Witness to the killing of Italian priest | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 08, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:42 AM, May 08, 2021

Road to Freedom: This Day in Bangladesh Liberation War History

Witness to the killing of Italian priest

May 8, 1971

PAKISTAN ORDERS DEMOLITION OF SHAHEED MINAR

Pakistan Martial Law authorities ordered the domolition of the Shaheed Minar in Dhaka, reported Associated Press of Pakistan (APP). They decided to construct a mosque on that site. By another order, the Martial Law administrator of East Pakistan asked owners of cars and commercial vehicles to replace the Bangla number plates by those in English or face punitive action. The action was taken for the convenience of Pakistani law enforcement agencies who were not familiar with the Bangla script and numerical.

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APP also reported that famed Sindi poet Sheikh Ayuz was placed under house arrest under Martial Law regulations. He was described as having "leanings towards the Awami League".

SITUATION REPORT: JESSORE, KHULNA

Pakistan military government allowed six foreign newspapers, including the New York Times, into occupied Bangladesh this week for a tour with official escorts.

The New York Times correspondent provided an account of the killing of Italian priest Father Veronesi in, Jessore which occurred on April 4: "In the Catholic hospital grounds of this smashed and burned city [Jessore] is the fresh grave of an Italian priest. The grave is that of the Rev. Mario Veronesi, 58 years old, who worked at the Roman Catholic mission here for 18 years. Father Veronesi was one of four Italian priests at the Fatima Catholic Hospital here. All were members of the Xaverian order.

"At the Catholic hospital, according to witnesses, two soldiers arrived late in the afternoon as a doctor priest was about to operate on a girl. Witnesses said the soldiers began firing into the house and Father Veronesi walked out with his hands up, They said he was wearing no cassock, but his shirt carried a Red Cross badge. The grounds are clearly marked as a Catholic hospital, At this point, a soldier is said to have opened fire at the priest with a sten gun, killing him instantly.

"The witnesses said that troops then entered the church and shot four persons, including two women. Troops on a truck reportedly opened the offensive in Jessore by 'firing a machine gun at all buildings as it passed along the street near the hospital."

Two days ago, Gen Tikka Khan, military governor of East Pakistan, told foreign newsmen that the army had not desecrated or damaged any religious shrines. Asked by a reporter whether an Italian priest had been killed, he paused and said that an Italian journalist had been wounded. When the Italian ambassador to Pakistan reportedly visited the mission, military authorities informed him that Father Veronesi had been killed by the rebels, not the army.

It was reported that Jessore and Khulna were among the most heavily damaged towns in East Pakistan. Many market areas and buildings are burned out, the streets deserted.

Shamsuddoza Sajen is a journalist and researcher. He can be contacted at sajen1986@gmail.com

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