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Welcome to the genocide museum

The museum in Khulna has a rich collection of rare war photos, over 2,000 books

Rare pictures and paintings depicting the genocide of Bangalees by the Pakistan army hang on the wall. There is also a rich collection of books and audio-visual materials on the ruthless massacre against the unarmed people.

The “1971: Genocide-Torture Archive and Museum” in Khulna city speaks the tale of the bloodbath the country witnessed throughout the nine long months of Liberation War.

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.

Much to the delight of the visitors, the museum has a well-furnished library with some 2,000 books on the genocide and the war. It also has nine galleries with more than 100 paintings of renowned Bangladeshi and Indian artists, including Rafiqun Nabi and Hashem Khan, and war photographs, documents and CDs.

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 the worst atrocities of 1971 for a reason, said Prof Muntassir. “We mainly wanted to let the local people know the bloody history of this region.”

The museum began its journey on May 17, 2014 in a rented house on Sher-e-Bangla Road in the city.

Later, it was moved to a two-storey house on South Central Road. The house is built on 21 decimal of land allocated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The museum was opened to the public on last year’s Independence Day. The entry fee for each person is only Tk 2. It is open every day except Monday and on average, 60 to 80 people, mostly students, visit it every day, said Rokonujaman Babul, its executive officer.

Talking to this correspondent, Abul Kalam Azad, principal of Rayermohal Degree College in the district, said he visited the museum along with his students several times.

“I become emotional whenever I come here. This place reminds me of the days of the war. I bring my children and students here because I want them to know about the country’s history,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have such a museum here.”

Apart from running the museum, its authorities were also trying to identify all the killing grounds, known as Badhyabhumi, in the district. They had already set up monuments after identifying some of the places.

The library is going to be electronic “very soon”, said its officials. “The museum will be an institution where students will be able to conduct research for masters and doctoral level in the near future,” one of them said.

Many local organizations send documents and books on the Liberation War and the genocide to the museum authorities. Many Bangladeshis expatriates too communicate with the authorities to provide them with documents on genocide, he added.

Gouranga Nandy, one of the trustees of the board, said: “It is the moral responsibility of every patriotic Bangladeshi to let the new generation know about the Liberation War.” This museum would be quite helpful, he added.

Sk Baharul Alam, a freedom fighter, said many pieces of evidence related to the war were destroyed following the killing of Bangabandhu in 1975, as subsequent governments refused to give due recognition of the role of Awami League and Bangabandhu in the country’s independence.

“We are trying to establish a centre here which will be our source of inspiration, and the next generation will know the real history of the birth of Bangladesh.”

The trustee board has 11 members and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is the key patron. The institution now runs on personal contributions from the trustees and others, said Prof Muntassir, adding, “We want the government’s help to continue the journey of the museum.”

DIPANKAR ROY, Khulna

The Daily Star, March 24, 2017

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