a year ago

1971 History

Autobiographies of unknown Bangladeshis

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The history of 1971 is my principal focus of work in life. It doesn't fetch me any money but the rest of my professional work often seems adjunct to it. I am a journalist, university teacher in multiple topics, consultant and so on. I rarely refuse work because it helps me pay my bill. At 71 years +, I should be taking it easy a bit but I can't afford to, but that's OK. I love to work, eat and keep my work on 1971 history going. And I work with a team.


I have been working on the topic for the last 45 years; so I am moving towards the summation phase of our work. Our main objective has been to avoid "academic" type books and make the history of 1971 accessible for all.

Our approach is not to limit the war to politics, war fields, violence, genocide, diplomacy etc. though we have independent books on each of the topics. Having taken such topics into consideration, we primarily want to bring into focus the history of ordinary people who lived and died in 1971. In that process they carry the collective history of Bangladesh.

Ours is an attempt to develop a comprehensive and inclusive historical narrative of 1971, which can be read if wished by anyone choosing to.

It's with this idea in mind that we began to work on the Historical Encyclopedia of 1971. It's going to be around 20 chapters, including a chapter called, "Society and 1971".

The sections within that will illustrate: A. Families, B. Children, C. Elderly, D. Social and religious life, E. Beliefs, taboo and talismanic aspect, F. Love, marriage, etc. G. Other issues that will be growing as data is organised.


Apart from all the data that we have collected from the field for a long time, I also invited people on Facebook to share their experiences of 1971 on social issues. We prepared a questionnaire on the topic and to those who responded, we sent the same. Soon several notes began to come in. They made for fascinating reading because so little is known about their lives at that time.

A major problem is age, of course, because most witnesses are dead and gone. So in some cases, many memories are second-hand, but these memories seem common to the entire socio-economic segment the respondents belong to. So, we hope to be able to reflect a fairly representative view of 1971. But an issue remains about this. Does it represent everyone?

Our objective is, therefore, to mix the classes and groups by social and area based identities. So, it isn't only rural/urban divides but also the impoverished and the middle class, even the well-off, whose life was tossed into turmoil by the year that was.


But we would also like to bring forward very unusual events and experiences if we get any as they show just about anything can happen in times of war. Here is one such example.

"The gentleman was from Rajshahi and he lived near the campus. He was caught up in the events when the Pak army overcame resistance and captured the city in April. There were random killings and he was arrested and made to stand in a line of people who were to be shot and killed.

After the firing, the bodies were dumped into a pit and left to die. The amazing part was that he had not only survived but he was not even wounded. He gained his senses after a while, near the bottom of the pit under other bodies. Instinctively, almost immediately he began to clamber out of the pit shoving several dead bodies aside.

He reached the top of the pit, climbed out and then began to run, not sure where to. But even in the dark, the Pak army noticed and began to fire at him. Luckily, he came across a stream/nala and without any idea how wide it was he jumped. He landed on the other side of it, picked himself up and ran again till he could run no more. By then he was far away

and safe. He took shelter in some remote village and survived the war hiding there.

After the war was over, he returned to the place of his untimely burial and found it had been marked as a "gono kobor". When people heard of his tale, many gathered around as if they were not sure he was still alive or a ghost. He then went to the stream which he had jumped into and saved himself and repeated the feat. He couldn't even reach half way. Years later, he was still wondering at his own miracle."

Together they all make up the mosaic of the history of 1971, but it's not unknown publicly but to ourselves. Told in their own mouth, it's the autobiography of the unknown Bangladeshis in 1971. We hope that is what our book will become.

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