A freedom fighter yesterday testified that Razakars had shot 42 Hindus dead at Shakharikathi Bazar of Kachua upazila in Bagerhat during the Liberation War in 1971.
Witness Lutfar Rahman Nakib, 62, told the International Crimes Tribunal-2 that Razakars had looted several villages following an inflammatory speech of Jamaat-e-Islami leader AKM Yusuf, “the founder of Razakar Bahini”.
Lutfar, the 16th prosecution witness in Yusuf’s case, said Razakars forcefully converted the Hindus of Shakharikathi village to Muslims following Yusuf’s orders in mid July 1971 and forced them to take beef, forbidden in the Hindu religion.
Meanwhile, the tribunal yesterday closed the cross-examination of Sunil Kumar Dakua, the 15th prosecution witness in the case, as Yusuf’s conducting counsel again failed to show up before the court and a junior counsel expressed inability to cross-examine him.
Earlier, the tribunal also closed the cross-examinations of 12th, 13th and 14th prosecution witnesses on similar grounds. Senior defence counsels remained absent from the tribunal during blockades or hartals called by the opposition alliance.
Yusuf, nayeb-e-ameer of Jamaat, is facing 13 charges for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity and genocide committed in greater Khulna during the nine-month-long war.
Lutfar of Bilkul village in Kachua said he went to Kachua Bazar to shop on April 22, 1971, he heard about a Peace Committee meeting at the collectorate office there and went inside the auditorium to see.
Yusuf, as the last speaker of the meeting, said, “Leaders, activists and supporters of Awami League, pro-liberation people and people belonging to the Hindu community are the enemy of Pakistan, annihilate them.
“The properties of the Hindus are Ganimater Maal (spoils of war); these can be used by Muslims,” Lutfar quoted Yusuf as saying.
Following the speech, anti-liberation people, who had attended the meeting, attacked several nearby villages and looted valuables, he said.
Yusuf as the president of Khulna Peace Committee founded Razakar force and provided them with training, arms and clothing. He sent the Razakars to different places and the force committed genocide, killings, arsons, rapes and forced Hindus to leave the country, the witness said.
Lutfar said frightened by the atrocities, he had left the country to train for the Liberation War. He said he joined the war after training in India.
The witness said in the afternoon of November 5, 1971, he had gone to nearby Shakharikathi Bazar to collect information and saw some 30-35 Razakars entering the market.
“I hid behind a nearby bush. From there I saw Razakars were picking up Hindus [from the market] and taking them to the western side of the market tying them up with towels,” said Lutfar.
“After sometime, I heard a whistle followed by gunshots and 42 Hindus were gunned down,” he said, adding that on the following day, Razakars, with assistance from locals, buried the bodies beside the Bishkhali river.
At the last part of his testimony, Lutfar identified Yusuf, who was produced at the dock.
The three-member tribunal led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Shahinur Islam adjourned the case proceeding until today, when Lutfar would face cross-examination.