Commemorating 25 March as Bangladesh’s Genocide Day

Pakistan’s military junta, like Genghis Khan, was genocidal killers who were known to kill whole nations, leaving nothing but empty ruins and bones. They ordered the extermination of the Bengalis. 
by Anwar A. Khan

I wish to begin with the words of Ann Clwyd, “Genocide is the responsibility of the entire world.” Some scientists have even gone so far as to assert that genocide leads to the extinction of Neanderthal man or Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis. It is a positive reinforcing stimulus that Bangladesh parliament on March 11, 2017 nem-con espoused a declaration stating emphatically and authoritatively that March 25 to be observed as the Genocide Day in the country. Now the country wants the UN to recognise the 1971 genocide globally, in commemoration to the barbarities carried out by Pakistan’s army along with their local collaborators in the soil of Bangladesh on the same day in 1971. Bangladesh now would reach out to the UN for this purpose. From now onwards, the country will fete March 25 as “Genocide Day” all across the world.

I wish to tell confidentially that Bangladesh would have been liberated much earlier had the Bangla-speaking Pakistanis, especially, Jamaat-e-Islami goons not made Pakistan’s army known the freedom-loving people and the scale of massacre of our people could have been reduced to a great extent. Because Pakistan’s military did not know the residents of freedom-loving people, the country’s villages, roads, highways, bridges, culverts, railway stations, … The Biharis or the non-Bengalis were aliens to us who came from a foreign country to our country and after participation of India in 1947, we welcomed them to our part of the land but they did never honour to our gesticulates; they did never owe allegiance to this part of land belonged to us; instead, they thought it was their own land only like the Pakistanis; they always behaved with us very rudely; they posed to be our masters and treated with us as slaves; once Pakistan's army cracked on us down with full fury, they equally became monstrous to annihilate us from our own land whereas they should have coalesced with us as our people long before and treated us as their brothers and sisters and learnt Bangla to speak to us, but they forced us to speak to them in Urdu.

I saw their ferocious nature long before 1971 and during our 1971 war. Many Biharis or the non-Bengalis are still living in Bangladesh, but they do not recognise the country, Bangladesh; they still think that it is their country and it is a part of their beloved Pakistan, but the despicable Pakistanis are still not agreeable to take them to Pakistan. Rather, they consider them as treacherous people. I strongly believe had India along with our freedom fighters started a full-fledged war long before December 1971, Bangladesh came into being long back. I believe then all the misdeed-mongers could have been reduced to ashes long time back. And that should have happened in 1971.

Pakistan’s Military President Yahya Khan government’s double-faced or Janus-faced vicious game-bag full of zest or vigour zingy diddled and defrauded the whole caboodle nation or res-publica designedly happed most high-pitched in the guise of pretension in March 1971 with Bangabandhu Mujib and his lieutenants. Like the Nazi Holocaust, drunkard, philanderer, double-dealer and brute Yahya Khan and his clique including deceitful character and deft schemer like ZA Bhutto took Adolf Hitler’s philosophy of “final solution to the Jewish question” to decimate us in 1971. Jared Diamond has suggested that genocidal violence may have caused the Neanderthals to go extinct. Ronald Wright has also suggested such genocide or the systematic extermination of people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, political opinion, social status, etc.

Pakistan’s military junta, like Genghis Khan, was genocidal killers who were known to kill whole nations, leaving nothing but empty ruins and bones. They ordered the extermination of the Bengalis. So, their rule was genocide. If genocide is defined as a state-mandated effort to annihilate whole peoples, then their actions in this regard must certainly qualify. What they did deserve calling them "brutal, hypocritical, opportunistic, and even genocidal in the fullest sense of the word." They carried out deliberate use of massacres. Large scale massacres by Pakistani Forces, and a deliberate scorched earth policy, contributed to the massive death toll.

Thusly, the use of the word genocide is wholly accurate and appropriate to their regime. Their policy has been summed up by a phrase attributed to Pakistan’s army and their local cohorts "To Hell or to Connaught or Amiodarone or Cordarone" and that has been described by historians as genocide. The Almighty sent the potato blight... but they created the havoc all around this part of land. What they did all constituted one of the modern horrible genocides in modern history, where a whole population was attempted to annihilate to satisfy the desires of a group of power-hungry people belonged to Pakistan. They took possession with all sophisticated weapons of destructions in accordance with their customs and they caught all the people. Not one escaped...

In view of these crimes of Pakistan against humanity and civilisation, we hold them responsible for these crimes, as well as those of their agents who were culpably involved in such massacres. They sent their brutal soldiers along with their local accomplices to the former Eastern part of Pakistan only their 'Death's Head Units' with the orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Bengali race or language. Only in such a way, they boastfully said they would win the vital space that they needed.

Once Pakistan’s army cracked down on us, they implemented a highly organised strategy of persecution, murder, and genocide aimed at ethnically purifying former eastern part of Pakistan, a plan like Hitler called the “Final Solution”. This was a crime so monstrous, so undreamt of in history … that the term genocide has had to be coined to define it. Allyson Schwartz has by right appealed to the world indwellers, “The 20th century taught us how far unbridled evil can and will go when the world fails to confront it. It is time that we heed the lessons of the 20th century and stands up to these murderers. It is time that we end genocide in the 21st century.”

Bangladesh’s genocide is the most brutal, for especially because it did not only kill 3 million people directly. But it killed a whole culture and history - the history of an ancient civilisation and the cradle of civilisation. All that land was destroyed, stolen and denied. It seems unthinkable that humans are capable of atrocities as fierce and as devastating as genocide, yet they committed with near nonchalance. The United Nations has defined genocide as, “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This includes not only the mass killing of the Bengali people but the attempt to eradicate it as a living culture. Every genocide, regardless of its scale, is a tragedy of epic proportions – the loss of a people, a culture, and a language is an extinction that hits far too close to home.

How many times must we say never again? This is a question we still seem to be asking ourselves and one another as I personally watched these massacres happened in 1971; they used our holy religion-Islam and pronouncing the holy words “Naray-e-Takbir, Allah-hu Akbar. Pakistan Zindaba and Pakistan is the holy place of Islam” and slaughtered our freedom-loving people pitilessly. They did never permit for burial of those dead bodies. Instead, they then vauntingly allowed those lamentable dead bodies to eat by the vultures, jackals, dogs and other human flesh eaters and thus celebrated such brutal darts with all unkindness. Let’s avoid repeating such history anymore.

Synonymous with the word “genocide”, Yahya khan junta and his coterie were responsible for one of the most systematic and nauseatingly efficient genocides in history in 1971. Combining all of his concentration camps disgorges, and mass executions together led to a death toll in the three of millions. Today, however, we can see how wrong the Pakistani military junta and some political leaders were and just how merciless their reign of terror was. Bangladesh Genocide is known as one of the most gruesome genocides in history. The crimes committed by Pakistani troops during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 were, unfortunately, remain somewhat unknown in the greater world even today.

The genocide began on 26 March, 1971 with the commencement of “Operation Searchlight” by West Pakistan rulers in order to curb the rising agitation for the legitimate political and social demands of the Bengalis who formed the majority of the united Pakistan till 1971. The genocide was deliberately brutal since the Pakistanis considered Bengalis as an inferior race and used to discriminate against East Pakistan in economic and political terms. The genocide is widely known for heinous crimes against women with estimates of 400,000 women being raped by Pakistani troops as well as their local collaborators. Rape was widely used as a form of political weapon to intimidate people to submit themselves to atrocities of West Pakistan's regime.

The genocide committed by the Pakistani Army was assisted by various groups like Jamaat-e-Islami, Shanti committees, Al-Badr and Al-Shams, Razakars which were generally dominated by the Bangla-speaking Pakistani people and the Bihari Muslims. The killings also included deliberate destruction of Bengali culture through the mass killing of intellectuals and other nationalists who regarded Bengali culture as their own.

The move by Pakistan army also sought to get rid of Hindu Minorities in Bangladesh who used to be one of the biggest communities in Bangladesh. Because of that ground, whenever we came across them, they with their red eyes on the first instance enounced the words, “Tum Hindu Hai” (you are a Hindu). Like so many people, I had to show my genital organ on many junctures to prove my Muslim identity at gun points by Pakistan’s military and their local heinous collaborators-the Bangla-speaking Pakistanis and the Bihari Muslims. Even I narrowly escaped murder attempts five times at their hands during that time.

The killings were estimated 3 million which is a huge number considering the fact that the killings took place during the 9 months of Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The genocide led to the fleeing of 10 million refugees towards India which caused huge economic hardships for her and forced Indira Gandhi to seek international support for recognition of Bangladesh and the training of Mukti Bahini (Freedom Fighters).

The Bangladesh genocide ended only after the involvement of Indian troops with our valiant Freedom Fighters in the war on 3 December 1971 due to Pakistan's pre-emptive attack on Indian air-force bases and ended with the crushing defeat of Pakistan, surrendering of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers and formation of Bangladesh within two weeks. Time magazine reported the genocide to a high US official as saying "It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland.” The Guinness Book of World Records has registered this genocide as the second largest genocide in history.

The unfortunate fact is that all Pakistani participants, whether political or military were never prosecuted under the provisions of International Law on the lines of Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials or UN tribunals like in the case of genocides in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia.

The biggest irony is that USA, who claims to be a big supporter of Democracy and invaded various nations in the name of promoting rule of law, chose to remain apathetic to the plight of Bengali population caused by the West Pakistan in-spite of receiving various news about the genocide from their embassy in Dhaka, especially from Archer Blood for the sake of building bridges with Communist China to create rift between USSR and China and in the this meeting, Pakistan was playing the role of facilitator and so her role in the genocide was not only ignored by Nixon Administration but also encouraged China to intervene against Bangladesh and India or create pressure for immediate ceasefire which would prolong Bangladesh’s victory and ensured that the genocide against Bengali people remained unabated.

The systematic mass killings in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971 can be classified as genocide. The conflict started with “Operation Searchlight” as said above earlier, a planned military pacification carried out by the West Pakistani Army on 25 March 1971 to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities and then eliminating all opposition, political or military personnel. Major human right abuses and killings were a sad reality of the crisis; those killed included men, women, students and pregnant women also.

This act of genocide is officially termed “human rights abuses” by the Bangladesh authorities. History has proven in its course that it has been a producer of the most horrifying and daunting stories the world has ever known. Terrifying! Unimaginable! These facts depict the shocking and inconceivable pictures the evils of men could do: blood splattered on barren lands; the stench of death overcoming the fragrance of life.

Genocide, a crime of unprecedented proportions is a sin not worthy of any mercy. It is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group. From the past to the present, from Bangladesh to Rwanda, this herculean crime has been experienced by innocent people and children who have been stripped of their future; men and women who have been degraded to mere objects of ridicule; and of the old whose dignity of life have been taken away from them. More than any horror movie you will ever see, reality always is the best shocker. Bangladesh’s Genocides that the world will remember and will never forget. Because “Genocide” is the most potent of all crimes against humanity because it is an effort to systematically wipe out a people and a culture as well as individual lives” has correctly been written by Jerry Costello.

Given the scale of trauma caused by the genocide, Bangladesh has indicated that, however, thin the hope of a community can be, a hero always emerges. Although no one can dare claim that it is now a perfect state and that no more work is needed, the country has risen from the ashes as a model or truth. We can say in the words of Kendrick Meek, “We can make a difference. We can save lives. We can stop the genocide.” It is time to recognise Bangladesh’s Genocide. Bangladesh has emerged from the devastation of genocide and become more secure and prosperous than anyone has a right to expect. So, let us call genocide, genocide. Let us not minimise the deliberate murder of 3 million people. Let us have a moral victory that can shine as a light to all nations.

25 March, the day before Bangladesh's Independence Day, will now onwards be commemorated as the Genocide Day for the grave genocides committed by the Pakistani military junta and their local accomplices during the 1971 liberation war. We have to remember always those horrible genocides. 25 March, shall live as the Eternal Flame in our history. This was a tragic event in human history, but by paying tribute to the Bengali community, we ensure the lessons of Bangladesh’s genocide are properly understood and acknowledged. Words without deeds violate the moral and legal obligation we have under the genocide convention but, more importantly, violates our sense of right and wrong and the standards we have as human beings about looking to care for one another.

Jon Corzine has aptly said, “Never again is the rallying cry for all who believe that mankind must speak out against genocide.” With faith and courage, decades of Bangladesh’s people have overcome great suffering and proudly preserved their culture, traditions, and religion and have told the story of the genocide to an often indifferent world. The international community should come forward to recognise the Day as “Genocide Day.” It also will create awareness in combating and preventing the crime of genocide everywhere in the world. Say a prayer for them all who met with tragic murders on 25 March 1971 and throughout the months of 1971. Commemorating such a dark period in history means a solemn affair, with the day marked by remembrance services for those who lost their lives.

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The writer is a senior citizen of Bangladesh, writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs

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