DACCA Diary from InterContinental Hotel by Wall Street Journal’s Peter R Kann

Friday, Dec 17, 1971

Chat with the hotel laundry bookkeeper who has emerged as a Mukti police inspector. Turns out he had been Mukti cell leader for InterContinental Hotel staff during past nine months. He had devised an underclothing code. If an agent handed him one undershirt, it meant that four terrorist acts had been successfully completed. Two undershirts meant three successes, three undershirts meant two successes and four undershirts meant only one terrorist success. Nothing seems incredible here any more.

At 5.55 p.m. two Soviet correspondents arrive. “We are Tass and Pravda. We have just arrived. What is the news?” they say.

Two hours later, sipping Scotch in a hotel room, a reporter says, “Hey, the lights are on.” And so they are. It’s the first night in nearly two weeks that’s not spent by candlelight.

Later, three Indians arrive to report that “the city is all quiet now, a curfew has been imposed, we have stopped all this bloody shooting business and…….” The rest is drowned by automatic weapons fire.

But today was quieter than yesterday.


Peter R Kann

Peter R Kann joined the staff of The Wall Street Journal in 1964 to become its publisher eventually. In 1972, he earned a Pulitzer for his coverage of the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

Julian Francishas been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the Government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971 and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh Citizenship. In 2019, Julian was also honoured with the award of the OBE for services to development in Bangladesh.