Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rape of Bengal: Humanity's Darkest Hour

Photo: Potrait of Ahmed Makhdoon, a staunch Sindiyat nationalist, written on his mind, inscribed in his heart and injected into his soul

AHMED MAKHDOOM


ساٸين سسداٸين ڪرين مٿي سنڌ سڪار؍ دوست مٺا دلدار؍ عالم سڀ آباد ڪزين شاھ

ON 16TH December 1971 one of the most horrifying and horrendous, shameful and scandalous, disgraceful and dishonourable, ignominious and infamous act of cowardice and inhumanity came to an end after nine month long saga of chaos, genocide, arson and rape. It is on this day that the barbaric, savage and brutal Pakistan army - about 96,000 animals in uniform - surrendered in Dhaka to the Indian army. The preceding nine months of horror, tyranny and terror will go down in the history of mankind, without any doubt as its darkest hour.

And, I saw with my sinful eyes the rape of the daughters of Bengal and the massacre of the millions of innocent sons of Bengal take place right in my own front yard. And, I lived to tell the world what I saw!

Saturday, 7th November 2009, I was in London, where I attended a gathering – organised by Liberation Group at Irish Cultural Centre - gathering of the tortured, troubled, truncated, tormented and terrorised nations of the world–being brutally bludgeoned by the tyrants of the day. As a humble son of Jeejal Sindhrree, I was there, together with my evergreen warrior sister, Suraiya, and a young, proud dedicated Sindhi with a Sindhi cap, Saaeen Aachar Bozdar.

There were Palestinians, Iraqis, Kurds from Iraq and Turkey, Polisario from Morocco and Bengalees from Bangladesh. We were thoroughly entertained by a remarkable group of Turkish Kurds – with their traditional music and songs. There were speeches too by various nations screaming, sacrificing, striving, struggling g for freedom and human rights.

I, too, had an opportunity to present the case of my brutalised motherland, and fatherland, Sindh, savaged by the vultures, wolves and werewolves of the erstwhile, godless, gutless, senseless country known as Pakistan.

Although not much of a singer, I was so much impressed and inspired by an Irish gentleman and a young Kurdish girl and the lilting melodies of Turkish music band, that I had to come on the floor and dance and sing too in my course voice – I sang a song of Sindh, in sweet language of my motherland, "Peirein pawandee saan, chawandee saan, rahee vancju raat Bhambhore mein."

پيرين پوندي سان؍ چوندي سان؍ رھي وڃ رات ڀنڀور ۾؍

This prompted a middle-aged handsome Bengalee brother to come forward and embrace and hug me. He told me about Bangladesh and asked me where I was at the time Bengalees got their independence. Here is what I told him......

1964 – I joined Juldia Maritime Academy, Chittagong, on a two-year Maritime Studies Course. We were three Sindhis at that time – from 2nd and 3rd Batches of the Academy: Saaeen Altaf Shaikh, who later became a Chief Engineer and a well-known Sindhi travelogue writer, Saaeen Bashir Vistro, my ggothaaee ڳوٺاٸي (from nearby village in Sindh, where I spent my childhood), who later on became a Master Mariner and a senior officer in the Shipping Company in Karachi, and myself.

We had Bengali friends who used to regularly take us to their homes in Dacca, Chittagong, and elsewhere in the then East Pakistan and introduce us to their folks. We had a special relationship with these cultured, artistic-minded, literate, highly sober, astute and loveable Bengalis. In return, we Sindhis were adored, respected and pampered with love and gifts and treated as members of their families.

One of my best friend was a Bengali from Dacca, Nurul Amin. They were seven brothers and had a little sister whom they used to call “Champa,” a sweet, cherubic, angel-faced girl of twelve, with pony tails and a flower in her hair. What a talented little angel she was! She used to play piano – a must item in almost every Bengali’s home - and used to sing with such a sweet and graceful voice that we used to sit transfixed and mesmerised as we heard her play the rhythmic tones of piano and sing.

There was one particular song that I loved to listen over and over again, and she used to always oblige me and my constant demands (farmaaish) and requests. The song was:

“Shaat bhaaee champa, jago rei jago rei; ghuum ghuum thaakei na ghuumei ree ghorei.....”
شات ڀاٸي چمپا جاگو ري؍ جاگو ري؍ گھوم گھوم ٿاڪي نا گھومي ري ھوري؍

This song was about seven brothers and their little sister (just like her own family). Till this day I have not forgotten that cherubic pony-tailed face, and that golden voice and the sweet melodies of her song, “Shaat bahee champa....”

1971 - I was a young Navigating Officer on board a ship and we were in Chittagong, the premier port of the then East Pakistan, loading Jute for Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Suddenly, we heard the guns screaming all over the ship. My wonderful friend, a Bengali, Second Officer, and the Bengali crew were massacred by the brutal, cowards and animals in uniform of the Pakistani Punjabi Army. I survived as I hid myself for four days – without any food, without any water – in the Fore Peak store of the ship.

Bangladesh was born as I came out of my sanctuary. My Bengalee brethren helped me, fed me, took care of me and showered love, affections and kindness over me. They paid for my Air Passage to Singapore, where I was to start a new life, a new beginning, a new chapter in the not-so-long history of my life, far, far away from my motherland, my fatherland, Sindh.

Singapore became my homeland for over forty years since then – and my friends the Bengalees constructed a beautiful home, cottages, palaces in my heart, mind and soul, which I would cherish for as long as I live.

Back to 1971 - what I saw in Chittagong had left deep wounds on my heart and soul - wounds inflicted by the rapists, murderers, barbarian Pakistani soldiers, as I saw streets reddened by the blood of innocent Bengalees, young girls raped and brutally cut into pieces, infants snatched from the arms of their mothers and banged viciously in cold blood against the walls and tree trunks till only the tiny feet were left in the pitiless, merciless. Filthy hands of the barbarians and savages in uniform. The young mothers were than brutally gang-raped and subsequently dismembered, tortured and bludgeoned to death. What I saw was much, much and much more - even the animals will not do the same to their pray - I do not have any words to describe the way children, men and women were lynched by these barbarous, sadistic savages as they shouted, "Allah-o-Akbar."

I went to Dacca to meet my dear friend, Nurul Amin, and his family and especially to hear the song of Shaat Bhaaee Champa. What I heard and saw made me to scream at my Creator, “Why, Oh Lord, Why?” My dear friend was savagely murdered by the coward Pakistan Army and my sweet dear little twelve-year Champa was gang-raped by these animals, and was grabbed by these barbarians from her tiny legs and continuously hit on the walls of the house, till there were nothing but pieces of her flash and bones and blood all over.

Bengalees were now free – freedom that came at a great expense and tremendous sacrifices - free to take destiny in their own hands. JOEI BANGLA – amee tomakei bhalo bhashee.
جوٸي بنگلا؍ امي توماڪي ڀالو ڀاشي؍

I love you my brave, valiant brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in Bangladesh!. We Sindhis had loved you and will always love you, my dear Bengalees. Long Live Bangladesh! Long Live Sindh!

And, Murshid Saaeen Bhittai says:
جي مون گھر اچين سپرين٫ ھوڏَ ڇڏي ھيڏي٫ ڳالھيون ڳجھ اندر جيون٫ تنِ گھريون تو ڏي٫ جي وھين گڏ گوڏي٫ تَ دونر سڻاياٸن دل جا .........(سر بروو ۱؍۱۸)

Jei muun ghari acheen supreen, hodda chhaddei heiddei, Ggaalhiyuun ggujha andara jyuun, tani ghuriyuun to ddei, Jei wiheen gaddu goddei, ta donra sunnaayaeen dil jaa. (Barwo:1/18) Supposing, Beloved! Thou cometh hither, Leaving Thy Vanity far, far away yonder; Fabulous anecdotes aplenty hidden within, Lifting the veil surely with Thee whisper; Supposing, Beloved! Thou knelth together, Carols within heart, chant for Thine pleasure.
......... Translated by Ahmed Makhdoom


First published in Ahmed Makhdoom's Facebook, December 17, 2009

Dr. Ahmed Makhdoom, Professor, Oceanographic Sciences and Maritime Studies, Singapore, Malaysia