Here is Mofidul Hoque’s take on it - emailed to me a couple of days ago. MH is the curator of the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka.
I prefer the sliding figure used by Imperial War Museum, London. As far as I remember they quoted the number as 2-3 million, which I think is a better way to put the number. In a country where you cannot figure out the exact number of dead when cyclone hits or a launch capsizes how can you track the number of people killed in a nine-month long killing spree of a civilian population by one of the most organised killing machine of the world?
Do you know one aspect of Bengal reality? There are professional divers who work for the launch owners. After a launch disaster they are employed to go to the river, dive deep and cut the belly open of any dead body they come across under the water. They do it so that the dead will not float and casualty figure will remain low and the owner can feel better. Pakistan Army did most of the killing along riverside so that the flowing water will carry the dead. They also covered the dead in many mass graves. It is our duty to uncover those dead.
We may not have exact figure of the dead but we have quite exact numbers regarding the displacement of population. 10 million people had to seek refuge in 968 camps in India. One can have all the names from the record if one likes to dig deeper. Among this 10 million there were a large number of casualties especially of children and old people. There were two waves of cholera epidemic in the camps. In many cases families buried their dead but retained the ration card with them for obvious reasons. So you need different kind of researchs if you like to go for the figures. But you can guess about the dead in the camps. One should add that figure in the 3 million.
In Cambodia it is said that 1.7 million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge. Many people quote the figure of 3 million. But I found very few people questioning the figure. When the number of 3 million dead in Bangladesh came up in the days after the victory there were different agencies trying to guess the number of people killed. As far as I remember a Swiss agency upheld this figure which found broad acceptance. Of course it is a guess work but I think it is not far from truth, keeping in mind that almost every family in Bangladesh suffered. Nevertheless, will go for the IWM approach.