by F R Chowdhury 31/5/2018
Most Bangladeshis still remember late Sirajur Rahman of BBC. In those dark days of Bangladesh when it was still under illegal occupation of Pakistan Army, people in Bangladesh used to eagerly wait for BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news to know about the progress of the liberation war. The voice of Sirajur Rahman broadcast over BBC became known to everyone in Bangladesh. In 1991 when I was offered a job by Her Majesty’s Government and relocated myself in the United Kingdom, my house happened to be pretty close to Mr Rahman’s. We became quite close friends. Later (after my retirement) we also participated together in some TV programs as well.
Mr Rahman would very often narrate many historical incidents to which he was a witness. It was because of my friendship with him that I came to know about many historical events. One day he was telling us about the day Sheikh Mujibur Rahman arrived London after being released from captivity in Pakistan. He said that he was called by the head of the South Asia division of BBC and told to cover Sheikh Mujib’s transit/ visit. There was not enough time for him to attend airport instead he went to Claridge Hotel where Sheikh Mujib was going to stay.
According to Mr Sirajur Rahman about a few hundreds of Bangladeshis gathered in front of the hotel. Suddenly Sheikh Mujib came out in the balcony and wanted to know if Siraj was there. Sirajur Rahamn was a short man and he had to shout in response with raised hands to declare his presence. He was called by Sheikh Mujib. Mr Siraj pushed through the crowd and managed to reach the President. The President took him to his room and wanted to know what all happened since he had left East Pakistan in March, 1971.
Mr Sirajur Rahman narrated in brief the atrocities of Pakistan army, the liberation war and the role played by India. He also told Sheikh Mujib that Bangladesh is now a full independent country of which he (Sheikh Mujib) was the President. The President then wanted to know the number of people who lost their lives during the liberation war. Mr Sirajur Rahman said that lot of people were killed. He could not give a figure but it would be about three lacs. President was very sad to know about the loss of lives.
A few minutes later when Mr Sirajur Rahman was back in the waiting crowd he suddenly heard the President telling some foreign journalists that the Pakistan army killed three million Bangladeshis. He (Serajur Rahman) kept wondering how, within minutes, the figure changed from three lacs to three millions.
Forty seven years passed and still today no efforts were made officially to make an assessment of the number of people who lost their lives during the liberation war. However, the figure uttered by the father of the nation remains the official figure. Anyone who disagrees with this figure may be considered an enemy of Bangladesh and prosecuted accordingly.
London, 12-May-2018 <[email protected]>