Dhaka University massacre III

Massacre of Bengali intellectuals commences

Behind Iqbal Hall were University quarters 23, 24 and 25 - a teacher's residential area near the Shaheed Minar (Martyr's Memorial). In total 24 teachers stayed in those buildings with their families.

The Pakistani army raided the blocks of flats with the intention of killing those university teachers who they believed had masterminded a clandestine preparation for war, including training among the students.

Working from a list of people to be liquated, the army attacked the staff quarters and killed 10 university teachers. The hunt for the targeted ones began in the flats of Building 23, situated at Nilkhet area. Here, Doctor Fazlur Rahman Khan of the Botany/Geology Department was murdered along with his nephew Kanchan (also known as Ali Ahsan Khan), who was preparing for his Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) Examination at Dhaka College, and one other relative. The previous day Dr. Khan had visited his brother-in-law Dr. Shamim-uz-Zaman Basunia, later Professor of Civil Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET), in the evening at his residence on Elephant Road, whilst Kanchan visited his parents at Azimpur. Both of them were advised not to return to their apartment inside the university campus as it was the centre of the ongoing political movement and a potential target of an army assault. However, fearing that the other would be all alone in the house, both uncle and nephew were adamant and returned home to keep each other company, 'as if destiny brought them together, to meet the same tragic end'.

Dr. Khan’s wife, Farida Khan (Shirin) escaped the killing as she was away in England studying for a Ph.D. in physics. Dr. Khan too was preparing to go to England to join his wife and do post-doctoral research before his tragic end.

There was a curfew in Dhaka on the following day [26 March 1971]. It was relaxed for a few hours on 27 March. Kanchan’s two elder brothers went to the apartment of Dr. Fazlur Rahman Khan to enquire about their welfare and were shocked to discover the bullet-ridden and blood-soaked bodies lying on the floor. They had no time to mourn over the dead bodies. They had only a couple of hours to arrange for the funeral during the hours the curfew was lifted. They brought the bodies to their home with the help of a close family friend. Nobody was available to wash the bodies or dig the graves. The two brothers, their father and the family friend washed the bodies, dug the graves, offered the janaza and buried the bodies at Azimpur graveyard, only few yards away from their house.

...Dr. Khan was soft spoken, polite and very religious. He taught his students with sincerity and dedication. As a teacher, he was very popular among his students and his colleagues. Kanchan was also a polite and likeable boy. Besides his studies, he was mindful to help his parents in household work. The untimely deaths of Dr. Khan and Kanchan were a cruel blow to their families and friends. Dr. Khan’s wife, Farida Khan who had gone to England in January 1970, was so shocked at the news of her husband’s death that she was unable to pursue her higher studies in physics. She completed a degree in education and worked as a school teacher in England. She barely spent a year with her husband together but yet remained a widow all her life in his fond memory.

Last moments of Dr. Fazlur Rahman Khan

Also residing in Building 23 was Professor Anwar Pasha, Bengali Literateur, and Professor Rashidul Hassan, Senior Lecturer at English Department. They lived with their families on the fourth floor apartments. Both of them survived the Pakistani attack by hiding under their bed.

After failing to see anyone in the torch light, the Pakistani soldiers were heard saying: "Bangali Kutta Bhag Gia" - The Bengali dogs have flown.

Pakistani soldiers vicious attitude

Even though professors Pasha and Hassan miraculously survived from the Pakistani onslaught that night, they were killed later on the eve of Victory, on 14 December 1971, allegedly by Al Badr militia who killed many other Bengali intellectuals near Mirpur.

Another resident of the building, Dhaka University Assistant Librarian Mridha also miraculously survived. However, there were around 30 women, men and children from the slum who took refuge on the roof who did not live to see another day. Each of them were brutally murdered by the barbaric Pakistanis, and for nigh over a month their corpses fed the vultures and crows. After several months their skeletons were brought down from the roof. The same day the skeletons of 50 Rokeya Hall staff and their families were removed.

Building 24 was just across from Jagannath Hall and near the Shahed Minar. It was a three-storey building and had a stairwell in the middle with a flat on either side. Professor ANM Muniruzzaman, Head of Department of Statistics, lived in one of the top floor flat along with his family. Professor Anisur Rahman (Economics) and Prof. Abdur Razzak (International Relations) lived on the first floor, whilst on the ground floor were Dr. Jyotirmoy Guha Thakurta, the Provost (a senior admin or head) of Jagannath Hall and member of Department of English, and his family and the family of the late Prof. Hai (teacher of Bengali).

Around 3 o'clock in the morning the Pakistani army entered their residences and shot Prof. Munirazzaman, his son Akramuzzaman, his brother Advocate Shamsuzzaman, and his nephew Syed Nasirul Wahab. They died instantly. Professor Muniruzzaman's younger son Abu Musa M. Masuduzzaman, only 13 years-old at the time, witnessed the cold-blooded execution of his family. He saw his dad have an alteraction with the Pakistani army about kneeling down before being shot point-blank on the forehead, and saw how his brother had initially survived with two bullets in his lower abdomen.

It was shortly after midnight that we heard knocks on the door. After opening the door, a lot of army personnel entered our flat and asked for my father. When my father appeared, they asked him his name and profession as if they were cross-checking information. They also interrogated the other males: my uncle, elder brother and cousin. Then they took them down on the ground floor. One of the officers took me as well.

Abu Musa M. Masuduzzaman recollects standing in the staircase leading to the second floor and seeing all others standing in front of Professor Jyotirmoy Guhathakurta's flat on the ground floor

Having killed Prof. Muniruzzaman, the army headed for the nearby building of Jagannath Hall Provost residence (also known as 'Buro Shibbari') just outside the Jagannath Hall compound to the east where Prof. Govinda Chandra Dev lived. Prof. Dev was a renowned professor of Philosophy at Dhaka University and the Ex-Provost of Jagannath Hall. He was also the chairman of the Pakistan Philosophical Congress.

The army shot him in the head first and then bayonetted him. They dragged his body outside, and in plain view drove a truck over him. His corpse was then taken to the Jagannath Hall field and buried in a mass grave. Prof. Dev was a life-long bachelor so he adopted a Hindu son Jyoti Prakash Datta and a Muslim daughter, Rokeya Begum. Rokeya's husband was also killed in the attack.

Unsuspecting, G. C. Dev opened his door to the men who were on a mission to kill him - and everyone else like him. When the murderers in the form of the soldiers of the Pakistan army marched up to his residence on the Dhaka University campus in the early hours of March 26, 1971, they dispensed with civility as they tried kicking down his door. And they called out his name. The academic, ever the epitome of politeness and etiquette, opened it and told them he was the man they were looking for. Those soldiers did not waste time. The philistines that they were, and with the murder that was in their hearts, they shoved him on to his sofa and went about bayoneting and shooting him. The barbarians were at work. They dumped his body into the mass grave on the Jagannath Hall grounds, where the bones of his students and colleagues have meshed with his.

It was ironic that the suave man called G. C. Dev was finally done in by men to whom civilised behaviour did not matter at all. In the view of the state of Pakistan, in that moment of grave peril to Bangalis, the reputed philosopher was no more than a Hindu, a lesser being, a member of a religious community that could not have any place in the Islamic country that Pakistan had become and would mutate into something worse over the succeeding months. It did not matter to the army that Dev was an individual of national and global repute, that his pronouncements on philosophy had drawn the attention of people everywhere. What did matter was that, in the convoluted thinking that informed the state of Pakistan, Dev was a Hindu and therefore an enemy. It was a season when all Bangalis, because they refused to be conformists and refused to take things lying down, were a hostile force up in revolt against the communal state established through mayhem and murder in August 1947. In March 1971, therefore, it was a whole lot more than a Hindu in G. C. Dev that died. It was an illustrious Bangali whose life ended on a sudden note.

Cold killing of Prof. G. C. Dev

After killing Prof. Dev and his son-in-law, the troop returned shortly to track Dr. Jyotirmoy Guha Thakurta down. After catching him, they did not line him up in front of his flat where other corpses were laid down. Instead he was dragged outside and shot in the neck and ears. His wife Basanti Guha Thakurta found him lying on his back on the grassy patch near the gate and dragged him back inside the flat with the help of Muniruzzaman's family.

The Guhathakurtas - Jyotirmoy, Basanti and their teenage daughter Meghna - hid under the bed when the attack started on the student halls. When the firing seemed to subside, Basanti Guhathakurta peeped out of the window and saw a convoy of military vehicles including a jeep come and stop at the barricade on the crossroads. An officer pulled off the chains on their gate and the troops swarmed in on all floors of the building and started to kick on each of the two doors of every flat on each floor.

The officer broke the window pane in Meghna's room, cut the net with his bayonet and moved aside the curtain. Mrs Guhathakurta [hereafter called Basanti for ease of reading] thought he spotted their feet sticking out from under the bed. In a trice he had gone round to her garden on the side of the building. Basanti gave her husband his 'panjabi' (tunic) and said, 'Get ready, they've come to arrest you'. The officer had meantime got through the kitchen door at the back, pushed aside the maid and got into the verandah. Basanti faced him. The officer asked, 'Professor sahab hai?' (Is the Professor here?). Basanti said 'Hai' (He's here). The officer said, 'Unko le jayega' (We will take him). 'Kahan le jayega, bhai' (Where will you take him, brother?) asked Basanti, holding on to his arm as he walked along the verandah, looking at the ground and not at her. 'Le jayega' (Will take him), he said.

Going along behind him, Basanti said, 'You have got in, so why are they still breaking down the front doors?'

The officer called out, 'Hum idhar par hai, Yaqub! Darwaza mat bhango' (I am in here Yaqub, don't break down the door). The kicking stopped at once.

Going towards the bedroom the officer asked, 'Aur koi jawan aadmi hai?' (Are there any other young people?). Basanti said, 'Hamara ek hi ladki hai' (We have only one daughter). 'Theek hai, theek hai', said the officer, 'ladki ko koi dar nahi hai' (It's all right, no need to fear for the daughter). In the bedroom Prof. Guhathakurta was still standing holding his 'panjabi'. The officer gripped his left arm. Basanti put the 'panjabi' on him and said, 'He has come to arrest you'. The officer asked ' Aap professor sahib hai?' (You are the Professor?). Prof. Guhathakurta answered, 'Yes'. 'Aapko le jayega' (We will take you). 'Why?' demanded Prof. Guhathakurta, but he was dragged off through the garden.

Basanti ran back with his sandals, but could not see them any more. Meanwhile, a tremendous commotion started in the stairwell, where Basanti found Mrs Maniruzzaman crying on the stairs while soldiers dragged down Prof. Maniruzzaman, his son, nephew and another gentleman. They had only moved in on 5 March [i.e. 3 weeks ago]. Basanti advised the Maniruzzamans to go with the soldiers, as otherwise they might shoot, and said that her own husband had also just been taken to the cantonment. Two shots were heard outside, and Meghna put her hands to her ears.

The officer returned and tried to break into the dining room - Basanti opened the lock for him. He checked all the bathrooms. While in Meghna's bathroom he asked, 'Mujibur Rahman kahan rahta hai?' (Where does Mujibur Rahman live?). A confused Meghna said, 'We don't know him' (referring to the political leader), whereupon the officer shouted at her and left through the garden.

There was a volley of shots in the stairwell, and Prof. Maniruzzaman and the other three were found groaning in pools of blood while the troops ran out. Somebody was asking for water. The barricade had been cleared and 11 vehicles drove away. Basanti still thought her husband was in one of those vehicles. It was only after Mrs Maniruzzaman shouted out that Prof. Guhathakurta was lying outside that she discovered what had actually happened.

The tragic story of the Guhathakurtas during that fatal night

Dr. Guha Thakurta was paralysed, but conscious and speaking. He was carried inside the flat and eventually taken to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital in the morning of 27 March since there was a curfew on 26 March. He lived for four days before dying of his wounds on 30 March 1971. His wife and daughter had to leave his body behind in the hospital and seek refuge, and never found out what exactly happened to it. It is believed that the doctors of Dhaka Medical College Hospital recognised Dr. Guha Thakurta and buried him under a tree near Dhaka Medical College morgue. Prior to dying, Dr. Guha Thakurta told his wife and daughter that the Pakistani officer made him stand facing the hall and asked his name and his religion. As soon as he answered, the officer held a gun at his neck and shot him.

On 26 March 1971, later that morning another Pakistani troop came by Building 24. They found Prof. Munirazzaman's son Akramuzzaman (who was shot earlier) still breathing and gasping for some water - so they shot him.

We also tried to take my elder brother back into our flat, but he had refused to go since he was too injured to move an inch. Plus everyone was already frightened about the safety of the girls [mother, sisters and other women] staying indoors.

A helpless Masuduzzaman on being forced to abandon his brother

Applied Physics' professor Anudaipayan Bhattacharja was also killed at that dormitory. The Pakistani army entered his room and bayonetted him to death. His body was put out near the big tree close to the Jagannath Hall auditorium for some time, and then buried in the mass grave in the field.

Miraculously, both Prof. Abdur Razzak and Prof. Anisur Rahman, who were living on the first floor between Prof. Muniruzzaman's and Dr. Guha Thakurta's flat, survived unhurt that night. Another fellow professor who had a lucky escape that night was Rafiqul Islam, a prominent member of the Bangla literature department.

The Pakistani hyenas also entered the building we were in, no. 24. On the third flight two mothers from the slum had taken shelter. Their babies were with them. Both of them had been shot in the legs. On seeing the blood allover the entering Pakistani soldiers thought that some of their colleagues had already been through our buildings and so did not enter it. That is why we survived. We did our best to help those mothers and the day we left Nilkhet we had them admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Prof. Rafiqul Islam of liberal arts was a resident of the second floor of building 24

Professor Mirja Huda (Economics) and Professor Mofijullah Kabir (History) were harassed but were also lucky to survive.

Along with the teacher's residential area in Iqbal and Jagannath Hall, the Pakistani soldiers also attacked the Fuller Road faculty residences on the same 25 March night. Their first target was Building 11. There they entered the residence of a junior teacher of the University Laboratory School, Mohammad Sadeque, bayonetted him and then shot him in cold-blood. His dead body remained in that building for nine months until it was discovered on 27 December - 11 days after Victory was formally achieved - and buried behind the flat.

At Number 12 Fuller Road, the army dragged out Professor Syed Ali Naki of the Social Sciences Department, and a gentlemen by the name of Syed Syedul Islam. For some inexplicable reason they were not killed, but Professor Abdul Muktadir of the Geology Department who was a resident of the same building, was brutally murdered. They dragged his body to the Rayerbazar mass grave, where many other intellectuals were later massacred, and eventually found two days later. He was buried properly at Paltan by his relatives.

It was dawn. Dr. Muktadir was getting ready to offer his Fazr prayers when there was a knock on his door. As soon as he opened the door, he was grabbed by the army men who shot at him. Soon afterwards, the killers took away the body of the professor along with the bodies of his other colleagues to the Rayerbazar mass grave. His relatives later managed to recover Dr. Muktadir's body and buried it near the mosque near his father-in law's house at 78/A Purana Paltan in the capital.

The last moments of Prof. Abdul Muktadir

My father was killed in front of my mother's eyes when she was three months pregnant. My grandfather had become blind and my grandmother got mentally ill after the incident.

Ilora Muktadir said while recalling the memory of her father Mohammad Abdul Muktadir, a martyred intellectual

The army had also attacked Salimullah Hall and Dhaka Hall (now renamed to Shahidullah Hall). They beat up the house tutor of Salimullah Student Hall, Professor K. M. Munim (English Literature), and murdered Professors Ataur Rahman Khan Khadim of the Physics department and Sharafat Ali of the Mathematics department at Dhaka Hall. Sharafat Ali was living in one of the rooms meant for junior and bachelor teachers in a two storied building adjacent to the dining hall of the students’ dormitory. He was brutally killed by a group of soldiers forcibly entering his room. His dead body together with that of his colleague Ataur Rahman Khan Khadim was left unattended for several days before the army men carried it away.

Professor Khadim was my teacher. Because of his quiet and self-reflecting nature we affectionately called him, "our absent-minded Professor". Never could we have imagined that anyone would want to hurt such a soft-spoken and dedicated teacher.

Nurana Nabi, a Mukti Juddha and author of "Bullets of '71: A Freedom Fighter's Story"

  • Govinda Chandra Dev (1907 - 1971) Head of Philosophy and Psychology departments of Dhaka University (DU). Also an educationist. Passed entrance examination in first division from Beani Bazar High English School and I.A from Ripon College, Calcutta. Achieved first class first position in both BA (Hons) from Sanskrit College, Kolkata (1927) and MA in Philosophy from Calcutta University (1931). Received Ph.D degree from the same university for thesis on 'Reason, intuition and reality'. Worked initially as teacher in Calcutta and Dinajpur. Joined DU as a professor of philosophy (1953) and later promoted as chairman of the department of philosophy (1970). Provost of the Jagannath Hall, DU, from 1957 - 1970. Taught in a college in Pennsylvania, USA as a visiting professor. On return to Dhaka he founded the 'Philosophy Bhaban' in 1971. Published over 100 articles and 9 books including Idealism and Progress (1952), Idealism: A New Defence and A New Application (1958), Amar Jibon Darshan (1960), Aspiration of the Common Man (1963), The Philosophy of Vivekananda and the Future of Man (1963), Tattvavidyasar (1966), and Buddha: the Humanist (1969). Two other books - Parables of the East (1984) and My American Experience (1993) - were published posthumously. Inspired by Socrates, he was a secular and humanistic philosopher. Awarded honorary title of 'Darshan Sagar' by the East Pakistan Saraswat Samaj in 1967 for his contribution to philosophy. The same year, 'The Govinda Dev Foundation for World Brotherhood' was established in USA for propagating his humanistic philosophy. "Dev Centre for Philosophical Studies" was established in the Department of Philosophy of DU (1980) which publishes a Bengali journal called 'Darshan O Progati' and an English journal entitled 'Philosophy and Progress'. Awarded Ekushey Padak posthumously (1986). Donated all his property and money to DU to further the cause of human welfare. Born in village of Beani Bazar, Sylhet. Murdered by gunshot to head and chest by Pakistani forces on the night of 25 March 1971 in his campus quarter near Jagannath Hall. Adopted Muslim daughter Rokeya Sultana was beaten up and her husband Mohammad Ali was also killed. Dr. Dev died a bachelor. Buried in the mass grave at Jagannath Hall, DU.
  • ANM Muniruzzaman ()
  • Fazlur Rahman Khan (1939 - 1971) Senior Lecturer in Soil Science in Dhaka University (DU). Passed matriculation from Mohanganj High School (now Mohanganj Govt. Pilot High school, 1954) and Intermediate from AM College, Mymensingh (1958) and obtained first divisions in both exams. Achieved B. Sc (1960) and M.Sc (1962) in Soil Science from DU. Obtained Ph.D (1968) from Imperial College, London, UK, for his thesis on "A study on nutrient metabolism in soil at high moisture levels". Performed umrah in Makkah on his return to Dhaka. Joined Department of Soil Science in DU as lecturer (1963) and promoted to senior lecturer (1968). A silent but passionate teacher and a dedicated researcher. Participated in Bengali Language Movement as a student of class IX (9). Father Abdul Hakim Khan was a school teacher by profession. Lost mother during early childhood. Nursed by Aunty. Married Farida Khan in January 1969 - two years before being killed. Born at ancestral home of Mohanganj, Netrakona, Mymensingh Division. He was 31 years old when he was killed.
  • Jyotirmoy Guha Thakurta (1920 - 1971) Provost (a senior admin or head) of Jagannath Hall and renowned professor of English at Dhaka University. Member of the International Radical Humanist Association, the Dhaka Centre of the International Quakers Services, and the Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts Passed matriculation from Mymensingh Zila School (1936) and studied Intermediate Science at Presidency College in Kolkata for a year before an attack of typhoid prevented him from taking the final examination. Passed IA from Ananda Mohan College, Mymensingh (1939) and graduated in English from Dhaka University (1942) with first in first class - earning him the Pope Memorial Gold Medal. Completed MA in 1943 and taughte number of colleges from 1944 - 49, for example Ananda Mohan College (Mymensingh), Gurudayal College (Kishoreganj), and Jagannath College (Dhaka). Obtained PhD from King's College London, UK (1967) after gaining a British Council scholarship to do doctoral work on 'Classical Myths in the Plays of Swinburne, Bridges, Sturges, Moore and Eliot'. The dissertation was published by Dhaka University Press in 1973. Joined DU as lecturer in English in 1949 and promoted to a Reader in 1968. House Tutor of Jagannath Hall, DU, from 1958 - 63 and then a Provost from 20 April 1970. Participated in the annual meeting of the All-India Humanist Association in Dehra Dun (1951) and in a conference of the International Humanist and Ethical Union in the Hague (1964). Wrote a number of essays in English and Bangla. Composed and recited a poem for Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose whilst in eight grade in school. Parents Kumudchandra Guhathakurta and Srimati Sumati were both school teachers. Born in Mymensingh.
  • Anudaipayan Bhattacharja (-1971) Lecturer in Applied Physics (DU) Obtained M.Sc with first class Joined newly created Department of Applied Physics in 1968 and appointed assistant house tutor in Jagannath Hall From Sylhet
  • Abdul Muktadir (1940 - 1971) Lecturer in Geology at Dhaka University. Studied at Chakerbazar Government Primary school, then Silam Junior High School and completed matriculation from Raja GC High School, Sylhet (1956) and Intermediate from Sylhet Government College (1958). Obtained BSc (1960) and MSc (1962) degrees in Geology from Dhaka University. Achieved PhD in Hydrology from London University (1967) and received higher training in Hydrology under the technical assistance programme of the British government. Had intended to go to the United States for further research before being killed. Began career by joining the Water Development Board as a geologist and served there till 1964. Joined DU as lecturer in Geology in October 1964. Father Moulvi Abdul Jabbar was also a renowned social activist and founder-headmaster of Silam PL Junior High School. Born at village of Silam Pashchimpara, Sylhet sadar upazila. He was 31 years old when he was murdered. The museum in the Department of Geology at DU is named after him - 'Shahid Muktadir Jadughar'. Museum has a large collection of fossils, minerals, rocks, models, maps and charts, and is used as a teaching laboratory for Mineralogy, Crystallography, Petrology, Paleontology and Structural Geology courses. Government released postage stamps to commemorate martyred intellectuals, including Dr. Abdul Muktadir. A primary school, 'Dr. Muktadir Academy', was established in his village in his honour.
  • Mohammad Sadeque (1939 - 1971) Headmaster of University Laboratory High School, Dhaka. Born in Bhola. He was 32 years old when he was murdered.
  • Ataur Rahman Khan Khadim ()
  • Sharafat Ali (1943 - 1971) Lecturer in Mathematics, Dhaka University. Obtained B.Sc. (1966) and M.Sc (1967) in Mathematics. Appointed lecturer in 1968, and subsequently an assistant house tutor in Dhaka Hall (now Shahidullah Hall). Born in Comilla. He was 27 years old when he was killed.
  • Rafiqul Islam ()
  • Syed Ali Naki ()
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