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Ace photographer Raghu Rai was only five years into the profession when the Bangladesh liberation struggle erupted in March 1971. He was dispatched post-haste by The Statesman newspaper to record the exodus of refugees, they would eventually number some 10 million, as they streamed into West Bengal and neighboring states to escape the atrocities being committed by the Pakistani Army.
He could immediately empathize with the refugees being a child of Partition himself when he and his family were uprooted from their Jhang hometown in what is now Pakistan. Rai worked at a furious pace sending back images after images which the newspaper faithfully carried, making him a household name in India and unfolding the horrors that marked the liberation struggle. But then, tragically, his entire body of negatives was lost, till they were recovered, quite by accident.
The outcome is “Bangladesh: The Price of Freedom”, published by Niyogi Books to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of Bangladesh as an independent nation. “I got involved myself in the sense that in 1947 when my family and I were uprooted from Pakistan, we came to India as refugees. Because the newspaper needs one or two pictures every day, my own environment, and being a refugee myself, I got involved in watching the plight of the refugees from East Bengal and their sufferings. And then these negatives were lost. They were put into some big bundle somewhere and never saw the light of the day,” Rai told IANS in an interview.
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“Then suddenly one day my assistant, who was scanning my important photos, said, Here is this packet of photos of Bangladesh refugees’. And I said, Really?’ This was after 40 long years that we discovered it.
“Meanwhile, you know, many photographers from around the world had come and taken pictures of Bangladesh refugees, like Don McCullin from the Sunday Times had done a feature, a very good feature. And I thought, What a great job he’s done!’ And then he had done a quick book and I said, Very good!’ And I had forgotten about my own work. And then I see my work after 40 long years, and I said, My God, it has its own intensity and message that needs to be shared. So then, I spoke to the relevant people and that’s how the book came about,” Rai explained.
What were his thoughts as he once again studied the images and made the selections for the book?
“You see, there were two really important points, one is that in 1971, 72, I was just five years old as a photographer. I was madly, deeply involved. But I was so young as a photographer and then I had seen the work of Don McCullin and, you know, he was 11 years senior to me. And then I discovered my photos and compared my work. And I thought, Let me put it out in the public domain because I have done it.
“So I discovered that even if I was only five years old as a photographer, the intensity and the suffering that I had managed to cover was so powerful and moving that I thought I must share this,” Rai elaborated.
And what an era this recreates! The stories are perhaps not unknown but are retold by a master storyteller the refugee camps, the exodus, the never-ending journey, a whirlwind of poignant, tormented history. And finally, a new nation, a new tomorrow. “Bangladesh: The Price Of Freedom” contains never-before-seen photographs which comprise a significant body of work documenting a turning point in the history of South Asia ï¿½ by someone who was there from the beginning to the end.
In the final denouement, after General Sam Manekshaw, ordered the army to move into action on December 4, 1971, Rai drove with the first column that headed the attack, towards Khulna through Jessore Road, which the Pakistan Army had already abandoned. “The first 40/45 kilometers were easy but then, as we got closer to the Khulna sector, we were greeted by artillery fire with airburst ï¿½ their artillery was locating the enemy with the help of informers on wireless and closing in on targets. We were located and ambushed the airburst caused casualties, as we were moving in the open,” Rai writes in the book.
“I photographed some of the wounded soldiers being taken away. But the question was how many such photographs could I possibly take? The next set of victims could be us. The major who was conducting me wanted me to move to safety. We ran for half a kilometer in a safe direction.
I saw a chai shop and relieved, ordered tea and biscuits, pleased that I had a close encounter of an actual war, had taken action photos and escaped! I was stretching myself on the road when one bullet flew past me. The major shouted for me to lie down. I did ï¿½ and another bullet went past me. I crawled back to the shop and was told by the shopkeeper that the Pakistan Army was on the other side of the rail track, just half a kilometer away.
“This was probably the shortest war fought and won by any nation. This was also due to the fact that the local population in Bangladesh had become hostile to the Pakistan Army. The Indian Air Force did the rest. By day 12 of the war, on December 16, 1971, 93,000 Pakistani soldiers had surrendered to the Indian Army.
“I flew into Dhaka in an army helicopter to witness scenes of jubilation and humiliation ï¿½ of victory and surrender. Indira Gandhi’s bold decision, General Manekshaw’s masterstroke, and General Jacob’s strategic planning had brought an end to nine nightmarish months of brutality and terror rapes, torture and dehumanization of Bangladeshis ï¿½ the price they had to pay for their freedom,” Rai writes. This book is one of four being published by Niyogi Books to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bangladesh war.
“The liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 was like a geopolitical earthquake. No sensitive person in publishing or in any other profession could avoid its huge ramifications. As a publisher, we thought of documenting this event through different books because of an inner urge. There was no grandstanding or expectation of a future commemorative event. This is how the books Bangladesh: The Price of Freedom’, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’ and Blossoms in the Graveyard’ came about,” Trisha De Niyogi, COO and Director, Niyogi Books, told IANS.
“Simultaneously we are bringing out a unique book to commemorate the celebration. This is a first-hand report by a rookie Calcutta journalist from The Statesman, who accompanied the Mukti Bahini fighters at different places in the then East-Bengal. Later on, he also trailed the Indian Army when the latter got seriously involved in the liberation War. The book is titled as Bangladesh Liberation War: Report from Ground Year’ and the writer is Manas Ghosh,” Niyogi added. (IANS/SP)
In a shocking video, Pashtun human rights activist, Farhat Taj, research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy exposed the dirty nexus between Pakistan army and terrorist organisations such as Taliban.
Pakistan army is time and again accused of committing genocidal crimes against Pashtun and Baloch civilians. Since last few years we have been seeing how Baloch and Pashtun activists became vocal against atrocities committed by Pakistan army on their soil. There are more than 30 million Pashtuns worldwide coming together for a free Pashtunistan. Farhat Taj also confirms in her video about Pakistan state sponsoring extremism, raising terrorists and brainwashing Pashtun children to manufacture “jehadi fighters”.
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Umar Daud Khattak, Mission Commander, Pashtunishtan Liberation Army, said “Unity of Pashtuns across the imposed Durnad Line is an immense need of the time. Pashtuns are oppressed under Pakistani genocidal occupation, they displaced, killed, bombarded, their homes and villages are bulldozed, chemical weapons are used against them. Until now about 2 million Pashtuns are displaced by Pakistan Army and have killed about 200,000. It is mind-boggling numbers. Loy Afghanistan Movement is a good effort for political, diplomatic and social plateform for uniting Pashtuns across the Durand Line and restore the natural geography.”
Pakistan, a fake state fuelling terror for a long time is now getting backlash in home. The world now acknowledges that Pakistan is a failed state, the world now shares the grief of Baloch, Pashtuns and sindh people, its high time for the world to stand together against the manufacturer of terrorism, Pakistan. Pakistan army which is supposed to fight terrorism are actually the one raising terrorist, army person in day shift is a Talib in night shift. This is the state of affairs in Pakistan. I do hope that civil society of Pakistan will come forward and protest against such a failed state and barbaric military which is involved in genocide. Pakistan needs more of Tarek Fateh and Farhat Taj if they want to prosper as a progressive nation rather than an extremist centre of terrorism.
– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik
Seminar in Washington to Pay Tributes to Former Balochistan Governor and Chief Minister Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti
- The presentation organized by the American Friends of Balochistan is titled Real Story Behind Assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti
- Eleven years ago on August 26, 2006, Nawab Bugti along with 37 comrades was assassinated by Pakistan army commandoes on the orders of Pakistan dictator and coup leader, Gen Pervez Musharraf
- The killing of the popular Baloch leader led to the mass uprising of the Baloch people
Washington, D.C. Aug 25, 2017: People of America of different ethnic origins will meet at a seminar to pay tributes to former Balochistan governor and chief minister Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in Washington DC on August 25, 2017, afternoon.
The presentation organized by the American Friends of Balochistan is titled “Real Story Behind Assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti,” features a conversation on phone with exiled Baloch leader Nawab Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republican Party, and political successor of the slain Nawab Bugti and Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan envoy to the United States, Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute.
Nawab Mehran Marri, chief of the Marri tribe and president of the Balochistan House; Hammal Haider, international spokesperson for the Baloch National Movement (BNM) and Banuk Kareema Baluch, the first women president of the Baloch Students Organization (Azad) will also share their thoughts on the occasion.
According to Ahmar Musti Khan, Convener of American Friends of Balochistan, Eleven years ago on August 26, 2006, Nawab Bugti along with 37 comrades was assassinated by Pakistan army commandoes on the orders of Pakistan dictator and coup leader, Gen Pervez Musharraf. The killing of the popular Baloch leader led to the mass uprising of the Baloch people against Islamabad’s colonial rule of France-sized Balochistan.
Since then, Pakistan army and intelligence services are carrying out a scorched earth policy in France-sized Balochistan that has seen 7,000 killed in Nawab Bugti’s ancestral Dera Bugti and Sui areas alone. Thousands of more Baloch have been killed elsewhere in Balochistan. At least 8,000 remain victims of enforced disappearances while over 1,500 Baloch activists were killed and dumped by the Pakistani security forces in recent years. Hundreds of thousands of Baloch tribesmen fled their homes to become internally displaced persons within Pakistan. As many as 12,000 Bugti tribesmen are still living in Afghanistan without any status.
According to press release , while the Pakistan army and Chinese are busy trying to wrest control of the key Gwadar port under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and exploring for fossil fuel and natural resources deep inside the virgin lands of Balochistan, the Deep State of Pakistan is promoting the ISIS in Balochistan for its long term strategic interests.
Strict checking will be in force to keep out folks sent by Pakistan embassy to disrupt Baloch events. Less than two weeks ago, a twitter account close to Pakistan’s Deep State threatened Afghanistan with dire consequences as the Afghan Students Association had sponsored an AFB event “Untold Story: What’s happening in Balochistan” at the Marvin Center, George Washington University
The event will start at the Murrow Room of the National Press Club in Washington DC at 2.30 pm. on Aug 25, 2017.
For further info contact Ahmar Musti Khan, Convener of American Friends of Balochistan. His email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa approves plan to conduct 6th Population and Housing Census in the country
Islamabad, Jan 28, 2017: Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Monday approved the plan to support the conduct of the sixth population and housing census in the country.
“COAS (the Chief) approves plan to support conduct of 6th Population & Housing Census. Upto 200,000 troops will be employed while continuing other security responsibilities,” Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said in a statement on Friday.
The first phase of the census would be completed in mid-April, while the second phase is likely to be initiated from April 24 and would end in mid-May. Preliminary results of the national population census would start arriving in June which would be made public accordingly, the sources informed.
While the census was supposed to occur once every 10 years, Pakistan has not had one since 1998. The incumbent government initially agreed to hold the census in March 2015. However, it cited a lack of preparation and delayed it for another year. The government, then, cited the need for the armed forces to be available as the census could not be held without their help.
The Supreme Court, however, stressed the importance of holding a census once a decade and ordered for it to be held in March of 2017 under the supervision of the Council of Common Interests. (IANS)