In our research work exploring how 1971 events impacted on the marginalized people we have covered the experiences of three population groups. They are: A. the rural people in general. B. The experiences of women. C. The history of the Hindu community who were targeted specifically by the Pakistan army. However, there are other groups as well and data collection began a few years back to find out how a few other marginal groups lived or died in 1971.

In dealing/choosing such marginalized groups we find that two criteria apply. One is those who were socio-economically marginal and thus are marginalized in the historical narrative process. The other is the minority marginalized as they have not been found worthy of much attention. Often both criteria apply to the same group.

The Left-out majority

Villagers are a prime example of marginalization. Not much work has been done on them but increasingly, analysis shows that villagers held the key to effective resistance, sheltering and participation which made a significant contribution in keeping the occupied state alive. Perhaps this was the most significant contribution of them all. The reason is simple.

The war was played out in several spaces, national and international but the core was occupied Bangladesh. This is where history was produced as the overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis lived there. They bore the brunt of impact through the critical resistance period from March to end April and faced most of the assault. The resistance would also have been impossible without their support.

After the first stage when Pakistan re-captured Bangladesh, many people went to India to be trained to return as fighters. These people found shelter with the villagers which allowed the resistance to happen and ultimately eat through Pakistan's torso in Bangladesh.

Finally, when the joint India-Bangladesh forces mounted the end game, the villagers' support became critical too. As Gen. Aurora, Chief of the Joint Command said, "It's the villagers who let us in. Had they not wanted, no army could have entered Bangladesh. "It shows the enormous historical significance which many historians have not addressed properly.

In this case the majority has been left out by historians because they had no political significance to sustain the ruling class narrative. The same applies to the history of women in 1971.

The marginalized minority

There are other members of the marginalized population who are minority by their population size. At the same time, they could also be socio-economically that. A case in point is the situation of the sex workers. We know almost nothing about them as they are in general socially invisible and in history have become lost. But it is in many ways a terribly vulnerable time for them as clients dipped amidst the general insecurity. Did they face starvation? Changed their profession? What was the nature of their suffering?

There is another group about whom we know very little though they cut across several population segments and were very vulnerable: the elderly. The post 65+ population in Bangladesh today is around 20%. As an intersectional community, they represent every segment whether gender, economy, class, habitation or otherwise. However, we have no specific information on how they lived or died in 1971.

Our current work is now focused on these left out groups who are not considered historically significant but who lived suffered and died that year. We are excerpting from two of our case studies.

Somen Das (as told by his son Horen Das)

"Baba was hurt on the night of the 25th when the Pak army torched the Palpara slum. He hurt his feet when we were all trying to run away. It was dark and we tried to cross the ditches and water and Baba slipped and fell. I pulled him up but he couldn't walk but we couldn't stay there. Two other people somehow dragged Baba to the other side of the khal and we reached Moghbazar area."

"We took shelter in the home of the family where I worked as a gardener and spent the first few days too scared even to go out of the room. Baba was very ill but we didn't know where to find a doctor. The malik of the home finally got a doctor and he got some treatment but he needed an X-ray which we were too scared to go and get done. We heard that DMC had been raided and the Pak army was looking for Hindus. He was given some ointment and pain killers, that all."

"My sisters and wife were young and sisters unmarried and they were my responsibility so I was very worried about them. My wife's parent's home was in Munshihganj interior and we decided to move there with Ma too. Bab couldn't walk properly and was always in pain. He refused to go and we were stuck. The malik was very kind and asked us to leave Baba with him and we all left."

"We came back after the war and found him alive. He was physically better but his spirit was gone. Palpara was not inhabitable either so we had to move. Ma's family lived in the old city and Baba refused to go and live in his in-laws' home. He stayed back and did odd carpentry work there. A year later, he slipped and fell down and hurt his head. He was taken to the hospital but he never recovered."

Rashid Ahmed. Shantinagar (told by Shahed ahmed, his son)

"The army raided our home because some locals had informed us that Muktis had entered our house. Not true but some people wanted to cause trouble for us. Father was a dementia patient and didn't know what was going on. He was sitting on a wheelchair and burst into tears like a child. We tried to tell the army that he was sick but they shouted at us and we became silent with fear."

"After the search was over, they lined us up and said we are lucky that they saw so many jaynamaz and quarans. So they were sure we were not Hindus. But at this moment father screamed and started to howl. One person went and told father to shut up and shook him. He didn't understand. I said he was an old man and had gone mad. What else could I say? They laughed and made faces and then left. We were saved and safe but father hadn't been fed for hours and became very sick."

More studies of groups needed

In Bangladesh, we are more concerned about "correct "history instead of complete history. Instead of looking for facts, we are looking for political affirmations. The result has been the loss of information about many groups whichever way we define. before all information is lost, people from such groups can try to document the social-economic history to complete the mosaic that creates the history of 1971.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts