Dhaka University massacre II

Tales of the kaloratri

Some people had almost miraculous escapes. Professor Anisur Rahman has given a moving account of how he was saved by having placed a lock on the outside of his door, which led his assailants to think he was away. He and his wife and children crawled about on their hands and knees for some 48 hours in order not to be seen from the ground. In the meantime they heard his colleagues, Professor Guhathakurda and Professor Muniruzzaman dragged out of their flats and shot. It was said afterwards that Professor Muniruzzaman, who spoke Urdu, was shot by accident, and his family was given compensation by the Government.

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At 8:00pm, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) leader Sirajul Alam Khan came to the hall and requested us to leave the hall quickly as the Pakistani army might attack. He also directed us to make barricades on the roads. The students and staff began leaving the hall. At 10:00, I left the hall and went home after completing my duties. My home was just on the bank of the western part of the hall's pond.

At midnight, the Pakistani Army began their attack on the hall. Tanks and jeeps entered the hall from the south-east gate and later more army came through the main gate. The hall came under a barrage of heavy mortar and machine-gun attack from near the pond in front and the police barracks behind it. Immediately, students and bearers from the hall and the Bengali policemen from the Nilkhet barracks tried to escape and seek refuge in the adjoining teachers and staff quarters. The army set the Nilkhet slum on fire and in cold-blood machine-gunned the fleeing slum dwellers. Many managed to escape from the slum and also took shelter in the staff quarters. The army also set fire to the Palashi slum. The machine gun attack on the hall set student rooms ablaze. The hall, two slums, and a staff quarter building were burning. The army shot a flare lighting up the sky, and I saw about 1,000 soldiers had taken position.

The sound of shells bursting and guns firing, the smoke and fire, the smell of gun-powder, and the stench of the burning corpses, all transformed the area into a fiery hell. The incessant firing from mortars, tanks, and machine-guns continued through the night. Huge gaping holes appeared in the hall and the adjoining residences of the bearers as a result of the shelling. On the morning of the 26th, the Pakistani killers began to go through the hall rooms and began their orgy of murder and looting.

The army searched all through the hall and killed at least seven students. The unfortunate students were ATM Zafor Alam, Jahangir Munir, Abul Kalam, Abu Taher Pathan, Saleh Ahmed, and Mohammad Ashraf Ali Khan. Shamshuddin, a night guard of the hall who was locked at the hall provost office, was burnt alive when the army threw petrol bombs inside the office.

Chisty Sah Helalur Rahman, the Dhaka University correspondent for the Daily Azad was shot in the early morning at the wall of the house tutors quarter, near the water pump. Abdul Jalil, food manager of the hall, was killed beside my house at the western part of the hall's pond. The water pump workers of the hall were also killed.

Having finished their slaughter at Iqbal Hall, the Pakistani army turned their attention to the residential buildings. They murdered DU teacher Professor Fazlur Rahman and two of his relatives on March 26. We came to the hall on March 27 after withdrawal of curfew. I saw nine dead bodies beside the road at the hall playground and seven bodies on the ground near the quarter of the house tutors. I have never seen brutality like that of the Pakistani army on 25 March 1971.

Fazlul Haque, a guard at Iqbal Hall describes Pak Army's brutality on the night of 25 March 1971

We were informed at about 8:00 that the Pakistani army might storm the hall. Hearing the news, almost all the staff and students left the hall, though many returned after a few hours. I could not go because I was on duty in the TV room.

When my duty ended at 10:00, I left the hall for safety with two colleges, Shamsu and Sattar. In the middle of the hall playground, we stopped and saw a number of jeeps and tanks carrying the Pakistani army were coming towards the hall through the road behind the Muslim Hall (Salimullah Hall) near the British Council.

Being intrigued, I stopped for a few seconds in the middle of the playground to observe. I came to the south-west part of the playground where there was a tamarind tree. Karim, a Bihari used to sleep under the tree. I took shelter in between two houses of hall staffs and caught sight of the Pakistani army coming towards the tree. The army roused Karim and talked to him.

Taking Karim with them, the army then moved to the south-eastern part of the pond and took shelter there. I heard a gunshot from the staff quarter. At midnight the hall came under a barrage of heavy mortar and machine-gun fire. The Army set the Palashi slum on fire. The heaped bodies of the dead from the slum were also set on fire near the Nilkhet rail gate petrol pump.

Some surviving students were taken to the Iqbal Hall kitchen where petrol was poured over them and they were burnt alive. The university correspondent of the Daily Azad was shot near the water pump in the early morning. So was bearer Shamshu. The water pump workers of the hall as well as the bearers were all brutally murdered by the Pakistanis.

I took shelter besides the houses of the staff. The Pakistani army continued firing till morning. They entered the hall at dawn. We then moved to the Home Economics College and took shelter on the second floor of a decayed building. I could hear the cracking sounds of bullets, the students and staffs' pleas for mercy, and the sound of the soldiers ransacking every room in the hall.

We could also hear the army dragging two or three persons, perhaps students, out from the hall. The army also dragged out another two or three persons behind the hall's canteen. After some time, we observed the army was out of sight, and began to return ,but approaching the hall we saw the army still there. We ran back to the Home Economics College. I was injured seriously in my head. Some of the people thought I had been shot. They took me away and gave me primary medical treatment.

After few hours we returned to the hall. Sattar, one of the hall staffs, in an emotion-choked voice, requested me to go with him to the provost office. He said that his father might be there. I went with Sattar and we found his father dead inside the office. We also found several dead bodies at the playground and two bodies at the roof of the Mosque and one student's body in his room.

Abdus Sobhan, TV room caretaker of Iqbal Hall describes the carnage

My husband Sunil Chandra Das was a darwan (guard) at Jagannath Hall of Dhaka University. Before going off for duty at 8.p.m.on the night of 25 March, he told me, "You go to sleep with the kids". I had a son and a daughter. The girl was two and half years old. The boy was 18 months. At around midnight the firing started. My husband returned home an hour later and said, "Let's escape and hide". I was numb.

The firing was still on. So we decided to go to the Assembly Hall. Ten minutes after we reached there, we found the army entering the hall and starting to search with torches. What could we do? Where could we hide? Their father and others would worship Saraswati Devi. The idol was inside the hall. Many went and hid behind that idol. But the Punjabis hunted them down with torches in the darkness. My girl was in his arms. He called out to me and said, "Hold the child". Then they took him away dragging him by his hands.

My daughter was left on the floor. I asked, "Where are you talking my husband?" They said, "We are not taking your husband anywhere. We will bring him back". They started to move towards the door. I tried to get close to them, but they kicked me down. My daughter also started to cry along with my son. Those who were with us in the Hall picked me up from the floor.

The Punjabis then said, "Nothing will happen to you. Come with us". They were talking in Hindi. I didn't speak Hindi. Others with us there spoke that tongue. They took me near the gates of the assembly hall and asked me to sit down on a stool they brought. I said, "Bring me my husband". They said, "No, your husband can't be brought back. We have taken your husband away". Others later said, they had taken him near the big tree and shot him there.

Our houses were torched, we had nowhere to go. We all went to the playing ground and sat there the whole night as everything was in flames all around us. When morning came, we saw that people were being taken away to drag the corpses that lay on the field. People were already pulling them across the ground.

But I couldn't find my husband. I sat on the field with my two children. I saw that they had pulled all the dead bodies and laid them on the ground in rows.

"You all sit down, wear Sadarghat saris and shout 'Joy Bangla'," - this was what the army men said. But nobody shouted the slogan. Then from a hole in the wall they started to fire. When the firing started, we all lay down on the ground. I think I lost my senses. I have no memory of what happened after that. But we stayed there till the afternoon. Later those who were still alive left the Jagannath Hall and walked towards the Medical College leaving the dead behind. Leaving my husband behind.

Bokul Rani Das, a resident of Jagannath Hall whose husband was killed on the night of 25 March 1971

We had lived in Mohammadpur all our life. We were refugees from India and obtained an allotment in 1962. Our area had a few Bengali families and the line was known as Police line because some of the residents were linked to the police. We were very non-political because in 1946 our family had suffered in the Calcutta riots. I had lost my brother then. We didn't mix much with the Biharis. But the Biharis were very agitated since the non-cooperation movement of March 1971 began. They were sometimes worried, sometimes angry. I think most people thought that Bhutto would not allow Mujib to take power and nobody knew what would happen after that. But once non-cooperation began many became scared. Suddenly many realised that the Biharis lived in a place surrounded by Bengalis and they didn't like each other.

Actually, some meetings were held to maintain peace amongst all but as it always happens, there were elements that were angry and the mood became more and more sour. We didn't know what was happening. The local Islamic astrologers made several dire predictions about the future. It made us more anxious.

On 25th night I came home early because my garage wasn't busy and my mechanics had gone home, one to old Dhaka and another to Syedpur. They wanted to bring back their families. When the firing started we all thought that a riot had broken out. I think some people were saying "Allahu Akbar" very loudly. We hid in the room behind the main one. We didn't know who was attacking whom. But we slowly understood that it was the army. Only the army had so many guns.

I was very scared about being left by myself. I had a cousin who lived in New Colony and they had a car so I thought we could escape with them. When morning came I asked my wife to put her gold jewels in the bag and start moving towards Asad Avenue. It was not very far. My daughter was away with my wife's sister in Moghbazar.

"Stop", I heard a voice and stood still. It was just dawn and the light was not yet full. We saw the tires and tubes lying on the street and the debris of resistance. We thought we were going to be attacked.

Two men came towards us. They were Biharis and I knew them. But in that light they looked like ferocious strangers. I was scared. They came very close to us. I was wondering what would I do if they tried to take my wife away. The man called Kaleem said, " See what Joy Bangla has done. Who will protect you now? My relatives phoned me. They have killed many people, many students. The army has taken charge and now there will be no peace." He was more morose than angry but his companion Selim began to abuse Sheikh Mujib and blaming him for everything. My wife started to weep. We could hear people coming from behind. I said nothing and taking God's name started to move forward. When they began to shout "Pakistan Zindabad", we ran for our lives.

We entered Zakir Hussain Road and hid behind a trash bin. A while later we started to walk fast towards New Colony.

Suddenly we saw another family, a Bengali family walking towards us. There faces were terrorised. "A group of boys were stopping people and searching them. We saw that and ran". The family - mother, wife, children began to run towards some unknown direction. Suddenly we saw our cousin hurrying on the road. He was like a man without any blood. I have never seen a blank face like that. He said, "It's not safe here. Nobody knows what has happened, what will happen". He sat down on the road and began to cry.

Late Alfaz Hossain Shahu, resident of Nazrul Islam Road, Mohammedpur

After the night of March 25 there was a curfew. We didn't know what was going on. We had never thought that the army would attack us like that. We were under so much shock that we could hardly speak. There was no hunger only thirst and fear. Telephones were out of order, I was very worried about our relatives in different parts of Dhaka. On March 27, curfew was lifted and some people began to move. From the 26th morning we saw the poor slum dwellers moving out with whatever they had. But we were too scared to make a move. Suddenly my brother-in-law came panting and sweating. He had come from Elephant Road. He had seen dead bodies of the murgiwallahs at New market and had heard of the attack on the University Halls. He had come to warn us.

"Run away, run away", he kept shouting. We made him sit down. His family had already left, he said, for his ancestral home in Keraniganj. My wife started to cry and then the children joined. I too was terrified as he described a city that was fleeing from itself. I really don't know how we did it but we decided to leave. It can't have taken us more than fifteen minutes before we had the handbags and some cash with us. It was so strange that we made sure that flag of Bangladesh was hidden under the mattress. We didn't have the heart to burn it.

As we took to the streets, we didn't know where we were going but we knew that we were leaving the city. We started to walk holding our children's hand and God's word on our lips. It was such a strange sight. So many people were walking along with us. Suddenly an army truck appeared on the road and we began to run. We were running from death, running from what had become Pakistan. A man we met as we rested near Malibagh said everyone was going to Sadarghat.

"The army can't cross the river. Bengali army has taken position there; it's safe there". It seemed to make sense to us all. We started to walk towards the river. We knew we had to reach the place before curfew was imposed again.

Jan Baksh Mollah, Bangla Motor

Not content with killing the creme of the Dhaka University like insects, the Pakistani Army then moved onto their next target - the academics.

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