Tag Archives: massacre

Video: Village Massacre

ABC News (11/30/1971): Village Massacre

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Video of the aftermath of a massacre in a village near Dhaka. 75 villagers – men, women, children – were killed by the Pakistani army. Many bodies were burned, women were raped, and babies were bayoneted before the village was burned.

As the Pakistan army started to lose its grip on Bangladesh in late November of 1971, more and more foreign reporters started to venture into the country. As reporters began to enter villages and towns in Bangladesh, they discovered the aftermath of the massacres by the Pakistan army. The full extent of the genocide began to emerge in the following months.

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Pakistan:Round 1 to the West

TIME April 12, 1971; pp. 23-24

THERE is Do doubt,” said a foreign diplomat in East Pakistan last week,” ‘that the word massacre applies to the situation.” Said another Western official: “It’s a veritable bloodbath. The troops have been utterly merciless.”

As Round 1 of Pakistan’s bitter civil war ended last week, the winner-predictably-was the tough West Pakistan army, which has a powerful force of 80,000 Punjabi and Pathan soldiers on duty in rebellious East Pakistan. Reports coming out of the East (via diplomats, frightened refugees and clandestine broadcasts) varied wildly. Estimates of the total dead ran as high as 300,000. A figure of 10,000 to 15,000 is accepted by several Western governments, but no one can be sure of anything except that untold thousands perished.

Mass Graves. Opposed only by bands of Bengali peasants armed with stones and bamboo sticks, tanks rolled through Dacca, the East’s capital, blowing houses to bits. At the university, soldiers slaughtered students inside the British Council building. ..It was like Genghis Khan,’ said a shocked Western official who witnessed the scene. Near Dacca’s marketplace, Urdu-speaking government soldiers ordered Bengali-speaking towns-people to surrender, then gunned them down when they failed to comply. Bodies lay in mass graves at the university, in the Old City, and near the municipal dump.

During rebel attacks on Chittagong, Pakistani naval vessels shelled the port, setting fire to harbor installations. At Jessore, in the southwest, angry Bengalis were said to have hacked alleged government spies to death with staves and spears. Journalists at the Petrapole checkpoint on the Indian border found five bodies and a human head near the frontier post-the remains, apparently, of a group of West Pakistanis who had tried to escape. At week’s end there were reports that East Bengali rebels were maintaining a precarious hold on Jessore and perhaps Chittagong. But in Dacca and most other cities, the rebels had been routed.

The army’s quick victory, however, did not mean that the 58 million West Pakistanis could go on dominating the 78 million Bengalis of East Pakistan indefinitely. The second round may well be a different story. It could be fought out In paddies and jungles and along river banks for months or even years.

Completing the Rupture. The civil war erupted as a result of a victory that was too sweeping, a mandate that was too strong. Four months ago, Pakistan’s President, Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, held elections for a constituent assembly to end twelve years of martial law. Though he is a Pathan from the West. Yahya was determined to be fair to the Bengalis. He assigned a majority of the assembly seats to Pakistan’s more populous eastern wing, which has been separated from the West by 1,000 miles of India since the partitioning of the subcontinent in 1947.

To everyone’s astonishment, Sheik Mujibur Rahmari and his Awami League won 167 of the 169 seats assigned to the Bengalis, a clear majority in the 313 seat assembly. “I do not want to break Pakistan,” Mujib told TIME shortly before the final rupture two weeks ago. “But we Bengalis must have autonomy so that we are not treated like a colony of the western wing.” Yahya resisted Mujib’s demands for regional autonomy and a withdrawal of troops. Mujib responded by insisting on an immediate end to martial law. Soon the break was complete. Reportedly seized in his Dacca residence at the outset of fighting and flown to West Pakistan, Mujib will probably be tried for treason.

All Normal. West Pakistanis have been told little about the fighting. ALL NORMAL IN EAST was a typical newspaper headline in Karachi last week. Still, they seemed solidly behind Yahya’s tough stand. “We can’t have our flag defiled, our soldiers spat at, our nationality brought into disrepute,” said Pakistan Government Information Chief Khalid Ali. “Mujib in the end had no love of Pakistan.”

Aware that many foreigners were sympathetic to the Bengalis, Yahya permitted the official news agency to indulge in an orgy of paranoia. “Western press reports prove that a deep conspiracy has been hatched by the Indo-Israeli axis against the integrity of Pakistan and the Islamic basis of her ideology,” said the agency.

The Indian government did in fact contribute to the Pakistanis’ anxiety. Although New Delhi denied that India was supplying arms to the Bengali rebels, the Indian Parliament passed a unanimous resolution denouncing the “carnage” in East Pakistan. India’s enthusiasm is hardly surprising, in view of its longstanding feud with the West Pakistanis and the brief but bloody war of 1965 over Kashmir. But Western governments urged New Delhi to restrain itself so as not to provoke West pakistan into making an impulsive response.

Hit and Run. For the time being, West Pakistan’s army can probably maintain its hold on Dacca and the other cities of the East. But it can hardly hope to control 55,000 sq. mi. of countryside and a hostile population indefinitely. The kind of Bengali terrorism that forced the British raj to move the capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911 may well manifest itself again in a growing war of hit-and-run sabotage and arson. In modern times, the East Bengalis have been best known to foreigners as mild-mannered peasants, clerks and shopkeepers, perhaps the least martial people on the subcontinent. But in their support of Bangla Desh (Bengal State), they have displayed a fighting spirit that could spell lasting turmoil for those who want Pakistan to remain united. As Mujib often asked his followers rhetorically: “Can bullets suppress 78 million people?”

Pakistan: Reign of Terror

Newsweek April 19, 1971; p. 52-54

Blealy-eyed from lack of sleep and emotionally drained by what they called their “ten days of terror,” hundreds of Americans who had been trapped in war-ravaged East Pakistan finally got out to safety last week. Nearly 500 of them were evacuated by air from the East Pakistani capital of Dacca. Another 119 foreign nationals, including 37 Americans, were brought out by a British freighter from the battered East Pakistani port city of Chittagong. Most of them begged off from interviews, fearful that anything they said might endanger some 200 Americans-consular officials, businessmen and missionaries-who chose to remain behind in East Pakistan. But a few, unable to contain their outrage at the wanton slaughter they had witnessed, talked guardedly to newsmen. And their harrowing accounts tended to confirm earlier reports of savage repressions by the Punjabi-Ied Pakistani Army in its attempt to stamp out the Bengali rebellion in East Pakistan.

The Americans evacuated from Chittagong told NEWSWEEK’S Tony Clifton that the bitter fighting there had reduced East Pakistan’s largest port to a ghost town. “In the first few days,” recalled Neil O’Toole, a New Yorker working for a private charitable organization, “I actually saw Awami League people [supporters of Bengali nationalist leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] patrolling the streets with bows and arrows, and I wondered how they could possibly hold off the army with things like that.” Four days later, the reinforced Pakistani Army gained full control of the city and launched a reign of terror. “Some Punjabi soldiers called a kid over and hit him around the head and in the groin and then forced him to his knees,” said Fritz Blankenship, a crane operator who had been employed by an American construction firm. “The kid was crying, begging and the soldiers just watched him for a minute.” Finally, according to Blankenship, “they just shot him out of hand and walked on.”

A similar wave of atrocities was reported by the Americans who had been in Dacca. As soon as the curfew was lifted, they said, at least a half-dozen Americans were met by nearly hysterical Bengali friends who told of a massacre at Dacca University. When three young Americans agreed to investigate the story, they found a staircase in a faculty building splattered with the bloodshed when five teachers were dragged out and coldly mowed down by gunfire. Still more shattering was the experience of Victor Chen, who had been visiting Dacca as a tourist when the war broke out and was led by a group of excited Bengalis to a shantytown set in the middle of Dacca’s sprawling racetrack. “The houses were burned down, and some were still smoldering,” he told NEWSWEEK’S Milan J. Kubic. “Literally dozens of dead bodies were strewn all over the place, many of them small kids, all of them riddled by bullets.” And another young American said in obvious disgust: “We just don’t see why the U.S. should go on supporting a regime that behaves in this fashion.”

Cautious: Indeed, Washington’s policy of calculated ambiguity on Pakistan has left the U.S. open to charges that official silence is tantamount to support for the martial-Iaw regime of President Mohammed Yahya Khan. Even touchier was the charge that U .S.-supplied Patton and Sabre jets were being used Pakistani Army to slaughter Bengalis. But State Department officials argued that the unsettled circumstances dictated a cautious policy. They also pointed out that no American weapons have been Delivered to the Pakistani Army since 1965. And last week, the department’s spokesman, Charles Bray 3rd, expressed “sympathy” to the “victims” and hoped that “it will be possible soon to alleviate the suffering caused by recent events” in East Pakistan. Though U .S. officials denied any implications beyond humanitarian concern, Bray’s use of the word “victims..struck some Pakistani Government officials as a slap at the Yahya Khan regime, which has never conceded that there was much suffering going on in East Pakistan.

Washington, of course, was hardly alone in this dilemma. Both the Soviet Union and Communist China, the principal purveyors of arms to Pakistan since 1965, have only begun to choose their rhetorical stance-with Moscow urging Yahya to find a way to end the fighting and Peking edging toward Yahya’s side. But by far the most difficult position was that facing the government of India, where popular sentiments remained overwhelmingly pro-Bengali and where pressures mounted for direct action. “It is neither proper nor possible for India to keep quiet [over the Pakistani situation),” said Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The watch-and-wait policy assumed by most foreign governments stemmed from a widely held belief that the Pakistani Army will ultimately fail in its attempt to subjugate 75 million East Pakistanis. Still, fears increased that the army was fully prepared to wreak bloody havoc even in a futile try. An American businessman who was evacuated from Dacca last week recalled asking a Punjabi major why the army was killing so many people. “There are millions of them, and only thousands of us,” the major replied. “The only way we can control these people is by making them scared stiff.” And from what he saw, the American said, “it looked as if the army went berserk. I can’t help feeling sorry about the poor Bengalis in that hell.”