Yusuf ordered the killings, freedom fighter testifies at tribunal
A freedom fighter yesterday testified that Razakars had killed 500-600 Hindus at the directive of Jamaat-e-Islami leader AKM Yusuf on a single day at Rampal in Bagerhat in 1971.
Sudhangshu Mandol from Rampal also told the International Crimes Tribunal-2 that Razakars had killed at least seven people near Chulkathi Bazar in Bagerhat on October 14, 1971 at Yusuf’s order.
The 13th prosecution witness in Yusuf’s case said cohorts of Yusuf had looted Hindu houses immediate after the war crimes accused made an instigating speech.
Yusuf, who is historically known as the founder of infamous Razakar Bahini, an auxiliary force of the Pakistani army during the Liberation War, is facing 13 charges of crimes against humanity and genocide committed in greater Khulna.
During his 36-minute testimony, Sudhangshu said after the proclamation of independence by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 26, 1971, he had joined the local Sangram Committee led by Jabed Commander.
“On April 19, 1971, I heard that Shanti Committee [Peace Committee] would hold a meeting at Rampal Auditorium Hall and around 2:30pm, we, locals, went there,” said the 59-year-old witness.
Razzab Ali, Mozam Doctor, Moslem Doctor, among others, spoke at the meeting, while Yusuf, as the last speaker, delivered his speech, said Sudhangshu.
Using a derogatory word for the Hindus, Yusuf had asked his followers to annihilate them, said the witness. “This country is for Muslims, not for Hindus. Hindus’ property including their women are Ganimater Maal (spoils of war);these can be used by all. There is no offence here,” Sudhangshu quoted Yusuf as saying.
Immediate after his speech, Yusuf’s men attacked and looted the houses of Jadab Mistri and Krishnadhan Mistri at Rampal, said the witness.
Like other witnesses in the case, Sudhangshu said Yusuf, who was the chairman of Peace Committee in Khulna, had formed the Razakar force and directed them to “annihilate the Hindus”.
He said thousands of Hindus had taken shelter at Dakra Kalibari in Bagerhat to go to India, but Yusuf had directed Razakars Razzab Ali and Siraj Master to kill them.
“Following the order, Razakars on May 21, 1971 attacked Dakra Kalibari and killed 500/600 Hindus there. I can say the name of someone who survived the atrocities, Narayan Chowkidar. His house was two miles away from our house,” said Sudhangshu.
Replying to a court query, Sudhangshu said, “I learned from Siddique Master and Sahadat Kazi alias Basar Kazi, who had been local Peace Committee leaders, that Razakars had carried out such incidents following the order of Yusuf Shaheb.”
Sudhangshu said Narayan on the following day had gone to their house and said it was not possible to live in the country and thereby all the villagers left the country for India.
In India, Sudhangshu had received training and later taken part in different battles under Sector-9, said the witness, adding that on October 13, 1971, they set up a camp at Ghanashyampur High School in Bagerhat.
On that night, Razakars led by Razzab Ali attacked them, but at one stage, they had to retreat as the place was unknown to them, said Sudhangshu.
They passed the night inside a betel nut orchard. In the morning a local saw them and advised them not to come out, as Razakars had already taken away some freedom fighters and locals to kill, said Sudhangshu.
“Later the man informed us that following the directive of Moulana Yusuf, Razakars had killed seven people on a wooden bridge near Chulkathi Bazar. The man could tell the names of Bijoy Das and Sunil among the victims,” said Sudhangshu.
After his testimony, Gazi MH Tamim asked six questions to Sudhangshu before seeking an adjournment and the three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan adjourned the proceeding until today, when the witness would face further cross-examination.
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 yesterday deferred recording of testimony of the defence witness in the war crimes case against Mobarak Hossain. Yesterday was fixed for recording deposition, but defence counsel Tarikul Islam prayed to the tribunal to adjourn the proceeding for two days as his senior colleagues and the witness could not come due to the blockade.
Mahfuz Ullah, secretary general of Centre for Sustainable Development, yesterday appeared before the court complying with the tribunal’s last week’s order. The three-member tribunal on Thursday asked him to appear before the court.
Following a petition filed by the prosecution to initiate contempt of court proceeding against Mahfuz Ullah, four officials of Channel 24, Zafrullah Chowdhury, trustee of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, and Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna, the tribunal issued a show-cause notice. The tribunal fixed December 24 for hearing their reply.