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By Qutubuddin Aziz

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But our neighbours were decent people and they assured us that we were safe. All of us spoke excellent Bengali but our mother tongue was Urdu. So we were known as Biharis. At school, I studied through the medium of Bengali language. "In the night of March 23,1971, an armed gang of Awami League thugs raided our house. They looted it and set it ablaze. Wc had no guns. The raiders overpowered my father, my husband and my two young brothers and shot them. They kidnapped my teenage sister. In the encounter between my male relatives and the killers, my mother and I succeeded in escaping through the backyard into the house of a God-fearing and gentle Bengali neighbour who sympathised widi us and hid us in his home.

Many shops and stores in the posh Jimiah Avenue shopping centre, owned by non-Bengalis, were footed. Fifty non-Bengali huts in a shanty suburban locality were put to the torch and many of their inmates were roasted alive. Thugs started kidnapping prosperous non-Bengalis and extorted ransom money from their relatives. Under the orders of the Awami League High Command, the Radio and Television stations in Dacca gave up playing Pakistan's National Anthem and replaced it by the "Bangladesh Anthem".

But more travail and misfortune lay in store for us. After less than 9 months, the Mukti Bahini went on the rampage against the nonBengalis in Dacca. In the last week of December 1971, a gang of armed Bengalis came to my house and grabbed my husband, Zafar Alam. They asked us to give them all the cash and my ornaments. I had none left. They said that they would set free my husband if my father signed a bogus document of sale of our house to the leader of the killer gang. To save the life of my husband, my father readily agreed to do so.

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