Batool Zehra in The Express Tribune:
History is always written by the victors, and in the case of the 1971 war, the dominant narrative has been that of atrocities committed against the Bengali population. But in her upcoming novel, Of Martyrs and Marigolds, Aquila Ismail dredges up the memories of her traumatic past in order to shine a light on the lesser-known atrocities of that conflict.
“My mother forgot how to speak Bengali after the trauma of 1971. It just went out of her head. She cannot speak it to this day,” says Aquila Ismail, as we sip tea in her sitting room on a winter’s evening in Karachi. One of the few Biharis who managed to flee Bangladesh after what is known in that country as the War of Liberation, Aquila now lives in the UAE. But over 250,000 of her fellow Biharis still live in squalid conditions in Bangladesh today, as a stateless minority.
While the atrocities of the Pakistan Army against the Bengali population during the war are well-documented, little is known about the plight of the Biharis who were left stranded when East Pakistan seceded in 1972, and what they suffered during and after the conflict. According to some estimates, 750,000 Biharis were left in Bangladesh in 1972, and not only did they face persecution at the hands of Bengalis, they were also disowned by Pakistan and became stateless overnight…