Many faces of war 1971: A muktijodhdha speaks

1971. ?71. Ekattor. Is it a number? A word? A history? To any Bangladeshi, it embodies the pride of our nation, the struggle for our independence, the pain of loss, the humiliation of being violated, the joy of victory.

The events leading up to ?71 were documented almost entirely by local photographers. It was a story that international media neither knew nor was interested in. The crackdown in the night of the 25th March went barely recorded. For local photographers it was too dangerous to be out there with a camera. A few foreign journalists managed to sneak out or film through the windows of Hotel Intercontinental. They provided the only tangible record of those fateful hours. Others, who recorded those moments, were amateurs who took exceptional risks in preserving the only visual records of the atrocities.
Missing are the subtle nuanced observations of ordinary people, trying to survive, the euphoria and hope of an expectant nation being replaced overnight by the terror of living under occupation. Missing also are photographs that should be here, yet are not, by photographers who have passed away, their archives untraceable. Images have been lost. In once instance the photographer, unwilling to hand it over to a nation not concerned enough to preserve the most heroic moments of its history, hurt and impoverished, destroyed his negatives.
An incredible list of talented and deeply dedicated photographers responded to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of recent times. Their documents are an indictment of those who caused the pain, and the ones who let it happen. It is a tribute to those who abandoned all for the sake of greater good.
Has ?71 indeed brought liberation to the women and men who toil on our land? To the garment workers and migrant labourers who bolster our economy, but struggle to meet basic needs. Does ?71 only mean freedom for some?
The preservation of these documents remains of crucial importance. Memories and emulsions both fade with time. We owe it to future generations to retain what exists of the only material evidence of our glorious past. We need them to remind the world. ?Never, no never again?.
Shahidul Alam

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.” His recent book “The Tide Will Turn” published by Steidl in 2020, is listed in New York Time’s ‘Best Art Books of 2020’. Alam received the “International Press Freedom Award” for 2020 from ‘The Committee to Protect Journalists’.

3 thoughts on “Many faces of war 1971: A muktijodhdha speaks”

  1. This is more encouraging….I highly appreciated this VEDIO specially on a MUKTIJODDHA….please keep it up.
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    Thanks for sharing us.?

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