Kaliganj massacre: Witnesses narrate the harrowing tale | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 28, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 28, 2021

Kaliganj massacre: Witnesses narrate the harrowing tale

It was a sunny morning on April 27, 1971 when another tragic chapter of brutality of Pakistani occupational force was written in a remote village of Nilphamari.

Over 200 Bangladeshi people were assassinated, many women were captured and some were buried alive simultaneously.

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Even, infants were not spared.

The ruthless Pakistanis snatched some infants from their mothers' laps. Then they threw the babies high in air and caught again.

"Finally, Pakistani soldiers dashed the babies on earth and killed them," said Dilip Kumar Biswas, who luckily could escape the assassination.

Dilip, 66, a resident of Balagram village under Jaldhakaupazila was talking to the correspondent recently.

Recalling the day, he said around 700 to 800 people of Balagram, Bottoli, Chawradangi, Salon gram and other adjacent villages under Jaldhakaupazila were heading towards Dangar Hat, a bordering point between Bangladesh and India.

"I was 16 at that time. I along with my other family members was walking with the group to cross the border," said Dilip, adding, "Suddenly, we saw a convoy of seven vehicles of Pakistani army standing in front of us."

Captain Allah Rakkha Khan, in charge of the then Nilphamari college army camp, led the convoy.

Pakistani soldiers divided Bangalis into three groups. The first group comprised of young people. The second group was formed with elderly persons.  The last group was of women and children.

The first group was forced to sit near Kaliganj Bazar, the second group was taken to the slope of nearby WAPDA canal and third group of women and children was forced to sit aside.

Rolling on wheels slowly, 2 armoured vehicles took position targeting the first and second groups. Then, Pakistani force started brushfire on both the groups.

"Those, who tried to flee, were shot for multiple times," said Dilip.

Such brutalities went on for around one hour. Then, Pakistani soldiers picked girls and women on their vehicles and left scene.

Around five to six hours later, around 30-40 men led by local Muslim League leader Monwar Hossain Chowdhury and police from JaldhakaPolice Station reached the spot to bury the bodies.

"There were some people who did not die, but was in critical condition due to gunshot. The Razakars hit on the heads of these alive persons with spades used to dig the grave and later buried them alive," he said.

Dilip sustained bullet injury at leg and waist and made a desperate run to save life. Pakistani soldiers opened fire on him and but the bullets missed him.

"I started running desperately and kept running for around 2 hours. Then, I reached Shaldhanga village in Dimlaupazila and took shelter at a house," he said.

"After taking primary treatment, I started walking. Despite being seriously ill, I walked throughout the whole night and crossed border and reached Shamila Bass village in Kunchbihar district of West Bengal in India," said Dilip.

He found more than 100 wounded men of his area who managed to enter Indian territory through different routes and were taken to Dewanganj refugee camp.

Dilip narrated the heart-rending tragedy to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and foreign journalists when they came to visit the camp in mid '71.

"Five of my family members were assassinated on that day," said Dilip.

Another eye witness Pallab Shill, 54, who now works at a barbershop in Jaldhaka bazaar said, "My father Srikanta Shill was bullet-hit and was lying on the ground but when he was being buried alive, tried to draw attention by raising a hand from the grave but he was hit on his head with spade to confirm his death."  

On that day, war criminal Kazi Abdul Kader, who was a leader in all Pakistan Muslim League, tipped-off the Pakistani forces that the group of Bangalis was trying to flee the country.

In the general election of 1970, he was defeated by Awami League contestant. He and his men blamed the Hindus for his defeat and became furious to take revenge. He played the key role to kill the minorities during the liberation war, alleged the survivors.

After independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman sent letter of condolence and Tk 2000 to each martyred family.

"This is all. None took care of the martyred families after the death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. On the other hand, Razakars and collaborators joined different political parties after independence, obtained high position and accumulated wealth," said saidKhukiBala, 70, wife of martyred Shiben Chandra Roy.

Rajlaxmi Rani (52), daughter of martyred Shiben Chandra Roy said in an emotion-choked voice, "My father sacrificed his life for the country. Our family became helpless after my father's demise. Even, I could not continue my study."

"But we did not get any facility from the state. Now people around us show such attitude that father made supreme sacrifice for our familial issue. Such attitude hurt us very much. But the reality is that my father sacrificed his life for the country," she added.

The incident of Kaliganj genocide was described in different books written by historians and researchers.

After liberation war, local youths built a memorial on the killing ground by their own expenses to commemorate the martyrs. Later in 2020, the government constructed a concrete memorial inscribing names of 78 martyrs.

But the list is incomplete. The authorities should talk to the eye witnesses to prepare a complete list of martyrs on that day, said Dilip Kumar Biswas, BabuRuhinimohon Adhikari and Amar Krishna, who witnessed the egregious notoriety.

Contacted, freedom fighter Abdul Gaffar, 72, an Academic Council member of Rajshahi University and also the campaigner for raising awareness to identify and preserve killing grounds and mass graves across the country, said "Authority should undertake intensive investigation to prepare complete list of martyrs."

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