“Why on earth are you wearing an artificial red flower on your shirt?” someone asked me the other day as I waited for treatment at a local hospital. I explained, at quite some length, that every year in Britain and other countries of the world we remember those who gave their lives in different wars to keep the world free. I explained that the second Sunday of November is observed as Remembrance Sunday in UK. The First World War (1914-18), known then as ‘The Great War’, was regarded at that time as ‘a war to end all wars’, meaning that many people believed that such a war would never happen again. Many of the fallen soldiers lost their lives in the poppy fields of Belgium and many of the military cemeteries are in those areas too. A few years after the end of this war, in which about 10 million members of all armed forces perished as well as 7 million civilians, the poppy flower was adopted as a symbol to remember those (of all countries-allies and enemies) who lost their lives and Nov 11 is observed as the Day of Remembrance because the Armistice or cease-fire was effective at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, November of 1918. With the addition of the Second World War, Remembrance Sunday became much more important as the loss of life worldwide, military and civilian, rose to 50 to 70 million.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn stand in silence at the Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph service in London, Britain, November 12, 2017. Reuters

Remembrance Sunday six years ago fell actually on Nov 11 and so felt a little more special for me to observe. This year is particularly important as it is the centenary of the end of the Great War. My maternal grandfather lost his life in May, 1918 at the age of 33 and left my grandmother and three small children behind. A paternal great-uncle, after whom I am named, also lost his life during the same war. In the Second World War, my father was one of a handful of radar scientists who kept ahead of the Germans in the development of radar for fighting by air. One of my uncles was a fighter pilot and another in the army in Europe. So, I think of them and remember them all.

As children, we grew up in the 1950s, when post-war rationing was still in force, and learnt from our parents about the horrors of war. Our parents hoped and believed that wars would not happen again, but in fact there have been wars, big and small, going on nearly every year since then!

As a young man of 26 years, I came, unexpectedly, face to face with the horrors of war when I was responsible, on behalf of OXFAM-GB, for the care and welfare of about 600,000 Bangladeshi refugees in many of the more than 900 camps in the Indian states bordering Bangladesh. The many individual stories of the murder, torture and rape of Bangladeshi civilians by Pakistani soldiers and their Razakar and other helpers, which I heard, are still clearly etched in my memory.

It is also significant that I am writing these few lines of my memories and feelings the day before Nov 3, ‘Jail Killing Day’, one of the blackest days in the history of Bangladesh when four men, who had been involved in master-minding the Liberation War and had served in the Government of Bangladesh, were brutally murdered inside the Dhaka Jail.

I had the great pleasure of meeting two of them, Tajuddin Ahmad and AHM Qamaruzzaman, in Kolkata on a few occasions to seek their help and advice which was invaluable in terms of distribution of relief materials in ‘free and liberated’ Bangladesh. Later when I came to Dhaka in late January 1972, they welcomed me with great warmth and friendship and arranged for me for a memorable meeting with Bangabandhu.

Many people say “Never Again”, meaning “No More War”, but somehow wars and killing never seem to go away….

Julian Francishas worked for many years in Bangladesh with poverty alleviation programmes and disability related programmes. In recognition of his work in 1971, the Government of Bangladesh bestowed on him ‘The Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in 2012 and in July 2018 he was honoured with the Citizenship of Bangladesh.

3 Responses to “Remembering the fallen and wars and Jail Killing Day…”

  1. Anwar A Khan

    Dear Mr. Julian,

    I have read your piece. And I thank you so much for penning this invaluable write-out on our golden sons who successfully brought about Bangladesh in 1971 when Bangabandhu was interned in Pakistan’s jail. It is very sad that we lost them by gun bullets and bayonet charges by some imbecile sub-humans in the safe custody of Dhaka Central Jail in the wee wee hour on 3 November 1975.

    I also remember your great contributions for Bangladesh during and after our glorious Liberation War in 1971.

    I wish you all the best.

    Reply
  2. M. Emad

    Pakistan prime minister Z. A. Bhutto and his ‘Muslim Bengal’ (Bangladesh) agents killed the top 1971 Bangladesh leadership in 1975.

    Reply
    • Danke Tyre

      Mr M Emad, wrong information, Sir, very wrong information you’re spreading. It’s too bad!

      Who killed Mujib, Yahya or Bhutto? Please remember, it was his own people who used to call Mujib’s wife “Khala-amma (aunt)” and these “good” nephews slaughtered Mujib and his whole family, except the two daughters who were by chance, out of the country. Again, people who killed the four leaders were not the Bengali Razakars or Al-Bdars or Bhutto’s men. It was again the same people who murdered Mujib.
      Mujib’s incompetent and corrupt regime caused his assassination and the four leaders were poor leaders indeed who couldn’t save Mujib or themselves from the cruel assassins’ grudge. No use glorifying them as great leaders; there was nothing great in them.

      Fake news and false propaganda are sinful activities and it’s no good. Let us try to find the truth by all means. Truth can save our souls if nothing else.

      Reply

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