Bangladesh wrestles with trials from ’71 war

Courtesy: Associated Press

 By JULHAS ALAM – 

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — It should have been like any other morning.

But March 26, 1971, was the first full day of a war that would tear apart the region then called East Pakistan. When the fighting ended nine months later, as many as 3 million people were dead and East Pakistan — until then an annex of Pakistan — had become the independent nation of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh marked the 40th anniversary of the end of its independence war this month, still struggling to close the deep wounds that accompanied its birth and divided over how to deal with those who allegedly aided Pakistan during the war.

The fighting was just hours old at 7 a.m. when soldiers burst through the wooden door of Arun Kumer Dey’s apartment on the Dhaka University campus. Dey’s father managed the school’s cafeteria, a popular meeting place for government opponents.

The soldiers, firing machine-guns, quickly killed Dey’s mother, 15-year-old sister, eldest brother and the brother’s new wife. Then they left.

Dey, then a teenager, and his injured father fell onto the corpses in grief.

But the soldiers soon came back. “I begged for my father’s life,” Dey said. Instead, his father was taken away and executed, the body dumped into a shallow grave.

“It still haunts me,” said Dey, who now runs the cafeteria. And every day since then he has wondered: “When will the killers and their collaborators be punished?”

He may soon have an answer.

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