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

Saturday, Dec 18, 1971

Considerable shooting and some killings, especially of Biharis, still continuing. A Bangla Desh victory celebration turns into a bloody spectacle; four West Pakistani sympathizers are tortured and killed. Earlier today Muktis uncovered mass graves of prominent Bengali intellectuals who had been taken hostage by local militiamen and butchered night before last. This is a traditionally bloody society that has just gone through a nine-month bloodbath. Why should the blood-letting suddenly stop?

At the airport, an Indian brigadier wanders around the terminal area trying to organize repair of the runway, which is full of holes. He wants Bengalis, not Indian troops, to make the repairs, which are, of course, vital for any relief effort. “But the Bengali chaps are just milling around and celebrating all day,” he says with exasperation. For now shouting “Joi Bangla” (Victory to Bengal) is more important to the Bengalis than food.

Dacca appears to be calming down gradually. Some men are taking their wives and children for their first stroll in Bangla Desh. One Bengali says his three year old son, Aupoo, hasn’t been taken out in public for months. The reason is that last March, during the brief period before the Pakistani army cracked down and imposed a reign of terror on the East, the child learned to shout “Joi Bangla.” But for the past nine months the parents feared that the child might shout “Joi Bangla” in public and thus get the family killed.

Today both father and son are on the streets, yelling, “Joi Bangla!”

 

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 has also been honoured with the award of the OBE for services to development in Bangladesh.