Saturday, December 16, 2006

Remembering Some Non-Martyrs of 1971


This is to narrate some memories of June, 1971.

In 1971, I was an SSC candidate, who could not appear at the examination that was supposed to have taken place in the month of April. Of course, the examination could not happen due to the beginning of the struggle of Bangladesh to get out of the Pakistani military brutality in the land.

My high school was called Gimadanga Tungipara High School, named after two villages near my maternal uncles’ home. I used to stay at my uncles’ home at a village called Baladanga, one of three villages named after the Bala clan. Baladanga was also called Tungipara by many, as it was a little village next to Tungipara, just across the river Baghiar.

I was born in a village about 4 miles from Tungipara. It is called Dumaria. It is on the bank of the river Shailadaha. At the west end of my village, the Baghiar and the Shailadaha merge, and with in just a mile, the combined flow meets the river Madhumati.

In June, 1971, I was at my maternal uncles’ home when the Pakistani military came in their gun-boats from the Madhumati. They went north-east on the Shailadaha toward Kotalipara, and north-west on the Baghiar toward Tungipara. The whole area was, and still is, inhabited mostly by Hindus. The brute forces of Pakistan used what I now think were flame-throwers to burn all the Hindu villages along the river.

From my uncles’ home in Baladanga, we fled into the swamp area away from the river bank. We could see village after village burning on both banks of the rivers. Most people from all the villages fled into the swamp areas away from the rivers. The military men stayed mostly in their gun-boats, firing flames at houses and bullets at people that they could see. On some higher grounds on the banks of the rivers they disembarked, and looked for people to kill.

My primary school teacher, Mr. Narayan Chandra Biswas, fled from the village and took shelter in a little island house in the swamp area. The military men spotted him from their gun-boat and fired their guns. Mr. Biswas was a direct hit. He died on the spot, with little or no last minute touch of love from his near and dear ones.

Mr. Biswas was our Bangla teacher. He was particular about the children reading and writing Bangla words and sentences correctly. He would not allow his students to talk like the average illiterate person; our pronunciations had to be correct. His perfectionist teaching of the language was behind the future academic excellences of many of his students.

I do not call Mr. Biswas a martyr. He did not even shout a slogan against the Pakistani ruling class, let alone fighting with arms and ammunitions. He was a regular good and honourable person, and an extraordinary teacher. He did not intend to give his life for anything like the creation of Bangladesh. He just wanted to live as an innocent person in his motherland. Of course, the Pakistani military killed him because he was born in a Hindu family, and because like most other people he did not give up his inherited religion to convert to a Muslim.

On that day of July 1971, several men of the Pakistani military disembarked at our big family compound; our house was known as the Baro Bain Bari (the big Bain house). Two of my aunts, about sixty years old, were hiding in the jute field. The military men spotted them. These ladies were a bit more religious, Krishna devotees. They were quite frail. They had pictures of Krishna with them. The military men came near them, and asked something in Urdu, which neither them nor the other hiding people that could hear them understood. But the ladies just showed the brutes the pictures of Krishna, and told them something like “we are poor innocent people, we do not know anything about politics, we just spend our time praying to this lord of ours.” They were shot point blank.

These ladies were by no means martyrs. They were just absolutely innocent people with no sense of politics. They certainly had no hatred towards anyone, including the Pakistani brutes. They were victims of hatred in the minds of the Pakistani Islamic fanatic political and military forces.

The Pakistani military burned all the Hindu dwellings that they could handle on that day. They came the next day to do some more of the same. The targets of their hatred were people who were by no means political activists. Those people were regular hardworking innocent peasants, making a simple living in their homeland, with no hatred against any class of people in the world, including the Pakistanis.

In the two days, the only Muslim house that was burned was Sheikh Mujib’s rural home in Tungipara, no other house in that or any other Muslim village.

At the Sheikh residence, they ordered the parents of Mujib to get out of the house. They were rude to the elderly Sheikh couple. Their rudeness was protested by a man, who was actually an uncle of Mujib. He was a lower-class Sheikh, a child of a big Sheikh and his maid. His protests against the mistreatment of the Mujib-parents earned him a terrible and torturous death in the hands of the Pakistani beasts.

May be, this man deserved to be called a martyr.

The people and the ruling class of Bangladesh have proven to be without much sense of honour. Martyrs or not, the people of East Bengal that were killed, raped and tortured by the Pakistani military were our people. The cause of their victimization was nothing but hated against us from a hate-mongering feudal and military ruling class. If we forget them, if we do not care about justice for them, if we do not care about punishing the criminals, we are really dishonouring ourselves. Unfortunately, over the last thirty five years, we have been doing just that, dishonouring ourselves. #

Sukhamaya Bain lives in United States and writes on contemporary politics of Bangladesh