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Blood In The Water

The contested history of one of Bangladesh’s worst wartime massacres

IN THE WINTER OF 2012, when I drove along Jessore Road, it was a weather-beaten two-lane road with waterlogged fields on either side, the landscape occasionally interrupted by a few shops—a mechanical works, a petrol pump, or a tea stall. Jessore Road connects south-western Bangladesh to Kolkata, in West Bengal. During the war of 1971, it was one of the lifelines that connected refugees from East Pakistan, fleeing war and massacre, to India. Of those fateful eight months, as the world slowly realised that a massacre was underway in East Pakistan and sympathy and support began to trickle in from the West, the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wrote in his lyrical anthem ‘September on Jessore Road’:

Salil Tripathi lives in London, and is a contributing editor at The Caravan and Mint. He is the chair of the writers-in-prison committee of PEN International. An award-winning journalist, he has written extensively for over a quarter century for the Wall Street Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Reviewthe New StatesmanIndia Today, and other publications. As a correspondent in Singapore and Hong Kong, he covered the Asian economic crisis. He is the author of Offence: The Hindu Case (Seagull, 2009), The Colonel Who Would Not Repent: The Bangladesh War and its Unquiet Legacy (Aleph, 2014; Yale, 2016), and Detours: Songs of the Open Road (Tranquebar, 2015). He is currently working on a book about Gujaratis. 

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