Pakistani Army Desecrated Churches in 1971

They even desecrated the church

They even desecrated the church

- Jerome D’Costa

I had written the above report in early 1972 narrating the attack of the West Pakistani soldiers in late November of 1971 on our Rangamatia Village in the then Dhaka District (now Gazipur District). Fourteen persons, including my father Dr. Peter D’Costa, B.H., were killed on that day and about 90% of the houses of the village were set on fire and burnt down by the enemy.

Later they also returned and entered the Rangamatia Catholic church compound and desecrated and looted the Sacred Heart Church and pillaged the adjoining parish priest’s house and the nuns’ convent after breaking their locks.

During the deadly crackdown of March 25, 1971 night, the West Pakistani forces also fired indiscriminately in old Dhaka hitting St. Thomas Anglican Church’s belfry with a canon shell. The shell and bullet marks on the front wall were visible for sometime after that infamous day.

West Pakistani soldiers also had forcibly occupied a Protestant church at Akhaura in Brahmanbaria District and turned it into a war prison where captured Bangalis were tortured. Indian photojournalist Robin Sengupta, who covered the war between India and East Pakistan in December, 1971, gave a photo of that church in his April 2000 book (page 57) in Bengali Chitra-Shangbadiker Cameraye Muktijuddha (The Liberation War Through the Lens of a Photojournalist).

The Original Report on Attack on Rangamatia Village

Since the double-clicking of the above image does not give good enough enlarged version of the report for easy reading, I am reproducing below the report that had appeared in The Nation, the first English daily from the free soil of Bangladesh, dated February 4, 1972 (I took the liberty to add some commas, add meanings or explanations in the first bracket for easy understanding of present-day readers, and break a few longer paragraphs into shorter ones):

They Even Desecrated the Church
By Jerome D’Costa

It was black Friday, November 26, 1971. On that fateful day, the blood-thirsty army men of General Yahya had let loose a reign of terror in the village of Rangamatia, three miles north-west of Kaliganj in the district of Dacca [now written as 'Dhaka'].

The killers of the Bengalees [Bangalis] reached Doripara, which was between Arikhola and Pubail railway stations, where earlier the railway line was destroyed by the Mukti Bahini [freedom fighters] in cooperation with the villagers, and began to barrage the village of Rangamatia with rifle and submachine gun shots in order to make further advance.

When the army men began to wade the beel [marsh] through knee-deep water, a few Mukti Bahini boys, who were guarding the village, fired at them and wounded three invaders. As the fighting young men were outnumbered by the invaders, they could not defend the village as was expected earlier. The hordes of Yahya entered the village with all the fury and set fire to the whole Christian village and machine-gunned fourteen villagers of all ages.

Rev. Father Houser, C.S.C., an American priest residing in the Mission, along with the Sisters from the convent had to take refuge in a paddy field in order to save themselves from the gruesome barbarity of the Pak forces.

Later the aggressors pitched a camp near the damaged railway bridge [half-a-mile away]. When the priest used to go to visit his people in the far-flung villages, where they had fled earlier, the army men would come to the church compound and loot the valuables. They broke open the priest’s house and took away everything worthwhile and made a mess of the church records and files. For safety’s sake earlier, many Christians had kept their valuables in the priest’s house. All of them had been stolen.

They forcibly opened the church door and broke the tabernacle on the altar, which is considered most holy by the Christians, and took away all the holy articles used in the religious ceremonies. One large statue of Christ, which was kept above the altar, was thrown down from there and broken into pieces. They also looted the nuns’ convent.

This way, the homiciders gave vent to their anger which was caused by the heroic Mukti Bahini, when a few days ago, they had killed 30 Pakistani soldiers and gained control of and flew Bangladesh flag on Kaliganj. The army tried in various ways to recapture this vital place but failed. They even used a tank to crush our valiant young men but could not succeed. As a last resort, they airraided Kaliganj, heinously attacked Rangamatia and regained control of the area after much effort.

The brave and ever hopeful people, who lost their houses and some members of their families, did not despair at all. Their will power had hardened like steel and they were ready to make any sacrifice for the independence of Bangladesh which came into reality a few days later [on December 16, 1971].

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