The war continues

“I will NOT forget. I will not let YOU forget.”

Face of Bangladesh

gurudasi-mondol.jpg

(Image courtesy: 3rd I)

Gurudasi Mondol gave herself up to madness in 1971, during the Liberation War of Bangladesh, as she watched her entire family being killed by the Razakars, the collaborators of the occupying forces. Imprisoned and raped by the commander of the Razakars, she was freed months later by a unit of the Bangladesh Liberation army. Thirty something years later, she continues to roam the streets of Kopilmoni, in small-town Bangladesh, in search of all she has lost; snatching at will from strangers and breaking into spaces normally reserved for men. She is unafraid and scornful of authorities. In her madness, she has found a strategy for survival. In Kopilmoni, Gurudasi has attained near legendary status. Through her indomitable presence, she has kept the spirit of the Liberation War.

A Certain Libeartion: A Short Film directed by Yasmine Kabir

The spirit of the liberation war

The values of the liberation war were secularism, democracy, liberal outlook and modernism and no religious bias. But after independence, governments of every hue and cry have been in power and failed to uphold the values of the liberation war. They also reinstated the anti-liberation parties like Jamaat-e-Islami and others who were indicted as collaborators of Pakistan forces.

When our constitution embed communalism and subscribe to half a century old religious division how can we claim that we are politically liberated? We will not celebrate our liberation unless those promised goals that was written with blood on this landscape are achieved. Yes we don’t care how failed this state is, how corrupted you are leaving the society for us and how miserable policies that needed to be changed, we will not give up unless those goals are being achieved.

(Source)

1971 : Indo-Pak war?

“India’s greatest military victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war that led to the emergence of Bangladesh.” What does that imply? Bloody birth of Bangladesh was a by-product of that so-called Indo-Pak war? With this statement, the sacrifice of our freedom fighters and martyrs has been brazenly belittled. It’s downright despicable!

India’s help in our war of liberation has always been aptly appreciated by us except some anti-India freaks. We’re indebted to India for its help throughout our liberation war. But exaggeration of their contribution on the part of the Indian press is reprehensible. Describing the war waged by Bangladeshis and fought fiercely in which Indian Force helped us cannot be dubbed as Indo-Pak war in any way.

It’s liberation war of Bangladesh, NOT 1971 Indo-Pak war.

- Ahmad Ferdous Bin Alam

Why the genocide in Bangladesh has been largely ignored since the early 1970s?

Donald Beachler, Associate Professor in the Department of Politics at Ithaca College, New York writes:

The massive communal violence that occurred in East Pakistan in 1971 received worldwide attention at the time, but has been largely ignored since. Some scholars and other writers have denied that what took place in Bangladesh was a genocide. Journalists’ reports, expatriate testimony, refugee reports and an investigation by the International Commission of Jurists in 1972 all indicate, however, that the Pakistani army did commit genocide in Bangladesh in 1971. The political and ideological circumstances that led to the secession of East Pakistan were conducive to religious and ethnic genocide.

No ideological or partisan faction in the United States has stood to gain much from the study of the Bangladesh genocide. And the governments of Bangladesh and Pakistan have not been interested in promoting study of the mass murder and rapes that took place in 1971.

Why this is a good time, a right time, to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide?

At a talk in Washington D.C. in January, I heard the following: “[T]here is talk in Bangladesh right now of trying the war criminals, you know, those who sided with Pakistan, having these tribunals, but I personally think it’s not the time for Bangladesh to come up with policies that divide the people. It’s more a time to improve our democracy, or to strengthen our institutions. It’s not time to try people who … I mean at the time of the ci … liberation war, Bangladesh was East Pakistan before it became Bangladesh. And so we don’t over here try people who supported slavery in the South. It was a civil war at that time. And so I think it’s time for Bangladesh to move ahead. I think the country should focus on having elections rather than, you know, how do we beat up on our citizens.”

These words are neither new, nor the thoughts original. The population of every country transitioning out of war and with experience of mass atrocities comprises, roughly speaking, two camps — those who want justice, and those who want to let bygones be bygones.

I have come across similar arguments multiple times in the context of Bangladesh. They ran along the slightly (and I used the term “slightly” deliberately) similar vein of those in Pakistan who continue to define 1971 as a “civil” war, an unfortunate mistake which claimed a few thousand lives and was largely an Indian conspiracy.

Before any reader takes offence, I am not suggesting that anyone with such sentiments necessarily fall in the camp of genocide deniers. But minimising the extent of the suffering of the victims — those who died, those who survived, as well as those who resisted — does appear to be the modus operandi of how we today deal with our own tragic history.

Compartmentalise, minimize, and move on — a convenient philosophy which greatly facilitates the focus on contemporary problems. The “peace now, justice later” echoes with the same refrain of “development now, democracy later” — setting up both a false dichotomy and assuming these are mutually exclusive.

The dire need to start a war crimes tribunal – three general reasons why burying the past by deliberately forgetting is, simply put, not such a good idea.

First, some may be able to forget; but they are never the victims or the survivors. A national policy geared on the principles of collective amnesia cannot obliterate individual memory.

Second, if the government does not attend to the victims and their injuries, then it fails in one of its basic political duties — protecting and upholding victims of injury is one of the basic raison dêtres of the state. Creating the space for survivors, liberators, victims to claim their right to remember and to ask for a national response to their trauma is within the premises of what a nation-state owes to its citizens. Bangladeshis are not unique in this demand. The state has both the responsibility to both protect and preserve. The survivors have a right to demand.

Third, grievances without redress tend to fester. Festering leads to not only hatred for the perpetrators and their descendants, but also generates an endemic mistrust of a state that has failed in its duty to vindicate the past once before, and maybe ready to tolerate injuries in the future.

Waiting for the right moment can perhaps only mean one substantive reality — the loss of more eyewitnesses, the loss of momentum in creating documentation for trials and truth commissions, and a continued fostering of a sense of resignation of survivors that the state will never hear their voices, because they were never important.

– Tazreena Sajjad in “The problem with evil: Addressing 1971

War against war criminals:

* After the recent controversial statement that “Jamaat did not work against the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and there are no war criminals in the country,” we hear a new low in political rhetorics.

Former Islami Bank chairman and Jamaat-e-Islam think-tank Shah Abdul Hannan has described the Liberation War of 1971 as a “civil war.” He denied that genocide took place in the country at that time and that war criminals exist here. Speaking on a talk show, Ekushey Shomoy, on private satellite television channel Ekushey Television Friday, Hannan also expressed doubts that three million people died in the war and supported a Pakistani report according to which only 26,000 people or less died during the Liberation War. The Daily Star has a transcript of his comments.

Dr Hasan, convenor of War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, a group investigating war crimes by Pakistani army and their local collaborators in 1971 tells that Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed’s statement is a blatant lie:

“We have strong evidence and documents against the people who were involved in war crimes during the Liberation War and what is needed now to bring the culprits to justice is an initiative. Ali Ahsan Mojaheed as president of Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971 was in a leading position of Dhaka city Al Badr Bahini, one of the groups involved in killing Bangladeshi intellectuals at the fag end of the war. Al Badr played the key role in killing innocent intellectuals, professionals and also common people in 1971.

Local collaborators of the Pakistani army were involved in at least 53 types of crimes. The committee traced at least 920 mass graves where Bengalis were dumped by the Pakistani army and their collaborators. The killings were clearly genocide as Bengalis were eliminated because they were Bengalis and the Hindus were killed because they were Hindus.

An investigation by the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee found at least 191 people as Pakistani war criminals who have been accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and mass killing.”

Meanwhile details are being emerging that Local collaborators of Pakistani occupation forces or war criminals charged with specific allegations of committing atrocities during the Liberation War have never been pardoned although propaganda campaigns are on claiming that they were granted general amnesty by Bangabandhu-led post-war government:

On November 30, 1973, the government announced general amnesty for those among the arrestees under collaborators order not charged with specific allegations of war atrocities.

The press note on general amnesty categorically said, “Those who were punished for or accused of rape, murder, attempt to murder or arson will not come under general amnesty.”

Out of 37,000 sent to jail on charges of collaboration, some 26,000 were freed after announcement of the general amnesty.

Around 11,000 were still in prison when the government of Justice Sayem and General Ziaur Rahman repealed the collaboration order on December 31, 1975. Following this, those behind bars for war atrocities appealed and eventually got released.

More details here.

* A petition to bring the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War Criminals to Justice.

* A petition to Pakistani Government to officialy apologize to the people of Bangladesh

* Say sorry and we’ll forgive, Dhaka tells Pak

* We Demand an Unconditional apology from Pakistan – Himel Shagor

* April 3, 2008: War Crimes Fact Finding Committee publishes a list of alleged war criminals (AFP):

“Out of the 1,597 people on the list, 369 were Pakistani army personnel. The rest were Bangladeshi collaborators,” said M.A. Hasan of the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, which has spent nearly two decades documenting war-time incidents including rape, arson and mass murder.

“We have been investigating for 17 years to compile the information. The list is on the basis of field-level investigation, mass graves and eyewitness statements,”

Related Articles:

* Justice After Genocide: Ways To Deal With The Past – Dr. Zia Uddin Ahemd (faculty member in the Dept. of Jurisprudence at Catholic University, Brussels, Belgium)

* The original sin: Justice for 1971 crimes – Dr. Ahmed Ziauddin

* Well said, your honour – Maj. Gen. (retired) Syed Muhammad Ibrahim, Bir Protik

Litigations for War crimes:

* September 20, 2006: Bangladesh genocide case filed in Australian court:

“We are glad to announce that a case has been filed in the Federal Magistrate’s Court of Australia today under the Genocide Conventions Act 1949 and War Crimes Act. This is the first time in history that someone is attending a court proceeding in relation to the crimes of Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during 1971 by the Pakistani Armed Forces and its collaborators. The Proceeding number is SYG 2672 of 2006.

Mr. Raymond Faisal Solaiman is the plaintiff and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is first respondent. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is second and the collaborators of Pakistani armed forces are third respondent in this proceeding.

May 21, 2007 – The court ordered – Leave is granted to the applicant to discontinue his application filed on 20 September 2006.”

* November 8, 2007: Jamaat leader Abdul Qadir Mollah sued for his defamatory comment against the Liberation War. Abdul Quadir Mollah denies making such speech: “I have the highest respect for freedom fighters and liberation war. So it is unimaginable for me to make such type of remarks as regards liberation war and freedom fighters.”

* December 5, 2007: Sedition case against Mojaheed, Quader Mollah, Shah Hannan

* December 17, 2007: Nizami, Mujahid, other Jamaat leaders sued for murder of freedom fighters in Keraniganj in Nov ’71

* April 2, 2008: Bangladesh requests for UN involvement in ending impunity for 1971 violations

Awareness activities

The children of this generation are unknown to…….

what is the independence day ?
What the victory day is?
The reason behind the war of independence.
The reason behind nine months of bloodshed.
Who want against our Independence.
Who were our enemies ?

……… For the children to know the answer, for them to know the truth about our independence and to stop ignoring the real facts learn about the Chotorai initiative.