A woman who was raped and impregnated during the 1971 war spent her entire life in denial about the fact that her child was born out of wedlock. Her harrowing account, as well as those of other victims of the war, have been portrayed in the book ‘Women, War and the Making of Bangladesh: Remembering 1971’.
At the launch of the book at the Avari Hotel, the author, Yasmin Saikia, talked about how the narratives of the women who suffered during the war have been ignored. “Half of the region has forgotten about the plight and experiences of women during the war,” she said.
Her book is a collection of heart-wrenching accounts of women who survived the war as well as the stories of those females of Bangladesh who took up arms to fight for their nation. The text also delineates how these women subsequently tried to bring positive changes to the world around them.
During a conversation with critic Asif Farrukhi, Saikia revealed that a Bangladeshi maid’s touching story about her family’s migration to India was one of the factors which led her to write the book. The author also said that her visit to a camp for stateless citizens in Dhaka provided further motivation to expound on the subject. The female victims were always candid and willing to share their traumatic experiences.
Saikia feels that the citizens of Bangladesh are not willing to forget the trauma caused by the war. But in Pakistan, it seems that people readily forgot the pain – students are barely taught about the war and people think that East Pakistan just slipped away.
The author said that the research for the book had made her “lose a lot of respect for history in the region and gain a lot of respect for its people.”
The managing director of the Oxford University Press, Ameena Saiyid, was deeply touched by the stories. She said that she was especially moved by the story of a woman Nur Begum, who was raped and impregnated by soldiers during the war but kept on insisting that her husband was the father of the child.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2011.