Tuesday, 4 August 2015

In Poland, communist-era graves overlay victims of the state

Fearing the power of their patriotism, Poland's communist leaders killed the nation's World War II heroes and anti-communist activists and dumped their bodies secretly in mass graves, hoping they would be forgotten. They were topped with new graves.

But now, a history institute is restoring the memory of the slain heroes and arranging proper burials. In order to get to the hidden remains, it is asking to move 194 communist-era graves — including one of a judge who contributed to the death sentence for a man likely buried just beneath him.

The move is part of efforts taken by democratic Poland after 1989 to recognize war heroes and anti-communist activists who were persecuted, killed and deliberately erased from records under four decades of communism imposed after the war.

A motion to have the graves moved within Warsaw's military Powazki cemetery, at the expense of the state, has been filed with the provincial governor, who will negotiate with families, Institute of National Remembrance spokesman Andrzej Arseniuk told The Associated Press on Monday.

He said that the primary concern is for the relatives of the slain heroes who are waiting to have them identified and properly buried.

"It is the duty of the Polish state toward these national heroes who were murdered, secretly buried and destined by the communists for oblivion, to give them back their names and proper burial sites where they could be honored," Arseniuk said.

The institute is searching for the remains of about 100 independence heroes, from among several hundred killed in a Warsaw prison and then dumped there between 1945 and 1956.

Across Poland, thousands of war-time resistance heroes who later opposed communism were tortured, killed, and secretly buried. A few of their persecutors were handed prison terms under democracy.

Remains of about 120 victims — entangled skeletons and shattered skulls — were discovered in 2012-2013 under a lawn in the Powazki cemetery. About 40 have been identified using relatives' DNA. Officials realized that more remains could be reached only by moving the new graves on top.

Among those missing are Capt. Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to be an Auschwitz inmate and smuggled out reports of atrocities there before fleeing, and Gen. August Fieldorf, deputy commander of Poland's war-time resistance Home Army.

Among the graves of various communist-era military figures, dating to the 1980s, is that of Lt. Col. Roman Kryze, a judge who contributed to Pilecki's 1948 death sentence.

Tuesday 4 August 2015


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Manikaran mishap: One more body recovered, yet to be identified

A male body was today spotted by villagers near Bajaura in Kullu district. Search teams retrieved the body from the Beas river and sent it to the government hospital.

A 52-seater bus with 69 pilgrims on board from Mansa, Barnala and Bhatinda districts of Punjab plunged into the swollen Parbati river near Sarsari village on the Bhuntar-Manikaran road in Kullu district on July 23. Eight persons died on the spot, while bodies of four pilgrims were later recovered from the river and the Larji Dam. However, 34 pilgrims are still missing. At least 23 persons were injured in the mishap.

Rajinder Singh Gill, member of the Kullu Kar Seva, said the relatives of the missing pilgrims camping here could not identify the body. However, photos bear resemblance to one Balwant Singh, son of Lal Singh of Jagaramtirath village in Talwandi tehsil of Punjab. He said relatives of the missing had been called for identification of the victim.

Meanwhile, Talwinder Singh, tehsildar, Barnala, consoled the relatives of Komalpreet Kaur, whose body was today sent to her native place. He assured them all support from the Punjab government.

Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said the administration would rework the strategy tomorrow as exhaustive search and survey of the entire stretch from Sarsari up to Larji Dam undertaken at the potential spots to find the missing persons by the Navy had not yielded much result.

He said due to strong river water current, the equipment of the Navy could not trace the wreckage. Cold waters prevented divers to stay under the water for longer duration.

He said the search for the missing persons from the accident spot up to the Largi Dam along the Parbati and the Beas rivers would continue till the last week of September.

A 12-member Indian Navy team headed by Commander Tilak Thakur had yesterday started search operation with Sonar imaging system, but the operation was hampered due to muddy and turbulent water of the river.

Nearly 160 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Shastra Seema Bal (SSB), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Home Guards and state police have been pressed into the search operation.

Tuesday 4 August 2015


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One year of PINAK 6 capsize: No luck for the families of missing victims

One year ago, 21 unnamed dead bodies were buried at a local graveyard in Shibchar of Madaripur.

All of them died in one of the deadliest ever maritime mishaps on August 4 last year, when heavily loaded ferry Pinak 6 capsized in Padma River killing over a hundred passengers.

Rescuers retrieved 49 dead bodies at the time. Official count shows that 61 people are still missing from that accident, although many more families have claimed to have lost members.

The authorities were supposed to find out the identities of the bodies buried at that graveyard through DNA tests. But that has never happened.

They collected DNA samples from some families but most of them have been left out. It has been a year and the DNA test results have still not come.

The caretaker of that graveyard said that neither have anybody come there looking for the dead bodies, nor have anyone come to collect DNA samples since they were buried here one year ago.

As a result, these families – mostly from the low-income group – have not been able to get the cash compensation that the administration had announced after the accident.

Only those families who could identify or show proof that their members were among those deceased, got the money.

Suraton Nesa, a widow from the Sannashichar village in Shibchar, lost four members of her family – son, daughter, son-in-law and grandson – in that accident.

But since none of their bodies have been found, she failed to avail compensation. She does not even know if any of them are lying in that graveyard.

“We were already poor. Moreover, I had to spend most of my savings searching for the dead bodies after the accident. My son was the only bread-earner. I have been living from hand to mouth since. I have not got any compensation from the government because none of their dead bodies have been found,” Suraton said.

When contacted, Kamal Uddin Biswas, deputy commissioner of Madaripur district, said: “Except for one, each of the victim families were given Tk1.05 lakh as compensation. Any other victim families can apply for compensation by producing appropriate proof that they have missing members.”

Siblings Heera and Swarna and their cousin Lucky – all killed in that capsize – belongs to the family that did not accept compensation.

Nurul Haque, father of the siblings, said: “My daughter Heera was still alive when she was rescued and brought to the Mawa terminal. But she died before we took her to the government hospital in Munshiganj. If we could give her primary treatment at the Mawa terminal, we could have saved her life.

“This [Mawa] is such an important ferry terminal. But there are no first aid facilities here,” he said.

After the accident last year, Jahangir Bhuiya, inspector of the Mawa terminal, filed a case against Pinak 6 owner Abu Bakkar Siddique and five workers of the ferry. On August 14, ten days after the capsize, Siddique got arrested but there have not been much progress in that case since.

The ferry itself was never found. The Bangladesh Internal Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) tried with state-of-the-art sonar equipment but in vain.

Locals said that there was strong current in the river when the accident took place and this might have taken the ferry a long way downstream where it might now be resting on the river under a thick cover of sand.

The last time he spoke on the incident, Water Transport Minister Shajahan Khan said their priority after the accident was to hand the dead bodies over to their families; that was why they gave up on the operation to retrieve the ferry.

Tuesday 4 August 2015


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