REFUGEE CRISIS IN EUROPE ; MY PERSONAL PLIGHT AND WHY I LOVE INDIA
Once and refugee; always a refugee. I guess you can call me that, because in 6 hours time on the fateful 11th day of the month of April 1971 my families life changed from everything to nothing. It can not be penned in a few words ; a very wide canvas to paint into a story, But nevertheless, I shall endeavour to give my readers a glimpse of my life in 1971 and how I see todays refugee crisis gripped the whole heartland of European civilisation.
I know the name of my today’s writing will give heartache to many of my readers who loathe the country I just mentioned that I love; why they loathe ; well, Either they are ungrateful or too wrongly preached to conceive an enemy to perceive. But, I stand firm on statement and will be justify my reasons of calling it so. Those of you are too inclined on the other side of the moral - political or preaching spectrum - you may stop reading it any more or you may read if you wish to do so. it is aways prudent to read all sides of a story instead of concocted one side one…….
The exodus of ocean of human being pouring into the shores of Europe for the last few months is unbelievable and astonishing. The plight of these people knows no bound. Life changing experience, a total culture shock, the nagging thought of uncertainty and fear of starvation. Bleak futuristic prospect and the pain of partying company with their home land - mother land and land of their birth ; is perhaps the worse of all human catastrophe.
The war in the Middle East is something that needs a candid, impartial and straight looking into and spread the message to the rest of unsuspecting world at large. This war in the region is war of islam and it’s war to claim supremacy of one of over the other sectarian sect. Yet, no one seems to have any interest in negotiating to come with a solution for an amicable long term peace but instead engaged in dealing with this a very cynical view of annihilation, war, killing,abolish, genocide and all kinds of inhumane traits of middle age war mongering.
What happened in my life back in 1971 needs a proper narration in order for my readers to understand the magnitude of my plight, destitution, fear and above all the near death experiences and its reminisces haunting me day and night. The worst of any fear and sacredness for a adolescent of a young lad of 11 years old.
The climax of the war of liberation in my country in erstwhile East Pakistan presently known Bangladesh reached its optimum of annihilation of my Bengali race by the Pakistani Army and Pakistani Government and it’s people to a great extend along with their collaborators & Non Bengali residents of East Pakistan. The Pakistan army cracked on the nation of bengal under the cover of darkness on the 24/25 March 1971. they then started to capture the whole country by it’s barbaric army who were indiscriminately started to kill all the people who came in front of them on their way and the killing spree spree did not subside till the day they were made to surrender on the 16th of December 1971.
We used to live in a town called Brahmin Baria ( a town chosen for the Brahmin’s to live) some 90 KM away from the capital city of Dhaka. The Pakistani air force started bombarding the township for to dislodge the freedom fighters who were trying to hold on to the town but the Pakistani airforce bombarded the town in two occasions and on the 11th April at about 15:45 hours a squadron of F 86 Sabre jets raided the city and they indiscriminately bombarded the small town of 5 sq. miles in those days and low flying un challenged aircraft continued their act of barbarism of over 34 minutes and they left the whole place in dismay, confusion,panicked and this was something the peace loving, cultural Bengalis of this sleepy suburban township dwellers never experienced in their life.
As soon as those heavy metal sounding fighter planes stopped and went off the whole town started a panic that Pakistani land forces are marching towards the town from two different direction to envelope the whole town and flush out the rebels in their eyes and in our eyes they were the saviours the best sons of my motherland the freedom fighters in its nucleus of forms. the inhabitants of the town started to evacuate the town and a mammoth exodus of people started indiscriminately towards all directions except the suspected route of the Pakistani Army’s advancing column. Never did we know that, our asking of an independent nation hood would endanger our lives to this climax and never did we think in our wildest of dream that our own country’s air force will be bombarding it’s own citizens for no apparent reasons what so ever ; all we did was asked for devaluation and or an independence and for which they when into this rampage of a killing spree paying no heed to humanity.
The whole town started to flee the town in panic and it was about 17: 00 hours our brother came running from somewhere and told us come on let’s get the hell out of here. We all panicked my younger brother were crying of fear and the deafening sound of the aircraft made us very dizzy and we were all a bit disoriented and just fled the home leaving the pristine beds, the neat and clean house, meat safe full of food and the kitchen full with rice, flour,condiments and spices and the rest of the cooking paraphernalia. The book selves full of books collected by my mother and father over the years in the seating room and the pictures hanging on the walls - we just left the house some how locking it carelessly. Only two little bags and one suitcase full of unnecessary clothes and jumpers and shoes etc. Most of the valuable stuff we just left in the house and in the midst of these panics and shouting and noises my mother forgot to take the cash money from her well preserved steel cupboard; my mothers pride and joy and her pandoras box.
No prearranged destination was chalked out or anything like this. We just wanted to scape from the town before the army enters it from both Bhairab Bazar end and from Akaura end. We took a middle of these advancing columns. From 17:30 to till mid night we walked and walked and walked only heaven knows how many miles that long walk was. My brothers gave in and they could not walk a single more step. We were passing by a village and stopped near the houses and it was one of the darkest of all nights; pitch dark and we could hear the artillery shells pounding - behind us Brahmin Baria was burning ; the plume of the flames could be seen from miles and miles. We finally slept in that house and i ended up sleeping next room by the cow shed and on the floor and with some could odoured pillow and a quilt and one quilt under on the floor over a cane mat ; it was the most generous of act by that house hold ; I have no knowledge who they are and how they have given us the shelter for the night. From 5 o clock to 11 o clock on that day - these six hours have made me from everything to nothing. I was a destitute ; a homeless, an address less no body. Life has suddenly taken the most bizarre of twist and a twist for the worse and bends and the round a-bouts of that twist never ended for the foreseeable future of the nest three quarter of a year. It was that excruciating long saga of misery, fear, death,lack of sleep, starvation and above a gripping cloud of uncertainty looming over the head all the time.
Next day we walked and walked till we reached a village where we had a relative who's used to live there and it was not possible to reach our village as it was in main route the Pakistan Army’s axis of advance. The relatives in their house sheltered us all 6 of us and we stayed there few days and within the next week the collaborators of the Pakistan Army joined hands with the occupying force and they became the main issue for the villagers ; these collaborators acted as the informers,eyes and ear of the barbaric Pakistan Army - They came to know our father has revolted in Sylhet area and now he is in India and my brother was joined the freedom fight and he has just come to arrange a safe abode for us and will fall back to his mission. Loads of whispers, doubts, and threats started to come our way - few near death experience and Pakistan Army came few times marched near the village we were staying and we all had to go and hide in the Jute fields and bushes. Finally, we left after staying in 5 more villages and 1 town we decided that, The stay for us in the East Pakistan is very unsafe and our time is untenable here - we will be a very big trophy for the collaborators to shop us to the Pakistan Army with a very high reward. In few villages we felt even the distant relative were scared to house us and in one or two occasions we were flatly refused.
The darkest of all our hours for us all. It was the most crucial juncture of our life ; my mother one day said let us go back B.Baria to our old house come what may - at least we will die in peace in our own place instead of passing these derogatory life like a trump. The waters were rolling down my mother chins and she was unconsolable. My 2 young brothers were weak and frail- suffering from food shortage, dehydrations, lack of comfort and luxury and above all the culture and the ethos and the customs and practices of the life that we were thrown into was too alien for us to acclimatise. We just could gel in at all. Gone are the days of listening to Sunday after noon matinee drama on the radio, listening to the music in the evening, having a get to gather and sing a song. It was the most vivid of all experiences and the tension - the fear and the heavy bombardment in the B.Baria - Comilla high way popularly known as the C&B road were making us very fearful, scared and above all there was a sinking gut feeling what if we are grassed by someone and if the Pakistan army only comes to get us and for the few of us what if the burn the whole village and kill people indiscriminately. These thoughts were baffling my mother and she fell into a deep kind of depression which was evidently visible.
It was last week of April 1971 finally we made the decision enough is enough - it is time to say goodbye and make this epic journey to go to India. these 2 and half week felt like ages and it is by far the worse of all experiences we have had to face in our lives.
From the village we were staying at the time the nearest indian border was about 20 miles away but there were two major obstacle to cross; one was the B.Baria to Comilla C&B road and the other one was Kasba to Akhura Railway line, Both of these were heavily patrolled Pakistan Army 24/7 and no one knows when the patrols are awaiting for trespassers. Catch and kill them ; hundreds of families and men and women were captured in these places the legend as it was prevailing at the time. Crossing either of these could bring a sudden death at any given time; On the morning of last Friday of April 1971 - We said goodbye to our hosts and my mother was so pleased and overwhelmed she completely forgot to bring her cash money and little jewellery that she brought when we abandoned our house - she forgot to take them with her whilst saying bye to them. The journey starts - my young 15 year old sister was painted with black charcoal to make her look unattractive and mother saying us keep on reciting verses from Quran ; I wondered deep down in my heart what is the point of that ? the guys who are about to grass us and shop us to the Army are constantly reciting the Quran and The Pakistan Army advancing to B.Baria on the fateful night we evacuated were shouting verses from Quran too. So, why these killing if all of us the 3 parties are believer of the same book then why would any one would kill me from the same fraternity. To this days I have never could answer my consciences. The dichotomy of the fallacy remained unanswered.
It was the most exhaustive and fearful of journey of our lives. the throats were dry out of fear, the April showers made the small village tracks slippery, the walking through the paddy fields open patch without any cover and thunder storm crackling down from the sky and the violent wind in the open fields spread over a few thousands of acres to say the least ; finally we could see the ridge line of the scariest feature the C&B road started to unveil itself breaking the sky line. It looked like a ghost’s paradise - we started to inch near it and took a detour to come near a jute field to use that as cover ; My poor brother was the guide who has no knowledge of these areas or route. After 3 attempts and 2 scares we managed to cross the road and started walking east towards the railway line. The drizzle did not fizzle but it intensified its penetrative rain drops striking the face causing itch and pain but the exodus must not be stopped. No rest. The villages near the road and the after the road till up to the rail line was deserted. All the shops were shuttered down- post office signboard was seen on the side of the road, the schools tin shed looked like a place where all the abandoned cattle head found a sanctuary of respite from ploughing and other farming chores. The hindu dwelling area was burned down to ashes and there were not a single standing structure there. My brother befriended with 2 other pilgrims en route - who told us that those houses burned belongs to a hindu caste who are engaged in raw hide business. it was an affluent market village for the surrounding 20 to 25 villages. All burned into ashes.
These two passers by helped us crossing the rail way line ; they know a pattern of Army patrol trolleys ( pushed by captured travellers ; like us) frequency of passing the point. we 8 people are the only walkers and the whole surrounding was noise less and no traces of human being. it felt like a funeral parlour ; an airy silence of solitude and a walk to the unknown ; a fearful epic venture with unchartered outcome.
to be continued ....
to be continued ....