Living memorabilia of 1971: For 53 years, Rashida Akter has carried a bullet in her body

The Pakistani occupation force killed many people in two Netrokona villages the day Rashida was injured

Lavlu Pal ChowdhuryNetrokona CorrespondentReuters
Published : 20 March 2024, 06:59 AM
Updated : 20 March 2024, 06:59 AM

The Pakistani occupation force attacked Kendua Upazila in Netrokona at the beginning of the Liberation War in 1971. Alongside Bengali collaborators, they led a rampage through the villages of Chitholia and Gopalashram.

Many people lost their lives amid the arson attacks, killing, and looting. Many tried to flee. Several of them were injured. Rashida Akter from Gopalashram Village was hit by a bullet but survived.

A 20-year-old housewife in 1971, Rashida is now 73 years old. The bullet fired by the Pakistani army hit her right shoulder, but it could not be removed. For the past 53 years, Rashida has been carrying the bullet in her body. It causes her unbearable pain and also impairs her vision in the right eye. Due to poverty, she hasn’t been able to get the proper treatment.

In the twilight years of her life, Rashida is now finding it impossible to bear the pain caused by the bullet

WHAT HAPPENED

The Liberation War had just broken out. It was the seventh day of the Bengali month Bhadra when the Pakistan Army and their collaborators - the Razakar, Al-Badr, and Al-Shams - massacred the Pal household in Chitholia village and then attacked the Gopalashram village.

At least seven people were martyred, including Ashutosh Pal Chowdhury, in Chitholia village. Fifteen others were injured.

In Gopalashram village, Rashida Akter, wife of the late day labourer Marfat Ali, was also hit by a bullet. Of the people injured on that day, she is the only one who survives.

When the Pakistani army attacked, the residents of both villages attempted to flee for their lives, said Abul Hashem of Gopalashram Village. He witnessed the entire thing while hiding in a nearby jungle.

“The military pounced on us around noon. Everyone was running for their lives. They torched most of the houses. Some collaborators were helping them to torch houses and loot them. They also continued to fire their guns. Seven people were already dead and around 15 were injured. People gathered at Charkandi Para in Gopalashram and then left by boat for different destinations,” said Abul Hashem.

He said it was then that Rashida boarded a boat and the boatman was killed by a bullet. Another bullet hit Rashida on her right shoulder.

Rashida said her husband was away on the day of the incident and she was home alone with her child. Her uncle-in-law asked her to leave the village and she tried to flee with her child. On her way to Monang village, Rashida got on a boat along with her in-laws and others. That was when she was hit.

Her uncle-in-law was rowing the boat and he fell into the water when he was shot, Rashida said. “I was hit then too. But I didn’t realise it at first. Then I saw the blood. The boat had turned into a pool of blood.”

Rashida said she was taken to the Adampur Hospital in Kendua by the villagers in Monang, but there was no doctor there. The villagers shifted her to another hospital in Mymensingh but very few doctors were available there as well.

“Two people were there who knew a little about medical treatment. They said they couldn’t take out the bullet at that time and it could be done only after the war was over. They stitched my wound and gave me some medicine. The wound healed but my right eye was seriously damaged a month later. I can’t see with my right eye and can’t work anymore. I am in pain all the time.”

Rashida says sometimes the pain becomes unbearable and she cannot afford any treatment. “I just take painkillers.”

When asked, the Liberation War survivor said she never received any government aid or medical assistance. Many people tried to get help for her, including journalists, but none succeeded.

“What can you [the media] do if the government is unwilling to help?” she said.

”I don’t know how long I will live. I am just waiting for Allah’s order to leave this world. No one is helping me. My son is taking loans from others to maintain my health. That’s why I am still alive.”

Rashida, suffering from old-age complications, urged the government to provide her with financial aid. “Then I can live at ease during the last few days of my life.”