Genocide '71:
A Memory Map

This is a creative research project that explores the memories and stories of eyewitnesses of the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh.

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.

Static map showing the zones of atrocity. The sizes of the red circles correspond to the perceived impact of the fatalities.

Methodology

The project’s initial research was conducted through identifying known mass graves, killing fields and torture cells from published books and articles. The accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors were cross checked with additional sources. Field visits were then conducted, along with interviews of senior citizens in the locality and families of survivors. All available documents were collected and filed. Specific locations were geotagged and an interactive map was developed. A static map was developed using techniques of architectural urban mapping that shows the zones of atrocity, spots of killing, as well as extent of fatalities during the genocide.

The photography took a conceptual approach that connected two timelines—1971 and 2017. By connecting the past and present, the project aims to retain the memories of the genocide of 1971 through visuals, eyewitness accounts and more.

The district of Khulna was chosen as a pilot project for two reasons—Khulna is the project initiator’s birthplace, as well as the first established camp of the Rajakars (local collaborators). As such, Khulna saw some of the worst atrocities committed by the Pakistani military and their local collaborators during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation.

Future additions to the project aims to include all other districts of Bangladesh, in order to create an expansive view of the genocide of 1971.

How to read the Map

Click on each marker on the map for visual representations and descriptions of the killing sites, mass graves and torture cells.

G71_KHULNA

The killing zones

The map details specific killing zones in and around Khulna Circuit House. The Circuit House, Forest Ghat and Custom Ghat areas saw systematic butchering of the local populace at the hands of the Pakistani military junta and their local collaborators.