Brief Comments on the 30-31 July Dhaka Conference of the War Museum Sponsors

The conference said to be exploring truths about ‘genocide’ in Bangladesh in 1971 had all in the main propaganda rhetoric rather than facts about the issue the sponsors stated to highlight.

1. First, they had a skull of a human being, and had some more in their museum; but of what ethnic group that or those skulls belong to- Bengalis, Biharis, Panjabis, Pathans, Tribals; in 1971 it was not true that the Bengalis had alone been killed but of all the ethnic genres as mentioned above.

2. They started with the grossly inflated untrue figure that 3 million people had been killed; not any authentic international document like those prepared by Sisson & Rose (Harvard, 1990), Small and Singer (New York, 1982) or even by Indian Sharmila Bose (2005) does agree with the figure. These researchers stood for about a figure that would not exceed 300,000; not that they dispute the figure alone but very clearly stated with their facts of research that those killed in 1971 fell mainly into two groups pro-Bangladeshis and pro Pakistanis.

Further that pro Pakistanis killed included many ethnic Bengalis, as well, that exceeded those of the Pro Bangladeshis and by the rogues of both sides. Human rights violations including killing of retired politician and former governor Monem Khan in October 1971, brilliant parliamentarian Farid Ahmad, etc. and the pro-Bangladeshi fighters had perpetrated all inhuman torture of V.C. Professor Syed Sajjad Husain, Professor Dr Hasan Zaman soon after The 16th December 1971, etc. Kader Siddiquee’s killing by bayoneting poor pro-Pakistanis in open in the Dhaka Stadium on the 18th December 1971 was protested (and kept on record) to Sheikh Mujib by the Italian famous journalist Oriana Falassy from her eye witness account, etc. had all been done by the Bangladeshi fighters.

3. The organizers wished to legitimize their war of independence from after the 25th March 1971 which could have hardly been substantiated as the dispute still is going on as to who declared the war of independence- Major Zia, Sheikh Mujib or the 71 or so elected representatives (elected under the Pakistan LFO) of East Pakistan in direct tutelage of the well known adversaries based in Calcutta/ Delhi. The lacunae in de jure legitimacy of Bangladesh did not end until February 1974 when Pakistan recognized Bangladesh as an independent State, and that followed many unsettled issues sorted out through the tripartite agreement of mid 1974, the crucial one was by the Bangladesh leader in publicly committing ‘Forgive and Forget’.

4. On their effort in legitimizing the issue of independence the seminar organizers wished to explode the legitimacy not only of the State of Pakistan but also of East Pakistan naively as ‘communal’ division of 1947. Fantastic! Had not that division been the fact of history where would they get the territory of Bangladesh in 1971? Or else why did they not soon after the 16th December 1971 merge with the rest of the ethnic Bengalis of West Bangla by annulling the partition as it was previously done in 1911 to be once again controlled from Calcutta?

5. They have argued for trial of the war criminals of 1971. Well and good, the specified real criminals must in any case be brought to book that the 1973 tribunals enacted then 36 years back was supposed to do. But the fact remained that the government of the period did not sue anyone even in a single case over the years- why? The issues involved were complicated as to sift chaff from the grain. Now that the 2009 government has modified and said to have improved the act, even so, none can be certain that it would not be misused for political witch hunting.

6. The Sri Lankan Tamils fought for independence for 26 years that ended in tragedy in mid May this year. On this score the UN and other human rights organizations clearly stated and took stand that both sides involved in the 26 year war had had committed human rights violations. The matter was in fact nothing different in Bangladesh in 1971 as both sides had rogues, not all angels. If real justice is to be done, specific perpetrators with authentic proofs and not by hearsay, of both sides and not of one side need be made accountable.

7. The representatives said to have attended from seven countries in the second and in the claimed first conference last year may well have been given one-sided picture of the sad game and not provided with the whole truths about the matter.

8. In retrospect any sensible person must reflect that the 1971 episode lacked de jure legitimacy that 1947 had clearly had through ballot papers. The 1946 election was fought for Pakistan but the 1970 election was fought for autonomy and not for secession or independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan.

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