That March in 1971 saw the euphoria of a nation on the edge of being born — not knowing how painful the delivery would be
Photo- BANGLADESH OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE
When the month of March comes, we all welcome the spring season. I did the same in 1971. I had a small garden in the backyard of our home in Panchlaish residential area in Chittagong.
The rest of the backyard was my mother’s vegetable garden, and in the front was a garden as beautiful and graceful as my late mother — Hasna Hena Qadir. She had a collection of 27 kinds of roses, including a black one and green one.
That March in 1971 saw the euphoria of a nation on the edge of being born — not knowing how painful the delivery would be — even the labour pains were not so acute, as the child called Bangladesh was born.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic March 7 speech declaring the “struggle this time is the struggle for freedom” shook the Bengali nation with a sense of delight that only those of us who witnessed it can feel. The scream of “Joy Bangla” by millions mingled with that of my martyred father.
People like my father tightened their belts to face a possible attack by the Pakistani army with black flags, and the new flag — red and green with a yellow map — of a nation about to be born, dominated the skyline. Oh! How incredible it felt at that time.
Pro-Pakistanis were on the defence, and as predicted by many, they betrayed Bangladesh — the land where they lived and made their livelihood.
Then suddenly so many colours of spring were draped with red human blood across Bangladesh on March 25 and 26 in 1971. Chittagong was attacked on March 26.
The mortar shells started coming into the city randomly with tracer lights as well as the sound of automatic guns, which cannot be described in words.
The Earth shook, and the birds, which had taken shelter for the night on the trees, started screaming. It was strange to see so many birds in the night sky.
Early on March 25 and 26, Dhaka and Chittagong were drenched with human blood as thousands of bodies lay scattered across the country that was waiting to be born, the freedom-seeking people not realising the high cost they had to pay.
Soon after Bangladesh’s birth, the official figure was put at 3 million people killed, but vested quarters quickly started a debate soon after the assassination of Bangabandhu in 1975.
Some still try, and it is a shame to dispute the count for political reasons. The focus should be on remembering March 25 as the “International Genocide Day” as has been demanded by the Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee for the past several years.
The committee, along with general people, hold a candle light vigil each March 25 in the Dhaka University campus.
In the book Century of Genocide edited by Samuel Totten, the number of casualties has been listed as 3 million. The figure is the same in National Geographic magazine, Encyclopedia Americana, and Compton’s Encyclopedia. The Sydney Morning Herald put the figure of unarmed Bangladeshis killed in Dhaka on the night of March 25, 1971 alone at 100,000.
Kazi Mukul of the committee told me that the killing of three million people in a land of 56,000 square miles can be considered the most “macabre genocide in the history of human civilsation.”
The genocide in Bangladesh perpetrated by the Pakistan Army was much more brutal than that in Poland by the Nazis, according to the St Louis Post.
Committee chief and writer-journalist Shahriar Kabir said they were making a fervent appeal and demanding that the day be declared International Genocide Day.
Source: Dhaka Tribune