Torture Cells

Dead bodies found on the roads of  Jessore

Sathkhira

No of torture cells: 1. Star Diamond Hotel torture cell 2. Mahmudpur at Alipur 3. Benerpota 4. Patkelghat at Tala 5. Bakal 6. Jhaudanga
Star Diamond Hotel torture cell (now the Pubali Bank building)
Key perpetrators:
1. Major Abdullahel Baki 2. Major Khaled Mukit 3. major Khaleq 4.Zummon Shaokat 5. Gafur
People killed: 1. Roknuz Zaman 2. Kabir Ahmed Ansar 3. Khalilur Rahman 4. Nazrul Islam (Dhulihar)
Martyred Freedom Fighters
: Nazrul Abedin Khoka, Samsuz Zoha Kajol, Sheikh Harunur rashid, Safed Ali
 

Tales of the tortured


Many women who participated actively in the 1971 war were arrested and kept in camps experiencing inhuman conditions. Rape, torture and in many cases death was common in those camps. We tell the stories of two women participants who were subjected extreme nature of abuse and brutality. To protect the privacy of these women, we have changed their identities.
Adila Begum
When the Pakistan army cracked down in Dhaka we were angry but not scared. We belonged to a family of politicians and our eldest brother was a Chhatra League leader in the Comilla city. He came home a few nights after that and told our family to prepare to fight in the resistance army. He said that the army had already moved close along the Gumti river. There were 19 of us from the same bari and we began to train to fight alongside our brothers. The first fight took place in Burichong thana and we suffered heavy casualties. Our weapons were not good enough to fight the Pakistan army guns. Some of us were cut off from the main group and we ran to hide through the swampy area. We found some derelict huts that night and stayed in them. Three days later we skirted the area and tried to return home but found that the army had attacked our home. I later learned that my brother and two of my cousins were killed. I finally made it after almost a month moving from place to place with my younger brother and cousin along with some other refugees. Till the middle of April, life was relatively simple, but things got worse when the local leaders began to talk about raising "village defenders." Actually the idea was not bad because the defenders -- who were later called razakars -- were local people and we knew them all. They were the poor villagers who had no work so this new job made them better off. They didn't bother us, but once the Pakistan army declared prizes for catching Muktis, these razakars became greedy and started to demand money from us, threatening to tell the Pakistan army if we did not pay.

After a month we became so scared that my father sent my sister and me to Comilla town. We were going towards a relative's house when the army began to stop all rickshaws and check them. Suddenly two men were running through the street and the army fired at them. Both were hit. We became so scared that we also started to run and there was complete chaos. I fell down and hit my head. When I regained my senses, I realised I was being slapped by a Khansena. They dragged me and two others into a truck and we were taken to the military camp. From the very first day they thought I was also a freedom fighter and beat me up. I don't know why they didn't kill me because they did everything else. There were several girls like me in the camp and we were regularly tortured. Then they thought that it was much better to let me cook and clean. I became their servant. They wouldn't let me wash or clean myself and I smelt foul. I cooked -- lal kumra and lau and bhat -- for other Bengalis. They ate chapati and I made tons of them. Even now, years later, I can't make chapatis, and seeing them makes me sick.

One day an officer came and without saying anything started to beat me up. Maybe being raped would have been better because hours later when I regained consciousness, I had found that I had lost so many of my teeth and my forehead was bleeding. The scars are still there. I later learnt his best friend had been killed in a fight. Next day I was dragged out and made to clean ditches and then prepare chapatis. I taught myself one thing -- that was not to think of my family or what would happen the next day. If I did I would have gone mad. So slowly the faces faded from memory. I think it helped me survive.


When winter came, a Pakistani soldier told me that war was imminent. He also said that they would be gone soon and I would be free. The he did something strange. He searched me including my private parts looking for hidden gold. He must have been mad to think I still had gold with me after all this time.

But war did come and one day we heard them leave. Before they left they killed a few prisoners, but expecting this some of us hid outside. It was almost a full day before the Indians came, but we were so scared and stupid we didn't go out. Even the Indians didn't know we were there, a few of us. They freed us and gave us food. I first took a bath, cleaned my body properly of blood and dirt, and went home. The nightmare of being a woman in a camp has imprisoned me ever since then.
 

Hanufa Khatun

We knew the Pakistan army would attack ordinary people. When the army crossed the river and slowly began to take over the towns, resistance began to give away and the partisans began to retreat. We were caught in a vicious circle. If we crossed the border, the Indian army might kill us for being Leftists, and if we stayed back the Pakistanis could kill us. But after a fight with the Pakistanis that we lost we
retreated into the remote areas and hills. There we tended the wounded including my husband who had taken a bullet in his arm. When several others also became very ill and no medical help was found, I with another woman decided to go to the city to find a doctor. Just as we were entering the city, we were recognised by a group of collaborators who hated us for being women activists and grabbed us. My friend managed to run but they caught my sari and I couldn't  escape. Yet I was caught because these people hated my husband and his family. I was not political myself and I think I was caught because they couldn't get my husband. I had returned only to help heal my husband but they said I had fought in the resistance war.
The gang members, all of whom belonged to the Islamic parties, first raped me and then left me tied up. I thought I was going to die, but I didn't. It was so strange to feel that way, as if my body belonged to someone else, as if another person had been raped. I didn't feel a thing that day. It was next day that it began to hurt all over. Such pain that I screamed like a butchered animal and my captors came and beat be some more. I bled again and blanked out. After two days, I was taken to a Pakistan army camp. My captors told the army that I had fought against them, but I was bleeding and I fell to the ground and fainted. I think the Pakistani officers didn't believe them and I was later surprised to find one of them beaten up too. I got my first meal -- some bread and water -- after that I realised that I was a prisoner.

I was made to do a lot of menial work, but nobody questioned me. I saw many local boys in the camp including some that had fought in the resistance. Sometimes in the evening, shots were fired. They said we were being killed.

One of the women in the camp was the wife of a college teacher who had been killed and knew me. Her husband was a teacher of Islamic studies. She herself could speak Arabic and Urdu. The Pakistanis soon found that out and used her to talk to the prisoners to find out if India was helping us or not. One day she read the Quran to them and after that there was an argument about whether it was right to keep her inside. Finally they decided to let her go and she said that she wouldn't leave without me. These soldiers didn't know anything about my husband's politics and the captors had been discredited so her words helped me. I was released.

When I reached home I found that my husband had died soon after my capture and so I left with my brother-in-law for India. We stayed as refugees and then through the party channel reached Kolkata. When I returned in January, my brother-in-law got into trouble again, and our family had to flee once more.
 

Courtesy Afsan Chowdhury from his forthcoming
book on the Liberation War.

 

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