16th of December 1971

What’s in a day? The 16th of December, 1971, is the day when the allied forces of India and Bangladesh were victorious over the Pakistani Army. To the Bengalis this is a joyous occasion, the day they earned their well-deserved liberation and is celebrated as the “Victory Day” all over Bangladesh. I wish to congratulate my Bengali friends on this most auspicious day. To the Pakistanis this was a day of mourning, when a proud nation was dismembered and lost its Eastern wing. An event that is remembered as ‘The Fall of Dacca” and I empathize with my Pakistani brothers who saw this as a profound loss.

Whatever one calls it, the day will be remembered as one that brought a monumental change in the history of the sub-continent. My personal story woven around these events is a human story. It is a story of finding hope and compassion where one least expects it. It is a story of the trials and tribulation, of sufferings and resilience and the triumph of perseverance against all odds.

A day later, December 17th 1971, we became refugees in our home land. The Pakistani Army had surrendered the afternoon before to the Indian Army. Pakistani Lt. Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi signed the surrender document with Indian Lt. General Jagjit Singh Arora at Ramna Stadium. We had lost our home and all possessions and had escaped with barely the clothes on our back to the Dacca cantonment where the Indian Army placed us in protective custody. Here we stayed for the next week before being transferred to the Kilo Camp on the 24th of December 1971 where the UNHCR took us under their care.

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