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Remembering the ‘genocide’ in Bangladesh

Painful memories: A display at the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, Kolkata, on ‘Genocide Day’.

Veteran broadcaster recalls the 1971 Liberation War

Veteran broadcaster Upen Tarafdar was seemingly perturbed from what he experienced before and during the Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971.

“Sometime in March of 1971, a Bangladeshi youth, somehow managed to cross over to India, and was waiting outside the Akashvani Bhavan in Kolkata to meet me,” Mr. Tarafdar paused.

He was known for his emotional coverage of the 1971 war, with Debdulal Bandyopadhyay, another veteran radio news anchor of the time.

“The young man brought a cassette with him which contained only scenes of fear…[of those] who were killed and tortured,” Mr. Tarfadar closes his eyes perhaps to visualise the man. “It was around the time we realised we have to play our role as newsmen,” he added.

He recollected another incident when a Bangladeshi youth was admitted to a hospital in Bangaon in North 24 Paraganas. “I rushed with my tape recorder [and] saw that the youth had severe bullet wounds. He pleaded with doctors to save his life as he wanted to go back to continue with his fight,” Mr. Tarafdar said from a makeshift stage, set up on the premises of the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission office in Kolkata.

The building near the seven-point crossing in Kolkata’s Park Circus itself has a rich history. It was the Pakistan’s Deputy High Commission at the time of Bangladesh’s independence. The then Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan, Hossain Ali, was posted in the building, which has an elegant mishmash of religious and Bengal’s typical bungalow-style architecture. Ali was the first government official to declare Bangladesh an independent country by lowering the Pakistan’s flag to replace it with Bangladesh’s, according to chroniclers of war time history. Ali later joined the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Bangladesh and was posted as a diplomat.

For the first time, along with Bangladesh, the Deputy High Commission in Kolkata observed March 25 as ‘Genocide Day.’

“On this fateful night in 1971, the Pakistani military junta launched ‘Operation Serachlight’ and killed thousands of people, including teachers, students, police EPR [formerly East Pakistan Rifles] members, and commoners at the dormitories of Dhaka University, Pilkhana, Rajarbagh Police Lines and other areas of Old Dhaka,” a Deputy High Commission release said.

Photo exhibition

About 50 photographs by Bangladeshi, Indian and international lensmen, with newspaper clippings, depicting military actions and its impact on the people through summer to winter of 1971, were exhibited at the programme.


(c) 2017 The Hindu Editorial

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