International  Community demands 1971 Bangladesh Genocide recognition

Pradip Kumar Dutta

Our deepest gratitude to Mr Shradhnanand Sital and his organisation Global Human Rights Defence,based in the Hague for taking up our own Bangladesh issue. GHRD has organised a seminar titled "The Forgotten Genocide: 1971 Bangladesh,which has successfully been held in the European Parliament on 3 July 2023. Kudos to Mr Sital and GHRD.

It's quite encouraging and heartening to see that the

Since there has been no closure to this highly volatile and sensitive issue of colossal magnitude,the victims of this genocide and their families are still living with that trauma and keep on bleeding at heart.

There is a misconception in the international arena that Bangladesh as a country has never initiated any process to find a redress. This has to be put straight.

The father of our nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman  appealed to the UN and world community in 1972 to come forward and assess our distress to work out remedies of the aftermath of Pakistani catastrophic genocide inflicted on us. Due to the then existing geo political situation of the world,US administration of Richard Nixon having China on their axis through Pakistani brokerage were furious on us because of their policy debacle of supporting Pakistan. United Nations played a very passive role in 1971 during the ongoing Genocide and did little to stop it. So,they did not take any active step,though have helped Bangladesh with relief materials,food and sending a medical team to help in abortion of war babies due to Pakistan army's indiscriminate rape. Bangladesh was not even a member of UN then and not recognised by many countries. So,Bangladesh had to take it's  own decisions. Bangabandhu's government  formed the International Crimes Tribunal to try the  Genociders,both Bengali and Pakistani. Bangladesh was the first to take the exemplary step of enacting a law to try Genociders,War criminals and Crimes against Humanity offenders. The trials started. A list of 195 Pakistani military officers was prepared. These officers were involved in genocide and specific cases  were prepared against them. Bangabandhu appealed to his countrymen to provide details of genocidal killings,rapes and destruction of property and economy by Pakistani army and their collaborators,so that further cases could be constituted. For geo political reasons,those 195 Pak officers,then POWs in India could not be tried. They were handed over to Pakistan on the promise that Pakistanis themselves will deal with their officers. That of course,never happened. Some of them were rewarded laler as CAS,Ministers and MPs. The unfortunate massacre of Bangabandhu and his family in 1975 put all pro liberation issues to a dead stop in Bangladesh. The ball started rolling again 10/15 years ago under our present regime of Honourable PM Sheikh Hasina. 25 th March the starting date of Pak genocide in1971 has been declared as Bangladesh Genocide Remembrance Day. Decision has also been taken by the government to pursue the case of 1971 Bangladesh Genocide recognition internationally. Bangaladeshi civil society organisations and Diaspora Bengalis also are pursuing the case. Without international recognition,we can not make Pakistan hand over the aforesaid 195  and other genocide perpetrators to us to face trial in our ICT.According to 1948 UN Genocide Convention (to which Pakistan is a signatory)Pakistan is bound to get the genociders tried. Bangladesh government is ready to try them. If Pakistan themselves or ICJ takes the step,they can do so. But all that will be possible only after the Genocide is recognised by UN and different states. Pakistan will then only feel the pressure of bringing the perpetrators to justice,to offer unconditional apologies to Bangladesh for its misdeeds in 1971 and pay proper reparations to  genocide victims and for genocidal destructions. This is the only way to pay proper tributes to our genocide victims and bring some solace to the victim families. Till then,the trauma of genocide will keep haunting them. A closure to the issue is a must to both countries benefit.

Together with the government of Bangladesh,it's Foreign and Liberation war ministries,organisations like Liberation War Museum, DU Institute of Genocide Studies, Gonohattya Archive in Khulna,Uttarbanga Muktijuddho Jadughar,Projonmo 71,Aamra Ekattor,Ghatok Dalal Nirmool committee,Sector Commanders Forum and many others are toiling to achieve the goal. Individuals like Prof Muntasir Mamun,Mr Mofidul Haque,Dr Tawheed Reza Noor,Mr Shahriar Kabir,Mr Hasan Murshed,Dr MA Hasan,Dr Mahfuzur Rahman and many others are leaving no stone unturned in studying,collecting data,documentation and  scientific processing of genocide data.

All these endeavours are bringing in fruits. Starting from 31 December 2021 four International organisations working with Genocide prevention have already recognised the 1971 atrocities by Pakistan on Bangalees(of whom the Hindus were particularly severely hit) as Genocide and have appealed to the world including UN to recognise the Genocide. They have also called upon Pakistan to come forward and acknowledge their brutal inappropriate action and take necessary measures to bury the faulty past and move forward towards brighter future closing the black chapter. 

The organisations in order of the dates of their recognition are Lemkin Institute of Genocide Prevention,Genocide Watch,International Coalition for Sites of Conscience and most importantly International Association of Genocide Scholars. We can safely say that international academia on Genocide  is already convinced about the Genocide. These institutions had been approached and supplied with relevant documents data and proofs in various forms. Genocide researchers and activists like Dr Tawheed, Mr Mofidul Haque and many others have toiled for years in this pursuit. Dr M A Hasan started some epoch making documentation work many years ago. A lot of scientific research and documentation can still be done and is a must do for researchers of present day and future.Archives all around the world and libraries are full of newspapers,periodicals and other documents of the period. Killing fields are lying everywhere in Bangladesh.Many Genocide victims,their family members and eye witnesses are still living and can be interviewed.

Now that the academic side has been covered,we need political side to look into. That brings us to the necessity of International recognition of the Genocide by different states and the UN. The aforesaid four organisations have also put emphasis on this.

In the US a bipartisan resolution has been tabled in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Steve Chabot and Rohan Khanna demanding recognition of the 1971 Genocide by Pakistan. In British  and other European capitals too voices are being raised and preparations are underway to raise such motions of recognition of 1971 Bangladesh Genocide in their respective parliaments.

In May,an European fact finding delegation led by veteran Dutch politician and erstwhile MP Mr Harry van Bommel has visited Bangladesh. The team comprised of parliamentarians,genocide scholars,human rights activists and media specialists. They have visited killing sites,interviewed genocide victims and families,reviewed cases and documents at the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh, interacted with genocide researchers, journalists,members of civil society and other stake holders. After the weeklong visit,they have emphatically expressed their conviction that a horrendous genocide took place in Bangladesh in 1971 and it has to be recognised by the world. Keeping eyes closed on it will encourage would be genociders in future. Perpetrators have to be brought to justice. The team promised to remain active in campaigning for the recognition in European Parliament and different countries of Europe.

Their visit was organised by Bangladeshi diaspora organisations BASUG and EBF and supported in Bangladesh by Aamra Ekattor,Projonmo 71 and various other organisations.

On the 3rd July 1971 a seminar was arranged in the European Parliament hosted by Member of EP Mel Fulvio Martusciello. It was organised  by Human Rights organisation Global Human Rights Defence,ably led by it’s Chairman Sradhnanand Sital and was attended by about 65 participants that included Members of European Parliament,leaders of different human rights organisations, a genocide survivor and students of different universities of Brussels. MEP Fulvio could not be physically present but his strong message was read by EP communications expert Guiliana Franciosa. Mel Fulvio urged the European Parliament to take up the issue of 1971 Bangladesh Genocide for deliberation leading to recognition. MEP Ms Isabella Adinolfi also spoke about the genocide with special mention about the torture and violation of women's chastity.Mr Willie Fautre,Director of Human Rights Without Borders gave an idea about  chronological development of the Bengali nationalist movement  from the Bengali language movement of 1952,deprivation of Bengalis of East Pakistan of equal rights by the Western Pakistanis and denying them democratically won state powers leading to the Bengali non cooperation movement met by military atrocities and genocide which finally led to declaration of Bangladesh independence. The genocide continued for nine months being the second largest one in the twentieth century after the Holocaust.

Mr Andy Vermaut the President of Postversa(a human rights organisation) spoke about the trauma of the genocide victims and their families. Mr Paul Manik,a genocide survivor spoke about his ordeal and the torture he has suffered in the hands of the Pakistan army. The brain behind the event Mr Shradhnanand Sital said that the atrocities of 1971 inflicted by the brutal Pakistani army on Hindus in particular and Bengalis in general as a nationalist group was a full scale genocide and it should not have happened after a pledge Never Again by the world community. Though late,the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide has to be recognised by the international community of states and UN and the perpetrators have to be brought to justice,if need be,in International  courts.

Another MEP Thierry Mariani also participated in the event. Bangladesh Ambassador to the EU Mr Mahbub Hassan Saleh expressed his gratitude on behalf of his country to the organisers for taking the initiative to speak for us. Sitting in EU premises he hoped that some of the MEPs will take necessary steps to get our 1971 Bangladesh Genocide recognised by EP and consequently by EU states. He expressed his strong conviction that the recognition will have to come. The Ambassadors replied to several questions raised during the very lively Q and A session.

The seminar ended with a vow by the organisers to hold the next event in Geneva in September 2023 where ways and means to carry the campaign forward will be mulled. 

The Brussels event and the visit to Bangladesh by the European delegation encouraged us and proves that we are not alone in the pursuit of Justice. There is no dearth of noble,progressive thinking,historical truth abiding people in the world who are committed to justice and will speak out for us. We have to find out our allies and activate them.