Demra massacre: How far is the state recognition of the martyrs? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 17, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:44 AM, May 17, 2021

Demra massacre: How far is the state recognition of the martyrs?

It was May 14 in 1971, when residents of Demra village and traders of Demrahaat (one of the leading rural markets during that time) were closing their daily works in the evening, suddenly Pakistani occupation troops cordoned off Demra and adjoining villages Rupshi and Baushgari in Pabna and started firing on unarmed villagers.

Demra, a remote Hindu majority village, during liberation war where many people from different areas came for taking shelter, but occupation army along with their local collaborators launched a brutal attack on the villages killing unarmed people, pillaging their houses and then burning them down.

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More than 800 people including over 300 Hindus were massacred in the attack. However, there has been no state recognition of the martyrs till now.

"The occupation army killed my elderly father Monindranath Nandi in front of my eyes. I managed to save my life climbing up a tree but my old father could not flee from the troops," said Ratan Kumar Nandi of Demra village adding that most of the Hindu houses came under attack on the day.

"The occupation army set fire to the house of Roy family (exact name of victims could not be confirmed). Two brothers were burnt alive in the house as the occupation troops set fire keeping them in the house." Ratan, also an eye witness to the incident, said.

Many people took shelter at the Roy family, an elite Hindu family, but none of the family survived after the massacre, Md Shah Alam, a resident of Demra village, said.

"Demra has turned into a graveyard as the mortal remains were strewn everywhere in Demra during the massacre. There is hardly any house in the village which was not subjected to bullets, arson attacks or pillage on that day." Shah Alam, also said.

"My father Jagadish Kundu, a cloth trader at Demra haat during that time, was a well-established businessman in the village. When the Pak army started attacking the Hindus, my father and my uncle Jatish Kundu went to resist them while I along with my family members was running for a safe shelter." Ashok Kundu, son of Jagadish, said.

"When I was moving along with my mother my younger brother found the body of my father lying near the Baushgari road. After returning home, I found nothing. Our house was ravaged by the arson attack by the Pak army," Ashok also said.

"Overwhelmed with the loss, we were hiding inside a canal in Rupshi area, suddenly we heard the sound of a baby crying. After sometime, we discovered my cousin crying by the side of the dead body of my uncle," he went on saying.

"My uncle Jotish could manage to save life of his baby but he was shot dead. We could not arrange funeral for my father and uncle, they were buried in the mass killing spot in Rupshi-Baushgari along with several hundred martyrs." Ashok said.

Ashok Kundu, however, said the country is observing 50-year anniversary of independence but the martyr families have been waiting for the recognition of the martyrs till now.

"We have lost my father, my uncle, our business, house everything, the rich families were reduced to beggars. My father and uncle who sacrificed their lives in the massacre are yet to be recognise as martyrs," Ashok said demanding the state recognition of the martyrs of Demra.

My father Khorshed Prang, uncle Khobir Prang, cousin Eusuf Ali embraced martyrdom in the massacre, they were buried in a day after the massacre, said Abdul Hai, of village DemraChorpara.

A memorial was built in the mass graveyard in 2009 where over three hundred people were buried while a monument was built in Demra bus stand area for commemorating the martyrs, the permanent memorial is under construction in the Demra area, he said, adding that till the martyrs of the massacre could not be recognised.

"We, the family members know the names of three martyrs in our family. For the last 50 years, we have been struggling to get their recognition as martyrs, till their names are yet to be enrolled in the list of martyrs." Abdul Hai added.

"Like my family members most of the martyrs are going to be faded from the memory of the people with the passage of time so the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the nation must be recognized," he demanded.

Kabir Mahamud, deputy commissioner of Pabna, however, said the memorials have been built here to preserve the memory of the massacre but the enrollment of the martyrs in the list depends on the proper study of the incident.

"Due to the lack of detailed study of the massacre, names of most of the martyrs are yet to be available. If a proper study is carried out and the details about the martyrs can be known, it will be easier to enroll their names into martyr's list," the DC said.

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