Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Bangladesh, Rashid Talukdar

with 5 comments

When Mohammed Ali Jinnah became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1947, he bemoaned that he inherited a “mutilated, truncated, moth-eaten Pakistan”. The British partition of her Indian possession created two countries, secular India, and two predominantly-Moslem areas — East and West Pakistans — that sandwiched it. Apart from religion, two areas had very little in common, in geography, in language, and in culture. Although over-populated East Pakistan had more people, West Pakistan held the lion’s share of power, and government subsidies.

Equally vexing to East Pakistanis was the issue of who minority Hindus, who were marginalized. All these grievances exploded in December 1970, when poor government response to a cyclone triggered civil unrest. In March 1971, West Pakistan responded by launching a military operation in against Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia, and armed personnel who were finally demanding separation of the East from West Pakistan. A guerrilla war that claimed as many as 3 million — one of the bloodiest in modern history — unfolded for next 266 days, with East Pakistanis being supported by India.

On December 3rd, in a severely miscalculated move, West Pakistan began a pre-emptive attack on the western border of India. India promptly declared war on Pakistan, and came to the defense of the Bengali separatists. In one of the shortest wars in history, West Pakistan surrendered in the east 12 days later. West Pakistan became just Pakistan; the new nation of Bangladesh was born.

In the days immediately preceding their surrender, the West Pakistanis either ordered or led the extermination of a large section of the intellectual community of Bangladesh in a last ditch effort to wreck the new country. The worst were the horrors of Rayerbazar killing fields (14 December 1971) which were later captured by Rashid Talukdar. The above picture appeared to be a marble sculpture among rocks but was in fact a dismembered head.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

August 16, 2011 at 10:41 am

Posted in Society, War

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. First of all thank you for an always intersting blog that I follow avidly🙂

    This picture is probably the strongest one you’ve posted so far. Could you tell me if someone has the copyright – I would very much like to use it as an illustration in a book.


    August 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm

  2. a photo is nothing without a story, awesome post

    Lisnic Andrei

    August 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm

  3. […] generals in 1971 just a few days before the end of the war. It was a story accompanied by a picture by Rashid Talukdar of a severed head in rubble, from the killing fields of Rayerbazar. Altogether more than a thousand […]

  4. […] considered one of the most important photoessays on the century, and his photo of a bodiless head, featured here on IP just two months ago, was a haunting testament to the trying toll of […]

  5. […] and photographers need only to look at the lives of those old masters who died this year. As Rashid Talukder was documenting the birthpangs of Bangladesh, the retreating Pakistani army was massacred thousands […]

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