“HOW DACCA PAID FOR A ‘UNITED’ PAKISTAN” : A REPORT FROM SIMON DRING (4 pages)
BANGLADESH DOCUMENTS 1971- PART - I
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“HOW DACCA PAID FOR A ‘UNITED’ PAKISTAN” : A REPORT
FROM SIMON DRING
The Dark Night of 25th March - Eyewitness Account
by Simon Dring of Daily Telegraph, London
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, East Pakistan’s popular political leader, was seen being taken
away by the army, and nearly all the top members of his Awami League party have also
Leading political activities have been arrested, others are dead, and the offices of two
papers, which supported Mujibur's movement, have been destroyed.
But the first target as the tanks rolled into Dacca on the night of Thursday, March 25,
seems to have been the students.
An estimated three battalions of troops were used in the attack on Dacca – one of
armored, one of artillery and one of infantry. They started leaving their barracks shortly
before 10 p.m. By 11, firing had broken out and the people who had started to erect
makeshift barricades – overturned cars, three stumps, furniture, concrete piping – became
Sheikh Mujibur was warned by telephone that something was happening, but he refused
to leave his house. “If I go into hiding they will burn the whole of Dacca to find me,” he
told an aide who escaped arrest.
The students were also warned, but those who were still around later said that most of
them thought they would only be arrested. Led by American—supplied M-24 World War
II tanks, one column of troops sped to Dacca University shortly after midnight. Troops
took over the British Council Library and used it as a firebase from which to shell nearby
Caught completely by surprise, some 200 students were killed in Iqbal Hall, headquarters
of the militantly anti-government student’s union, I was told. Two days later, bodies were
still smoldering in burnt-out rooms, others were scattered outside, more floated in a
nearby lake, and an art student lay sprawled across his easel.
The military removed many of the bodies, but the 30 bodies still there could never have
accounted for all the blood in the corridors of Iqbal Hall.
At another hall, reportedly, soldiers buried the dead in a hastily dug mass grave which
was then bulldozed over by tanks. People living near the university were caught in the
fire too, and 200 yards of shanty houses running alongside a railway line were destroyed.
Army patrols also razed nearly market area. Two days later, when it was possible to get
out and see all this, some of the market’s stall-owners were still lying as though asleep,
their blankets pulled up over their shoulders. In the same district, the Dacca Medical
College received direct bazooka fire and a mosque was badly damaged.
As the university came under attack, other columns of troops moved in on the Rajarbag
headquarters of the East Pakistan police, on the other side of the city. Tanks opened fire