1971 and a family of collaborators

By Salmaan H

Note from the author: The story is about a “Bihari” family, so it needs to be framed such that it doesn’t get assimilated in condoning the war by Pakistan or used to equate, as Eqbal Ahmed put it, “the actions of Bengali vigilantes with those of the government and the criminal acts of an organized, professional army. In any case, the army could not provide lasting security for them. In fact, it did not even intervene to stop their massacres which went on for three weeks while the Generals sought extra-parliamentary deals with the politicians. Saving civilian lives was not the motive behind the army’s vast repressions. Furthermore, unequal bartering of brutalities is not a function of responsible government. And criminality is not a commercial proposition: one cannot deposit the crimes of one into the account of another. The very fact that the military regime sought justifications for its behavior by referring to the excesses of the Awami League and the aroused Bengali masses was a measure of the steep decline in the civic standards of our army and civil services.”

First, read this excellent interview with Syed Ashfaqul Haque. Reading this interview reminded me of the story my uncle shared with me this weekend.

My uncle is from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India. He moved to Pakistan upon marrying my aunt. Most of his family is in India. He told me about what befell his sister’s family in Bangladesh. According to my uncle, Mukti bahini  came to his sister’s home, roughed up her husband and fired shots at their house. Then a few days later, a grenade was thrown into her house, killing her daughter (shrapnel wound to the head) and son. My uncle’s sister and one of her daughters (with permanent damage to her hand) survived. Her husband was kidnapped, never returned, and was presumed dead. My uncle holds Mukti bahini responsible.

I didn’t find an opportune time to ask my uncle if his brother-in-law was from W. Pakistan and an active collaborator or just a pro-Pakistan Bangali, or perceived as such. This is one of the several stories of 1971, and is not a denial of what Pakistani soldiers/militia-men or other pro-Pakistan forces/groups/people did, and is perhaps of most value if seen within that context. Not all collaborators or those that were perceived as such went home scot-free.

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