FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Bangladesh: The Price of Freedom
Posted:Mar 1, 2013
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Book: Bangladesh: The Price of Freedom

Author: Raghu Rai

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Price: Rs 1495

Pages: 115

Millions of souls nineteenseventyone

homeless on Jessore Road under grey sun

A million are dead, the million who can

Walk toward Calcutta from East Pakistan

Allen Ginsberg, "September on Jessore Road"

In Bangladesh, the ghosts of the 1971 Liberation War are afoot again. Dhaka's Shahbag Square has become the Tahrir Square of the east, jam-packed with protesters demanding the death penalty for all war criminals. But on Thursday, when a senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader was sentenced to hang, the countryside erupted in clashes in which 42 people died. Ignoring the streetfighting, the courts are inexorably writing the final chapter of the story which Islamabad wants to forget and which Dhaka memorialises as resistance in the face of genocide.

Documents presumed lost are resurfacing, which flesh out this story which has remained incomplete for too long. Last year, Penguin Viking published the unfinished memoirs of Mujibur Rahman, which were discovered in the original Bengali in 2011. And now Raghu Rai has found his lost negatives from the Liberation War, when he went down Jessore Road to Dhaka with the Indian Army.

He writes of flying into Dum Dum in August 1971 and driving "straight to Jessore Road". For the convenience of war correspondents and cameramen, it begins right outside the airport. Turn left for Calcutta, right for Bangladesh. Allen Ginsberg, who wrote his song a month later, was taking poetic licence because by September 1971, towards the end of the conflict, 10 million East Pakistani refugees were marching up that road to Calcutta.

On the eve of its birth, the world saw Bangladesh in impersonal, numerical terms. Global culture untiringly memorialises the horrors of Vietnam and Cambodia. How many Vietnam films are there, anyway? Bangladesh, born in blood and terror, got one lousy song each from Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg, and a concert organised by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison in Madison Square Garden.

There was nothing for Hollywood to celebrate. Blindly backing West Pakistan, to the extent of sending the USS Enterprise into the Indian Ocean, had been embarrassingly stupid. So embarrassing that Archer Kent Blood, US consul general in Dhaka, felt impelled to send out the 'Blood telegram', formally known as 'Dacca 1138', registering dissent against US policy not to denounce Operation Searchlight, the March 1971 campaign of torture, rape and genocide by the Pakistan Army to erase Bengali resistance.

This book, introduced by Bangladeshi activist and photographer Shahidul Alam, backs up Raghu Rai's photographs with forgotten material like a facsimile of the Blood telegram and the instrument of surrender signed by Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora and Lt Gen AAK Niazi. In a highly readable essay, Lt Gen JFR Jacob recalls pounding it out on his own typewriter and brazening it out with Niazi for a public, unconditional surrender, though his forces were tactically weaker. And he describes how he concluded the war in just 12 days — by instructing his commanders to ignore orders from Delhi. The political leadership favoured incremental containment by taking district towns, while Jacob wanted to go straight for Dhaka, the eye of the storm.

Rai's subject in this book is eyes. The wild gaze of a wounded Sikh soldier being given water by a comrade, the baffled, angry eyes of a starving child, the eerily calm eyes of sick and dying refugees on Jessore Road. They speak of hopelessness and, amazingly, hope. To look at them is to look into the soul of a nation about to be born.

Indian Express, 2 March 2013

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image During the visit to Vietnam by Modi in 2016, economic cooperation was highlighted as a strategic priority in the ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” between the two countries
 
read-more
Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a four-nation tour of Europe Monday (May 29) where cooperation on counter-terrorism, civil nuclear technology, free trade, defence, science and technology and investment would dominate the bilateral summit agenda.
 
read-more
Video Gallery

 
see-more
To recall Jawaharlal Nehru is fundamentally to recall the egalitarian democracy he inaugurated in India, to remember the support he provided to the decolonisation of Asia and Africa through the 1950s and 1960s, recalls Syed Badrul Ahsan
 
read-more
The killing of Sabzar Bhat, a Kashmiri militant, in an encounter with counter-insurgency operatives is bound to aggravate the tumult in the Valley.
 
read-more
Recently, quite a few stories have appeared on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in both local and international publications.
 
read-more
What a week it has been for the Middle East! People of Iran came out in droves to re-elect Rouhani as president for another term.
 
read-more
As the United States (US) President Donald Trump returns home from his first foreign trip the world is presented with two contrasting images from this major foreign policy benchmark.
 
read-more
Column-image

  Title: The Exile; Author:  Cathy Scott-Clark & Adrian Levy; Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; Pages: 640; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Jim Corbett was a British-Indian hunter and tracker-turned-conservationist, author and naturalist; who started off as an officer in the British army and attained the rank of a colonel. Frequently called in to kill man-eating tigers or leopards,...

 
Column-image

Title: Bollywood Boom; Author: Roopa Swaminathan; Publisher: Penguin; Price: Rs 399; Pages: 221

 
Column-image

Title: Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War; Author: Myra Macdonald; Publisher: Penguin Random House India; Pages: 328; Price: Rs 599

 
Column-image

  The story of Afghanistan -- of the war against the Soviets and of terrorism that has gripped the landlocked country ever since -- is in many ways also the story of diplomat Masood Khalili, who motivated his people and led them...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive