Need a ‘roadmap’ – Harun Habib


Bangladesh Genocide is one of the worst genocide since World War II, which was carried out for eight months two weeks three days from March 25, 1971. During this period, Bengalis were murdered in a planned manner, women were brutally tortured on a mass scale; Abductions, disappearances and brutal physical torture have been carried out, including setting fire to houses. The members of the Razakar, Albadar, Alshams and Shanti Committee, formed by combining Bengalis and non-Bengalis, collaborated with the regular forces of Pakistan in these atrocities. The reminders of that brutality are still everywhere today, there are over 500 killing grounds, numerous mass graves and mass torture centers. A recent survey found 404 slaughterhouses in 20 districts alone.

In the context of the Cold War at that time, the issue of Bengali Genocide was supposed to receive international recognition, unfortunately it did not. But its prevalence is well documented in reports and studies by victims, eyewitnesses and international media. In 1971, the United Nations could not play any effective role in stopping the Bengali genocide. Despite that, the comment made by the then Secretary General U Thant on June 3, 1971 is plausible. The Bengali translation of what he wrote in a letter to the President of the Security Council is as follows: ‘What is happening in East Pakistan is one of the saddest chapters of human civilization. Future historians will surely collect and evaluate the evidence about this event; But it is certain that this incident will be considered as a terrible stain in the history of human civilization.

This brutality of the government forces against the Bengali speaking population was the implementation of Pakistan’s state policy. Its main aim was to suppress the legitimate rights of the majority of the people of the state by using military force. Not only did they choose to destroy the Awami League, the party that had won the election, but they also planned to kill the Bengali members of the armed forces, the police, the EPR and the students. Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes to save their lives as a result of the operation by the state forces. As a result, the tragic refugee life of one crore people began on Indian soil.

Not only domestically, but also according to the international community, “three million” or 300,000 people were killed in Bangladesh in 1971. This number is strongly supported by various publications including National Geographic, Encyclopedia Americana. According to the study, the brutality of the Pakistani forces on the soil of Bangladesh was worse than the Nazi forces in Poland in World War II and Nanjing brutality in 1935. One of the leading Pakistani generals, Rao Farman Ali, wrote in his diary about this massacre:

Paint the green of East Pakistan red’, i.e. make the green field of East Pakistan red. They did it!

The humanitarian world rose up against this indiscriminate massacre. George Harrison and Pandit Ravi Shankar organized ‘Concert for Bangladesh’. Humanitarians gathered in New Delhi, Paris and London. Philosopher Andre Malraux announced the formation of an ‘international brigade’ on behalf of Bangladesh. Researcher Robert Pine in his book ‘Massacre, The Tragedy at Bangladesh’ quotes Yahya Khan as saying, ‘Kill three million of them, the rest will live by eating from our hands.’

During the Liberation War, US Senator Edward Kennedy visited the refugee camps along the Indian border and accused the Pakistani army of genocide. In the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’, the massacre in Bangladesh is mentioned as one of the five worst genocides of the 20th century. In 2002, George Washington University’s ‘Security Archives’ released their declassified documents. In this, the hellish massacre of Bangladesh is identified as ‘Selective Genocide’. Archer Blood, the US consul general in Dhaka, sent an urgent diplomatic message to Washington describing the massive massacre by Pakistani forces. University of Hawaii professor and researcher RJ Rummel writes, ‘These would-be assassins were deeply imbued with anti-Bengali racism, particularly against Hindus. They compared Bengalis with monkeys and chickens. Therefore, the army killed everyone.’

The UN has already recognized the genocides of Armenia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia. But Bangladesh did not recognize the genocide! But in 1971 in just 9 months and the speed with which people were killed on the soil of Bangladesh is a unique precedent in world history. According to the report of an international organization in 1981, among all the genocides in the world, the number of people killed in Bangladesh in a very short period of time is the highest. 6,000 to 12,000 people died every day. But this rate of Cambodia was 1 thousand 200.

But history has its own power, with which it defends its truth. Belatedly, the Lemkin Institute and Genocide Watch, an influential international organization on genocide, issued a statement to acknowledge the genocide in Bangladesh. A bill has even recently been introduced in the US House of Representatives.

Crimes like genocide are not trivial. Therefore, Bangladesh needs to develop a roadmap first. Second, the government must make a formal request to the United Nations. Information, evidence and reasoned appeals must be provided. Thirdly, Bangladesh has to play an active role in the diplomatic field, to get the support of the countries and organizations that were supporters of Bangladesh’s liberation war. Fourthly, school-college-madrasa textbooks should include details of Pakistani genocide. Genocide monuments should be preserved across the country, including major genocide sites.

Fifth, Bangladesh should initiate the process of trial of 195 Pakistani war criminals. The statements made by the Pakistan government before and after the India-Bangladesh-Pakistan trilateral agreement regarding the trial of war criminals should be used. Bangladesh has to play its full role as a victim state rather than self-defence. Sixth, the diaspora Bengali and humanitarian world community should be involved in this process. Seventhly, international campaigns aimed at awakening global conscience should be strengthened.

It should be remembered that just as our 21st February has received international recognition, the Mangal Shobhayatra of Pahela Boishakh has received global recognition, the genocide of 1971 will also receive recognition. It’s just a matter of time.

– Kaler Kantho (Translated from Bangla)