Saturday 27.03.71

Things are black, very black. It is as bad or worse than I thought. Curfew lifted at 7am though no one seemed to know till nearer 9 when people started to move about. The first place they came to was Sheikh Mujib’s house – what they found there I’m not sure. They report that he has been arrested and his relatives were living next door. I’m not sure but it is possibly true. At about 9.30 I went to the office. A few local staff were in and all their reports are bad. The army has clearly been on the rampage and it is possible that the dead can be measured in 1000s if not tens of 1000s. The army has wiped out most of the E Pakistan Rifles a purely E Pakistani regiment and many of the police as these are the ones with weapons. In certain areas houses and shops were set on fire and people shot. Large fires in the old city by the rail crossing and near the church, lots of buses burnt out.

No telephones working, no press, no markets functioning. Some of the markets and bazaars burnt out. Rumours are that Chittagong is still in the control of the people – who knows. Asked if I would be prepared to go and come back with our people there, but later learnt that all the ferries are out of action so connection with Chittagong virtually nil. The army is in control of the city and probably others of any size but not the countryside and this morning the exodus from Dacca began. How far people got no one knows but everyone seemed to be leaving. Streams of people with cases and bundles, some cars packed full were on their way out. David’s secretary said that no one was in the secretariat (E Pakistan Government administration office) at 9.30. I came past at about 2.30 and there was no sign of life.

If many people leave Dacca then the army will control a ghost city and that will be of little use. They cannot possibly control the countryside, it is far too difficult and they have too few troops. I think the people will begin to organise themselves in the countryside and worry the troops – in fact a guerrilla war situation is likely to arise after a period of readjustment. I feel quite sure that they will not submit this time and crawl obediently back to do what Martial Law says. The next interesting thing to see will be how India reacts. Already it is clear that India is the main source of information – they are also apparently debating the situation in Parliament and I am sure that they will think seriously of supporting the people here against the army. They are clearly the obvious source for arms and I would not be surprised if they were sent over the border. So once again it looks as if we shall be leaving. Certainly there is little point in staying. I would doubt the situation returning to normal for a couple of months at the least and I feel sure that it will be a situation of protracted warfare.

My feeling at the moment, whether right or wrong, is that they must fight – as must the S African freedom fighters, PAIGC in Portuguese Guinea, FRELIMO and MPLA etc. The situation is little different. This seems to me their opportunity to work together, organise together, struggle together and when they succeed they will have the momentum, the skills (some anyway), the determination to carry this on into the economic field and build a strong government. Let’s hope so anyway.

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