Friday, May 24, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Surviving the night of horror: A teen's tale from DU quarters

Kamol Kumar Das, who was 17 at the time, recounts the horrors of March 25

Update : 25 Mar 2024, 10:30 AM

Kamol Kumar Das was 17 years old and lived with his parents in the staff quarters of the Dhaka Hall (now Dr Muhammad Shahidullah Hall) at Dhaka University in March 1971.

There was tension among people from all classes. The political situation in the country was unstable. Everyone thought that the power would be handed over to the majority party, despite the National Assembly being dismissed several times. People hoped that the Pakistani president would convene the National Assembly on March 25. They gathered here and there, anticipating that something was going to happen. There were rumours about an imminent military attack.

The students of Dhaka Hall tutored the kids living in the staff quarters. Kamol Kumar had dinner with his family. Around half past eleven, his father looked out the window and stared at the moon. “It's a crescent moon, and there’s a star nearby. The situation in the country is worsening. Horrible times lie ahead of us,” said the father.

After about 5-10 minutes, Kamol Kumar saw military jeeps. He also heard the sound of a vehicle that stung his ears. Upon asking his father, he learned that it was the roar of the tanks. Soon it turned into a cacophony of sounds: the sound of rifles, machine guns, and mortars altogether. It was like a bullet storm. After a while, the source of the sounds became visible.

Kamol Kumar, his family members, and around 150 others in the staff quarters passed the night hiding under the bed out of fear. His father was a staff member of the hall.

“The next morning, I heard from my peers that the guards were beaten and two professors from Shahidullah Hall were killed. The martyred professors were Ataur Rahman Khan Khadim, a lecturer in the Department of Physics, and Sharafat Ali, a lecturer in mathematics. I passed that day and the next one in fear of the military personnel attacking us again.”

On March 28, a curfew was issued from 8am to 4pm. Amid the curfew, his father set out to see what happened around him. Around 3pm, he returned home with blood-covered feet. “He said that we must leave Dhaka at once. It's not safe at all. Upon asking why, he described the horrors he has seen.”

There were dead bodies scattered on the streets. Several familiar faces were among the deceased. Madhu Sudan Dey, affectionately known as Madhu Da by the students due to his canteen at Dhaka University, was killed in the Shibbari residential area.

The ones to face the most tragic fate were the non-Muslims. The students of Jagannath Hall were buried in a massive grave. The entire hall glistened with blood. Some were relatively fresh, and some were blackened.

“Then I set out with my family, with everything I had, leaving behind the place once known as home to an unknown and uncertain fate,” said Kamol Kumar, who was the senior laboratory attendant at the Department of Psychology. Currently, he is serving as the caretaker of a shrine.

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