49 Years Later
“Genocide ’71: A Memory Map” is a creative research project that explores accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors of the 1971 genocide of Bangladesh to create a visual map of the mass graves, killing fields and torture cells.
These war memories were collected from published works and oral histories. This visual narrative revisits and interprets the atrocities that occurred in certain sites by photographing them in their current state, drawing a conceptual link between the past and the present. This instalment of this ongoing project focuses on Khulna, the photographer’s hometown.
Though still unrecognised internationally as genocide, three million people were killed in Bangladesh in 1971, among them students, intellectuals, influential leaders and religious minorities. 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped. 10 million people fled and took refuge in India. Countless people were inhumanly tortured to extract information about freedom fighters. Hindu settlements were destroyed.
The Pak Army and their supporters systematically abducted, killed and dumped bodies in killing sites. These sites, mass graves and torture cells are scattered all over the country. Unfortunately, little visual evidence of these horrors were documented, as foreign journalists were forced to leave the country and most prominent local journalists were killed or were in hiding. After independence, only few major mass graves were protected and recognised as historical sites.
49 years since independence, these places have changed drastically by now. Most people don’t even know about them. Few eyewitnesses and survivors remain. As the last generation who can collect testimony of eyewitnesses, it is important for us to try to preserve this history.