The victims of Halderpur village

By Lt. Col. (Retd.) Quazi Sajjad Ali Zahir on 12 May 2012

The writer is a Bir Protik, retired military officer, freedom fighter, recipient of Swadhinata Padak and researcher on the Liberation War

Article courtesy: The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Halderpur is a small village in Hobiganj. It is located under No. 7 Boroiuri union of Baniachong police station. In 1971, it was the site of an aggressive Pakistani air attack that claimed the lives of many innocent lives. This is their story.

On April 13, 1971, Halderpur was in the midst of preparations for a wedding ceremony. The bride Anowara Begum was 21 years old. She was born and brought up in London. While in London, her marriage was arranged to 26 year old Dewan Shahid Mia from Khusharhagaira, a village seven miles south of Halderpur. Dewan Shahid Mia was a teacher in the local Maktab (Islamic religious school). A celebratory atmosphere shrouded Halderpur that day. After a sumptuous lunch of Biriani and Rezala followed by sweets, the bride's family arranged for a stick-fight which is a very popular sport in the area. The field was full of people who were enjoying the exciting game.

A few minutes after the game started, a fighter air craft of Pakistan air force flew low over the field. The air craft circled the field twice and then flew away. The villagers although curious, thought it was only a military exercise and did not reflect further on it.

On April 19, at 2 p.m., two Pakistani air crafts (Saber Jets) were seen flying low in the eastern sky at a high speed. People came out of their homes to see what the commotion was about. The air crafts turned around and once over the village, began firing rockets and shooting with machineguns. In a matter of seconds, rockets blasted through the village and fire broke out. The entire village was almost razed to the ground. Dead bodies were littered everywhere. Panicked and confused villagers carried the wounded to the Thana Health Complex for emergency medical assistance.

On April 19, 1971, eleven innocent villagers were killed and thirtytwo were wounded. The dead have been identified as follows:

    1. Angura Khatun, 15 year old (a student of Maktab, daughter of Abdul Make)
    2. Mokbulunnesa, 40 year old (housewife, wife of Fazar Uddin)
    3. Amena Khatun, 10 year old (a student of primary school, daughter of Fazar Uddin)
    4. Angura Begum, 10 year old (a student of primary school, daughter of Ayub Uddin who was a retired police constable in East Pakistan)
    5. Shonar Ma, 40 year old (housewife, wife of Ayub Uddin)
    6. Shajal Mia, 14 year old (farmer, daughter of Sifat Ullah)
    7. Porchan Bibi, 16 year old (a student, daughter of Tamij Uddin)
    8. Kamalar Ma, 65 years old (housewife who came from Nabiganj to attend the marriage ceremony)
    9. Taiyab Jaan Bibi, 65 years old (housewife)
    10. Lal Bibi, 41 years old (housewife, wife of Late Alam Ullah)
    11. Bashanti Rani Shukra Vaidya, 42 years old

Manohar Mia of the village lost five members of his family. He was severely wounded and still carries the scars of the wounds he received that fateful day. The villagers of Halderpur could not understand why on April 19, 1971, their village was attacked by the Pakistan military. Some felt that because of the stick-fight the air craft pilots thought that it was a training field of freedom fighters. The villagers did reflect on the fact that the Pakistan military must have later realized that they had conducted the massacre without reason. But there was never any acknowledgement or apology for the massacre that day. A few months later, at a dinner in the air force mess in Dhaka, an air force pilot of Pakistan air force told his fellow officers that after he carried out an aerial campaign in Halderpur, he realized it was an unnecessary attack on innocent villagers. When asked by one of his colleagues, Captain Nadir Ali, whether he knew of the damage done to the people of Halderpur, he responded, “Only Bengalis were killed, so what why do we have to care.”

Till today no monument for the martyrs has been built in the village in that place of occurrence and no effort has been taken to preserve the graves.