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Testament to atrocities

Genocide-torture museum in Khulna strives to preserve history of Liberation War

“I stood motionless in front of a table where a broken helmet and Pakistani currency were displayed at the martyred gallery. The currency was found in Anil Bagchi’s pocket, who was shot and killed on the backyard of Hamida Monjil of Daulatpur rail-gate of Khulna by the Pakistan army in 1971, while his helmet was found next to him. Anil was our neighbour and family friend. Till now I can recollect his face,” said Dr Mahabubul Munshi, 73, who came to visit the country’s first Genocide-Torture Archive and Museum earlier this week.

“I often come here to revisit the history of the Liberation War. We are really fortunate for the archive to be here,” said Munshi.

The “1971: Genocide-Torture Archive and Museum” at South Central road in Khulna city has collected and archived evidence of the bloodbath this country witnessed throughout the nine months of the Liberation War.

Rare memorabilia and images of genocide and torture are displayed at the museum, including 9,000 photographs and 30 oil paintings in 10 galleries, as well as some 9,000 books on the war. Over 250 audio-visual CDs are enriching the collection, while a sales centre has been opened to sell books and souvenirs.

Renowned historian Prof Muntassir Mamoon inaugurated the museum on May 17, 2014 at a temporary rented house in the city. Now it has been shifted to its own 21-decimal land, on a two-storey house allotted by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on August 27, 2015. The new premises opened to visitors on March 26, 2016.

“On an average 20 to 25 visitors who are mostly students come to visit this archive,” said Reaz Ahmed, receptionist of the archive.

The archive has recorded over 5,221 spots where killings took place, 502  mass-killing grounds, 404 mass graves and 547 torture cells in 20 districts, said Rokonuzzaman Bablu, deputy curator of the museum.

Besides, 31 memorial plaques of killing and torture spots have already been built in and around Khulna city, while the museum has published 75 booklets focused on killing grounds, he added.

“Many organisations from across the country send documents and books written on liberation and genocide to us. Many Bangladeshis who live abroad often communicate with the organisation to enrich the trust by handing over remarkable documents on genocide,” he said.

“We mainly wanted to let the local people know about the bloody history of this region. The aim of the museum is to educate people, especially youths, about the genocide committed by the Pakistan army in association with their local collaborators,” said Prof Muntassir Mamoon, chairman of the trustee board that runs the institution.

The museum is the first of its kind not only in Bangladesh but also in South Asia, and it was opened in Khulna which witnessed some of the worst atrocities of 1971 — including the Chuknagar mass killing, said Prof Mamoon.

Sk Baharul Alam, one of the trustees of the board, said many pieces of evidence related to the war were destroyed following the killing of Bangabandhu in 1975.

“This museum would be quite helpful [in preserving the history of the war],” he added.

The trustee board has 11 members who are playing a key role in developing the archive and museum; Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is the key patron of it, Alam said.

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