1970s – A Decade of Crime – Massacres Part 1

PLEASE UNDERSTAND MY DECISION TO WRITE ABOUT THIS IS PURELY DOWN TO MY OWN INTEREST IN THE NUMBER OF CRIMES I DISCOVERED TOOK PLACE IN THE 1970S. THE IDEA TO WRITE THIS SERIES CAME FROM READING/LISTENING/WATCHING TRUE CRIME STORIES THAT SHOWED AN ALARMING AMOUNT OF ACTIVITY IN THE 1970S. I MERELY WISHED TO LEARN MORE AND EDUCATE MYSELF ON WHAT WAS GOING ON CRIME WISE IN THIS DECADE. THROUGH MY RESEARCH TO THESE ARTICLES I HAVE LEARNED A LOT AND I HAVE READ THROUGH HORRENDOUS ACTS THAT HAVE COMMITTED.

I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH – I AM NOT CONDONING ANY OF THESE CRIMES. IF I BRING AWARENESS TO AN ACT THAT HAS HAPPENED OR HAVE CREATED A SPACE FOR PEOPLE TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES AND LEARN THEN THAT IS A POSITIVE BUT IT IS NOT THE REASON FOR ME WRITING THESE ARTICLES.

Even the thought of ‘massacres’ sends a chill down my spine. When I first started to plan out this article, I didn’t realise how deep it would take me and just what I would have to research. As you know, if you’ve been following this series of articles, they are largely inspired by my own curiosity regarding the brain and my interest in psychology.

The word ‘massacre’ is synonymous with history. It is a somewhat darker part to the evolution of mankind through the years. It is not particularly pleasing to think about, and it wasn’t particularly pleasing to research the amount that occurred in the decade of the 1970s.

40 massacres.

Let’s just take a moment for that to sink in. 40.

1 in a decade seems too much for me, but 40 completely took my breath away and it was such a higher number than I was expecting. I suppose, had I had a more statistical brain, I might have been unsurprised by the total. However, I find myself living in a world of contradictions, where something horrific is followed by something wonderful and vice versus.

Would it surprise you to know that almost none of the 40 massacres happened in the Eastern World.

Our world is filled with violence. This is just one side of it. I have to believe that there are better things in the world. Otherwise, what evens the scales?

Let’s start with the first 10 on the list. I’ll try to keep the explanations brief. As ever, if you would like to read in more detail, please see the Wikipedia pages, or simply, ‘ask google’.

  1. Akhira Massacre
  2. Bagbati Massacre
  3. Bakchar Massacre
  4. Bakhrabad Massacre
  5. Barguna Massacre
  6. Baria Massacre
  7. Dhimnali Massacre
  8. Burunga Massacre
  9. Char Bhadrasan Massacre
  10. Chuknagar Massacre

Akhira Massacre – 93-125 Deaths

The Akhira Massacre occurred on the 17th of April 1971 in Baraihat, East Pakistan. The massacre was carried out by the Pakistani army and Razakars.

Kenan Uddin Sarkar, a member of the Razakar forces, assured 50 Hindu families of a safe passage to India. He kept the Hindus confined at a place called Baraihat (in present-day Phulbari Upazila).

During this confinement, the Razakars and Al-Badr militia looted money and jewellery from the Hindus. After an associate of Kenan informed the Pakistani army, the army came and took the hostages to Akhira (100 metres south of Baraihat).

It was here, at 11am that the Hindus were made to stand in a row beside a pond. The men in one line, and the women and children in another. Here they were burst fired from machine guns. What few children and teenagers who survived the rounds of fire were bayonetted to death. According to eye witness accounts, the Pakistani soldiers turned their attention to the females, and did some terrible things (see Wikipedia page for details).

After the victory in the Liberation War, the local people executed Kenan Uddin Sakar by method of Jabiha (animal slaughter).

A terrible loss of life was seen at the Akhira massacre. This is the first massacre on my list, and I already feel like I’m back in war torn territory. The massacre of the Jews in WW2 is something I learned about extensively at school. I cannot imagine the fear of those Hindus, of the pain of surviving the first round of fire only to be bayonetted to death. They never stood a chance. The number of casualties is disputed and relies heavily on eye witness accounts. There is no memorial for the mass killing site, however, the local people do organise ‘Milad Mehfil’ and ‘Quran Khawani’ in memory of the dead.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason for this massacre. There is no deeper meaning to it, and it seems to have passed by with little memory of it.

Bagbati Massacre – More than 200 Deaths

The Bagbati Massacre occur on the 27th of May 1971 in Bagbati, East Pakistan.

On the Wikipedia page for the massacre, it sights the issues as: religious persecution, ethnic relations, freedom of religion, religious violence, secularism, and religious intolerance.

The Bagbati massacre refers to the cold blooded killings of more than 200 unnamed Bengali by the ‘Al Badar’, ‘Pakistani Army’, ‘Razakars’, and ‘Peace Committee’. When the Pakistan Army occupied Sirajganj, hundreds of Bengali from Sirajganj and the surrounding areas took refuge in the village of Bagbati and in surrounding villages that were under the Bagbati union.

A day before the massacre there was a meeting between the Razakar and the Peace Committee. This meeting ended with the decision that more than 500 people of Bagbati (Haringopal, and Alokdia) would be eliminated.

It seems horrifically brutal to me to think that a meeting took place to decide how many people would die. I can’t even imagine what a meeting like that would look like. To be able to so simple sign away people’s lives is tragic, and it makes me angry. I read a lot of ancient history books, where massacres seem awful but distant. It’s difficult to come to the realisation that massacres are still happening and aren’t just a part of history.

The Pakistani army along with Al Badr, Razakars and the Peace Committee surrounded the villages in the early morning of 27th May. The Al Badrs opened fire immediately and killed over 200 people, mostly Bengali Hindus. They looted and set fire to residents and the Pakistani Army raped the women.

After the massacre, survivors dumped the dead bodies in the wells of the deserted houses of the erstwhile landlords of Bagbati and Dhaldob.

Every year the victims of the massacre are remembered through a memorial service. A small memorial now stands near one of the wells where the victims bodies were dumped. The locals have demanded the restoration of the mass killing site and the mass graves.

Gone but not forgotten by the people of Bagbati, it is clear that his massacre had a lasting affect on the survivors, descendants, and general population. It was a terrible event of history. Religion has always been a touchy subject in society. 90% of those with religious beliefs live as normal a life as anyone, but it is that 10% that ends up in situations like this. Like with everything, it is the few that give the rest a bad name.

My knowledge of the political atmosphere of Pakistan in the 1970s is empty. I am learning through this article, but I wonder if I should do my own research on the subject. The social moral of society must have been at an all time low, fighting and hiding going hand in hand.

Bakchar Massacre – 9 Deaths

The Bakchar Massacre took place on the 13th of May 1971 in Bakchar, Bangladesh. It was another massacre carried out by the Pakistan Army. The army arrived in the Faridpur district and began killing the Hindu population with the help of local collaborators. The decision to attack Bakchar villages was made at a Peace Committee meeting.

[Peace Committee – The Peace Committee was formed in 1971 by the Pakistani Army to aid in the efforts in crushing the rebellion for Bangladesh independence.]

In this case, I can actually list the victims (taken from the Wikipedia page): Birendra Saha, Nripen Saha, Shanu Saha, Jagabandhu Mitra, Jaladhar Mitra, Satya Ranjan Das, Niradbandhu Mitra, Prafulla Mitra and Upen Saha. All nine were arrested and then massacred. Upen Saha’s wife tried to free her husband by giving gold to the Razakars but was unsuccessful. The Razakars also raped Jhuma Rani Saha, the daughter of Sunli Kuma Saha and the killed her. They forced Anil Saha to leave the country.

Absolutely horrendous. Barbaric. The history of the Bengali Hindus is long, I read some of it, but I think it just confused me rather than giving me a clearer sight. Part of my mind is arguing that there are better ways to squashing the rebellion for Bangladesh independence. Yet, the other half of my mind is arguing that humans push for violence whenever possible. Perhaps that view isn’t accurate. I’m sure my brain will be changing sides, views, opinions, and theories, as I continue down this road.

Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed was found to be responsible for the killings and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Chitta Saha, a resident of Bachar and witness to the massacre was able to provide testimony at the tribunal. When the Supreme Court reduced the sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment, the victims, and residents of Bakchar were very unhappy.

I might be in the minority here, but I see more justice in seeing the guilty party suffer away in prison for years, rather than giving them a quick exit. My mum talks about it a lot it and she’s firmly on the side of the guilty party being executed. I suppose I lean more towards prolonging the suffering of the person or persons responsible.

Bakhrabad Massacre – 142 Deaths

I couldn’t find much information on this one.

The Bakhrabad massacre occurred on the 24th of May 1971, in the village of Bakhrabad. The massacre was carried out by the Pakistani army with the help of Al Badr and Al Shams. It took place during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The victims were gunned down by light machine guns.

I couldn’t find mention of anyone being charged with the murders, or whether the massacre was remembered each year or not. I think it might have been one of those massacres that fell under the radar of the others happening at that time, which is quite sad. Of course, there may be information about it out there that I just haven’t found. The Bangladesh Liberation War cost a lot of lives and the knowledge that massacres were happening with such frequency in the 1970s, is frankly, quite chilling.

Barguna Massacre – Over 100 Deaths

On the 29th and 30th of May 1971, over 100 unarmed residents of Barguna were executed by the Pakistan Armed Forces. 72 of those people were identified. The majority being Bengali Hindus, while the rest were Muslim.

This is another massacre that made my heart ache. I just don’t understand some of the crimes we put on people for their beliefs and religions. Obviously, people’s beliefs and religions have always been a driving force in conflict. I guess it sometimes still surprises me that the conflicts of old are still conflicts of now, just under a different name.

The army raided several towns before coming to Barguna and raising it to the ground. Unpleasantly, the women captured were treated without dignity and abused in some of the worst ways. On the 28th of May, Major Nadir Pervez arrived in Barguna and after a short trial, sentenced the Bengali Hindus and the Muslims that supported the idea of a sovereign Bangladesh to death.

After the killings, Peace Committee members buried the dead in the south western region of the jail compound.

My mind boggles at that ‘Peace Committee’…A Peace Committee buried the dead from the massacre…that sounds so wrong to me. Shouldn’t a Peace Committee be trying to stop the violence in the first place? It seems wrong that the Peace Committee was created by the arm to squash the rebellion for Bangladesh independence. There was nothing peaceful about them.

Many prisoners were taken to Patuakhali and killed. The exact number of those massacred in Barguna is unknown. However, the victims are now recognised as martyrs of the Liberation War.

Baria Massacre – Over 200 –

On the 14th of May 1971, around 200 Bengali Hindus from Baria and nearby Kamaria were killed and hundreds more were injured.

A contingent of around 500 soldiers arrived at around 1pm on the 14th. After entering the village these soldiers spread out and open fired on the villagers.

Many villagers died where they stood while others were seriously injured. Some tried to flee and were gunned down.

The belongings of the fleeing villagers were looted by the army. The massacre continued till 6pm. As the news of the killings reached other villages, the Hindus left and fled to safer places.

I’m not sure I can ever imagine what was going on in the heads of those that killed, or the heads of those that were killed. When you research massacres on Wikipedia, the most common issues that come up are: Religious Persecution, Ethnic Relations, Freedom of Religion, Religious Violence, Secularism, and Religious Intolerance. I think that one of the reasons it gets to me is because we’ve come so far in terms of technology and evolution and yet we still cannot stop ourselves from falling into the trap of the same crimes. Was there ever a time in civilisation when we didn’t start something over religion, or is it so embedded in our DNA that there is no other possible outcome?

Bhimnali Massacre – 15 Dead

I felt almost guilty here when I read over this massacre because I felt hope that the Bengali Hindu villagers had resisted with ‘spears and shields’. Then I remembered what had occurred despite that resistance and it made me feel saddened.

On the 22nd of May 1971, a group of 500 armed collaborators surrounded the village. This was during the Bangladesh Liberation War and this particular village was somewhat cut off from communication with the rest of the country. This resulted in several freedom fighters coming through. On the 16th of May, a man named Abdul Jabbar Engineer declared that freedom fighters, Awami League workers and Hindus were ‘enemies of Pakistan’ and should be destroyed.

Sensing danger the Bengali Hindus armed themselves with sticks and shields and took up position on the WAPDA dam. 15 people were shot dead. The collaborators dragged the bodies of the dead and threw them into the river. After the killings, the collaborators looted the 80 households and set them on fire.

Though many Bengali Hindus were forced to flee their homes after the massacre, many returned after the liberation of Bangladesh. One survivor, Yajneshwar Barui filed a lawsuit which named 259 collaborators with Abdul Jabbar Engineer as the prime accused. Six months later Barui was picked up by people unknown and shot. The lawsuit went missing from the court as well as from the police…

If you’ve made it this far down the blog post, I want to say thank you. However unpleasant, I think these massacres need to be talked about. I didn’t know how much violence had occurred when I had the idea to write about crime in the 1970s and I certainly am not trying to offend anyone. Only bring to light some actions that people may not be aware of. Why do we continually persecute people of religion? Is it so bad that we don’t all share the same thoughts and opinions. I would have thought that our diversity and our differences would bring us together. I know that line of thought can be seen as ‘preposterous’ but like the twists in a crime novel, whose to say it might one day happen. If climate change can be taken seriously, perhaps the time is coming for horrific crimes to be exposed and attitudes changed…

Burunga Massacre – 71-94 Dead –

On the afternoon of the 25th of May, the residents of Burunga and nearby villagers assembled at the Burunga High School grounds despite the fear they had. At 10am the crowd was separated into Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus were taken into the office room and the Muslims were taken to a classroom. The Muslims had to recite the kalma and the Pakistani national anthem and were mostly let off.

The remaining Muslims were told to bind the Hindus together in groups of four with ropes. Some of the Hindus cried out in fear. While this was happening, Priti Ranjan Chowdhury the Headmaster of the High School and Ranu Malakar, a Hindu youth managed to escape out an open window. The army fired on them by they were successful in their escape.

At noon the Hindu’s were led outside and were asked to stand in three columns. The arm open fired on them from three light machine guns. The army then poured kerosene over the dead bodies and set them on fire. After the massacre a group of collaborators looted the village and ‘molested the womenfolk’.

I have purposefully left out the names of the collaborators here. You can read about them on Wikipedia or on other sites. I think while reading this particular massacre, I just wanted to concentrate on the victims and not give the perpetrators any more time to be known. One could argue that the ‘silver lining’ to this massacre is that several Hindus managed to escape but in the grand scheme of those who were murdered, that doesn’t seem like much of a glory. There is no consensus on the actual number of dead, but it is estimated to be between 71-94.

In 1984, the government of Bangladesh erected a brick wall to enclose the sight of the mass killing and later a memorial for the victims of the genocide was raised.

Char Bhadrasan Massacre – 50-60 Deaths –

Once again, we see the Pakistani army murdering Bengali Hindus. Char Bhadrasan is an area dominated by sandbanks along the river and is home to the villages of Baidyadangi, Majhidangi, and Baladangi. All villages were inhabited by Hindus.

There isn’t much information on this massacre, not even a date of the event. The massacre is just listed as happening in May 1971. The army led an attack on the Hindu dominated villages in Char Bhadrasan. The army looted and set fire to approx. 300-350 households and around 50-60 unarmed Hindu men and women were killed while the rest fled.

It saddens me when I research a massacre that doesn’t have much information because it makes me feel like the victims have been forgotten. I’m sure that none of the massacres covered in this part (1) have been forgotten by the Bengali Hindus as it was probably quite a prominent feature of their cultural history. The majority of the Hindus fled to India after this massacre and the Hindus gradually became the minority in the area. I want to hope that those who fled successfully found peace elsewhere but I’m not sure whether that is a question I’ll ever find the answer to.

Chuknagar Massacre – 8,000-10,000 Deaths –

This massacre that occurred on the 20th of May 1971 is one of the largest to occur during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The exact number of deaths is unknown, but the majority of people killed were men. However, an unknown number of women and children were also killed.

At 10am a congregation of around 10-30 army personnel equipped with semiautomatic rifles and light machine guns came. They stopped at Jhautala, at the left corner of the Chuknagar Bazaar. They opened fire on the Pathkhola ground and later the Chuknagar Bazaar and didn’t stop firing till 3:00pm. Many people tried to jump into the river to avoid the gunfire but were unsuccessful. After the massacre local people disposed of the bodies by throwing them into the river.

A memorial was created to pay homage to those people who died in the massacre.

This massacre was interesting in that there was such a high death count by such as small amount of army firers. There is also very little information as to why this attack took place – that I could find at least – and it just seems odd to me that one of the largest massacres from the Bangladesh Liberation War should have so little information about the event.

Personal Summary –

My feelings at the end of this first part range from great sadness to sickness, to anger, to confusion, and everything in-between. Though my logical brain can understand why these things keep happening throughout history, my emotional brain is screaming out in pain for all that has happened.

This part only covers the first 10 massacres in the 1970s. That still boggles me. Even when I was reading and researching through the massacres on this list, my brain kept trying to tell me they happened prior to the 1900s even though I know that not to be true. I guess massacres is something I associate war. Well, even as I write this, I am thinking of the massacre of Jews in WW2 which is of course, in the 1900s. But mostly, I think I’ve put the act of massacres into the ‘history’ section of my brain, categorised them as events of Ancient Egypt even, and I think it remained there for so long that I started to believe that it wasn’t something that was still happening now.

I’ve learned a lot in this first part of my decade journey. I know there is still so much to learn. Sometimes when I talk about true crime to people, like the big true crime cases that everyone knows and I talk to someone who hasn’t got a clue, it makes me angry. I’m not trying to sensationalise true crime or join the bandwagon in any way. I think it’s important for these facts to be known, to be learned about. Learning about them remembers them and perhaps in remembering them we can change our mindsets and move out of the space that tells us that religious persecution is acceptable.

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