‘Like a morning after a nuclear attack’
A World Bank team that visited different areas of war-torn Bangladesh in June 1971 likened Kushtia to a bombed-out "WWII German town".
Shocked by the atrocities committed by the Pakistani military, the team during their short visit found people there "dazed" and "terrified".
The team visited Jashore, Khulna, Chalna and Kushtia from June 3 to 6 in 1971 and depicted the devastation and atrocities by the Pakistani army in a report.
On April 15, some 20 days after the genocide in Dhaka, the Pakistani army moved into Kushtia from Jhenaidah.
The team, which roamed Kushtia for one and a half hours, in its report noted the utter devastation of the town. After overcoming the "strong resistance" from the freedom fighters in the early days, the army's punitive action devastated the town, it said.
"It was like the morning after a nuclear attack," said Hendrik Van der Heijden, a member of the team and an economist at the World Bank posted in Pakistan, said after visiting Kushtia.
"It lasted 12 days and left Kushtia virtually deserted and destroyed", he said.
The military brutality reduced the population in Kushtia town to 5,000 from 40,000. The report said ninety percent of the houses, shops, banks and other buildings were destroyed.
"The city looked like a WWII German town having undergone strategic bombing attacks. People were sitting around dazed," it said.
"I asked them [officials of Pakistan] to show me a shop where food was being sold. … It was impossible to find one. Kushtia, as someone told me, is the Mỹ Lai of the West Pakistan Army," Hendrik said referring to the infamous massacre in the Vietnam War.
On March 16, 1968, American soldiers indiscriminately slaughtered more than 500 civilians, including young girls and women, in a Vietnamese village called Mỹ Lai.