Khalispur, Khulna, East Pakistan - BY: Jamil Usman

April 1971

The Toyota Corolla was running on the road from Khulna to Khalispur. Kamran’s father Mr. Parvez was driving the car, his wife sat on the front passenger’s seat, Kamran and his friends Shahjahan and Arif sat at the back. Mr. Parvez was the reporter of Morning News in Khulna. He was going to Khalispur to prepare a report on the happenings there during the past couple of months. Kamran had asked his father whether he and his friends could accompany him. Mr. Parvez had agreed.

They reached Peoples Jute Mills around 11 in the morning. There were armed guards at the gate. Mr. Parvez showed them his ID and said that the other persons were accompanying him. They were allowed to pass.
“I have to find Sikander,” said Mr. Parvez looking around, “he is going to lead us.” He drove around the mills for a few minutes, asked a few people about Sikander, then stopped in front of a quarter. He got off the car and knocked at the door. A middle aged man in checkered loongi and half sleeved shirt emerged from the house. He quickly raised his hand to his forehead with a “salam alaikum.”
“I’ll be back in a minute sir,” he said with a nervous and submissive smile.
He came back in a couple of minutes, this time dressed in a white pajama and kurta (a white full sleeves collarless shirt flowing up to the knees, which is called “Punjabi” in Bengali), and a flip flop, which, too, was white.
He looked at the back seat and hesitated for a moment.
“Hop in,” Mr. Parvez said, “four can fit on the back seat.” The boys squeezed themselves, making room for Sikander. They drove to the school.
It was a sprawling building with rows of six rooms on the ground floor and six on the first floor. There was another one story building with cemented floor, brick walls and a tinned roof in front of the big building. They went in the smaller building first. It had four rooms; the headmaster’s room, the accountant’s room, staff room and a library. The entire place was ransacked. Floors strewn with broken glass, papers, damaged furniture, and toppled filing cabinets. In the accountant’s room big binders lay scattered on the floor, all the drawers were pulled out and files and folders lay everywhere. Light bulbs were smashed and the blades of ceiling fans bent downwards. The other two rooms were plundered in the same way. There were spots of blood on the floor and on the walls.
Next, they went into the big building. The stench was so strong they had to put their handkerchiefs on their noses. It was blood everywhere; on the floor, in the alleys and on the walls, desks, tables, and benches; brown clotted blood everywhere. Their shoes left marks on the blood as they walked. Clothes, shoes, slippers, women’s broken glass bangles and their saris lay scattered in every room.
“They took the girls in here and raped them,” Sikander pointed to one room.
Mrs. Parvez started crying, “Oh! My God,” she sighed, “let’s get out of here. Every body’s eyes were moist. No one said anything. Mr. Parvez took a few pictures with his camera.
Next they drove to the Crescent Jute Mills.
“They killed hundreds of Biharis here,” Sikander said. He took them to a shade by the river. It was just a cemented platform with a thatched roof. There were no walls. There were benches around the platform.
“People used to sit here and enjoy the river during peaceful days,” Sikander said, “but it was turned into a slaughter house between March 7 and March 27.” He pointed to the structure in the middle of the shade. It was made of wood and resembled a guillotine. There were four bamboo pillars, two on each side, about 3 feet apart. A wooden plank was fastened to the pillars horizontally. In the middle bricks were laid to support the plank. The upper central part of the plank was cut into a semi-circle, in which a man’s neck could fit.
“They tied the men’s hands at the back, made them kneel down and put their heads in the carved semi-circle of the plank. Then with one stroke of a big axe they beheaded the person. The women, they took them into those quarters,” Sikander pointed to the workers’ residential quarters, “raped them and then killed them.”
“What did they do to the bodies?” Mr. Parvez asked in a hoarse voice.
“They threw them in the river,” Sikander said, “you would have seen the river that day, its water was all red,” he became emotional, “I have seen it. I saw with my own eyes,” he broke down. Mrs. Parvez started crying again. The men controlled themselves.
Sikander guided them to the residential quarters. They entered in a building. As soon as they entered the apartment, Arif shrieked.
“Shahjahan, you remember?”
“What is it?” Mr. Pervez asked, as everyone else looked at him inquiringly.
“This is our class-fellow Enamullah’s house,” Shahjahan said with a muffled voice.
“Shahjahan and I had come to see Enam a few months back.” Arif said.
“Where are they? Where is the family?” Kamran asked frantically.
“If you don’t see them around,” Sikander said coldly, “they have been killed.”
“Oh no!” Mrs. Parvez was trembling. Kamran put a hand on his mother’s shoulder.
They examined the apartment. As at other places, this place, too, was covered with clotted blood, brown thick blood. An unbearable stench was in the air. The staircase was bloodied, too. It looked like blood had flowed from the top floor to the ground. Clothes, shoes, ladies’ sandals, saris, household utensils and other stuff was scattered all over the floor. The walls also had black spots. Arif, Shahjahan, and Kamran embraced each other and wept, as they remembered their class fellow Enamullah.
“It’s okay boys,” Mr. Pervez said, “let’s go.”
He took a few photos of the house and returned to his car. He gave some money to Sikander, and said, “come, we’ll drop you where we had picked you up from.” They came back to Peoples Jute Mills and dropped Sikander.
No one spoke a word on their way back home.

Posted on Dec 15, 16 | 3:00 am