This is 3rd in the series of translation of witness accounts collected in the book 1971: Dreadful Experiences. This one by Colonel Imam-Uz-Zaman is rather long one hence presented in two parts. When translating I often feel at loss for proper adjectives in English that could do justice in describing the heinous atrocities these hyenas wearing Pak army uniform or calling themselves rajakar or "friend" committed. If the reader can think of more appropriate language that can help portray the intensity of the truth, please suggest. It will be much appreciated.
Since Sheikh Mujib’s famous speech on 7th march, the situation inside the cantonment was continuously changing. In light of the non cooperation movement and mass uprising, pakistani army officers became very aware of themselves and started to get suspicious about us (Bangalis). We could tell, they were looking at us with hatred. They were sensing something sinister to happen, and they were preparing to face it. Brigade commander Brigadier Iqbal Shafi would often have secret meeting with all of the Unit commanding officers. They would have discussion and planning where none of the Bangali officers were ever allowed. Getting out on a short notice, “Stand-to”, “ Alarm drill”, Increasing the cantonments security and other such preparations were going on. A few of the Bangali officers sensed what was going to happen, but we kept the conversation among ourselves. I was only 6 months into service, a second lieutenant of 53rd field regiment artillery stationed in Comilla cantonment. Our whole regiment contituted of almost 100 percent Punjabi officer and soldiers. In the whole unit, there were only six Bangali, three officers and three clerks. The other two officers besides me were captain A.L.A. Zaman and captain Nurul Islam. As the days pat, the situation became even dire. When ration supply to the cantonment was cut off, the pakistanis were enraged. On 23rd march when I was on the telephone duty my unit captain unexpectedly entered my room and told me showing a flag, “Look, I snatched it from a truck heading to Dhaka.” In great awe I looked at flag of my country for the first time. The situation eventually got worse and thus came that horrible night.
The morning of the 25th. I went to the office in the morning as usual. But something seemed abnormal. It seemed, as if the whole unit was preparing for something. Everything was at the final stage of preparation. All the stalled cars were fixed and fueled up, all the jeeps were equipped and tested with wireless communication. I didn’t guess exactly what was going to happen when I saw all this. I thought, maybe the army was going in I.S ( internal security) duty.
I returned to the mess at two o’clock after my duty was over. At four o’clock the runner came with a circular from the office. The order said that there is going to be a night parade and the whole regiment has to be present at five thirty in the afternoon. Me, with another Banglai officer captain Nurul Islam from my unit rode his motorcycle to reach the unit in time.
We joined the fall-in. Then the night parade started in our respective battery area. At night different artillery training including setting up cannons took place. Usually the night parade ends at twelve o’clock midnight, but it was concluded by nine thirty. At ten o’clock all officers of the regiment has to be present in the conference of the commanding officers. We quickly finished dinner to join the conference in the office. We were waiting outside for the commanding officers. The commanding officer came few minutes past ten. He hurriedly entered the office and called us in. Commanding officer Yakub Malik looked down at the ground and spoke:
“ Curfew has been announced all over the country. Not only East Pakistan, but West Pakistan as well is under curfew. Bhutto and Mujib have been arrested. Now what I want from you is that all of you will go to Comilla town and follow your orders. Anyone you see outside, shoot them. By morning, I want to see the Comilla town covered in dead bodies. If you can do that, then by twelve o’clock tomorrow noon, the situation in the whole country will become quiet.”
Then the commanding officer pointed at us, three Bangali officers and said, “ you east Pakistanis need not go to Comilla town. As an east Pakistani, it wouldn't be a pleasant order to follow. I would rather give you some internal responsibilities. For now you can rest in the office of the Quarter master, I’ll give you directions later”. At this time, East pakistani permanent officer Bihari captain Sageer Ahmad Siddiqui raised his hand and asked, “ What am I to do, sir?” “ You can stay with them”- said the commanding officer. The conference finished. As we came out of the conference we noticed that the Pakistani officers were hurrying to get their personal weapons from the armory. Within moments they left with the trucks full of soldiers that were waiting for them. Only the commanding officer adjutant and few clerks stayed behind to guard the fort. Although all of them were armed. According to the commanding officers order we three Bengali officers and Bihari officer captain Siddiqui sat in the office of the quarter master. After a while Punjabi N.C.O nayek Afzal came and locked us in the room from outside. We grew suspicious. We discussed among ourselves, “ Why did they arrest us?” Captain Zaman and Siddiqui said, “ the soldiers are excited. By keeping us locked, commanding officer is probably making sure we are safe.” Me and Captain Nurul Islam were discussing our upcoming moves between ourselves in a hushed voice. We didn't really trust Captain Zaman as he was very pro-Pakistan. At midnight, lights went out. A few moments of silence. Then we heard two gunfire about three hundred yards from us. Captain Nurul Islam whispered in my ears, “ They must be killing Bangalis.” We never knew for certain what was happening then.
The regimental control radio set was in the room right behind us.. We could hear the radio operator clearly from this room. We could clearly hear the conversations going on with different sub-units in parts of the city. At one stage we heard the operator asking- have you arrested Delta charlie and siera papa? The answer was, “no, they escaped.” Operator said, “ Imam (me) has ordered to capture them and bring back to cantonment by break of dawn.” The other side replied, “OK”. Hearing this we got even more suspicious. I asked Captain Nurul Islam, “ Why do they want arrest the D.C and the S.P?” Nothing was clear to us. We couldn't figure out which way the situation was heading or what should we do. We spent the night dozing on and off on the chair in the dark. At the break of dawn we saw through glass door, Mercedes Benz of the Comilla’s D.C and the jeep of the S.P. brought in the cantonment with army jeeps in guard. In the open jeep in front captain Bokhari was standing with a Chinese sub-machine gun in his hand. This two civilian officers were locked up in the corner room of our office building.
The morning of twenty sixth. The situation looked quite normal. Around seven the commanding officer came to open the door. He ordered captain Zaman to help captain Iftekhar to disarm the Bangali polices under Police law. Captain Zaman immediately left us. Then cam adjutant captain Aosaf Ahmad. He told us to stay in that room until further orders. Arrangements were made to bring our beds and personal belongings in the room. We would have to ask the guard even if we want to go to toilet- only then he guard would open the door, such was the order. Within an hour three charpoys were brought in. The office table of the quartermaster was pushed next to the window to set up the three charpoys along the wall. Our clothes and shaving kit were brought in from the mess. We freshened ourselves up and tried to habituate ourselves with the situation. Around eight and half the Punjabi mess waiter brought us breakfast. We spent the whole day in captivity. The afternoon was almost gone when I saw through the glass door that captain Bokhari returned with a truck full of arrested civilians. No sooner than the truck stopped the soldiers jumped on them. They dragged the captive off the truck and started beating them mercilessly. They were screaming in Urdu,”Ye sab Jasus hay” ( They are all spies). Commanding officer came to the spot and ordered, “ Beat them to death!” Thus the massacre continued on two or three more trucks full of people. Slowly the dark of the night covered the world while we still remained captive in that small room. After dinner we thought of trying to get some sleep. But the sentry notified us that we have to keep the light on in the room. We figured, they were trying to make sure that we can’t escape in the dark. Because with the lights on we can be clearly watched through the glass.
(to be concluded in part 2)...