March 1971. Pakistani army launches “Operation Searchlight” to carry out a genocide of Bengalis from the erstwhile East Pakistan (present Bangladesh), resulting in a liberation war and a mammoth refugee crisis. An estimated 10 million people from East Pakistan seek refuge in India.
Julian Francis, a 26 year-old employee of Oxfam, UK, was working on a Gandhian village development project in Bihar when the refugee influx started. The news of the grim condition of refugees reached his team in Bihar. Soon the then Oxfam’s Field Director for Eastern India and East Pakistan, Raymond Cournoyer, contacted his team and requested their assistance in Kolkata. Francis was given the charge of coordinating relief for refugees. He used to organize and handle the supplies of material. Oxfam worked with 600,000 East Bengali refugees according to his estimates. In an interview with Utsa Sarmin, Francis recalls the refugee crisis of 1971 and Oxfam’s role.Continue reading “Oxfam “didn’t want white faces to save refugees” in 1971: An Interview with Julian Francis”