New York Times Magazine

August 01 1971


Why They Fled Pakistan -And Won't Go Back

By Khushwant Singh

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I ask the cab driver to pull up at small encampment near the village of Mandalpara. As soon as I step out of the car a crowd collects around me. They tell me they are about a thou sand families of fisherfolk and thatch makers front the Jessore and Khulna Districts of East Pakistan. I start with the question I had put to the refugees when I came this way in 1957 and 1964: “Why did you leave Pakistan?”

They are very eager to tell of their experiences. “Yahya's soldiers raided our village, killed many young men and burned our huts. . . . Biharis [people from the Indian state of Bihar who migrated to Pakistan] looted our homes and took our cattle. . . . My daughter was raped in front of me and I was told if I did not get out they would rape my wife and mother as well.”

My eye falls on a fair, doe‐eyed girl being pushed toward me by an old woman. “What happened to you?” I ask her. The girl continues to gape at me without replying. “This is my daughter‐in law, Tarabala Dasi,” said the old woman behind her. “We are from Village Murari Kalbi, Police Station Kalarua, District Khulna.” One of their fellow villagers takes up her tale. “It was on a Sunday afternoon when the Pakistani soldiers came for her. When we heard the sound of jeeps approaching, we told our daughters to run away and hide in the fields. The soldiers surrounded our village and ordered us out of our huts. ‘Where are all the girls?’ they asked. ‘Where is that Tarabala?’


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