Journey Through Bangladesh
Martyrs Without Names
Over 900 had given up their lives for the freedom of our nation in the Demra massacre in 13 May, 1971. These
sons of this soil lie unidentified, while we celebrate our freedom at the cost of their blood. They have sacrificed
their lives for the greatest cause Bangladesh has ever seen.
Ahmed Humayun Kabir Topu
Most of the mass graves in and around Pabna lie in ruins, and remain uncared for over the last four decades. About only 40 to 50 such mass burial spots have been identified so far in the past forty years. Even after four decades of independence, these sacrifices remain unaccounted for.
The Demra massacre was by far the largest genocide in one location that took place during the War of Liberation of 1971. It was late in the night of 13 May that the sons of the Hindu village were dragged out of their houses and made to stand in a line to witness the rape of their mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives by the Pakistani Occupation Army with help from local collaborators. They were then all shot to death while their houses were put on fire. The surviving villagers interred over 900 bodies in the following morning in one single grave. A memorial has been built near the site very recently.
Of the neglected burial sites, the one in Satbaria village under Sujanagar Upazila allegedly contains over 400 bodies. Till date, the actual date of the massacre carried out by the Pakistani army and the Razakaars is yet to be identified. The mass grave lies in ruins.
Shahidnagar, on the other hand, has erected a memorial to immortalize the several hundred who were brutally killed on 19 April 1971 by the occupation forces in the then Dabbagan village in the Santhia Upazila. Here's the irony: Shahidnagar literally translates to 'City of Martyrs'; but the memorial is uncared for and has fallen to severe wear and tear over the years. Is this really how we honor our dead — even more so those who sacrificed everything for the independence of the nation?
It was another night on 22 May 1971 when a force of 200 armed men from the Pakistan Army along with Razakaars raided and looted the Hadal village of the Faridpur district. Over 70 houses were set aflame, the women raped, and 156 men killed in one night. There is yet to be any sort of memorial for these martyrs to be erected at the site.
Have we taken our independence for granted? Over 27 were martyred on 27 November 1971, in the Dhulauri Massacre. Where it should have been an initiative on the part of the authorities to have built a memorial, villagers out of their own effort had built a beam, just a few years back, to represent a Shahid Minar for the 27 fallen heroes.
Sadly, this other story of at least 50 killed in Nazipur village of the Sadar Upazila during the war have yet to see any initiatives taken by the authorities on building any sort of memorial here, even after constant demands by locals and villagers alike. Similarly, the Handial mass graveyard of the Chatmohar Upazila of over 200 martyrs remains totally abandoned. What strikes to be even more depressing are the facts that: first, establishment of the Atghoria Bangshipara Mass Grave Monument was stopped; second, there are no initiatives taken in preserving or even identifying these historical sites. It is also very sad to see that there is no follow through with whatever initiatives were once taken; for instance, the District Administration in the earlier 90s had built the 'Durjoy Pabna' — a liberation war memorial — but it has also fallen under ruin for lack of care.
|Negligence makes the vicinity look like ancient ruins
Habibur Rahman Habib, commander of Pabna district unit Muktizudhha Shangshad says, “Some prominent graveyards have been identified, but most of the rest are yet to be identified. During the liberation war several massacres happened around the district by the Pakistan occupation army with the help their local collaborators. There are mass graveyards all over the place, yet almost all of them are yet to be marked except the 40/50 mass graveyards that have been identified so far.”
Md. Rabiul Islam Rabi, a freedom fighter and journalist says, “All the mass graveyards are yet to be identified till now. Everybody should come ahead to preserve the mass graveyards on a local level. The proper steps have to be taken to preserve all of them. It is unfortunate that we have not yet identified all the mass graveyards in our district even after 40 years of liberation. It is our national duty to preserve the memories of the best sons of the soil.”
As citizens of a free Bangladesh, it is not only our duty but also our obligation in seeing to the effect that all of such graves, not only in Pabna, but all over the country be identified, preserved, and taken care of so that every new generation can visit them to at least get the slightest idea of what has been handed down to them through the sacrifices of the millions in the 1971 War of Liberation.