Imagine a night, it’s 8 am, you’re chilling in your room, watching Netflix and chatting. Your chats vary from person to person, from planning a trip with your friend, that pair of shoes you liked, or that dude who’s frustrating you, to talking about the recent sham election and how the western regime will do anything to keep power. The only sound in the room is the low hum of the air cooler and the taps on your phone screen.
You notice, your phone’s not getting connected to the internet.
WiFi router seems to be working. The internet went out from the ISP’s end. Alright, you shift to mobile data. No network. At all.
The lights flicker. You hear helicopters in the air. It’s 8:30, you have had spent the last 30 minutes worrying about the internet.
Your family members ask each other “what happened to the internet?”, “Restart the router”, “phones are dead too?”
You walk to your living room’s north facing window. On your 5th floor lakeside apartment, the distant skyline is clearly visible. There is no moon out tonight. Just the red glow in the distance in the north. Your sibling stands next to you. “Is that a fire over there?”
“The red glow, that’s from a fire. I remember seeing pictures from that recent fire couple of days ago.”
“Oh god. Another fire!”
Five minutes later everyone at the house is at the window, discussing the possibility of a fire. “Probably a bad fire, probably communication channels got messed up somewhere?” Someone says. “Could be” someone replies.
There’s that helicopter again, hovering ominously above the, I think that’s where the local police station is, or is it a hospital, nah police station. Is it a fire service helicopter? Our fire service has helicopters? Hmmm…
The AgustaWestland T129 attack helicopter fires. Red lines streak across the night sky, crackling like small firecrackers. The family collectively gasp.
“It’s a gunship!”
“They’re shooting at the police station”
“The fuck kinda terrorist got a helicopter?”
The Gunship fires bursts of machine gun bullets for the next three minutes. Every one of the observers cries out in agony and fear. Fear for the lives lost, of the impending doom, of the unknown. Everyone scrambling for their phones and TVs. No channels on the TV.
“Oh my god”
“Allah help us!”
“The mosque is playing a siren”
The bell rings at your doors..
It’s the neighbors. They saw the gunfires as well and decided to pack up and come over. Two frightened families huddled together.
“We should go investigate,” your young university student neighbor says.
“Sit. Down.” the neighbor uncle orders. A veteran and vocal political analyst.
There are two giant explosions in the distance. Then, a third.
“Look people are fleeing” someone yells out from another window.
You run over to the window, a car zooms out of the apartment on the other side of the road. People are running all over the road. Some with bags, and families. Others by themselves to their families. Another car rolls out of the apartment, almost running over people. The driver doesn’t brake, he floors it.
“We should too” the Neighbor uncle declares.
“But Bhai there are helicopters above. I’m sure running won’t help.”
“It’s the only way. This isn’t a terrorist attack. It’s the government and the army, they’re going to kill everyone in the city tonight”
Out the corner of your eye, you eye, you see your mother suppress a visible agitation under her breath. If this is a fascist military cup. That means, uncle is one of the people they’ll come for. They’ll murder and rape and burn everything. Your mother, wants him to leave asap.
It’s been an hour since the gunship first opened fire. The helicopter wasn’t visible anymore but the gunshots and explosions in the distance haven’t stopped. The red glow is there. It’s fire. They’ve set fire to the city. The city is under siege. It’s an armed occupation. You’ve seen this happens on the news. Kashmir, Palestine, Ukraine. Never thought you’d see it in yo The roads are empty, the initial panic wave has run by. Almost all the adults in the house went downstairs, having a meeting in the streets with the remaining neighbors. You and a couple others went up to the roof so you could see the surrounding area a bit better. The north is still blazing in an inferno. Far in the distant sky blinking lights tell you that the flying gunships of death, haven’t disappeared. There’s definitely a battle going on in the city. But who’s fighting.
“Calm before the storm.” Some neighboring idiot vomits out cheap poetic metaphor.
“I bet they’re attacking university areas, Bashundhara, and Dhaka University, Jahangirnagar may be”
“That’s who they’re after. The protesting students.”
“They opened fire on the local police station,” your sibling says, “they’re here to silence the city”
“I bet they attacked Dhaka cantonment, Pilkhana EBR paramilitary headquarters, and Rajarbag Police lines”
“Oh no. My friend lives in cantonment”
“My uncle too, we’ve been trying to contact him since…”
The blinking gunship lights take a nose dive. And 2 seconds later, streaks of light goes down towards something. Pop, pop, pop. Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.
“TANKS!” Someone yells.
Everyone rushes to that side of the roof. You look down. Giant rumbling juggernauts rolls down your street, lit under the darkness of the streetlight.
Your entire house has been darkened. Not a single drop of light, not even cellphones. The neighbor’s house is also dark, they left with their cars. Half the apartment opposite is lit up, the other half dark. It’s checkered like a chessboard of light and death.
All of you are huddled around the road facing window. Careful not to make a single drop of light otherwise you’ll be seen. 3 Al-Khalid MBT tanks become visible. Escorted by four trucks of soldiers, two empty trucks and two BTR 70 8×8 armored vehicles with 50 caliber machineguns mounted on top. The whole convoy beelines towards the apartment opposite, so far the convoy haven’t fired a single shot. Two soldier gets down from one of the trucks and knocks on the heavy cast iron gate of the apartment. There’s no answer. A couple of lights go dark.
“Darwaja kholo. Otherwise, hum tank se darwaja tor denge.” A soldier yells. These are soldiers from the western regions of the country. It becomes clear. The power-hungry western dogs are out to massacre every voice in the city.
The tanks roll over and crush the gates. Soldiers rush in. Gunshots can be heard from the back of the building, where the driver’s and caretakers rooms should be.
Chaos breaks out over the apartment. Machineguns rip across the windows of the building. One of the gunners rotate his guns and aims it at your windows. All of you duck and run away from the windows. Bullets crash through! Gunshots from the other building is deafening. All of your family are lying to the ground. Someone calling out repeatedly for a god. You manage to get up and carefully peek out. The soldiers are dragging people down from the building. One soldier cleans his boots. Blood stains. People are lined up across the streets like the prayer lines of a mosque. Soldiers stand behind them. Guns ready.
“I am a journalist” someone yells.
“My brother is in the US embassy” another guy yells
“Mercy!” Another yell.
One of the officers fires his SIG sauyer P226 into all three.
“Ye le tera mercy”
One of the Tanks silently comes back to life. It aims its Main gun turret at something. Fires. It was a car, trying to desperately flee one of the nearest buildings. A mother cries out, clasping her child. The audience gasps in horror.
“Open fire.” One of the officers yell.
Without any protocol, any conventions, any sort of reasoning or rationale. Soldiers shoot every single man, woman, and child they brought down from the apartment. The prayer line collapses like dominos.
Couple of soldiers from the convoy then crosses the road towards your house.
It’s dawn. The soldiers lit the neighbors house on fire and moved on to their next genocide. Thankfully the flames aren’t reaching your house because of the gaps between the two buildings. The neighbors liked an open lawn. They took all the bodies an hour later. Even watered the streets!
All of you sit in the living room. Silent. Not knowing where to go. Not knowing if it’s safe, not knowing when will it stop, not knowing who lived, not knowing how many died. Not knowing what to do next.
Your sibling hum a song
“আমরা তোমার শান্তি প্রিয় শান্ত ছেলে
তবু শত্রু এলে অস্ত্র হাতে ধরতে জানি”
I’m pretty sure all of you have by now realized that this attempt to write a story was about 25th March. 1971.
Some things we take for granted. Some protests and antifa movements, we say “is not for me”. Some horrors we can’t imagine. That’s what this was about. To remind all of us not to let tyranny flourish to its absolute. Because we now know what happens when tyranny reaches its absolute. Absolute invincibility, absolute power.
Do not go gentle in that good night
The Ides of March
Author: Saddam H Shadhin.
First Published: 26th March, 2019
Second published: 15th May, 2020