The war between the India-assisted freedom forces of East Bengal against the Pakistani Military, which culminated in the birth of Bangladesh was investigated by many. But whatever be the reason, very little was written about the role of the minority Hindus, who got besieged in the war between pro-establishment Muslim league and anti-establishment Awami league supporters. The book “A Child and A War” seems to fill that gap. It is a narration of the complicated sociopolitical events of the civil war of Bangaladesh in 1971, narrated by an eleven-year-old girl belonging to the minority Hindu community.
The story starts in March of 1971, when after the failure of negotiation between the Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Sheikh Muziboor Rahman, the Pakistani Military cracks its whip of oppression on unsuspecting Bengali population. A Khulna- based ( third largest city of Bangladesh) Hindu family takes it to be a passing phase and goes to live with an influential relative at a subdivision town , Bagerhat. Here, the political movement takes the shape of communal riot, where both theirs and their relatives home get looted. Unable to predict the course of event, they further move onto the countryside for a temporary respite and get trapped in a remote village- Gotapara. Here they face the organized terror. Some educated elites of the majority community decide to utilize the situation to serve their own purpose and unleashes an all out offensive against the group of hapless Hindus. Another spree of looting and torture takes them to the verge of breaking point. Then the threat of forced conversion stares them in the face. At this juncture, a Muslim youth comes forward and takes control of the situation. Risking his life, he rescues the family and supports them throughout the troubled period. To evade the Razakars ( Supporter of Pakistani military regime), they keep changing place and live under the protection of some very poor Muslim families. As situation turns grave, they make an attempt for India. The father could have a safe escape but the boat carrying mother and children runs in trouble. Because of a skirmish between Mukti Bahini ( underground freedom army of Bangladesh) and Razakar, the border security is suddenly tightened and the boatman after extorting their last penny, leaves them at a border village. For eleven days, the family leaves under charity of a total stranger and incidentally comes back with an intention to live at their own house at Khulna. Here comes the worst moment—they learn and their last asset-- the ancestral house was usurped by a lady. The store of gold jewellery get exhausted —gulping her pride, the mistress- goes to appeal at Martial-law court to claim the house.
During their journey through the unknown territory , they come into contact with various aspects of the movement; the thriving business of refugee migration, the battle between freedom forces and Razakars, finally the war which leads to the liberation of the country.
The story operates at two levels.
At one level, it is the story of a Hindu family struggling for survival in a hostile environment. As the political events gather momentum, the reader gets to experience the complicated sociopolitical changes sparked off by the civil war; The equation of caste and community; the exploitation of uneducated poor Muslims by the educated elites; the suppressed religious and intellectual conflicts.
At another level, it is the story of the mental journey of a free-spirited girl, born in an orthodox minority community. The forced interaction with the other community opens up her mind and she instinctively realizes shortcomings of her own community and hypocrisy of her own family.
Told in the first person narrative ‘A Child and a War’ is a true story of an 11 year old Hindu girl.