• Monday, Nov 28, 2022
  • Last Update : 09:24 am

DACCA Diary from Intercontinental Hotel, Dec 14, 1971

  • Published at 06:36 pm December 13th, 2019
Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

In honour of the Month of Victory, Dhaka Tribune is republishing the Pulitzer Prize winning daily dispatches of then Wall Street Journal correspondent Peter R Kann


By early afternoon it appears that the battle of Dacca is about to begin. Indian MIGs rocket “Government House” – governor’s office – in central city. Two reporters return from several-hour drive southeast of city. They report Indian troops seven miles from city and advancing with only one river to cross. Considerable fighting. Indian planes drop leaflets on city calling for all military and paramilitary forces to surrender. To nearest Indian unit with guarantee of protection for lives and property.

Red Cross official says food situation in Dacca has become desperate. All foodstuffs in short supply, many shops closed, curfew prevents people reaching open shops, and prices now so high that poor cannot afford to buy remaining food anyway.

Local paper announces that “due to emergency situation and difficulties of communication, it has been decided to suspend the Get-a-Word Competition in East Pakistan until further notice. The inconvenience caused to the competitors is due to reasons beyond the control of the management and is regretted.” It’s midafternoon and more bombing close to city.

News of the resignation of A.M. Malik, governor of East Pakistan, and rest of civilian government. One UN official who was in the governor’s office about 1 p.m. says Malik wrote out the resignation longhand between the first and second Indian air strikes on Government House. Then Malik washed his feet, knelt and prayed. During brief interlude between the strikes, Gen. Rao Farman Ali Khan, deputy martial-law administrator here, ran down the hall past UN man and said: “Why are the Indians doing this to us?” UN man tells a reporter: “As we were under direct air attack at the time, I didn’t go into political explanations.” Paks really seem to think it’s somehow unfair, unsporting for India to be winning the war.

Later, a Pakistani colonel arrives at hotel gate and is asked how the military situation is going. “Plenty fine,” he says. “Will army surrender?” “Of course not.” “Will you keep fighting?” “Of course.” Very polite, very soft-spoken.

I spend two hours on door duty searching luggage of arriving ministers of civilian government who are seeking refuge here. Strange for a reporter, but all rules are fluid here. Some of ministers wait as if in trance as bags are combed. Others try to joke. One says: “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust; if the Indians don’t get you, the Muktis must.” But he can’t manage a smile at his own joke.

Several photographers return from site of afternoon air strikes. Say rockets hit civilian neighbourhood, killing at least a dozen Bengali civilians. At the site there were two young members of Mukti Bahini, or East Pakistani guerrillas. “Why did they (Indian planes) do it?” says one of the shaken Muktis. “We are their friends.”

Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail