Volume 2 Issue 77| February 27, 2010 |


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Journey Through Bangladesh

From Pabna

Demra Memorial: 38 Years in the Making

Ahmed Humayun Kabir Topu

The Demra Memorial

ON 14 May 1971, over nine hundred civilians and freedom fighters were martyred at Demra in Pabna district by the Pakistan occupation army with the help of their local collaborators. It was one of the largest mass-killings of the Liberation War. The day is known as the Demra Massacre Day. In the years that followed, no memorials had been built on the site of the Demra mass graveyard, where several hundred martyrs lie - nothing to honour the memories of the fallen ones; no stark reminder of the horrors of war.

But after a long 38 years, a memorial has finally been established on the site of the mass graveyard of Baushgari village in Faridpur upazila of Demra district. The state minister for Home Advocate Samsul Haque Tuku inaugurated the memorial December 15, 2009. A cultural programme was organized at Baushgari madrasa premise marking the occasion. The programme attracted a large audience from Demra and the adjoining villages. The Demra mass graveyard memorial had been a much talked about issue in the locality, and there has been a constant demand for it be built since 1971.

“At last the villagers get a memorial at the Demra mass graveyard site, 38 years after the liberation war. Local residents have constantly clamored for it to be established, but there had been no government initiative until now. Villagers of Baushgari, Rupsi, Demra have borne the tragic memories of the mass killing since '71; over 900 villagers and freedom fighters were killed here in a dark night during the liberation war.” said Md. Makbul Hossain, a freedom fighter and a resident of Demra village.

Ainul Haque, an elderly of the village and an eye witness of that black night, chaired the meeting while the state minister for Home Advocate Samsul Haque Tuku inaugurated the memorial as the chief guest. Among others Public Prosecutor (PP) Belayet Hossain Billu, Dist. AL leader Rejaur Rahim Lal spoke on the occasion.

The Demra mass-graveyard is the site of one of the worst massacres of the liberation war in Pabna. Over 900 people were martyred on this day at the village of Demra, a Hindu-majority area in Faridpur upazila of Pabna district. The Pakistani occupation army, with the help of their local collaborators, cordoned Demra, Baushgari, Rupsi and the adjoining villages on that night, and wreaked havoc on the local populace.

State Minister for Home Advocate Shamsul Haque Tuku and others at the opening of the Demra Memorial

On that bloody night, the Pakistani occupation army lined up hundreds of the innocent people of the village, putting Hindus and Muslims in separate lines, and systematically gunned them down. The villagers later buried the martyred in the mass graveyards of Baushgari, Demra. Exactly how many people were killed on that day is not known, but it is estimated that over 900 were killed on that night.

Since independence, the local community has been very vocal in their demand for a memorial to be built. The issue had received widespread coverage on the national media, including The Daily Star. The initiative taken by the present government to build the memorial has been greeted with a public outpouring of joy and to an extent, relief. With the help of the local community, Pabna Zila Parishad has constructed a memorial at Baushgari village where at least 250 to 300 were buried. The memorial was built on the lands of Jamal Uddin and Majid Prang, both of whom had lost loved ones on that fateful night.

“We had petitioned the government for the memorial to be built on a number of occasions. Newspapers around the country had published many articles about this, but no government action had been forthcoming. It got to a point where it we almost gave up hope. The tragic memories of that dark night still haunt us. I feel fortunate to have seen the memorial being built in my time”, said Shontosh Kumar Kundu, an elderly teacher and eye-witness of the night.

Speaking on the occasion, State Minister for Home Affairs Advocate Shamsul Huq Tuku said that on that tragic day, the people of these villages sacrificed their lives for the people of Bangladesh; their sacrifice must be remembered. “The Pakistan occupation army had perpetrated a mass killing on that day. The villagers: Hindu, Muslims, men, women and children, sacrificed their lives on that tragic night. Their sacrifices must be kept alive in our memories and the spirit of their sacrifice must be upheld and built upon in future. It is our duty to uphold the spirit of this great sacrifice”, State minister Advocate Samsul Haque Tuku said on the occasion.

Today, a memorial stands to remind us all of the tragedy that befell this community on that darkest of nights, and of the horrors and atrocities of war. But it also reminds us of the ability of the human spirit to persevere, its ability to go on despite being faced with sufferings that cannot be reasoned with, its ability to bury the past a build on it a greater future.

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