ISSN 2330-717X

Bangladesh’s War Crimes Trials – Analysis

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By Rajeev Sharma

In my earlier piece, I had referred to secret fortnightly intelligence reports prepared by the Home Ministry of the then East Pakistan government for the central Martial Law administration. More of such reports, which are now in public domain, need to be looked at.

According to these fortnightly reports, Golam Azam was directly involved in ordering the systematic genocide during Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971. One such report covering the first half of September 1971 mentioned that addressing the workers at a party meeting in Dhaka on September 3, 1971, Azam said, ‘We need to restore normalcy in the country by physically eliminating the rebels and anti-social elements’ (freedom fighters).

Azam’s active role against independence of Bangladesh is clearly evident in another report of the Home Ministry of East Pakistan government. At the inauguration of a 3-dayconference of the Majlish-e-Sura (highest policy making body) of JEI, he said: “Party members need to come forward to defend Pakistan’s territorial integrity and her ideology,” says the report covering October, 1971. Azam also mentioned, “Few politicians were responsible for the present critical conditions of the country. Now the Pakistan government should prepare the federal constitution based on the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”

Bangladesh
Bangladesh

The ‘secret report’ covering second half of August, 1971, reveals that addressing workers’ conference in Kushtia, Azam said, “We have to form Peace Committee at every village to neutralize the evil design of the rebels.” Describing Pakistan as the ‘abode of Islam’,Azam said “If the Muslims failed to safeguard the integrity and solidarity ofPakistan, the existence of the state and Islam would be at jeopardy.” v

On March 25, 1971 the genocide was launched. The University of Dhaka was attacked and a large number of students were killed. Death squads roamed the streets of Dhaka, killing some 7,000 people in a single night, says a report filed by noted journalist Simon Dring. It was only the beginning. Within a week, half the population of Dhaka had fled, and at least 30,000 people had been killed, say thousands of historic reports. Narrating the atrocities in Dhaka University, US Consulate in Dhaka on March 31, 1971 reported that naked female bodies in Rokeya Hall of Dhaka University were found “hanging from ceiling fans with bits of rope,” after apparently being “raped, shot, and hung by heels” from the fans. The East Pakistani government report said that Golam Azam led the procession of Peace Committee to express solidarity with the occupation army for this kind of action. The report also reveals that on April 13, 1971 Golam Azam “led a procession of the Peace Committee in Dacca supporting the crack down by Pakistan army on the night of 25th March 1971.” The procession led by Golam Azam chanted slogans — Long live Pakistan, Down with Indian Imperialism.

“Here in Dacca we are mute and horrified,” wrote Archer Blood, the then American Consular General and a witness to the reign of terror let loose by the Pakistani military with the help of local collaborators. In a telegram to different American consulate offices and embassies around the world on March27, 1971, Blood said, “Evidence continues to mount that the Martial Law authorities of Pakistan have list of Awami League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out of their homes and shooting them down” with the help of their local collaborators.

The present JEI chief Matiur Rahman Nizami hailed the atrocities perpetrated by Pakistan army on freedom fighters in 1971, reveal the reports of the Home Ministry. Nizami was the chief of All-Pakistan Islami Chhatra Sangha, the student wing of JEI, at that time. Nizami described the massacre of thousands of people and rape of Bengali women on the black night of 25 March 1971 as a ‘timely action by the Pakistan army to protect the country’. Nizami’s efforts to organise auxiliary forces of Pakistan army, including the Razakar and Al-Badr groups, and equip them with modern arms were reported in the contemporary issues of JEI mouthpiece ‘Sangram’.

East Pakistan government reports also reveal that at a meeting of the Islami Chhatra Sanghain Jamalpur on 14 June 1971, Nizami came out in strong defence of the crackdown by the Pak occupation forces and condemned the Awami League. He said, Pakistan Army ’has taken timely action and saved the country’. As President of Islami Chhatra Sangha and Commander-in-chief of Al-Badr, Nizami called upon all members of Islami Chhatra Sangha to cooperate with the Pakistani occupation army. ’We must help the administration to find out anti-state elements in the country. Their names should be recorded and handed over to the administration for action,’ he told a Chhatra Sangha meeting in Mymensingh on 14 July 1971. Addressing Razakars in Jessore on 10September 1971, he said, ‘Each of us should be an Islamic soldier of Pakistan. Fighting against Pakistan is fighting against Islam and all those fighting against Pakistan and Islam, should be killed’.

A classified report of the then East Pakistan government covering the second half of September 1971 reveals that Nizami at a public meeting in Sylhet on 16September, 1971, said, ‘Awami League leaders have defamed and defiled Islam by revolting against Pakistan and joining hands with India’.

One of the main objectives of Al-Badr was to shortlist secular Bengali intellectuals and eliminate them. Horrifying stories of killing of intellectuals by Nizami’s Al-Badr forces were published in newspapers at home and abroad during and after the Liberation War. In the 14 November 1971 issue of the JEI mouthpiece ‘Sangram’, Nizami wrote, ‘The day is not far when the young men of Al-Badr, hand in hand with the patriotic Pakistani armed forces, will defeat the Hindu forces and raise the banner of Islam’s victory all over the world after demolishing India’. In a press statement dated 12 October 1971, Nizami said the so-called Mukti Bahini was fighting against “holy Pakistan” and that 90 percent of Mukti Bahini members were Hindu.

At a meeting of party workers on 15 September 1971, Nizami said, “A group of supporters of the Brahmin empire has started working to include East Pakistan in the Hindustan territory in the name of Liberation War. We should look for them and eliminate them.”

Facing inevitable defeat, the Pakistani occupation forces in collusion with the Al-Badr militia designed a sinister scheme to intellectually cripple the country soon to be born, numerous historical documents testify. They decided to liquidate the intelligentsia and in the last few days of the war they unleashed the most systematic execution of Bangladeshi intellectuals. Teachers, doctors, artists, writers and other important figures of Bengali society were summarily arrested, tortured and slaughtered en masse in killing fields, most notably at Rayerbazar and Mirpur. Historians and families of the martyred intellectuals hold Nizami squarely responsible for committing the horrific crimes against humanity as he was the top commander of Al-Badr.

JEI Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed’s involvement in masterminding the atrocities against freedom fighters was evident in his speeches that he made at different meetings and rallies during the War of Liberation in 1971, as revealed in the ‘secret’ documents of the Home Ministry of East Pakistan government. Ata conference of Islami Chhatra Sangha in Rangpur on 17 October 1971, Mujaheed asked his followers “to form Al-Badr Bahini at different levels for defending the country from internal and external attacks”. He further said “Islami Chhatra Sangha workers will have to mobilize the youth with Islamic spirit and zeal, and launch a strong movement to eliminate the anti-Islamic forces”(freedom fighters).

At a rally in observance of the Al-Badr Day on 7 November 1971, Mujaheed said, “People should come forward against the aggressive attitude of Hindustan towards Pakistan and enroll themselves in the Al-Badr forces and fight against the enemies and Indian infiltrators to safeguard the integrity and solidarity of Pakistan.”

“Our students are fighting alongside Pakistani forces to resist Indian agents, the so-called freedom fighters,” Mujaheed said according to these reports sent by the East Pakistan government to the headquarters of the martial law administration at that time.

Mujaheed was President of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Sangha. He also became the Dhaka unit president of Al-Badr, a paramilitary force constituted in September 1971 with the spirit and zeal of the ‘mujahids of the historic battle of Badr’, under the auspices of General Niazi, chief of the eastern command of the Pakistan army. The members of the Al-Badr were involved in the murder of distinguished intellectuals at Rayerbazar killing ground in Dhaka. They had committed all the heinous crimes in the name of Allah and Islam. Academics, writers, physicians, engineers, journalists and other eminent personalities were among the victims who were dragged blindfolded out of their houses and massacred at Rayerbzar and other killing fields in the city.

Addressing a meeting of the Islami Chhatra Sangha at Baitul Mukarram Mosque in Dhaka, commemorating the historical Badr Day on 7 November 1971, Mujahid declared that from then no book by Hindu authors would have a place in the libraries. “Their sale and advertisement will be completely prohibited … …anyone found violating this will be burnt to ashes by the volunteers charged with the flame of belief in the existence of Pakistan,” he said.

Exodus and genocide during 1971 caused a loss of around 20 million Hindus—one of the largest displacements of a population based on ethnic or religious identity in recent history. Time magazine in its issue of 2 August, 1971 reported “The Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Muslim (Pakistani) military hatred”.

Numerous historical documents suggest that the slogan “Kill Bengalis and Hindus” was routinely and purposefully used during the period. ‘Bengali’ was the term used to mean the freedom fighters. Senator Edward Kennedy in a report of the US Senate Committee testimony dated 1 November 1971 wrote, “Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked ‘H’…All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad.” (CONCLUDED)

(The writer is a New Delhi-based strategic analyst and a journalist-author. He can be approached at [email protected]).

SAAG

SAAG

SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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