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Dhaka Tribune

Efforts to preserve the mass killing grounds in ‘deep freezer’

Update : 13 Dec 2013, 08:09 PM

A very ordinary looking graveyard almost in the middle of the road will surely catch the attention of someone walking towards Rupnagar from the Shialbari intersection in the capital’s Mirpur.

But there is absolutely nothing to tell that the place, called Shialbari, happens to be a witness to one of the bloodiest chapters in the country’s history.

It was this very place in 1971 where the Pakistani soldiers and their collaborators – the al-Badr, al-Shams and razakars – killed many unarmed Bangladeshis and dumped their bodies at.

The place – several square yards in size – today hosts semi-concrete shops and a small family graveyard owned by one Sadar Ali Matbar.

According to the Liberation War Museum, in 1971, Shialbari was a small village of about two to two and a half thousand residents. During the war, unarmed people used to be abducted, brought here blindfolded and brutally killed by the occupation forces and their collaborators.

“It was nothing like what you see today. In 1971, there was an open space here where the Pakistani soldiers and razakars brought the Bangalees and killed them brutally,” said Maal Motaleb, owner of tailoring shop in the vicinity.

He also said he had heard that a memorial monument would be built at the spot; but he had no initiative to that end although many years have passed.

Shialbari is just one of the hundreds of placed spread around the country, which the occupation forces and their collaborators used as mass killing grounds during the war.

The Dhaka Tribune has learnt that out of the 21 such killing grounds in the capital, at least 13 have nothing in them to tell people about the bloody history that they were parts of, let alone a plaque or a monument or something.

Among the mass killing grounds in the capital, the most could be found in the Mirpur area.

The Mirpur Government Bangla College and Harirampur are two such killing grounds where there is not even a plaque. Only a pillar – made of black ceramic – at the Nuri Mosque in Muslimbazar tries to feebly remind people of the history.

The Physical College in Mohammadpur, which was used as a torture cell during the war, now has no sign of history. Neither the local residents, nor Shaikh Yousuf Harun, deputy commissioner of Dhaka, could identify the exact place where people were killed and their bodies were dumped.

A field inside the staff quarter of the Tejgaon Agricultural Extension Training Institute used to be a killing ground. Later, it was turned into the National Institute of Mental Health.

The place in the capital’s West Nakhalpara just beside the Prime Minister’s Office used to be a mass killing ground. Today it houses the NAM buildings built for the members of parliament and no sign or plaque.

Students of Rokeya Hall of Dhaka University said there is no plaque inside the girls’ dormitory to reminisce the crackdown that the Pak forces carried out.

There was another killing ground under the Gandaria Loharpul (an iron bridge) in Sutrapur in Old Dhaka. A few years ago, the bridge was removed a road was constructed. That place too, does not have anything to mark its historical importance.

Similar are the cases with the grounds in Dhalpur in Jatrabari and Thataribazar. An office of the City Corporation now stands on the spot where many people were killed in 1971, while a fish market was built on the killing ground in Thataribazar.

The Jagannath University which used to be Jagannath College 42 years back, was also a killing ground but has no plaque today.

On the other hand, monuments at Kurmitola of Dhaka Cantonment, Rajarbagh Police Lines and the Rayerbazar mass killing ground; the Martyred Intellectual Memorial at Mirpur; and the a museum at the Mirpur’s Jalladkhana grounds are the only places in the capital maintained by the government with indications that heinous murders were committed at these places.

Elsewhere at Ramana Kali Temple and the Jagannath Hall of Dhaka University have signboards to show that murders took place and bodies were dumped there.

None of the authorities have an accurate list of the mass killing grounds in the country.

According to the Liberation War Museum, there were 446 such grounds. The liberation war affairs ministry puts the number at 204. A list prepared by the Armed Forces Division shows 193 names.

“Our list is not a complete one. We are still trying to identify some of the places that have sled into oblivion over time. We are also trying to note down the stories associated with some these killing grounds. Community involvement is a must for preserving history,” said Mofidul Haque, trustee and member secretary of the Liberation War Museum.

A decade after formation, the liberation war affairs ministry in 2011, took an initiative to preserve the 204 mass killing grounds that it had identified.

A list of the grounds had been sent to the Planning Commission in February this year, seeking approval for building monuments. Ministry sources said the commission was yet to approve the project with an estimated cost of Tk206 crore.

Liberation war affairs ministry Secretary KH Masud Siddiqui told the Dhaka Tribune that they had plans to preserve the mass killing grounds across the country. “We are working hard to preserve the history of Liberation War so that we can what is accurate to the new generation.”

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