The Maulvi's Story

by Rounaq Jahan

in Samuel Totten, et al.
Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views
New York: Garland Publishing, 1997
Chapter 10, pp. 291-316

This testimony appears in Arnica Malik's The Year of the Vulture, pp. 102-104.

On April 19, 1971, about 35 soldiers came to our village in a launch at about 8 A.M. A couple of days earlier, I had asked the Sheikh's father and mother to leave the village, but they refused. They said. "This is our home and we shall not go away." Soon after I heard the sound of the launch, a soldier came running and said, "Here Maulvi, stop, in which house are the father and mother of the Sheikh?" So first I brought out his father. We placed a chair for him but they made him sit on the ground. Then Sheikh Sahib's amma [mother] was brought out. She took hold of my hand and I made her sit on the chair. The soldiers then held a sten-gun against the back of the Sheikh's abba [father] and a rifle against mine. "We will kill you in 10 minutes," said a soldier looking at his watch.

Then they picked up a diary from the Sheikh's house and some medicine bottles and asked me for the keys of the house. I gave them the bunch of keys but they were so rough in trying to open the locks that the keys would not turn. So they kicked open the trunks. There was nothing much inside except five teaspoons, which they took. They saw a framed photograph and asked me whose it was. When I said it was Sheikh Sahib's, they took it down. I tried to get up at this stage but they hit me with their rifle butts and I fell down against the chair. Finally, they picked up a very old suitcase and a small wooden box and made a servant carry them to the launch.

Then they dragged me up to where the Sheikh's father was sitting and repeated, "We shall shoot you in 10 minutes." Pointing to the Sheikh's father, I asked: "What's the point of shooting him? He's an old man and a government pensioner." The soldiers replied, "Is lire, keonki wohne shaitan paida kira hai" ["Because he has produced a devil."]. "Why shoot me, the imam of the mosque?" I asked. �Aap kiska imam hai? Aap vote dehtehain" ["What sort of an imam are you? You vote."], they replied. I said: "The party was not banned, we were allowed to vote for it. We are not leaders, we are janasadharan [the masses]. Why don't you ask the leaders?" The captain intervened to say that eight minutes were over and we would be shot in another two minutes. Just then a major came running from the launch and said we were to be let alone and not shot.

I immediately went towards the masjid (mosque) and saw about 50 villagers inside. Three boys had already been dragged out and shot. The soldiers asked me about a boy who, I said, was a krishak (cultivator). They looked at the mud on his legs and hands and let him go. Khan Sahib, the Sheikh's uncle, had a boy servant called Ershad. They asked me about him. I said he was a servant. But a Razakar maulvi, who had come with them from another village, said he was the Sheikh's relative, which was a lie. The boy Ershad was taken to the lineup. He asked for water but it was refused.

Another young boy had come from Dacca, where he was employed in a mill, to enquire about his father. He produced his identity card but they shot him all the same. They shot Ershad right in front of his mother. Ershad moved a little after falling down so they shot him again. Finally, the boy who had carried the boxes to the launch was shot. With the three shot earlier, a total of six innocent boys were shot by the Pakistani army without any provocation. They were all good-looking and therefore suspected to be relatives of the Sheikh.

After this, the Sheikh's father and mother were brought out of the house. Amma was almost fainting. And the house was set on fire and burnt down in front of our eyes until all that remained was the frame of the doorway which you can still see. Altonissa, the lady with the blood- stained clothes of her son, is the mother of Torab Yad Ali who was shot. They did not allow her to remove her son's body for burial, because they wanted the bodies to be exposed to public view to terrorize the villagers. They also shot Mithu, the 10-year old son of this widowed lady. She had brought him up with the greatest difficulty-they never had anything to eat except saag-bhaat (spinach and rice). They shot little Mithu because he had helped the Mukti Bahini. You can now ask the ladies about their narrow escape.

Shaheeda Sheikh, Sheikh Mujib's niece, then added that fortunately all the women were taken away to safety across the river to a neighbouring village three days before the Pakistani soldiers came. For months they had lived in constant terror of Razakars pouncing on them from bushes by the village pond. Beli Begum, Mujib's niece, a strikingly lovely woman, told me how she had fled from the village when seven months pregnant and walked 25 miles to safety. Pari, a girl cousin, escaped with a temperature of 104 degrees. Otherwise they would all have been killed.

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Collected from Eyewitness Accounts: Genocide in Bangladesh

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