali. I sensed my heart getting cold out of fear. Luckily, I am an accomplished speaker in Bogra’s local tongue. My habitual jokes and manner of speaking removed their suspicion and helped make certain rapport between us. Afterwards I came to learn that they have been engaged in an awesome mission. The non-Bengalis from Jaipurhat-Pachbibi area who have been fleeing towards Dhaka through Bogra were finished off here on the bank of the river. Women and children have been kept unharmed in a homestead. For a number of days the villagers have been doing this at night with ‘mashals’ in hand.” [Ami Bijoy Dekhechi (I Have Seen Victory) page. 70]

In the following sections, I am quoting some more news reports and few accounts of the survivors belonging to different districts. These accounts are taken from “Blood and Tears” by Qutbuddin Aziz.

Specimen of interview sheet for eye-witness account. (Blood and Tears)

Butchery at Dhaka
In the state of lawlessness Peggy Durdin, a writer for the Magazine Section of the New York Times & her husband, also a reporter for the NYT, were attacked by Awani League demonstrators with iron bars and long poles in the heart of Dhaka on 2nd March, 1971. She wrote of it in the New York Times of May 2, 1972:  “On the first day of the general strike particularly, emotional groups of demonstrating, shouting teenagers near the great (Baitul) Mokarram Mosque started to attack my husband and me with iron bars and long poles.”
London’s Daily Telegraph, in its issue of April 7, 1971, carried a report from its staff correspondent in Dhaka, quoting a native of Dundee: “He describes how after President Yahya’s broadcast on March 26, a mob came to the factory. The goondas (thugs) went on the rampage. They looted the factory and offices, killed all the animals they could find and then started killing people. They went to the houses of my four directors, all West Pakistanis, set fire to the houses and burnt them alive, including families totaling 30. They killed the few who ran out.”

Uniformed rebel puffing cigarette to singe the eye of a terrified Bihari.

Mohammed Farid, who was employed as Assistant Supervisor in the Spinning section of the Adamjee factory in Adamjee Nagar New Colony in Dhaka witnessed the gruesome massacre and escaped it by dint of good luck. He said: “On March 19, a killer gang of Awami League militants, armed with guns, sickles, daggers and staves came into our factory. The Bengali security guards joined them and they rampaged through the mill and the houses of the non-Bengali mill hands. The killer gang attacked the Weaving section and slayed scores of non-Bengali employees in barely half an hour of Operation Murder. I saw many dozens of wounded mill hands running towards my Spinning section. I hid myself behind a big machine at the far end of the Hall. The killers swarmed into my unit and attacked the non-Bengal employees. Some of the victims ran out and the killers chased them, shooting with guns. The killing spree of  the  rebels continued for nearly 3 hours. At night, when I emerged from hiding, hundreds of dead bodies were littered all over the factory premises. The killer gang looted the houses of non-Bengalis and burnt many. They slaughtered hundreds of innocent men, women and children and threw many corpses into flaming houses…Close to the water tank lay the dead bodies of many non-Bengali girls who, I learnt, were ravished by the killers and then murdered. It was a terrible scene. I estimate about 1,000 non-Bengalis were killed.” [Blood and Tears, page. 27-28]

Slaughter houses in Chittagong
The situation in Chittagong was even worse. The operations in Chittagong against non-Bengali population were supervised by Awami League High Command, M.R. Siddiki who is also known as “Butcher of Chittagong”.

Eye gouging and burning the skin of victims was a favourite torture method of bengali rebels.

In a dispatch from Chittagong, Malcolm Browne of the New York Times reported on May 10, 1971: “…But before the Army came, when Chittagong was still governed by the secessionist Awami League and its allies, Bengali workers, apparently resentful of the relative prosperity of Bihari immigrants from India, are said to have killed the Biharis in large numbers…”
“In Chittagong, the colonel commanding the Military Academy was killed while his wife, eight months’ pregnant, was raped and bayoneted in the abdomen. In another part of Chittagong, an East Pakistan Rifles Officer was flayed alive. His two sons were beheaded and his wife was bayoneted in the abdomen and left to die with her son’s head placed on her naked body. The bodies of many young girls have been found with Bangladesh flagsticks protruding from their wombs..” [Sunday Times, London, 2 May, 1971]

“I had joined the Gul Ahmed Jute Mills as a Security Guard in July 1971. I had heard from non-Bengalis about the mass slaughter which the Bengali rebels had conducted in March 1971 in Chittagong. One day, on my way to the Jute Mill, I spotted a small human skull lying outside a deserted house. Through a crack in a window, I looked inside. To my horror, the skulls and bones of many children laid in heaps inside the locked room. Some clothes were strewn on the floor and they looked to be the ones usually worn by non-Bengali children. With the help of some friends, I dug a grave and interred the remains of the innocents in it. Subsequently, I learnt that in March 1971, this house was used as a slaughterhouse by the rebels and they had killed many women and children in it.”, said Jamdad Khan who worked in a Jute Mill in Chittagong.  [Blood and Tears, page. 66-67]

“Hundreds of teenage girls were kidnapped from our locality by the Bengali rebels. We found no trace of them after the rebels retreated. There were reports that the killers violated their chastity, murdered them and threw their bodies into the Karnaphuli river”, said Fatema Begum from Raufabad, Chittagong. [Blood and Tears, page. 71-72]

Here, it is pertinent to mention that according to Jyoti, Pakistan Army had killed 50,000 Buddhists of Chakma tribe in Chittagong Hills. But the good journalist doesn’t know the fact that Chakma tribesmen sided with United Pakistan at the time of creation of Bangladesh.

Carnage in Khulna
A horrifying description of the slaughter of Khulna’s non-Bengalis appeared in the Washington Sunday Star on May 9, 1971:  “In Khulna, newsmen on an army-conducted tour yesterday saw what a non-Bengali resident described as a human slaughter house. Sheds were said to have been used by East Pakistan’s dominant Bengalis in mass killings of Bihari immigrants from India, West Pakistanis and other non-Bengalis during March and early April at the height of the secessionist uprising…Reporters were shown a wooden frame with chains affixed on top where women and children reportedly were beheaded with knives…There was a form of a garrote attached to a tree where the residents said victims were choked to death. Cords attached to one tree were described as hanging nooses. Bodies were said to have been thrown over a low wall into the river running alongside. Long rows of shops and homes in the non-Bengali sector of Khulna were badly burned, apparently by Bengalis.”
“…At Khulna, newsmen were shown facilities where frames were said to have been set up to hold prisoners for decapitation. Fragments of bloody clothing and tresses of women’s hair were strewn about. The place was said to have been used by the Bengali insurgents for the execution of thousands of non-Bengali residents…” [New York Times, May 9, 1971]

An account of Nisar Ahmed Khan, a survivor from Khulna:  “In the night of March 23 and all through the next day, the Bengali rebels went on the rampage against the non-Bengalis in this locality. The rebels blocked all the access roads and sealed off the routes of escape for the non-Bengalis. Armed with rifles, sten guns, hand grenades, knives and spears, a huge killer mob fell upon the hapless non-Bengali men, women and children. The rebels burned and blasted the entire neighborhood; they looted the homes of non-Bengalis and as the victims ran out of their houses, a hail of gunfire mowed them down. Many women and children sought refuge in the main Mosque and in my school building. The killers murdered the Imam (Priest) who begged them in the name of God to spare the innocents. Teenage girls and young women, kidnapped by the Bengali rebels, were lodged in the school building. At night, they were raped by their captors. Those who resisted were immediately shot. Some hapless women jumped from the roof of the sex assault chambers to escape their violators… Some old men, women and children were marched by the rebels to the river-side human abattoir where they were slaughtered and dumped into the river. The killers trucked away many dead bodies from the town to the river bank where they were flung into the water…I did not go to my school on March 24, the day of the massacre. The next day, a Bengali attendant came to my house in Satellite Town and gave me the grisly details of the killing. Hundreds of dead bodies, many of young women, he said, lay in heaps in the school building…On March 30, when the federal troops entered Khulna and the rebels retreated, I went to my school. It was a horrifying spectacle. Bloated, decomposed dead bodies lay in hundreds and the stench of rotting dead was nauseating. It took me almost a whole month to bury the dead.” [Blood and Tears, 86-87]

Grief in Dujanpur
The Times of London, in its issue of April, 6, 1971, quoted a young British technician who had crossed the Indo-Pak frontier at Hilli: “He said that hundreds of non-Bengali Muslims must have died in the north-western town of Dinajpur alone. After the soldiers left, the mobs set upon the non-Bengali Muslims from Bihar. I don’t know how many died but I could hear the screams throughout the night. In other parts of the region, he said. Biharis had been rounded up and were being held as hostages…”  Sexual violence in Dujanpur was worst. Given below is account of some of the survivors who narrated thier ordeal later.
Twenty-year-old Sakina  Bibi, whose husband, Abdus Shakoor, was done to death by the Bengali rebels in a raid on her house in Neelmati in Dinajpur on March 22, 1971, gave this grisly account of her plight: “The non-Bengalis in our locality lived in hutments. A killer mob of Bengali rebels attacked our locality at night; they burnt the shacks and looted every article of value in our homes. In less than half an hour, they gunned to death all the non-Bengali male adults in our locality. They wounded my husband with a scythe and then shot him…After killing all the non-Bengali men, they lined up about four hundred sorrowing non-Bengali women and, at gunpoint, stripped off their clothes. I wanted to throttle myself when one of our tormentors, brandishing a scythe in my face, tore off my clothes. With guns ready to shoot, they forced us to parade in the nude. A few women, who tried to escape, were mowed down by the gunmen. In this march of the naked women, I spotted the wife of my brother. She said the killers had done him to death; they had also killed her little son. We walked five miles to Narkuldanga. By the time we reached this place, not more than 150 captive women were left. A few were shot; many were taken away by the other rebels on the way as their share of the loot. One of them was my sister-in-law; she was young and pretty. I never saw her again…Our Bengali captors detained us in six huts. For the first three days, we had not a morsel of food. We lived on water and wild fruits picked from the trees. All through the period of our captivity, the hapless captive women were subjected to multiple rapes. Six teenage girls who tried to escape were shot. On April 10, when the Pakistani troops routed the rebels, the retreating Bengalis tried to slaughter all of us  but we were rescued in the nick of time.” [Blood and Tears, page. 100-101]

“Our Bengali captors dumped us in a cluster of huts in the village of Baraul. At night, they fell upon us like vultures. Some women who resisted their violators were  shot to teach a lesson to the others. Their bodies were mutilated; their breasts were slashed off and “Joi Bangla” was carved with knives on their lifeless foreheads. On April 10, a unit of the Pakistan Army captured the village and rescued us”, said (then) Twenty-four year old Noor Jahan who had also lost her husband. [ibid: 100]

“I led the federal troops to the Iqbal High School where I knew that the non-Bengalis had been slaughtered. Nearly 2,500 rotting dead bodies, with bullet marks and knife wounds, were retrieved and given a mass burial. The wombs of some pregnant women had been slit open by their tormentors. The heads of some decapitated bodies were missing. I spotted many dead children whose limbs had been splintered. I saw the slaughter-houses operated by the Bengali rebels on the banks of the Kanchan River; it seemed river of blood had flowed there. I saw the fiendish implements with which the slaughterers tortured their victims before the actual kill…”  [ibid  p. 102]

Massacres in Jessore
The story of Jessore massacres is quite interesting. Pakistan Army was blamed for the massacres in Jessore but decades later, Indian journalist, Sarmila Bose brought up the true facts and told what really had happened there. She told about a photo, showing a soldier with a gun slung at his shoulder walking near some dead bodies. Dead bodies were shown as of ‘Bengalis killed by Pakistan Army on 2nd April, 1971’ by myth makers. But Sarmila, after her detailed examination told that “the bodies were dressed in Shalwar Kameez – a clear indication that they were Biharis”. [9]

Massacre in Jessore

Similarly, Italian Priest, named Reverend Mario Veronesi was killed on April 4. Veronesi was killed in Christian Fatima Catholic Hospital in Jessore by rebel troops from the East Bengal Regiment mistakenly as a Pathan. Indian propagandists and their Awami League protégés blamed the Pakistan Army for his slaying. When the Italian Ambassador in Pakistan visited the Roman Catholic Mission in Jessore to investigate the circumstances of Father Veronesi’s death, the military authorities explained and offered evidence to prove that the Italian Priest was killed by the Bengali rebels and not by the federal Army. Facts show that Jessore was under the control of the Bengali rebels from the East Bengal Regiment on April 4 when he was gunned down. Eye-witnesses of the March-April 1971 killings of non-Bengalis in Jessore, also maintained that their information was that the Bengali rebel soldiers had killed Father Veronesi and four others in the Roman Catholic Hospital. [10]

“I was there with Alan Hart of BBC Panorama and a Bengali speaking photographer, Mohammed Amin. We thought the troops and local citizens were about to attack but they then got other ideas. Among each contingent arriving at the HQ were tall, usually bearded Punjabis. Their hands were tied and they were being brutally pushed along by rifle-butts. We thought the West Pakistan soldiers were attacking and we scattered similarly, only to discover, on a grass patch beside the road, men freshly stabbed and bludgeoned, lying in still flowing pools of blood. Four of them were still just alive, rolling over and waving their legs and arms. But none of them made any noise. At this moment our Awami League guide became hysterical and tried to rush us back. He said it was not safe, the West Pakistanis were attacking. He tugged us away from the bodies. But suddenly, Alan Hart, myself and Mohammed realized who these dead and dying men were. They were not Bengalis; they were, we are convinced, the Punjabi prisoners we had seen, bound and under guard, an hour before. The victims could not have been killed by anyone but local Bengali irregulars as these were the only people in Central Jessore that day. The terror and behavior of the Awami (League) politicians and the  crowd is circumstantial evidence, and our photographer, Amin, who knows his Pakistani types, is certain the victims were Punjabis…Even as the locals began to threaten us and we were forced to drive away, we  saw another 40 Punjabi ‘spies’ being marched towards that same grass plot with their hands above their heads.”
Another British newspaper, the Daily Mail of London, published the following write-up from Brian Rimmer in its issue of April 3, 1971 on the slaying of the Punjabi traders:   “The merchants—pictured here by a BBC Panorama team which reached Jessore—were rounded up, roped together and marched off by Militia men. Shortly after, Western reporters came across their bodies. They had been battered and stabbed. One man still writhed in his death agony.”
“The night of special horror for Jessore was April 4, four days after the local East Bengal Regiment had revolted against the national army…Jessore and Khulna are among the most heavily damaged towns in East Pakistan. Many market areas and buildings are burned out; the streets deserted…Throughout the tour, Government authorities and persons produced for interview have told of thousands of non-Bengali residents, including women and children, having been slain by the separatists, often after having been tortured.” [New York Times, 9th May, 1971]

Bloodbath in Mymensingh
Maurice Quaintance of the Reuters News Agency said in his Mymensingh dispatch of May 7, 1971: “Reporters flown here on the second day of a conducted tour of trouble spots interviewed a man identified as the Assistant Postmaster of Mymensingh who showed scars on his neck and what he said was a bayonet mark on his body. The man said he lived in a colony of 5,000 non-Bengalis of whom only 25 survived the massacre on April 17. The interview ended abruptly when the Assistant Postmaster mentioned the killing and mutilation of his family and burst into tears.”
On the next day same newspaper gave following report about Mymensingh:  ” 1971,  from  Mymensingh,  Malcolm Browne  of  the  New  York  Times,  reported: “At intervals, along streets lined with ramshackle houses, bodies have been buried in shallow graves and covered with piles of red bricks. Bodies covered with bricks are found even on the porches of houses which themselves are unoccupied and closed.”
“Officials also said that before the Government soldiers took the city (Mymensingh), the Bengalis had killed at least 1,000 Bihari or non-Bengali residents. Army officials introduced correspondents to people who said there had been a slaughter of Bihari residents by the dominant Bengali group led by members of the Awami League, the political party that was outlawed by the Central Government soon after the military action began in East Pakistan on March 25. There were so many bodies here, one officer said, it was impossible to identify them or bury them. He said that they had to be thrown into the Brahmaputra river, a tributary of the Ganges. The main loss of life here apparently occurred in the fields and fruit groves outside Mymensingh and in clusters of huts that had been burned to the ground.”  [New York Times, 7th May, 1971]

American news service, Associated Press wrote about Maymensingh in early May, 1971: “There were 5,000 non-Bengalis where I lived and now there are 25 survivors.”
“There is evidence that non-Bengalis were attacked, hacked to death and burnt in their homes by mobs… Eye-witnesses told stories of 1,500 widows and orphans fleeing to a mosque at Mymensingh, in the north, as armed men identified as secessionists slaughtered their husbands and fathers.” [Ceylon Daily News, Colombo, May 15, 1971]
What happened to Biharis after 16th December, 1971 is another story of blood and tears.
I am not trying to impress up-on that no Bengali was killed during the war. Many Bengalis, including civilians, innocents, as well as not so innocents, were killed in cross-fires but the casualty figures given by Bangladesh and India are entirely baseless. After looking at all these facts and comparing them with what governments of Bangladesh and India, the way the myth was recycled by their journalists, it seems that Hitler was dead right that “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself. And the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed.”

Notes and References:

1. Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, Shahosh Kare Kichu Shaythay Katha Bala Proyjan (With Courage a Few Truth Have to be Said), The Dainik Janapad, Dhaka, 20 May, 1973.
2. Abdur Rab Khan, ‘Contemporary International Conflicts in South Asia: A Compendium’ BIIS Quarterly Journal, Dhaka, October, 1993; Cf 443, also Mubaidur Rahman in Dainik Inqilab, Dhaka, 26 March, 1994.
3.Yahya Mirza, Interview with Mr Abdul Muhaimin, The Tarokalok, Dhaka, 1 March, 1990
4. An interview with prof. Ahmed Sharif Keshab Mukhapadhay, May 13 2005
5.  Dead Reckoning: Memories of 1971 Bangladesh War page. 181.
6. ‘93,000 Pakistani soldiers did not surrender in 1971 because….?’ by Junaid Ahmed, Global Village Space, April 1, 2017.
7. Abul Hasanat, The Ugliest Genocide in  History, Muktadhara (Swadhin Bangla Sahitya Parishad) page. 79.
8. Abul Hasnat, op cit: 78.
9. The truth about the Jessore massacre by Sarmila Bose, The Telegraph India, March 19, 2006.
10. Blood and Tears, page. 171

Author can be reached at ahsanakram661@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.


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