The genocide carried out by Pakistan Army and its collaborators in Bangladesh in 1971 was one of the most heinous crimes carried out in the 20th century. Unfortunately, the events of that period have been very poorly documented, and have more often than not been highly politicized and marginalized and been subjected to revisionist history. The stories of those who lived through those difficult times have rarely been recorded. The experiences of civilian populations as refugees, internally displaced peoples, the narratives of Bengalis and non-Bengalis who fought together for the country’s independence, those who came selflessly to the aid of a desperate people and those who were disappeared and missing during this dark period of the country’s history remain largely unknown to the post-1971 generation. Yet, forty-four years since Bangladesh’s independence, survivors who are still alive are eager to talk about their experiences, although the vast majority of them are unable to read and write, and therefore unable to formally record their stories.
This initiative is a humble effort to address the glaring gap in the methodical andsystematic research of the history of Bangladesh. Through the use of oral history, in-depth research and documentaries, it provides a range of sources and information for the post-1971 generation of independent Bangladesh to learn about the tragic history that led to the birth of this country. Simultaneously, it provides a platform for the survivors and the friends of the Bangladeshi people, who had been hitherto silenced or forgotten, to speak out and record their stories for future generations of citizens and historians and to contribute to the historical records of Bangladesh’s birth and the collective narrative of the nation.
Collecting narratives of a war that took place forty-four years ago with limited documentation and fraught by intense politicization and interpretation is an intimidating task. Nevertheless, this work has never been more urgent. This initiative documents the stories of the ordinary people of Bangladesh, Bengali and non-Bengali, and those who supported the survivors in 1971 through the followings:
(a) systematic and in-depth research through visiting the sites where the genocidal killings took place and interviewing local survivors and witnesses;
(b) in-depth research about private citizens in Bangladesh and India who supported Freedom Fighters, refugee populations and internally displaced people;
(c) publication of biographies of known and unknown Freedom Fighters;
(d) publication of articles in national newspapers about known and unknown Freedom Fighters and private citizens;
(e) publication of books on history of Liberation War;
(f) production of documentaries on specific battles and undocumented incidents that took place across the country during the period of war;
(h) creation of special television and radio programs on victims, Freedom Fighters and their surviving families, especially those from the remote parts of the country;
(h) arranging regular lectures on the 1971 war to school, college and university-going students in both urban and rural areas of the country and abroad also;
(i) training and documentation university students and volunteers to collect oral history, and to methodically document information about the missing and disappeared in 1971;
(j) collecting information on missing population and missing graves of Freedom Fighters in Bangladesh and across the border in India.