For nearly fifty years we have been tracing the history of seventy one. Those of us past seventy-one feel like there were two histories. One, what happened in seventy one. Two, what people think and say about what happened in 1971 now.

People want to know the popular and the political. History has become a substitute for the cinema and TV web series. Writers fictionalize and academics do the same trying to serve the current politics of their own.

So people do not want to know what happened that year. They have already been told what happened and they only believe that. Since politicians use it and change the historical cake with each regime change, public interest in 1971 is almost zero.


Bipin Bihari Das lived in Moghbazar. He was a painter, i.e. a signboard artist by profession. Bipin babu had only one addiction in his life. That is drinking "Bangla" wine. His country home was Narsingdi but he didn't go there much. He had a "dera" in Old Dhaka where his family lived. Sometimes he visited them. However, most of his days and nights were spent painting signboards, chatting with people around and when evening came drinking hooch. It was very convenient for him to stay away from his family because he could sit and have Bangla without his family scolding him.


I remember the night sky of the day the Pakistanis attacked Dhaka. I have never seen such a sky red from flames. Tracer bullets of intense light ran up that red sky. Muffled screams from a distant past mingled in the air.

My elder brother tried to record the sound of gunfire on his tape recorder so we went to the rooftop of our house. But when I got there, I saw the slums of Palpara burning brighter than the fires I have seen since. People were running around as Pakistan Army trucks could be seen at a distance. Palpara no longer exists. In its place is Hotel Sonargaon.

In the morning, many of the burnt slums came to our neighborhood and took shelter. Some of these people started leaving Dhaka along with the rest of Dhaka's population. After the curfew was lifted several days later, Bipinbabu's family members came to see him.

Everyone was leaving Dhaka, they had come to pick up Bipinbabu. He did not agree. He kept giving excuses and finally failing to convince his family members to leave in search of safety to his ancestral home. He was in Dhaka for nine months. Who knows whether it is due to the love of alcohol or what. I asked once, why didn't you go? He replied moodily, "Why should I? This is home.


For years we have been researching the villages and life of ordinary people in 1971. It is not easy because they have no need to tell this history nor do they record it. He participates in national history through the history of his village. He has no profit or loss in this history practice. There is no money, no respect, no speeches, no need.

No one is interested in such history which produces no glamour or reward. So it mostly remains unknown. But these are the ninety-five percent people of Bangladesh in 1971. We all hear about the history of the powerful, civilian and the military but few believe or care now. Do those who are powerful and those who are not live in the same history?


The political structure of the village is the most complicated to explore. Because it is not easy to understand who is the enemy and who is the friend. It varies depending on the situation and conditions. So enemies become allies and the opposite as per situation and needs. The identity of political position is in fact the weakest. Class and clan, power and economics play a bigger role. The power structure of the villages plays a big role.

After independence the condition of man was so fragile that he was busier in collecting sustenance than history. The Pakistanis destroyed the country and established the scope of suffering and chaos for a long time. A culture of non-judgment was established through the process of denial of social justice.

Robbing banks, robbing householders, robbing houses of gold, robbing refugees, everything is looting and rooted in 1971 produced culture. One is greedy and the other is not but none are guilty going by our present. But people have shifted away from the state and Bangladesh has a bigger social reality than the official one.


Bipinbabu who did not leave Dhaka to Narsingdi to save his life during the liberation war, could not survive Bangladesh due to various reasons and went away to India with his family. He hated the decision to leave the country, but he had no choice. Two or three years after 1971 I last met him in Moghbazar.

Suddenly one evening, I saw him sitting next to the wall of our house with a bottle of Bangla mod in his hand. Sitting in the semi-darkness with his back against the wall, he was swigging from the bottle. When he saw me, he raised his head and asked, Hello Bangladesh bhai, How are things with your Bangladesh now?' Then he went back to his bottle.

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