Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Will there be ever a trial of war criminals in Bangladesh?

SACHIN KARMAKAR

THE WORST genocide of civilian population after Second World War was committed in former East Pakistan, now called Bangladesh, by the Pakistani Army during the 1971 war of liberation. In the period of nine months, the marauding Pakistani Army, with the help of local Muslim fanatics killed millions of innocents and sexually abused more than four hundred thousand women. Ninety (90%) of the murder victims were Hindus, and 95% or more rape victims were non-Muslims, in other words, Hindus. In the past 37 years religious minority organizations, including Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council have never demanded the trial of 1971 war criminals. Whereas, the Jewish community demanded and received justice for the victim of holocaust.

The demand for justice against the perpetrators of 1971 is more important than the movement against the Vested Property Act, or the movement for the restoration of Ramna Kali Temple. Rape is considered as the most heinous crime of all. We may some time in future get back our properties, but not the dignity that we lost. We the victims never demanded justice for 1971 holocaust, and have thus helped the perpetrators to get away with their crime. If we could succeed in achieving justice to the victim of 1971, then all other issues would become that much easier to solve. Because we could not serve justice to the perpetrators of 1971, the massacre of Hindus in 2001 was possible. And undoubtedly more will come in future. Due to financial, moral and diplomatic support from Muslim countries the perpetrators of 1971 war crimes are still unaccounted for by any court of justice. Bangladesh government is yet to request the UN or the International War Crimes Tribunal for support. Because they believe the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh will not support such trials.

The mindset of Bangladesh government and people are very clear about the perpetrators of 1971 war crimes. Many believe rape and forced conversion of non-Muslims are legal under Muslim Sharia law during war. After being ruled for centuries by foreign Muslim rulers, converted Muslims of India consider the Arabs and Persians a higher race and dream of an Islamic khilafat (caliphate) in India. You will find many ruthless murderers like Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni and Timur Lang (Tamerlane or Timur the Lame) held up as heroes of Islamic history and many parents proudly name their child in those killers’ names. The war criminals of 1971 merely tried to repeat the history of their barbaric ancestors.

Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and other religions that were born in the Indian subcontinent, never denied their debt to Indian culture. But in contrast, Muslim elites not only refused to acknowledge their link to Indian culture, they tried to impose an essentially foreign culture on their population, by holding up the norms of Arab culture as worthy of emulation. We will see the same pattern of cultural attitude in the Muslim population of Europe and America.

The partition of India brought an end to centuries of Arab, Dutch, French and British domination of India, but culturally split the society into many groups. Many different religions can live side by side in harmony but not different culture. During 900 years of Muslim rule, the rulers planted Arab culture within Indian society through newly converted Muslims, which ultimately led to the partition in 1947. An Islamic political party, the All India Muslim League was founded in 1905 at Dhaka with Bengali Muslims in the forefront. Referendum for partition was held on 1946. In that historical referendum, a majority of Bengali Muslims voted for Pakistan. Without mass Bengali Muslim participation, partition of India would have not been possible. This is the mindset of Bangladeshi people today. Although there are so many myths about the independence war, the fact is that Bangladeshis overwhelmingly voted for Awami League in 1970 for economical parity, not for separation from Pakistan. Purely on sectarian basis, the two nation theory was put forward by All India Muslim League leaders like Mohammad Ali Jinnah. After a series of communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in 1946, Pakistan became a sovereign state for the Muslims and India remained committed to all religious sects. Just one year after partition, the first governor general Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared “Urdu” as the only state language of Pakistan. People of East Pakistan started agitating against the decision of Mr. Jinnah and that led to bloodshed of 1952. This language movement in 1952 planted the seed for Bangladeshi independence struggle in 1971.

Bangladesh is the only country in the world that still practices apartheid: minority Hindus are officially enemy of the state by a law called “Enemy Property Act” (which was conveniently renamed as the Vested Property Act after independence). Under this unfair and draconian law, the government can confiscate Hindu properties and redistribute them to Muslims. So far more than a quarter million acres of Hindu owned land has been grabbed by the government and given over to Muslims. Ottoman and fascist Germany used similar law to confiscate non Muslim and Jewish owned properties. During Muslim occupation of India, the majority Hindus were forced to pay infidel tax (Jaziya). Bangladesh was created with spilling of Hindu blood and Indian military support in 1971. Ironically, India and Hindus are officially enemies of the state in Bangladesh today.

The first farcical war crime trial ended with the restoration of citizenship to Golam Azam (one of the top war criminals of 1971) and the present movement will likely end with a historic judgment from the Supreme Court that will effectively establish that there are no war criminals in Bangladesh. Thus, a dark chapter of human history will be closed for ever like the Turkish massacre of Armenians during the First World War.

A country that officially practices apartheid can never serve justice to another apartheid victim. If all minority organizations strongly campaign world-wide for justice for the victims of 1971 Holocaust, we may succeed one day. But by remaining quiet and diverting attention otherwise, we are helping the perpetrators. #

Sachin Karmakar is a liberation war veteran and was among handful young Mukti Bahini guerrillas who were recruited as military officers in 1971. Later he was given forcible retirement from Bangladesh Army for his political belief and allegiance. He presently lives in exile in New York, USA. He could be reached at: karmakarsachin@yahoo.com