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DACCA Diary from Intercontinental Hotel, Dec 10, 1971

  • Published at 12:36 am December 10th, 2019
Dacca_Diary
Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

In honour of the month of victory, the Dhaka Tribune is republishing the Pulitzer Prize winning daily dispatches of then Wall Street Journal (WSJ) correspondent Peter R Kann

Friday

The talk at breakfast is about the 3 a.m. air raid during which several bombs landed close to the hotel. I slept through it. More Bengalis seem to be leaving the city today for relative safety of villages. 

Bengali friend, in tears, tells me about continuing army massacres of Bengalis in several suburbs. “So many children,” he says – and begins to sob. Non-Bengali minority (Biharis) fleeing villages for relative safety of Dacca.

Bengalis in Dacca all seem convinced that the bombs that landed on civilian areas the past two nights, including the one that hit the orphanage, were dropped by Pakistani planes so civilian casualties could be blamed on India. 

Reliable sources note that the bombs were dropped by propeller planes, not MIGs, and that makeshift bomb rack fell from plane along with bombs. Evidence still circumstantial. 

All seems incredibly cold-blooded. But one diplomat says “Anyone who has been here since March wouldn’t blink an eye at the Paks doing something like that.”

One rumor is squelched. Gen. Niazi shows up at hotel gate and is very definitely not in Burma. Under new Red Cross rules he is told that he can not enter the hotel with his weapon.

UN still negotiating with Paks and Indians to bring in evacuation planes. Apparent success. 

Twenty-four hour cease-fire in air activity in Calcutta-to-Dacca corridor goes into effect 6 p.m. 

Evacuation planes, at least for women and children, scheduled to fly into Dacca tomorrow morning. But then they’ve been scheduled before.

It’s now exactly one week since general war started.

Everyone wonders whether Pak army will try to make a last-ditch stand in Dacca. 

Some UN people talking of plan for conditional surrender of Pakistani troops in East Pakistan. Condition would be safe return to West Pakistan. 

But who could guarantee that?

Visited residential area where three bombs fell last night. 

Used to be an orphanage here, but now it’s just three big craters surrounded by mud and debris. 

Watch several small bodies being dug out of the mud. Orphan “body count” later said to be over 200.

International Red Cross (Geneva) succeeded in having Intercontinental and one hospital designated as “neutral zones.” This evening group of Red Cross officials and journalists moved from room to room confiscating weapons from West Pakistani guests. 

Several packets of explosives found in women’s lavatory. They are moved out to hotel lawn and surrounded by sandbags. Swimming pool consequently closed.