War Crimes Act 2009
That the war crimes tribunal bill was passed on the 9th July in the Bangladesh Parliament and that the trial of the violators of human rights of 1971 is to begin soon as per the act just passed and just as the law Minister has iterated to the press, it is expected by all sensible persons that 100% neutrality would be maintained in the due process of law.
The point of neutrality has many facets that the due process would certainly take care of. Even so, I have a fear that not all perpetrators of human rights would be taken to task and put to the dock in the due process of law. That is what I intend here to point out for all those wishing for fairness of the trials that the Law Minister is known to have assured.
The first and crucial point, despite the fact that the 1971 war had been fought sporadically and mainly in hit and run guerrilla style during the period of 9 months from March to early December, it was a fight between two distinct and opposite groups. One group started to fight for independence of Bangladesh and other for preservation of the integrity of Pakistan against dismemberment.
The intervening party was the federal Pakistan army that began very much foolishly with its so-called Operation Search Light on the 25th March 1971 in the Dhaka city. The army then on took about a month to reestablish its control lost to the Awami Leaguers over the country’s far-flung areas. They conducted their operations with their ferocity at their disposal to establish control and did in the process excesses in violation of human rights.
The Awami League
The Awami League group did not seat at rest. They had their own operations though not with sophisticated arms like those of the federal army but with whatever they had in perpetrating violation of human rights on the patriotic Pakistanis. The ethnic non-Bengalis had been the main victims in the hands of the marauders of the Awami League Bengali cadres, certainly not all the Bengalis. The violations included arson, inhuman torture, violations of women, killing of young children, youths and old of all varieties whoever had been vulnerable and the Awamis considered anti-secessionists. The federal army did similar violations but not before 25th March but after or in other words, they took reprisal of the violations of all kinds for days and weeks of the Awami marauders did in their own crude operations until about the end of April 1971. That meant clearly that the Awami cadres had been the aggressors in the war, albeit due mainly to foolhardy public order the leader made on the 7th March speech at the Ramna Race Course, ‘TOMADER JAR JA ACHE TAI NIYE PROSTUT THAKO (keep yourselves ready to fight with whatever you have), RAKTO JAKHON DIECHI ARO RAKTO DIBO (that we shall give more blood as we have already given), AMI TOMADER (addressing the federal army) BHATE MARBO (we shall not give you anything to eat), PANITE MARBO (no water to drink)’, etc. In essence the crude directions meant only to incite the Awami followers not only against the federal army but also against the poor and vulnerable non-Bengalis in thousands who took shelter in Bangladesh following the massacre they faced in the hands of the frenzied Hindu communalists in various Hindu dominated provinces in the British India in the wake of the partition and in 1947. Thus the frenzied Awamis in early 1971 was just another version of the 1947 frenzied Hindu communalists.
Frenzied Awami Leguers
The frenzied Awamis not only massacred the non-Bengalis in thousands, the numbers are never known, not possible to be known in their exactness even in future, but also massacred Bengalis who for their own sacred belief in the integrity of Pakistan; such killings went not only during the nine months but also with more ferocity after the 16th December 1971, the day the Pakistan army surrendered to the Indian victorious army abandoning East Pakistan for independent Bangladesh. One eye witness reference of killings in Dhaka after the 16th December was mentioned to Sheikh Mujib by the famous Italian journalist Oriana Fallasy that he denied though, but some photos of the brutal killings were available in many press records in London. I have my own collection of one incident. Recently I have got a video recording of one incident obtained in the Internet from broad. The sum total of the issue was that violation of human rights including killing of many persons took place from both sides by the rogues of both groups in 1971 in Bangladesh.
No Authentic Facts
As regards the measure of ferocities and figures of persons killed in encounters, there are no authentic and reliable facts. Though the Bangladesh Government at the beginning in 1972 ordered to make enumeration of persons killed in 1971, the project was abandoned within weeks, as the result the leader wished to have would not factually be obtained!
Some estimates, however, were later on done by three different groups, two based in the USA (Small and Singer, New York, 1982; Sisson and Rose, Harvard, 1990) and one Sharmila Bose (2005) based in India. All these groups had different figures of persons killed in 1971 in Bangladesh varying from 100,000 to 300,000, far less than the so-called ‘3 million’ figure. However, there were near agreements of them all that the Pro-Pakistanis killed by their opponents exceeded all those of Pro-Bangladeshis. Such disagreements in figures do not say that there had been one-sided violation of human rights and excesses. Excesses of human rights violations have had been carried out by the rogues of both sides.
On the civil war/independence war (Tamil’s perspective) in the Sri Lanka that ended recently, the UN, the Human Rights Watch, etc. have clearly stated that in the war for years both sides have had violated human rights. That was quite reasonable and truth about facts.
In view of the above facts how come that Bangladesh have passed the International Tribunals Act 2009 to put on trial not the defeated and vanquished real actors of the federal Pakistan Army but some fries who out of their patriotism for the preservation of the sovereign State of Pakistan stood to take ideological stand, and might have gone for some excesses not all on their own but for self defense and for some insignificant resistance to the opposite groups. The rogues who did the more excesses from the victors’ side are given automatic indemnity. Is this not morally wrong? Certainly was it.
Mujib about Wrongs
The question of moral wrong was in view of the Bangladesh leader Sheikh Mujib in 1974 as he got many disputed issues settled with Pakistan when he stated publicly in exchange for many bargaining including the recognition of Bangladesh as the independent country out of the Pakistan legal framework, ‘FORGIVE AND FORGET’. Mujib knew for sure that himself being the youth leader of Pakistan movement in late 1940s, he along with the people of the region of East Bengal and Sylhet (now Bangladesh) fought resolutely with all determination and through popular votes of over 97% for the founding of Pakistan out of the British Indian subcontinent. The so-called mandate claimed of the 1970 election by certain quarter was in no way for independent Bangladesh but for maximum autonomy of East Pakistan based on the Awami League’s six point demand. That meant clearly that the people was not in full agreement with what happened as de facto position following the armed aggression of India in December 1971. It is on record that Mujib even as late as in October 1974 in his conversation with US Foreign Secretary Henry Kissinger termed the Indian army of 1971 in Bangladesh operation as the ‘Occupation Army’ (See, US State Department declassified document published in the Dhaka weekly The Holiday, 6th March, 2009).
Thus it is very crystal clear that the present Awami League Government of Bangladesh has taken on to unsettle the issues settled 35 years ago by the founding leader in 1974 for no good reason now of the country but only to support possibly the hegemonic interests of the BIG BROTHER. The Government has thus taken on to widen division and hatred among the people that would only impede reconstruction of the poverty-ridden country, nearly half of the 150 million people living under the poverty line and in the vicious cycle of poverty trap.
The trial, as many rightly fear, would not be any fair process but by all standards be a political witch-hunting. The Awami League Government of Sheikh Hasina, by crude operation of the various genres of the fascist and rent seeking family members from among the cadre students, labor, youths, musclemen, etc., have already created havoc for all other peace-loving non-Awami Leaguer citizens from the very day one of this government on the first week of 2009. The first term of Sheikh Hasina’s government (1996-2001) was on record publicly intimidating the judges of the High Court, etc. for having verdict in judgment of their party chief liking. The lacunae of the 2009 act as is known would give them further leverage for only political witch-hunting.
Need to Stop
The trial process under the reconstituted tribunal of 2009 thus proposed to be started should be stopped for good as the earlier version of 1973 had been kept non-functional by the founding leader as he did not pursue even a single case in the rest of over two years of his term in power that ended in August 1975, not anything so after then in 35 years until 2008.
UN and Others
The UN, EU, and other human rights bodies like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International etc. have, I am sure, some due role to play in the matter as they have stood rightly to indict both sides and not one group in the violations of human rights lately in Sri Lanka.