Justice must be seen to be done

Imran Chowdhury calls for the perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the Bangladesh li-beration war to be brought to account.


Bangladesh is going through a precarious phase of its volatile history at this moment, with millions of scores to settle in the wake of the nation’s violent legacy. No matter what the impediments or objections, the best thing the country has gifted to her citizens in the last few years is calling those barbaric killers of 1971 to account. This has given a sense of reparationto those who suffered at their hands during the great liberation war of Bangladesh.

Those now facing justice were criminals who collaborated with the Pakistan army to carry out ethnic cleansing and genocide on a mammoth scale, resulting in the death, rape and displacement of more than 70 million people in East Pakistan.Their cruelty reached into most parts of the 55,000 squ-aremiles of present-day Bangladesh. No one was spared from the avalanche of the Pakistanis’ tor-ture and annihilation.

The country stood still for 267 long days, from March 25 to December 16 1971. No crops were grown, no trade or financial transactions took place, no wages were paidduring those dark days. Ten million people had no other choice but to seek refuge inthe neighbouring Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya & Tripura. A staggering ten million. It was the biggest human exodus in recent memory. The whole nation of Bangladesh is so indebted to India that words are not enough to express our gratitude or pay due homage to the Indian people.

The Bangladeshi Bengali population faced their worst 267 days in 1971 at the hands of the Pakista-ni army and its ranks of fifth columnists drawn from the indigenous population who were followers of the Pakistani-concocted two nations theory, based on that most powerful yet alsoflimsiest of all bondage: religion.

They were conscripted to form various pseudo-organisations like Rajakars, Al Shams, Al Badar and Peace Committees. These outfitswere the worst home-grown enemies that the sleepy countryside of Bengal had ever seen.

Where was the Geneva Convention in all this?What became of human rights and judicial parameters when these people were perpetrating all those crimes against humanity? Yet now there is such a hue and cry about the legitimacy and integrity of their trials, theirhuman rights.This beggars belief. How can such criminalsdemand consideration and rights which they so callously denied to their victims? They killed, raped, looted, burned houses and tortured POWs, those freedom fighters who were captured by the Pakistan army after the latter received tip-offs from their agents– the very people who are now being rounded up to face the consequences of their crimes against the people of Bangladesh.

This is long overdue. It is imperative that all those who fought for freedom and sufferedshould see the people who caused this torment forthe nine long months of the liberation war brought to justi-ceonce and for all. They must pay the most severe price for their heinous crimes against humanity. The country must unite to root out these criminal elementswho are hiding behind the facade of reli-gion, seeking sanctuary among the vast population of gullible, devout practitioners. The people of Bangladesh must not be conned by these religious traders, who try tomask the past with a false sense of piety.

The country who was the main culprit in the atrocities of 1971, Pakistan, is yet again trying to med-dle in the trials, flatly denying their own acts of barbarism. No wonder many now perceive Pakistan as a country built on false foundations, ready to topple one day like a houseof cards. Their despica-ble arrogance and constant denial of the crimes they committed in 1971 in Bangladesh speak vo-lume about their national integrity.

No matter how long they take, these trials are the only means for the individual sufferers, and the country as a whole, to see that no one is above the law. This will set a precedent for the future: that the law of the land is equal for everyone. Future generations must learn that.

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