127. Telegram 986 From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State1 2


  • Killings


  • A. Dacca 9591
  • B. Islamabad 2792 (NOTAL)
  • C. Dacca 9641
  • D. Dacca 978
American serving with FAO in East Pakistan visited ConGen March 30 to report on tour of Dacca University March 27. Was told weapons students had at Iqbal Hall served only to infuriate army. Students either shot down in rooms or mowed down when they came out of building in groups. Saw tightly packed pile of approximately twenty five corpses. Was told this was last batch of bodies remaining, others having been disposed of by army. While there, empty army truck arrived to remove bodies. Major atrocity recounted to him took place at Kokeya girls’ hall where building set [Page 2] ablaze and girls machine-gunned as they fled building. USIS local who lives nearby confirms girls gunned down. Girls had no weapons. Forty killed. Attack aimed at eliminating female student leadership, since army apparently told girl student activists resided there. Estimated 1,000 persons, mostly students, but including faculty members resident in dorms, killed. He claimed university contacts who conducted him on tour had been noted for their reliability for information in past. Told all university files burned by army in what appeared be purposeful move.
We have confirmed report one faculty member shot in own residence.
Casualty total at university subject of considerable debate. On one hand fact school officially closed and many if not most students gone undoubtedly reduced casualties. On other hand, university halls had become Dacca base for student activity in Awami League “movement,” and thus not inconceivable young people might have flocked there at first indication of trouble night of March 25–26. At least two mass graves on campus, one near Iqbal Hall, other near Roeya Hall. Rain night March 29 exposed some bodies. Stench terrible.
Reports vary re status of top student leaders. Some say army took no prisoners and killed all present in dorms. Hence if student leaders there, they too killed. Other university contacts say game plan if army moved in force was for top leaders to escape to countryside to organize resistance. Most apparently succeeded in getting out of Dacca environs. Army radio broadcast monitored here suggests some students escaped.
Comment: Question of whether university professors subject of pre-planned purge still unanswered although actively being looked into. Academics met since military crackdown fearful for safety and in hiding. They believe they subject to elimination. Systematic destruction of academic records at university suggests campaign underway to erase all traces current “trouble [Page 3] making” generation at Dacca University. Figure of thousand dead at university nonetheless strikes us as exaggerated, although nothing these days is inconceivable.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK. Confidential; Priority. Also sent to Islamabad. Repeated priority to Bangkok, London, New Delhi, Calcutta, Karachi, Lahore, CINCPAC, CINCSTRIKE, and MAC.
  2. The Consulate General’s report on the crisis on March 30 described the killing of students and faculty at Dacca University.