July 25, 2021

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A chapter of a brutal massacre

One of the most horrific massacres at the beginning of the War of Liberation took place on 2 April 1971 at Jinjira near Dhaka. We have collected various histories of this Romharsha genocide based on the medical history of the liberation war. The full details of the Jinjira genocide have not yet been written. But in the memoirs of many people, some documents of the liberation war have its details, as well as we have collected some new information by conducting in-depth interviews on this subject.

Jinjira is a union in Keraniganj upazila on the south bank of river Buriganga. The area has been famous for various trades and small scale industries since Pakistani times. Once upon a time, the word ‘Made in Jinjira’ was also quite common, in a slightly negative sense. According to the population survey, the average population of Bangladesh is higher than any other union in Jinjira and adjoining Shubhadhya and Kalindi Unions. The presence of various economic activities in the area can be considered as the reason for this dense settlement.

 

Genocide plan
We know from various sources that when the killing of Pakistani soldiers started in Dhaka on March 25, many panicked people of the city crossed the Buriganga river for safe shelter and took shelter in different villages of Jinjira, Shubhadhya and Kalindi Union. There were three to four times more people living in the area than the population of the three unions. People’s houses, verandas, living rooms, schools, mosques — everywhere countless asylum seekers from the surrounding area had gathered. They all understood the situation and were waiting to take the next step. One such episode took place on April 2 in the area.

The context of the Jinjira massacre plot is found in the book Witness to Surrender written by Siddique Salik, the then Pakistan Army Press Officer in Dhaka. Siddique Salik was killed in the same plane crash with Pakistani President Ziaul Haque in 1968. According to Salik, when he was in charge of the headquarters of the Dhaka Martial Law Administrator, some of his trusted Bengalis, supporters of Pakistan, regularly provided him with information about Dhaka. One such trusted Bengali came to the Pakistan Army headquarters and reported that thousands of rebel Bengali EPR and police members were being organized in Keraniganj on the other side of the Buriganga and were preparing to retaliate against the Pakistanis. This news was given to them probably on 1st April. On the same day, taking the news with utmost importance, the army headquarters immediately decided to inflict a final blow on Keraniganj.

A chapter of a brutal massacre
The campaign started before Fajr Azan
Pakistani Brigadier Jahanzen Arbab was in charge of Operation Searchlight on March 25. Under him 18 Punjab Regiment conducted this operation in Dhaka. The main principle of Operation Searchlight was to carry out indiscriminate killings and create a terrible panic in the area. An army officer of the 18th Punjab Regiment was given command of the Jinjira operation. Salik did not mention the name of the officer. But he said that he left for Buriganga at midnight on April 1 with his forces including Commander Field Gun, Mortar, Reckless Rifle. The whole army was stationed at Mitford Hospital with their weapons. They put mortars and machine guns on the roof of the century-old Paribibi Mosque on the banks of the Buriganga. They plan to cover the incessant shelling from the mosque before dawn, with Pakistani troops crossing the river in gunboats and combing operations to quell a possible insurgency. The campaign started on the eve of Fajr Azan on 2 April as planned.

Although the background of this expedition is found in Salik’s book, we get the direct account of that hellish expedition in the memoirs of many people. In their memoirs, we learn that in the light and darkness of the dawn, the people of Jinjira woke up to the sound of a huge mortar. Mortar shells came from Paribibi’s mosque and fell on the houses one by one, and at that moment the houses caught fire. Meanwhile, Pakistani troops came from Sadarghat and Postagola in a gunboat and landed in Keraniganj. As soon as they set fire to the house with gunpowder, they proceeded and continued random brushfire. The Pakistani army started firing on the unarmed people as helpless people rushed out of the house in fear to escape the fire.

 

Dr. arrived in an ambulance from Dhaka Medical College Hospital in the last afternoon of April 2 to treat the injured. A team including Matiur Rahman, RS Shamsuddin, Professor Kader of Anesthesia. Mitford surgeon Zahurul Maula Chowdhury was with the team.
Eyewitness account
There is a touching account of that day in the autobiography of the poet Nirmalendu Guna, who took refuge in Jinjira that day. Fearing for his life, he once took refuge in a mosque. Then miraculously survived by taking refuge in the woods of a house. But witnessed the horrific massacre. He saw people running around screaming in agony, some of them were on fire, some were being shot. He saw the skull shot and flew away while running away, but the headless body was running like a surreal scene due to inertia. Considering the mosque safe, the people were not spared on that day. As far as we know, 80 worshipers were shot dead near Mandail Mosque in Kalindi Union. Note that that day was Friday, Friday. Former diplomat Abdul Hannan described the Jinjira genocide in the Daily Star.

Although his family miraculously survived that day, his wife lost her memory forever after witnessing that hellish event. According to sources, between one thousand and three thousand people were killed in Jinjira that day.

I found interesting information about the next episode of Jinjira murder in Siddique Salik’s book. Salik said that when he met the officer in charge of the Keraniganj operation that evening, the officer informed him that there were no armed police, rifles members or weapons in Keraniganj. He acknowledged that the operation was based on misinformation. We did not find the name of that army officer, but Salik says that the officer told him that he was suffering from a sting of conscience for this Jinjira operation and would suffer in the future.

At the end of the massacre, the Pakistani army withdrew its weapons, but there were thousands of dead and hundreds of wounded and burnt people in the area. Jinjira was then a city of mourning. The survivors then tried desperately to save the injured. Recklessly, they took the injured to Mitford Hospital. We find that at that time many village doctors came forward to treat the injured. We find Nur Mohammad, a village doctor who has cared for many injured people. Immortal Sur of Shankharibazar told us that while he and his sister Sagarika Sur were fleeing in fear to escape the bullets, he ran away leaving his sister in fear when he was shot. Later, the late Nur Mohammad, a veterinarian, took his sister to Mitford with primary care, but she survived.

Medical team of Mitford and Dhaka Medical
Hundreds of injured people, like Amar Sur’s sister, came to Mitford that day. But since the night before, Mitford Hospital had been occupied by Pakistani forces and the doctors and staff of the hospital had fled to safety with their lives in panic and fear. The handful of doctors and nurses who were trapped were unable to handle the crowd of hundreds of injured patients. In this situation, the director of Mitford Hospital called the director of Dhaka Medical College Hospital and requested him to send a surgical team on an emergency basis. On the last afternoon of April 2, Professor Dr. came in an ambulance from Dhaka Medical College Hospital. A team including Matiur Rahman, RS Shamsuddin, Professor Kader of Anesthesia. Mitford surgeon Zahurul Maula Chowdhury was with the team. Mitford Hospital was then paralyzed.

In a conversation with us in 2019, Professor Matiur Rahman and Dr. described the Mitford Hospital that day. Shamsuddin. There were no staff to sterilize the equipment of the hospital operation theater that day, no operator to run the water pump, no store man. They realized that it was impossible to treat the hundreds of injured people in the hospital with this small team of doctors. They then have to make a ruthless decision. They only select patients from the emergency department who are the most critical but have the best chance of survival. With no other option, they have to make such an extreme human and moral dilemma. They have performed one operation after another, they have saved many lives, and again they are seeing people falling in the lap of death in front of their eyes. Each new operation requires a new rubber seat, a new set of equipment, a new gown, a mask, gloves. But they did not get any change and washed the same instrument in the stagnant water of the faucet. They carried out the operation after wearing the same gown and gloves.

Professor Matiur Rahman told us that their joint surgical team continued the operation non-stop all night and till the next afternoon to stop the death procession. Tired in the morning, they came to the verandah to get fresh air and once they stood, they saw that Keraniganj was still burning on the other side of the river. Smoke all around. The hospital is still in the throes of death. Again they rushed to the operating theater in an attempt to save another life. The contribution of these medical forces has not been written in the history of the liberation war.

People around the world know about the historic Mai Lai genocide in Vietnam, but no one knows about the horrific Jinjira massacre. We’ve seen websites like Wikipedia, WikiGiro, etc., and there’s a lot of misinformation about the Jinjira killings. We thought in deep doubt, who is providing this information, do we know? We visited the World Genocide Museum in Rwanda and saw that although there are reports of small and big genocides in different countries of the world, there is no mention of Bangladesh. We have not brought to the world the history of atrocities that have befallen our country, nor have we even remembered ourselves. On the golden jubilee of independence, we demand that the initiative for international recognition of the genocide in Bangladesh be further strengthened, and that every genocide in different parts of the country be properly preserved at the national level. Arrangements should be made so that everyone knows about these incidents. In that sense, April 2 should be ‘Jinjira Genocide Day’.

Author: Shahaduzzaman: Fiction writer and public health expert.